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Wheel of the Great Turning

Seeing with New Eyes
(30 - 90 minutes)


This group process helps us to see the larger context of our lives, and to notice and appreciate the many forms of positive change in our time. Undertaken in the gratitude phase of the work, it represents a shift from personal to collective thankfulness. It also provides invaluable information in a lively fashion.

As framework for spontaneous reporting, we take the concept of the Great Turning--the transition from an unsustainable, growth-based political economy to a life-sustaining society, which is the essential revolution of our time. The three key dimensions of the Great Turning (see ch. 1, page 3 ff.) are here symbolized by material objects placed within a circular space. These objects serve as props, as participants inform one another about developments they know about from observation or direct experience.


Be sure that the group is already familiar with the concept of the Great Turning. Clear a circular space, 6 to 10 feet in diameter, around which people sit closely together. Proximity is important, so if numerous, they can crowd in behind each other. Have the group imagine the Wheel divided into three sections. In each section, place an object to symbolize one of the three dimensions of the Great Turning. For the "holding actions" in defense of life, some first-aid material, like rolls of bandaging, works well. For alternative structures, use something organic and alive, like a small branch from a growing plant. For the shift in consciousness, a crystal or a crystal cluster is an evocative symbol, and so is a pair of eyeglasses.

With the guide going first to model, people enter the Wheel of the Great Turning one at a time. Entering one or more sections in any order, they pick up the object there and report to the others, as if letting the object speak. For example, taking the crystal or eyeglasses, they may speak of a vision quest or a study group that has opened new horizons. Holding the roll of gauze bandaging, they might tell of volunteering at a soup kitchen or protesting the corporate global economy. With the fresh budding leaves, they might describe the farmers' market or cooperative child care starting in a neighborhood.

This exercise generates high spirits and is best kept at a lively pace. To accomplish this, and avoid long lecture-like pronouncements, treat it as a ritual. Brief verbal formulae help establish a ritual spirit, while maintaining an energetic tempo. For example, as people enter the Wheel, they may say: "My friends, let me give you an example of the Great Turning." And when they finish, the group may respond: "So it is in the Great Turning."

It's worth noting that the wheel has abundant symbolic and even archetypal significance. The ritual can be enhanced by evoking some of these connections, be they Ezekiel's vision of the wheel within the wheel, the Gandhian spinning wheel which became both national flag and emblem of nonviolence, or the sacred hoop of Native American teachings. When the Buddha taught, he is said to have turned the Wheel of the Dharma, or the Dharma Chakra. His very words set it in motion. In the same fashion, our naming examples and telling stories of this present revolution serves to make it more real to us.