Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship

SDI Webinar: Narrative Circles - A New Approach to Group Spiritual Direction

Recording Available Now

Watch at Your Convenience

(90-minute video on-demand. Watch as often as you like. Access guaranteed for at least 12 months.)



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Each of us has a story to share.

We don't need to be eloquent or have a certain level of education in order to do so. What we do need is a process and a committed person, or group of persons, to encourage and accompany us as we share stories about our lives.

In this single session webinar, we will demonstrate Narrative Circles, an approach to group spiritual companionship that allows people to "hear into speech" one another's stories.

Our lead webinar presenter - author, educator and popular SDI workshop leader Diane Millis, PhD -  has more than a decade of experience as a pioneer in group spiritual direction. She's found the narrative circles method provides safety, ease and accessibility to participants- and all within a very compact format. As one participant, Sister Elise Cholewinski, OSF,  said, "I can't believe how much I can learn about my story in as little as 15 minutes!"

This webinar is designed for spiritual directors and companions - as well as chaplains and other spiritual guides. But it will offer food for spiritual growth to anyone seeking a richer, more conscious life. We welcome all traditions and those who companion from no tradition. And please note, students who are training in listening-based spiritual care are also invited to join.

Please remember: the live session is recorded so you can watch at your convenience.




Course Description

Two co-presenters - both from different spiritual backgrounds -  will join Diane Millis:  Kami Pohl (Christian) and Busshō Lahn (Soto Zen Buddhist). In an authentic demonstration of how narrative circles work, Diane will facilitate Kami and Bussho's interaction as they begin to:

  • Develop their capacity to re-create their life by exploring more life-giving stories;
  • Discover the story they are currently telling themselves;
  • Discern how to tell the story of what gives their life meaning, purpose, and joy.

Those who participate in the webinar will:

  • Enhance their understanding of the vital role that a community can play in helping us to learn how to tell our most life-giving story;
  • Become acquainted with the guiding principles for narrative exploration;
  • Increase their familiarity with the 4, 4, 4 format for narrative circles (see below);
  • Observe a demonstration of the narrative circle process as the three guests practice noticing, appreciating, and wondering about one another’s stories;
  • Engage in Q & A with Diane and her colleagues about narrative approaches to group spiritual accompaniment.


How Do Narrative Circles Work?

In her new book Re-Creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Stories, Diane explains how narrative circles help participants "hear others all the way into their own story." This method - which she calls "4, 4, 4" - offers a clear structure which enhances freedom rather than limits it. She writes: "Each person has the same amount of time to speak without cross talk, receive others' responses, and re-tell their story in light of others' responses."

Here is a broad outline of how the method works:

4, 4, 4

Telling: The focus person shares their story in response to one of the storytelling prompts.// This takes up to 4 minutes.

Responding: Listeners take turns contributing their responses to the story, following this format: 

  • "I noticed ..."
  • "I appreciated..."
  • "I wondered ..."

Retelling: The focus person describes what s/he is discovering about her or his story // Up to 4 minutes.

Pausing: Participants share time in silence to honor what has been shared // Up to 1 minute.


Webinar Presenters

For almost three decades, Diane Millis has had the privilege of serving as a midwife for others as they give voice to the vast array of stories inside of them. Through teaching and advising undergraduate and graduate students, consulting and coaching in a wide array of sectors, facilitating retreats and leading workshops, producing the video series, Lives Explored, and ministering as a spiritual director, she has observed, listened, and inquired as participants learn how to tell their most life-giving stories—stories to which they are drawn. 

All three of her books, Conversation—the Sacred Art, Deepening Engagement, and her recently released Re-Creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story, provide toolkits for both one-to-one and group spiritual companioning.

Diane is the founder of Companions on a Journey (where she introduced the process of group spiritual companioning to young adult college students), and the Journey Conversations Project (where she developed a model for interfaith group spiritual companioning).  Diane currently serves in a wide array of sectors introducing the 4, 4, 4 format for group spiritual accompaniment.  She teaches Narrative Leadership at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (MN, USA).



Busshō Lahn is a Soto Zen priest who first came to Zen Buddhism and MZMC in 1993, was ordained in 2009, and received dharma transmission as an independent teacher and full priest in 2015. He’s now serving the sangha of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center (Ganshoji) as a senior teacher. He also teaches, leads retreats, and facilitates overseas pilgrimages as pasrt of his role at Aslan Institute in Eagan, MN. A Certified Spiritual Director, Bussho is grounded in contemplative spirituality, interfaith experience, addiction recovery, and shadow integration. He is active in both the recovery and Christian contemplative community of the Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville, MN. He lives in Eden Prairie with his wonderful wife Karen.