Annette Knopp on the Sacred Power of the Circle

Annette ( is a Friend and Founding Counselor of InterSpiritual Dialogue. A teacher in Advaita Vedanta in the traditions of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, she is a pioneer in women’s circles and has written on the Divine Feminine is Infinite Sensitivity #1. Below she speaks of her experience with circles:

I’ll never forget the moment, when for the first time I sat down in a circle with a sacred intent. Having been used to the traditional ‘classroom-style’-set up (teacher in the front, students in the back) that mostly goes along with spiritual teachings, the difference was remarkable. Looking around in the circle at people that I didn’t know, I nevertheless sensed a heartfelt kinship and the unified strength of our common purpose. The setting reminded me of the wisdom councils in tribal societies, and the words that arose in my being were ‘connection’, ‘honor’ and ‘dignity’.

Annette Knopp

Meeting in a circle induces an atmosphere, in which each member starts to inhabit naturally a place of self-responsibility and personal authority. The attention and energy that usually is focused on the ‘one in front’ is flowing now omni-directional. We don’t need to twist our body to be able to listen to all the voices, nor can we hide in the back-row or niches. It is actually quiet difficult to not be present to the totality of the happening. I find that the projection on ‘the idealized special one’ and the psychological age-regression that so often occurs in the ‘student-role’ is greatly diminished. Even though the circle-facilitator might be setting ‘the tone’ and context of the meeting, it is obvious that we all are leaning into each other: learning and teaching, as well as relaxing deeper into the undivided whole. In a circular setting it is more obvious, that I am not an island on my own. My voice, my place and my perspective might be colorfully unique, but the core of my being - the center of the circle- is undifferentiated, empty and still. We all are born from that same completion. More than any other structure, the circle can invoke that direct recognition

Circles with a spiritual center can have a variety of intent and context. I particularly love to meet with women to recognize and celebrate Spirit in its feminine embodiment. In our masculine-value-dominated cultures as well as for the precarious state of the planet at this time, the emergence of the Feminine seems more than essential. I don’t regard the Sacred Feminine as a new paradigm of superiority or separation from the Divine Masculine, but a complementary and necessary integration of our deepest Being.

Women cannot be whole and empowered until they know and embody the Sacred Feminine,” says Jalaja Bonheim, PhD ( director of the “Institute for Circlework”, a non-profit organization based in Ithaca). As women, regardless of our sexual orientation, we need to reconnect with Her, be nourished and re-affirmed in our own feminine ways and knowing. While the big majority of meditative traditions are masculine-biased (“Emptiness” is better than emotion), women-meetings benefit highly from reflecting the whole scale of Her face. We can re-awake Her in silence or meditative movement as much as in heart-felt sharing, healing ritual, sensual pleasure, creative expression, emoting or dance.

In Her transcendence, She is Mother Space, un-relentless grace and freedom from the known; in Her immanence she is the breath of life and ever-changing play of polarities and form. In the nourishing and safe container of the circle women can support each other in integrating their divine nature with the practicalities of daily life.

© 2006 Annette Knopp /