The Pine Circle was at the top of the site on which the Skyros Centre stands, in (as you will have guessed), a grove of pine trees. Pine cones, twigs and leaves scattered the ground around and the circle itself. Our group created a little habit of sitting in a circle speaking in turn about whatever we needed or wanted to speak about. Several of us were undergoing some fairly major emotional shifts as a result either of what was going on in our lives, or what we were experiencing at Skyros, or both. People are often drawn to Skyros at a time of transition and the supportive and creative atmosphere can draw unexpected feelings to the surface.
Our Oekos group became a place to explore and acknowledge these feelings.
Without planning to, we adopted two informal rules which helped to make the circle a safe and powerful place, both drawn from one of the other classes which some of us were taking during the first week. The first one was the Talking Stick rule, according to which groups will pick an object which confers the authority to speak and pass it amongst themselves. The rule is simple, but effective; you can’t speak unless you’re holding the talking stick. In normal debate it stops people interrupting and talking over each other and gives everyone a chance to be heard. In our group, we used it as a way of demonstrating that we wanted to speak, using a pine cone instead of a stick, which was placed in the centre of the circle and picked up by each of us in no particular order. When we had finished speaking we put the pine cone back in the centre as a way of signalling that we were done.
The second informal rule we adopted also came from the same class, which was to acknowledge each speaker with a simple “Ho”. This would probably sound ridiculous if you didn’t know what it signified, which is a strong sound meaning “I have heard you”. In almost all human discourse, what one person says almost always prompts a response, and particularly if the original speaker is trying to express something difficult or painful. We rush to “fix” the problem, to offer advice or sympathy or to attempt to cheer the person up. In this context, to be provided with a space in which to be allowed to express such feelings and to be heard and not fixed, to have it accepted that such feelings can exist and that you can be allowed to exist with them, is enormously powerful.