What is Forum?

Forum was created at ZEGG (an intentional community in Germany), and its sister communities, as a way of promoting transparency and mutual understanding among community members. In Forum, each individual experience can be seen and understood, leading to greater empathy, compassion, and authenticity in the community. Forum has been adapted for both temporary (festivals, etc.) and non-residential intentional communities as a way to maintain ongoing connection, intimacy, and understanding.

Overview:  The intention of Forum is to reveal what is alive but not known to all. The community sits in a circle, forming a platform for one person at a time to step into the middle and reveal what is true for them. Facilitators may assist the person (or “presenter”) to reveal themselves more deeply. Afterward, community members may offer reflections, or “mirrors” on what they saw.

Sharing: One person goes in the middle and shares something that is alive for them. There is no particular goal except for that person to show themselves authentically. It is not required to be a presenter, and in larger groups, not everyone will have the opportunity to present. There is tremendous value in witnessing without sharing as well.

 Guidelines for sharing:

  • Everything is welcome, joy, sadness, confusion, amazement, even not knowing what you want to say or do.
  • You are encouraged to stay in motion. You can dance, walk, lay down, etc. inside the circle… whatever feels right.
  • If you choose to speak about someone else in the circle, you should speak in the third person and not look directly at the person you’re speaking about.

The circle: The role of the group is to pay silent, compassionate attention to the presenter while appreciating what they are sharing. The presenter’s personal story is also part of the universal human drama. Please do not enter or leave the circle while there is a person in the middle. Please do not speak to or react to requests by the presenter unless requested by the facilitator. Witnessing the presenter is an exercise in neutral presence, for example: not laughing when they say something funny or offering “support” through facial expressions. 

Facilitation: The facilitators (usually two) are like the midwives for the process. They will ask questions or make suggestions that help the presenter reveal their authentic self in a deep way. Unlike some personal growth formats, the facilitators’ intention is to help you be seen by the group. You may also experience an emotional shift, but this is more of a byproduct than a goal of the facilitation.

Guidelines for presenting:

  • Be prepared to spend more time with your feelings than your story.
  • The facilitator may suggest a “rant” so that you can explore a deep emotion like anger or frustration with a time limit. It may be helpful to try this with humor or exaggeration.
  • You are encouraged to consider all suggestions from the facilitator but feel empowered to say no if the suggestion feels wrong.
  • If your emotions feel so raw that you cannot play with them or if you are overwhelmed with rage, Forum may not be the right format for you in that moment. You should consider getting emotional support instead of getting up for a longer piece.
  • The facilitator may ask you to sit down if they feel the piece is complete for now or if emotions are too raw for Forum.

Mirrors: After the speaker shares, the observers are invited to give mirrors. A mirror is feedback about what the listener felt or observed about the presentation.

There are three kinds of mirrors:

  • Something that wasn’t said – this kind of feedback may be spoken or acted out theatrically.
  • What it was like for the listener to experience this person’s presentation? How might it be a contribution to share what moved you about this piece? Is there something you’re curious about? Do you have a challenge to offer?
  • Global mirror – how that person’s presentation relates to larger world issues. These are difficult to do well and are mainly given by the facilitators or others highly experienced in Forum.

Guidelines for giving mirrors:

  • Mirrors are only to be given in the spirit of contribution to the speaker. They are not a time to share your own story or express your own emotions.
  • Please don’t do a mirror if you’re having strong emotions or triggered by the person or the presentation.
  • Mirrors should contribute something new rather than summarizing or acting out the piece.
  • Resist the temptation to give advice.
  • Speak in the third person and don’t look directly at the presenter.
  • Keep mirrors short – 5 to 20 seconds.
  • If you have a particularly critical mirror, please do not share first.
  • Mirrors may be lightly facilitated for clarity and may be stopped if inappropriate or if they go on too long.

Forum traditions: In some communities it is common to begin Forum with some movement and/or a brief connection exercise, and to open and close Forum with clapping (the facilitators will guide this). Groups may also clap after each check-in, longer piece, or mirror. Between longer pieces and in the transition from check-ins to longer pieces, many groups “clear the space” by taking a breath and waving their hands. Rituals like this can strengthen the Forum container.

Two minute check-ins: Check-ins are a way to try out the space or share briefly with the group. These are generally done without facilitation or mirrors.

24 hour rule: It is suggested that the presenter wait 24 hours before discussing mirrors to allow the feedback time to percolate.

Approaching the presenter: After sharing in the Forum, a presenter may be emotionally raw. While it is fine to approach the presenter and offer support, please do not speak to the presenter about their piece without asking their permission – and please wait at least a few hours before asking permission. If you feel compelled to talk to someone about their piece, this may be a signal to look inside at what is coming up for you personally.

Confidentiality: If you need to discuss something that happened in Forum with people who were not present, please speak about your own experience without naming names, and speak from a place of compassion and contribution. If the speaker would like additional confidentiality, they should request it at the beginning of their sharing.

Close with feedback: There will be a time at the end to give feedback to or to ask questions of the facilitators about the process.

We are excited to bring Forum to the Triangle! We’ll get things started, and as others gain experience and feel called to facilitate, we will guide you. ~ Amrita & Apollo

Amrita Grace is an award-winning author, Certified Spiritual Sexual Educator, High Priestess, and the founder and director of The Sacred Feminine Mystery School. She received her primary Forum training and experience between 2008 and 2015 while living on Maui. Her interest was renewed after experiencing Forum again in 2022 at a retreat on the West Coast.

 Apollo Grace is a software engineer, Shamanic Astrologer, Certified Spiritual Sexual Educator, and Shamanic Minister. He received Forum training and experience between 2010 and 2015 while living on Maui. He’s been excited to bring Forum to the Triangle since well before Covid.

Information on this page has been adapted from “A Guide to ZEGG Forum Facilitation” by Debby Sugarman and Sarah Taub, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For full details see: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/