This Circle Existed
May 13, 2017
Remember the day
the masks fell away
the voices subsided
our insides collided?
When I see you next,
I know to expect
the mask back in place.
But I know your face.

– Kelly Elmore, Authentic World member

About a year ago, I was in Hawaii, spending time with 3 amazing facilitators I knew through various circling programs. I was in the front yard of my friends’ house, with their kids whirring around me on skateboards and sidewalks, when my phone rang.


“This is Robert MacNaughton. Do you want to build us a global membership platform?”

Actually, there was more talk before the question: relationalists can’t have business meetings without a serious check-in first. But this was what we got around to.

Did I want to build the Integral Center a global membership platform?

As it happened, I’d been thinking about this idea for a while. I’m passionate about creating systems where they don’t exist, where energy gets squandered because nobody is connecting the dots. I suppose it’s why I’m interested in relating work: it seems equally meaningless for humans to squander energy on conflicts that could be resolved by understanding where and why we aren’t seeing each other’s world. On a systems level, this is why I collated the Authentic Relating Games Manual, put together a map of communities worldwide, and started hosting Community Mastermind Calls every month.

Still, this didn’t feel like enough. The only way for people to get exposure to Authentic Relating or Circling was for them to either attend a live event, provided they were lucky enough to live somewhere that has those, or to start their own community. Few people have the time, drive, or masochism to do the latter. There are over 40 circling/AR groups worldwide, but I get emails most months asking “How can I get connected in my area?” and have to tell the person that their best chance is a few states (or countries) away.

So. How could Authentic Relaters get more chances to relate?

Here’s where that phone call comes in.

“Do you want to build us a global membership platform?”

“What’s a global membership platform?”

First draft of the sitemap

Robert sketched out the vision. The platform would be a place for people around the world who were interested in Authentic Relating or Circling. It would involve resources on how to translate our practice into daily life, ways to get in touch with each other, games to play, conversation prompts, and – most importantly – events happening online. The IC would own it and provide the resources; I’d build it, in exchange for a share of any profit and to create something I deeply wanted to exist. It was a huge project that would require me to learn web design, focus groups, team management, membership sites, and spend hundreds of hours building out content  and systems – while also running my primary business training facilitators.

Of course, I said yes.

After a handful of circling events, I’m already seeing an improvement in how I interact with my family. When my wife is venting about something, I’m more able to simply hold the experience and help her explore it instead of trying to fix it. This is so vital to deeper connection and it just feels good. I’m feeling grateful for space to explore and practice this. – Ben, Alabama

It’s been 6 months since that day. The Authentic World platform lives, breaths, and changes – new events occurring (now multiple times every day), new features being tested, new facilitators coming on the team. It has a robust community of over 100 members, like Ben, above, who also provided critical feedback on design. It has a staff of 7 people, including me, who work to create the dream we hold for this platform – to have a global community who play together, learn together, and apply relational technology to their everyday lives.

If people never come to an event or don’t consider themselves part of a “community”, but they try a single game with their friends and get closer, that’s enough. If people come every day and form friendships with others across the world, that’s enough. And if – like me – they find themselves in Hawaii one day because of the people they know and the practices they’ve found…well, that’s pretty cool.

“Because I live in a place with no circling or AR games, this platform makes it possible for me to participate in these practices. I’ve found the facilitators to be very effective and the online setting works surprisingly well. I enjoy how caring and safe the circles feel to me, helping me feel supported enough to challenge myself. I’m growing as a listener and growing in taking agency, and I know this growth makes me a better partner, parent, friend, and teacher. I feel very grateful for this platform.” – Kelly, Georgia

“Grateful for the Authentic World platform and the form it so diligently holds.  Circles start and end on time, commitments are made and kept, all circles include Connecting to Self, setting Context, and facilitators primarily focussed on serving the group dynamic and the needs of the participants.  In the relative stability of this container I develop personally, becoming increasingly fluent in my relationships.  A marvelous training ground for life and a place to call home. Thank you.”  – Nicolas, Vermont

On a personal level, Authentic World has taught me a lot. It taught me not to give up on hard things just because they’re hard, or do easy things just because they make me feel good about myself. Building this has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done! I still wake up every day and wonder, “is this good enough? Is it what I dreamed it would be?”

I want everyone in the world to have access to good relational tools, if they want them, whether it be through us or others. I think Authentic World can help with that. I know that for the people who come on our events, who read the articles, or play the Games, it really does make a difference. They tell me so. In Austin, my home community, their friends and family tell me so too. And for myself, there are simple gifts – like finally having a reason to meditate in the mornings, because I can get on the platform for the daily meditation and circling group; getting to see the leadership of facilitators I’ve peripherally known and respected for years; and having people I’ve always wanted to get to know better pop up on the screen for an event.

The more I do this work, the deeper, more vast the ocean and my understanding of it gets. Once a beach comber, I became a sailor of the Seven Seas many moons ago. I’ve adventured in submarines with human experience pioneers plenty of times. We’ve come back with discoveries of weird and wonderful species, unexplainable ways of being, uncharted territories, and it just continues over and over again with each excursion. Every time I Circle I’m given a tour of someone else’s universe. – Amelia, New York

I hope that you’ll come play with us. Learn more and explore what we’ve created here.


– Sara Ness

Founder/facilitator, Authentic Revolution

Co-creator, Authentic World