“In Western culture, we often seek truth through confrontation. But our headstrong ways of charging at truth scare the shy soul away. If soul truth is to be spoken and heard, it must be approached ‘on the slant.’ I do not mean we should be coy, speaking evasively about subjects that make us uncomfortable, which weakens us and our relationships. But soul truth is so powerful that we must allow ourselves to approach it, and it to approach us, indirectly. We must invite, not command, the soul to speak. We must allow, not force, ourselves to listen.
We achieve intentionality in a circle of trust by focusing on an important topic. We achieve indirection by exploring that topic metaphorically, via a poem, a story, a piece of music, or a work of art that embodies it. I call these embodiments ‘third things’ because they represent neither the voice of the facilitator nor the voice of a participant. They have voices of their own, voices that tell the truth about a topic but, in the manner of metaphors, tell it on the slant. Mediated by a third thing, truth can emerge from, and return to, our awareness at whatever pace and depth we are able to handle — sometimes inwardly in silence, sometimes aloud in community — giving the shy soul the protective cover it needs.
This is why an unconventional kind of note-taking is helpful in a circle of trust. Normally, at workshops and retreat, we take the most notes on what the leader says, and a few, if any, notes on the words we ourselves speak. In a circle of trust, we reverse that order, taking the most notes on the words that arise within us, whether we speak them or not.
What T. S. Eliot said about poetry is true of all third things: ‘[Poetry] may make us a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.”