Marc is an author, internet entrepreneur, community builder, and self-described “love revolutionary”. The Circling Handbook is his third book, and it distills 30 years of research and practice in building community, emotional communication and the psychology of love. He has also written a love and sex manual for men entitled As Lovers Do. Read about his latest adventures on his blog, www.manifesting.net
Long bio (my story, excerpt from the Circling Handbook)
In 1985, at the age of 25, I found myself after a relationship breakup in a deep and chemically-resistant depression. It was the most painful thing that had ever happened to me, and it completely shocked me. I was at the time, as many men in our culture, entirely cut-off from my feelings and lacking even a rudimentary understanding of emotional communication.
In a bold and naïve move, traits which have followed me my entire life, I dropped out of my engineering program and moved to California, the epicenter of the human potentials movement, in order to “find myself”. I decided then, in that terrible but ultimately redeeming moment, that the only thing that truly interested me was human relationships, and that if I were to have a life that would be successful in my own eyes, it would need to be principally focused on learning and teaching love – despite feeling that I had begun my life virtually retarded in those skills. This lifestyle decision was confirmed later, after I read Dale Carnegie (in How to Win Friends and Influence People), and realized that in a complex and inter-related world, the skills of human relationship are fundamental to the achievement of even traditional forms of success, such as wealth and power.
Over the next 30 years, I intensively explored what I call the “marketplace of love”. I read every book, enrolled in every form of therapy, every type of community-based healing group, every Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) and every New Religious Movement (NRM) which I could find and which my financial resources allowed (and in those days my resources were considerable). I discovered that the search for love and community is fraught with perils: delusions, projections, and inflation. In many of the groups that I explored I had a real sense of “coming home”, that I had found what I was seeking, and in too many cases, later discovered serious ethical problems ranging from abuses of power, inappropriate sexual behavior, or excessive profit motive.
I did find two movements which particularly moved me and which were in integrity. One was Buddhism, which is actually more of a practical psychology than a religion; and the other was Non-Violent Communication (NVC), in which I discovered a number of very valuable distinctions relating to human relationships as well as a practice community. In 2007 I got married and founded an intentional community with my wife, which we designed as an “experimental community of love in action”, and ran quite successfully for 3 years. Those were the happiest years of my life up to that point. And then, our community was shut-down by the municipality over zoning issues, my marriage fell apart, and I was back to square one. Kahlil Gibran was right: the ways of love are hard and steep, indeed.
Finally, in 2014 I discovered Circling, and in 2016 moved to Boulder, Colorado, and joined the Integral Center there. Very rapidly I found myself inside an active, loving and engaged community, forming friendships which I believe will last my entire life, and having powerful insights and experiences daily. I felt that this was the developmental community that I had been seeking my whole life, another instance of an experimental community of love in action. What made the offer even more compelling was that the groups were very low-cost, thereby holding the promise of what I call “the democratization of transformation”, another goal of mine; and finally, the distributed organizational structure pre-empted the possibility of the kinds of abuses which plague these types of movements, as well as creating more diversity.
I could hardly believe my good luck. Wanting both to firm-up my own understanding of the practice and to share the good news, I looked around for a book on Circling, and to my surprise only found one (Bryan Bayer’s The Art of Circling). The book is very good, but it lacked a recent history of this rapidly-growing movement, and I also wanted to bring in my own insights gathered over 30 years of research in building community.
Hence this book. I dedicate it in appreciation and deep gratitude to the pioneers of the Circling and Authentic Relating movement: Guy Sengstock, Bryan Bayer, Alexis Shepperd, Decker Cunov, Robert McNaughton, Sean Wilkinson, John Thompson, Sara Ness, Jordan Allen, and many others. As an “open source”, community-generated practice, Circling will continue to evolve and deepen, maybe even to a degree far beyond what I am attempting to contextualize here.
Talking about love is challenging, with some people preferring to avoid the word altogether as it is interpreted differently by different people and can therefore be divisive. I cannot agree with this position, as I think of love as the fundamental problem facing both our individual and collective lives. As such, I feel very strongly that it must become a public conversation, no matter how awkward. I don’t think of love as the only problem currently facing humanity – economic oppression and inequality, war, hate and racism, climate change and ecological destruction stand on their own – and yet I think of love as the lynchpin to the resolution of all other problems; and I will continue to carry the ardent hope that it’s not already too late for us to be beginning this conversation and still have an impact on the massive problems we are facing.
Increasing the level of this conversation is the promise held out by Circling and compatible movements, which include NVC. I believe it is the most important conversation currently happening in the world. Here is my contribution to it.