Values & Visions Circles are groups of people who come together regularly to use movies, books, and spoken-word audios as catalysts for soulmaking. They are more than discussion groups; they are spirituality groups, working together to bring to the surface their deepest commitments and to share how they can act upon them in their everyday lives in service to the world.

The participants have made a commitment to do this work and have learned that the experience is enriched and deepened by the presence of others. They are usually interested in self-understanding, personal growth, engagement with others, and connection with the universe. A major focus of many circles is identifying how the Spirit moves through the stories they are considering and the experiences of their daily lives.

A "group" can be any intentional gathering — partners spending an evening together, five to fifteen people meeting on a weekly or monthly basis at a church or synagogue, or fifty strangers at a weekend retreat. Ideally, a Values & Visions Circle is an ongoing community which meets regularly enough to develop intimacy and trust.

Sharing within a circle takes many forms. A typical gathering may include a mix of uninterrupted speaking from the heart; the telling of personal stories; focused conversations about a film, book, or audio; and meditations on spiritual teachings.

One of the distinctive features of Values & Visions Circles is that they use resources from contemporary culture as catalysts for soulmaking. Feature films showing at the local theater, movies on DVD, fiction and nonfiction books, and spoken-word audios — these contemporary "spiritual texts" are brimming with values and visions.

They make good catalysts because they are good stories. Some of them provide close encounters with the stories of our lives. They are mirrors reflecting back aspects of our inner selves; they help us identify the many voices inside us and to delve deeply into our feelings, desires, and passions.

Other stories are a rendezvous with the shadow side of life or the demons which dog our days. Many encourage us to exercise our values and take stock of our commitments, to act on the promptings of conscience and intuition. They may bring back memories or send us into blissful reverie.

Throughout human history, stories have carried the message that we are not alone. How have others dealt with change, good and evil, success and failure, suffering and death? Stories show us. When we have questions, stories may not provide all the answers but they open some windows — icons — into the profound mysteries of life.

To use contemporary stories for soulmaking, we need to consider our own experiences in light of their visions. The first step involves making our story conscious to ourselves, then through sharing with a community. We step into the story of a film, book, or audio and discover that it is really about is. In the words of Frank McConnell: "You are Ahab in Moby Dick, you are Michael Corleone in The Godfather, you are Rick or Isla in Casablanca, Jim in Lord Jim, or the tramp in City Lights. And out of these make-believe selves, all of them versions of your own self-in-the-making, you learn . . . to invent a better you than you could have before the story was told."