Authentic Relating Toronto - Changing the world one connection at a time. - Frequently Asked Questions

The who-what-why-how of ART.

Q: Can you say more about what "Authentic Relating" is?

"Authentic Relating" can mean
  • there's no right way (no cookie-cutter mould) that relating is supposed to be
  • simply showing up with the intention to drop trying to come off a certain way
  • celebrating whatever arises
  • letting ourselves mess it up
  • intending to cultivate even just 1% more connection, transparency, and aliveness in our interactions
Within that, we remind ourselves that trying to be authentic all the time is (ironically) inauthentic to our true nature.

Q: What can I get out of investing my time here?

A lot becomes available when we engage one another with curiosity to expand our awareness. To fully discuss all the possibilities of what one could take-away from a single event, vs. years of practicing could take many thousands of words. However there are some generalizations that most everyone will have gained at some point over say a 3 or so event span. These can be:
  • increased self-awareness
  • feeling heard, seen and/or accepted
  • experiencing a deeper quality of connection than we may be used to
  • access to more vulnerability
  • a feeling that you're not alone
  • relief and self-acceptance
  • increased access to courage
With these experiences, our relationships and interactions outside of ART spaces will often start to transform, be that improved clarity of communication at work or to the courage to ask for what you want and share your truths (advocating for yourself) in your romantic, familial, casual or professional relationships.

Q: Are y'all like some kind of new-age hippie cult?

Nope. No 'leader-leader' type chanting. No need or expectation for anyone to disown their family, shun their friends, grow really long beards (or armpit hair) and buy Birkenstocks. However, if that's what you want to do. We'll honor that... and probably ask you to share more about it.

That said the practice of authentic relating can lead to significant transformational change in one's life. Sometimes this can lead us to realize how deeply unsatisfying our current relationships are and now, emboldened with the tools and confidence to seek ones that fulfill us. And sometimes the practice can lead us to a deeper appreciation for what already exists in our lives. Of course, increased self-acceptance and self-love can lead to personal appearance being something you 'do' for yourself... which could lead to a long beard and/or Birkenstocks if that's your thing.

Q: What kind of people engage with ART?

You name it, we've got it. Typical age ranges are those in their 20's' through to their 60's. With a bit more emphasis on those in their 20's and 30's likely due to the expansion of consciousness through generations. You'll find Students, Teachers, CEO's, couples, retiree's anyone and everyone... seriously. There's no real cookie-cutter criteria that makes up a 'relater'. Other than, you know, the fact we're all amazingly beautiful and that we share the desire to connect with others. And that said even when we sometimes feel like we don't want to be with others, we may come out to the events to be accepted exactly where we are and see what that's like.

Q: Are you a 'safe space'?

Depends. We all have our own definition of what a 'safe' space looks and feels like. We all have our different triggers based on our past experiences. There is no guarantee you will not feel triggered at an event. In fact, it's almost a guarantee you will feel activated at some point. That is, in effect, part of what comes with relating with one another in a transparent or authentic way. Most people tend to participate with the intention to lean into their edge and outside their comfort zone in service of accessing deeper connections and greater self awareness. The usual invitation for that is for us to, like as in Yoga, stretch, don't tear. We take the position that our spaces are simply shared-context spaces and not a refuge from reality or perspectives we don't agree with. And, to expect that when someone shares a perspective someone doesn't agree with, to expect that others will share how they are impacted, this keeps things relational.

We do not have a mandate to include everyone, nor do we have a mandate to exclude anyone. Yet all are welcome, within the context and parameters of the space, be it physical or philisophical.

That said, many do describe our spaces as feeling safe and non-judgemental. And, if we're to strive to accept others where they're at, we must consider others may be judgemental. And the invitation is to be curious about that as opposed to making it wrong.

We have a number of agreements that can be in-effect depending on the practice/event. These agreements help setup the container via a set of explicit expectations on what the 'rules' are for engagement. These primarily exist for facilitators to guide those who step outside them, back to the agreement, rather than wholesale ejecting someone for making a mistake without checking for intent. They also have the impact of creating levels of 'safety' for some.

The general agreements for Circling are: (in the order of precedent)
  • Honor Yourself - You do not have to do or say anything that you do not want to. This also means you agree to take full responsbility for your experience.
  • Confidentiality (when requested) - Regardless of our own internal moral compass about what feels okay or not okay to share with others about an experience inside our spaces, if someone explicitly makes a request for confidentiality, we're agreeing to honor that request and not share that content.
  • Own Your Experience - is an invitation to inquire within. You are owning your experience when your words can not be resonably debated. For example "You are making me feel x" = not owning ones experience, however "When you say x, I feel y" = owning experience.
  • Extend Regard (aka Honor Other) - We're agreeing to endeavor to see the truth in all perspectives, whether we understand or agree. Seeing the truth does not mean you have to agree to it, however we are agreeing that each individuals perspective is real and valid for them.

To close, we take the position that we accept that our words and actions have impact, and the general idea of our spaces is to relate around how we impact one another.

All that said, if someone is abusive, not respecting your boundaries, you feel threatened, and you need support please approach a leader or facilitator. (and this scenario has yet to happen)

Q: Do you do Corporate or Consulting work?

Yes! Emergent Developmental Concepts is our professional arm. We have a few canned programs and workshops which are geared to improve work-place communication and team-building that are ideal for getting a taste of what this work can do for your employees and business. And to create a more significant impact, we can custom build a program around specific goals or even come into your space to audit and make recommendations. All of which are in service of bringing these powerful and dynamic containers to you, your executive or management teams to help your business(es) thrive. For more information, please contact us at info(at)

Q: So I've read the descriptions for (connection lab/circling/t-group/etc) and I still don't get it.

It's not uncommon for those with little to no personal development background to sometimes struggle with the language. The intention of the language is not to create distance, however because so much of what we're doing is verbal communication, over time we start to develop capacities to hold and name distinctions that others may otherwise just name more plainly. What's important here is that either approach is welcome.

Another potential issue with how we describe our events is to find language that has a broad reach while also being conscious of bias and suggestibility which we believe disables people from their own discovery and process. Whatever your experience is, it's generally fits into the acceptable parameters framed by the intention(s) of the practice.

For example, if I tell you that T-Group is intended to help people build their emotional vocabulary, and you attend, enjoy yourself, but find it really hard to name what's happening for you in the present moment. Are you going to feel like you failed or didn't 'do it right'? Sure, the feeling of failure *could* be part of the journey, but it also invites you to put your attention on something other than the parameters for the space, within which all experiences are valid. And for the record, building emotional vocabulary is more of a benefit, than an intention for T-Group.

Our invitation is to try it out to get an idea of what this event or that practice could mean for you. Often at the opening of circling events we will call on a handful of veterans to share what the practice is to them and you'll often receive a handful of distinctive responses. Representing, we think, the beauty and sustainability of the practice.

Authentic Relating is for everyone, wherever they're at.

Q: Okay I'd like to attend but I have x, y, z concern...

While I'm sure we won't cover everyone's concerns here, most generally fall under the rather universal agreement for participants across most of our spaces to "Honor Yourself". Still let's call out some common ones.

Can I express (sadness, anger, crying, joy, etc)? Yes, the intention of the spaces is to accept others where they're at, including any lack of desire to express.

Do I have to share? No, and there may be feelings from others around that choice, and they may (or may not) express them.

Is there anything I have to do? Beyond the explicit criteria to participate and any explicit agreements that would be spoken to and agreed to before various practices or activities. No. If you don't agree with any of the agreements, you are free to renegotiate with the individual or group, and if that doesn't work, you're of course free to leave and in most cases receive a refund.

Q: Where does "Authentic Relating" come from?

Connection Lab (previously: Relating Games) in it's current form largely originates from Authentic World (Brian Bayer & Decker Cunov) out of California as part of their Alethia immersion weekends. Bryan and Decker have since Co-founded "The Integral Center" with Robert MacNaughton in Boulder, CO. In case you're further curious (you'll do great in circles!) it's named "Integral" for "Integral Theory" which, to distill down into a single sentence, is a theory that attempts to tie together the bulk of the worlds theories into a single framework.

The basis for Circling is considered founded by Guy Stengstock at Burning Man back in 1996, though at the time it didn't have a name or a structure, it was simply a novel way of exploring the question "Who are you?". After this experience, Guy (along with Jerry Candelaria) started to integrate this way of relating into the San Francisco Men's Group. After some time they then developed a workshop called "The Arete Experience" which involved a lot of Circling. Roughly around that same time Brian Bayer and Decker Cunov happened to be already 'circling' with friends, also without even having put a name to it. Around 2010, it got refined into structural practice and a training.

T-Group comes from Sensitivity Training whose origin predates the people mentioned above.

Q: Is there a theory these practices are built on?

Yes and no. There is no single basis that AR practice and Circling were built on top of originally. However a number of the people involved with it's creation and evolution are well aware of various philisophical and psychological theories and practices. These undoubtedly have had an impact. Here are some sources we're certain have had a direct impact on the formulation and evolution of these practices or these sources validate the foundations of the practices:
  • Non-Violent Communication (NVC) - Marshall Rosenberg
  • Dr. Susan Campbell - Getting Real (Book)
  • Integral Theory - Ken Wilber (and more)
  • Gestalt Therapy - Fritz Perls
  • Martin Bruber - I and Thou (Book)
  • Dr. Richard Moss - Mandala of Being (The Four Holding Environments)
  • The Sapir-Worf Hypothesis
  • The Paradoxical Theory of Change - Gestalt / Dr. Arnold Beisser
For those familiar with Integral Theory's Altitudes of Consciousness or Spiral Dynamics (developmental theories), the practice of Circling can be (and is) considered an "Integral" or 2nd Tier practice.

All this said, knowledge of these underlying theories or sciences is not required to participate. It's very rare for us to discuss theory or ideas in ART spaces and practices. We generally only introduce and work with, what are called, "Structures of Consciousness" in our Master Circle Leadership Program and (to a lesser extent) in our Circling trainings.

Q: Who started Authentic Relating Toronto?

ART was co-founded by Josh Stein and Evan Dwyer roughly back in 2011. Josh held the bulk of the roles and responsbilities for years, integrated the community into the management and execution of ART and as of mid-2015 taken a step back for other opportunities. At that time Joanna and Taylor were leading ART Council and converted ART (a community that was an implicit business) into a business. For the past 3 years they've built trainings, courses, new events and offerings around the same foundational truths that AR and Circling practices are built on.
©2018 Emergent Developmental Concepts