“I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human.” – Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
At the core of our two-day retreats is the experience of “clearness committee,” a Quaker practice that began in the 1600s, which Parker Palmer, a Quaker himself, integrated into Circles of Trust. It is a two-hour questions-only process in service of a focus person, someone who wants to think more deeply about a life issue, often at the intersection of “where soul meets role.” This person is joined by four to six others who create safe space with their attention, deep listening, “double” confidentiality, and open-honest questions, questions not elicited through curiosity or cloaked advice but by thinking about what would help the focus person. Double confidentiality is never speaking about the content of the clearness committee with others within or outside that group as well as never speaking about the content with the focus person unless she or he brings it up. The experience of a small group giving focused, holding attention to another person’s inquiry for two hours is rare in any other setting in our culture; likewise is the experience of receiving that much attention.