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Circle of Trust Touchstones

download-touchstones-click-hereA small circle of limited duration that is intentional about its process will have a deeper, more life-giving impact than a large, ongoing community that is shaped by the norms of conventional culture.”
Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

Facilitators of Courage & Renewal programs use these basic Touchstones to help define clear boundaries for the circle of trust in retreats and programs, the kinds of boundaries that help create safe space for the soul. They derive from the principles and practices of the Circle of Trust® approach.

To learn more you can also read Chapter V of A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, which stresses the need for clear limits in a circle of trust. Here is a version of the touchstones that the Courage community uses in our circles.
Download the mini-poster.

While these touchstones define how we relate to each other in a circle of trust, they can also be adapted to define how you work together in your organization, community or network with integrity and trust — inviting the best of each person to show up and contribute. See this story as an example. And explore these programs for transforming teams and organizations.en-espanol

Circle of Trust Touchstones for Safe and Trustworthy Space

  • Give and receive welcome. People learn best in hospitable spaces. In this circle we support each other’s learning by giving and receiving hospitality.
  • Be present as fully as possible. Be here with your doubts, fears and failings as well as your convictions, joys and successes, your listening as well as your speaking.
  • What is offered in the circle is by invitation, not demand. This is not a “share or die” event! Do whatever your soul calls for, and know that you do it with our support. Your soul knows your needs better than we do.
  • Speak your truth in ways that respect other people’s truth. Our views of reality may differ, but speaking one’s truth in a circle of trust does not mean interpreting, correcting or debating what others say. Speak from your center to the center of the circle, using “I” statements, trusting people to do their own sifting and winnowing.
  • No fixing, saving, advising or correcting each other. This is one of the hardest guidelines for those of us who like to “help.” But it is vital to welcoming the soul, to making space for the inner teacher.
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions. Do not respond with counsel or corrections. Using honest, open questions helps us “hear each other into deeper speech.”
  • When the going gets rough, turn to wonder. Turn from reaction and judgment to wonder and compassionate inquiry. Ask yourself, “I wonder why they feel/think this way?” or “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself?” Set aside judgment to listen to others—and to yourself—more deeply.
  • Attend to your own inner teacher. We learn from others, of course. But as we explore poems, stories, questions and silence in a circle of trust, we have a special opportunity to learn from within. So pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher.
  • Trust and learn from the silence. Silence is a gift in our noisy world, and a way of knowing in itself. Treat silence as a member of the group. After someone has spoken, take time to reflect without immediately filling the space with words.
  • Observe deep confidentiality. Safety is built when we can trust that our words and stories will remain with the people with whom we choose to share, and are not repeated to others without our permission.
  • Know that it’s possible to leave the circle with whatever it was that you needed when you arrived, and that the seeds planted here can keep growing in the days ahead.

© Center for Courage & Renewal, founded by Parker J. Palmer.


What happens in a Circle of Trust—grounded in honoring the identity and integrity of each participant—flows out into the world as an authentic source of personal and societal healing and a power for positive social change.

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