March 29, 2015
Don Freas

Peers in Circles
organizing without teachers

A primary goal of the Mutuality Circle Link is to encourage peer-based groups to form, to continue, and to remain aligned with the Trillium Awakening organizing principles.

As Trillium Awakening is a teacher-guided, individual journey to awakening, there are many aspects of the very idea of a “peer circle” that might seem to be open invitations to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. And yet the many and varied expressions of Trillium Awakening peer circles have proven to be remarkably supportive, low-bar assets, and welcome gateways to the work. Peer circles generate participants that add dimension, and strengthen the work.

These local organizations give participants and curious seekers a place to sample and grow in understanding and recognition of the remarkable power of this work, with minimal commitment and at low cost. Community members can try-out the practices, try on the understandings, and pool their resources to engage with teachers in a variety of ways—without the financial burden of full immersion in the practices, and engagement with distant retreats. These circles make it easy to put your toe in the water before diving in—and at their best they provide encouragement and living examples of the many compelling reasons to dive in.

Which brings us back to those esoteric and multidimensional organizing principles around which the work is formed. This work can’t be codified, dogmatized or reduced to an easy list of instructions. It’s far too subtle and nuanced for that. When we honor the spirit of this ever-developing and always evolving transmission and understanding, we know it helps individuals come to awakening. We know as well that the understandings are accretive: deep introspection and self-inquiry over time are required for the reality of the work to soak-in and become available in the most universal ways possible.

Teachers pass through a series of gates on their way to becoming teachers. In that annealing process they learn how to take their own humanity and their individual journeys and translate the essence of that for use by others. We need teachers because we can’t guide ourselves, teachers who know they don’t know what subtleties will guide us in our own unique unfolding—but who are willing to explore that with us in dynamic equilibrium. In the presence of a teacher we have a reliable rudder holding the individual, or group of individuals, generally on course.

In a group of peers, with no teacher present, it’s difficult to predict what might happen. In the absence of depth of exposure to the transmission and understandings we have found to be effective, and with the possibility of strong personalities interpreting Trillium Awakening dharma for others, it’s possible that cultures of misunderstanding can propagate, diluting the power of the work. For these reasons we suggest that newcomers initiate study on their own, and to have regular sessions with teachers before beginning to gather with peers.

As it turns out, Trillium Awakening is a practice that has a way of self-correcting—the work works that way. The curiosity that brings seekers in tends to draw those seekers to look for more. It’s not for everyone, but those who remain find that their curiosity remains piqued. They become devoted to the group but also look for more input from teachers and mentors when they can getting to workshops, retreats, and online events that assist them with this path. The transmission gets through. And as more members of a group find increasing contact with teachers, the work gets stronger and more dynamic for all.

If you are in a peer circle now, or are considering a local peer-based circle, take a closer look. Get a sense for how many of the individuals involved are working with Trillium Teachers Circle teachers in some way. Consider opportunities to have deeper contact, through teacher-facilitated online groups, or by working directly with a teacher when that’s possible for you.

Let a peer circle be reinforcement and encouragement, more than a guide. At its best a peer circle is a rich gathering of individuals looking for something very similar to what you are seeking. You add to the strength of the work by delving into the core of the mystery through whatever means you find.

Created: Apr 8, 2015
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2018
Role: Mutuality Circle Link