I first encountered “Council” as part of a two day group experience called “Council of all beings”, an empathy building process held by deep ecologists to help ease the sense of alienation from the living Earth that many people feel today.
However, the way of council is a theme that is being explored by practice in different non-formal learning environments world wide. Wherever dialogue takes place, the practice of Council can nurture the experience.
This age-old practice of listening empathetically and sharing heartfelt stories in a circle is as useful today as it was in the past.
There are four basic instructions for participating in council:
- Listen from the heart.
- Speak from the heart.
- Be spontaneous.
- Be lean.
A council begins when someone recognizes a need to deepen, clarify, or resolve relationships between individuals or in a group and calls for a council. Sometimes council is called as part of a larger process within a group structure. Everyone involved agrees to participate at a specific time and place. The topic can be chosen by the caller of the council or agreed upon by the participants. It helps to have a central altar or focus, which can be as simple as a flower or a candle. A dedication for the council, spoken out loud, with or without lighting a candle, sets the intention that orients the direction of the council’s unfolding. A talking piece is chosen which can also be as simple as a rock, a stick, a shell or a flower or some more elaborate sacred object that has meaning to the group. All participants agree only to speak when they hold the talking piece and not to make comments when others are speaking. THE WAY OF COUNCIL – Lynnaea Lumbard, 2003 –
Council is a non hierarchical and non violent form of communication for groups, relationships and self that puts focus on the listening. In Council it is given to practice listening without judgment; to the stories we hear and our own that wants to be told.The call of Council was a natural means of communication for our indigenous ancestors. In modern times the core practice of Council sets a container for empathy, wisdom and honesty. It provides a way of bearing witness and of peacemaking that accepts diversity in our self and each other, and helps cultivate a balance of non-hierarchical power. When in Council we step into a timeless space and spirit moves through us. We experience the deep connection to all life.- European Council Network