Become an “energetic activist” by joining with others to create a collective healing circle in difficult times.
I recently discovered the power of prayer circles. When a beloved friend went from feeling strange one day to needing emergency brain surgery the next, I was hit by a tidal wave of fear and grief. Already beaten down by the pandemic, raging wildfires, and distressing news about our country and our planet, it was just too much heartache to bear.
Then a group of us spontaneously decided to join together to send love, light, and healing wishes to our friend throughout her operation. It was remarkable how quickly this shared positive focus helped me shift from feeling helpless and terrified to empowered and hopeful. Later, we collectively rejoiced when we received the news that her surgery had gone as well as possible.
This experience led me to ponder the concept of coming together in “Circles of Light”—groups of people consciously activating loving and healing energy for our world during this pivotal time. Perhaps we could make a positive impact while simultaneously providing much-needed rejuvenation and hope during this exhausting marathon of fear, loss, and uncertainty.
People often express to me how eager they are for things to “return to normal,” but is “normal” really a high enough aspiration? Are we simply going to endure countless hardships until we can resume the same destructive social, political, and environmental patterns that created the national and global crisis we’re in? Or is it actually possible for us to mature and evolve into a more kind, conscious, just, and cooperative species?
My father was a Holocaust survivor who lived through an even more horrific and heartbreaking era than the one we’re currently experiencing. Reflecting back, he often spoke about how contagious thoughts are. Anger, hatred, and blame can spread like wildfire, leading to unimaginable cruelties and suffering. But my father also saw that kindness and joy can spread just as quickly. Ultimately, he believed that love is the strongest force in the universe and that we should do everything we can to spread more of it. In fact, my father was certain that we will never eliminate the misery and indignities we inflict on one another until we wake up to the essential truth that we are one interconnected human family.
Collective Healing With Prayer Circles
Yes, we need to register voters, stand up against injustice, and support those in need, but what if we also engage with each other on an energetic level? Can we help foster lasting change from an unseen, but powerful, dimension?
I brought the “Circles of Light” concept to Michael Murphy—the wise, pioneering elder and author who founded Esalen Institute 58 years ago. He thought it was a great idea. “No matter what skeptics say,” Michael told me, “prayer works if it is informed by loving intention and wisdom. There’s no question about it. Prayer also offers renewal, and renewal is essential, especially right now.”
He continued, “Prayer, as I use the word, is one of the great modalities of love. It is an opening to the Divine. When you channel all the streams of love you have into prayer, it doesn’t matter where you aim it. The energies of prayer take on their own autonomous life and they know what to do.”
According to Michael, human beings instinctively know how to pray. “Why? Because each of us, in our deepest self, is one with the Divine. Divinity is everywhere, in all of us. The gorgeous light coming through the leaves of a redwood tree, a child’s joyful face while jumping on a trampoline, the feeling we get when our dog comes running with its tail wagging—all bring us a connection with Divinity. We can draw from this divinity and we can amplify it.”
Michael has learned that some people have a special gift for facilitating connections to powerful states. “They know how to help start the fire, and once it starts burning, it takes on its own autonomous life. Praying, meditating, or visualizing in groups helps the focus and magnifies the results.”
Greatly inspired by Michael’s insights, I held a trial Circle of Light led by a gifted healer, Hilary Nicholls. She guided 16 of us to visualize ourselves sitting on a mountaintop, held in Mother Nature’s lap, our bodies filling to overflowing with light from the sun. We energetically reached out to hold hands in a Circle of Light, and when the circle was established, we imagined all of our wishes for a beautiful world in the palms of our hands. Simultaneously, we sent those seeds into the center of the circle where they began to grow and multiply.
It was an empowering and relaxing experience for all, helping us shift out of anxiety and separation into a state of deep peace and connection. I felt like I’d been plugged into a powerful source of energy that recharged and reawakened me—as if I was an appliance plugged into electricity for the first time, suddenly discovering my true function.
As many of us are searching for ways to stay healthy, resilient, and optimistic while we work to heal this troubled world, coming together as energetic activists is both pioneering and an ancient act of honoring a glorious, timeless part of being human—reverence for the Divinity within that links us all.
Healing Circle Audio Meditation
Enjoy an 11-minute Circle of Light recording by Hilary Nicholls.
For more circle wisdom, read “Choose Hope and Healing in Divided Times.”
To join a live Circle of Light—and to access recordings from gifted teachers from diverse traditions to help you start a circle of your own (including Sally Kempton, Trudy Goodman, Debra Silverman, and Cain Carroll)—visit Circles of Light.