Circular time: trusting the pause at the heart of change

Monday, April 6th, 2020

Back in 2006 my yoga teacher, Ines Shaw, taught me about Circular Time. I was in my 20s and I’d just left my corporate job. I was spinning – in Argentina – unsure where to go next with my life. And impatient to find out.

Then she told me about Circular Time and I realised: this is simply not a time to move forwards.

That was the first time in my life I stopped, paused, and listened – to myself, to life – deeply. And that pause set me on a new path, of coaching and supporting people and businesses through change. A path which is still alive for me today.


What is ‘Circular Time’?

Circular Time comes at the heart of change. It’s when we are in a threshold – between the old world and the new – and things don’t seem to be moving forwards. We can’t see the next step. It’s as though the path has run out.

Life seems to pause.


The pause of the Threshold

This pause is an essential part of deep change. As anthropologist Arnold van Gennep wrote, in Les Rites De Pasage (1909): ‘For groups, as well as for individuals, life itself means to separate and be reunited, to change form and condition, to die and be reborn. It is to act and to cease, to wait and rest, and then to begin acting again, but in a different way.’ (Les Rites de Pasage, p.182)

Circular time is this waiting and resting.

And it’s inevitable, in deep change. It is the pause that comes with a change of direction. As Gennep reminds us: ‘It is necessary that two movements in opposite directions be separated by a point of inertia… which exists only potentially in circular motion.’ (Les Rites de Pasage, p.182)

So, at the heart of change, in the Threshold, we humans also find ourselves in deep pause. Where all movement is circular.


Turning in

This pause is not static. In ‘Circular Time’ there is a different kind of movement. Instead of moving out into the world, our energy turns in and down. Like the movement down a spiral vortex.

Here, we take stock of our life. What is bringing me alive? What structures have I grown out of? Where has my life / my to-do list become too small? What no longer serves?

In Circular time, we have the opportunity to reprogram ourselves, at a pattern level. To stop acting on the same beliefs and habits, and to find what’s really true for us – now, at this moment in our lives. And to act from there.


Two voices

Are you aware of these two different impulses?

The part that wants to be pressing forwards, out in the world, doing something (anything) to keep life moving, and ‘on track’? Capable, hard working, so well intentioned… and ultimately, driven by fear? Fear of stopping. Fear of not doing, or being, enough. Of not being in control. Fear that if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen.

And something else. Quieter, deeper. A part who is listening. What’s changing here? Where am I drawn to serve? What small action might I be ready to take – soon, if not today? What does life want of me?


A quiet kind of action

As you tune into that quieter voice, it gets clearer. Louder. Stronger.

Actions emerge. But they are actions with a different quality. Not chasing, or forcing, or controlling, or grasping. From this quiet place, the actions that come are deep expressions of love. Expressions of yourself. Offerings to the world.

You move at a pace that is sustainable. A pace that leaves space for all areas of your life to thrive. An easy kind of movement, like the loping run of a wolf who has hit its stride. In it for the long haul. Fuelled by that deep well of life, at the heart of it all.


Photo by David Becker on Unsplash

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