A college professor once talked to me about three circles of “presence,” and the ways they manifest everyday living.  These circles were simply referred to as Circle 1, Circle 2, and Circle 3, and when initially learned, I believed that they represented one’s ability to be, or not to be, outgoing.

Circle 1 was described the “headphones” circle.  When we walk around wearing headphones, we are less likely to interact with the world around us.  This isn’t about being plugged in, but about being consumed by something that we choose and that we have the power over amongst our journey.  We see where we want to go, and we move there.  The destination matters more than the journey and when on the destination, we focus on what we create on our own to get by.  There are beautiful things and not so beautiful things about this circle.  Walking to tracks of powerful music and strolling to the thoughts inside your head can be an invigorating experience, but it reduces our ability to feel, or at least interact, with our community and to share those things that are powering (and empowering) our treks.

Circle 3 was described as the “excitement” circle. If you have ever had a “light bulb moment” when your ideation skills are on point and you just need to share the sparks of your brain with the entire world, or you come out of a play or movie or good book so inspired that you feel like you need to scream your thoughts about it to the universe, you have probably spent some time walking in this circle. In this circle, the external world has taken over us and we feel the need to share our thoughts so expressively and so vibrantly with those around us. Just as the first circle, we have advantages and disadvantages of rounding out our days in this manner. We get to express ourselves and put our energy into the world, though we can sometimes forget that there are still other thoughts, reflections, and ideas to be taken in.

Sometimes, we feel a mix of these two circles. Sometimes, we go through an experience, see a piece or artwork, or have a conversation that simultaneously quiets us and makes us curious in thought and curious in words, while lighting a fire beneath us to go share what we feel with those around us in an ambition to connect our minds in learning with the world. This is Circle 2. When we walk in this circle, we are at a balance between being lifelong teachers and lifelong learners, and perhaps that is the definition of what it means to live with openness. When we walk in this circle, we approach things with interest and intentionality. When we walk in this circle, we feel courage within us to speak up, but cause within us to listen.

Throughout these past few years, I’ve thought about these circles on an almost weekly basis, and this is what I have realized:  They are not a measure of our ability to be outgoing. They are indicators of the way we respond to the world around us; An indicator of our ability to greet the world with openness because of what we experience. We engage with, come across, and feel for different art and moments each day but only have so much control over what we come across and how it affects us when we leave our homes each morning. As artists, writers, friends, family members, businessmen, businesswomen, and everything else we are, we have a responsibility in the realm of openness to not only greet the world with an open mind and and open heart, but to create experiences for others that can allow them to feel life in the second circle, to create intentional art for others that induce a want to walk with your palms out and head up.

But why is all of this “lifelong learner, lifelong teacher” stuff important in the end? Why not just let yourself respond and live in whatever manner you fall into?

Because our lives impact one another.

Our everyday actions and responses are a byproduct of the things with which we see and interact. If we do not do this mindfully, than we risk the chance that others and ourselves will be closed off to opportunity because of it. If this makes it sound like you have a lot of power, it is simply because you do.

Living in the second circle is not the easiest thing to do, but the emotion of it is powerful once you can find your life pacing, walking, and running within it. It takes intentional engagement in the things that you know will bring you to a place of inner openness. It takes the ability to cope and manage with those art forms and things that make you want to block yourself off from the rest of the world. Remind yourself today of that art and those moments that have made you feel so open, so warm, and so curious about the world around you, and reignite that feeling. Open your door, listen and learn, engage in the second circle, and explore openness. And if you haven’t yet found that thing that induces your internal tug of war between feeling humbled and feeling like you want to start a revolution?  Well, what are you waiting for?


Anooj Bhandari is an Ohio native currently living in Morocco as a Youth Asset Builder for the U.S. Peace Corps. He is a converser, socializer, adventurer, reader, writer, runner, punner, and justice fighter, though perhaps not in that order.

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