I remember from an early age being extremely sensitive to what other people were feeling and thinking. For example, when I entered junior high from elementary school, I vividly recall being able to sense the entire school as one body. I could feel the group field as well as the individuals within it.

I was highly empathic but didn't know it until much later in life. As with so many other people who have this same empathic sensitivity, it was a gift and a curse. The gift was that many people were drawn to me because they sensed I could feel them. They felt seen by me. The curse was that I didn't know what to do with everything that I was feeling. It felt like a terrible responsibility and often came with sensory overload. It was also difficult to find me in the we. I couldn't tell if I was feeling what I was feeling or what others were feeling.

In 1985, I met Ross Laing in Toronto, Canada. He was a radically different kind of medical doctor who recognized that the root of all disease is our disconnection from self and others. He created open support circles as a place for healing this misperception. Beliefs, moral codes, directive input or concretized roles were replaced with simple presence, personal sovereignty and kindness.

 Sitting in Circles was like coming home for me.

After studying Circle dynamics with Ross for several years, I began creating Circles of my own. I started primarily with forming men’s Circles; facilitating several thousand Circle sessions over a ten year period and then took Circle work into schools, businesses, churches and prisons.

By 2006, everything that I had learned about group dynamics coalesced in my creating Heart Circle. Heart Circle is designed around the foundational idea that the ultimate purpose of any group is to support the individuals within it to be more conscious, aware and loving human beings. The more the group is successful in this, the more dynamic and effective the group becomes in fulfilling its other purposes. 

While continuing to develop Heart Circle, I started to teach how any social group could come alive, not just by using the Heart Circle process itself, but also by using the basic elements that are practiced in Heart Circle. I saw that these group dynamic elements are universal. They bring us into connection with one another so that we have a much better chance of acting as a unified group rather than just a collection of individuals. They can be applied to any family, business, organization or community group. I saw how the culture itself could support personal transformation rather than be the primary obstacle to it.

It is my pleasure and passion to share with you what I've learned over the past 30 years about the relationship between personal and group transformation.


Tej Steiner has worked with individuals, couples, families and organizations as a life coach and group facilitator/consultant since 1985. He established the organization Men In Circle where he taught men how to form and facilitate their own men’s groups. He was co-creator of In My Village, a social experiment in Ashland, Oregon in which 300 people came together to form their own independent interest groups with one another. He is the founder of Heart Circle and author of Waking Up With Everyone Around Us. Over many years he developed the Heart Circle Model and began to formally teach people how to create their own Heart Circles in many different parts of the world. He lives in Ashland, Oregon.