Open Circle activities are inspired by activities of the Bahá’í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse (BNASAA) which started hosting conferences in November, 1989. For nearly 30 years BNASAA provided a series of conferences and local gatherings that created opportunities for individuals struggling with challenging personal issues to share their struggles, learn from other’s experiences and commit to service to the broader community. The Open Circle Network seeks to build on this history by continuing to focus on issues such as sexuality, addictions, abuse, trauma recovery and related issues that require a safe and supportive emotional environment to allow for honest and open consultation and to encourage personal healing.
The Network’s goal is to provide a loving and supportive environment in which participants can share experiences in an atmosphere of confidentiality and provide support for each individual’s healing and spiritual journey. Judgments about good or bad processes or discussions about right or wrong approaches have no place. All participants are asked to manifest an attitude of loving support, and to actively participate in creating a non-judgmental and supportive environment.
Because of the sensitive nature of the issues discussed in Network activities, and because many people are dealing directly with these issues, it is important to maintain confidentiality at all times outside of the group. In general Network activities are not “anonymous” in the way that many other support groups are. Individuals taking part in activities are often known to others in their communities and it is important that information shared within a Network activity stays within that activity and is not shared with others who were not part of that experience.
Avoidance of conflict and controversy
The primary aim in holding Network sponsored activities is to provide a nurturing environment that is spiritually and emotionally safe for all participants. Network activities specifically seek to avoid challenging or engaging in controversy regarding Baha’i teachings or institutions as well as the teachings of any other religion or group. The Network is specifically non-political and seeks to avoid conflict or controversy of any kind as part of its activities.
Unity among those participating in Network activities is an important part of safeguarding the Open Circle process. Open Circle activity organizers have the responsibility in all cases to protect the safety of the group and of the process. Disruptive individuals, acting in a threatening or judgmental manner or refusing to abide by Network guidelines may be asked to leave activities or to no longer take part. When necessary the Open Circle Network Board will support any groups that are experiencing challenges of this type.
Personal judgment and self-care
In any activity that involves dealing with challenging personal issues there may be times that participants feel overwhelmed or emotionally charged. Activity organizers are asked to be aware of these experiences and to provide support and options. But it is ultimately up to each individual to remain mindful of their own experience and to ensure that the experience is a safe and healthy one for them. Participants should feel free to discontinue participation or seek support from others at any time they feel it is important to do so.
It is the experience of participants in Network activities that when a safe environment is maintained it is possible to address even the most difficult and challenging issues in a healing and transformative manner. It is a fundamental principle of all Network activities that reflecting on spiritual principles can illuminate even the most tense or difficult situations. Participants are encouraged to keep this illuminating vision in their hearts and to turn its light onto every situation that arises so that all can nurture growth and transformation and foster the spirit of love and unity that is the underlying purpose of all Open Circle activities.