Shaman & Holistic
Transformation Facilitator

The Way of Council: A Path To A Heart-Centered & Authentic Life

This is a time when
is split off from
and Being is hardly at all.

But here and there
on this side of the horizon,
people meet in sacred circles
to form communities
and speak their heart
that seek the same.
                                           – Meir Carasso

As we flow through the last quarter of 2012, many are feeling the call to deepen into the energy of the heart and into greater authenticity.  I have been working with my dear friend, Maria Lucia, on the Choose Love 2012 initiative, which invites everyone to participate in a campaign to empower love throughout the year of 2012.  Much of this is done through personal work and sharing with the intention of gathering together in Council or circles in various locations all over the world on December 21st, 2012 to anchor in the energies of divine love on our planet.

Recently, I had the opportunity to present on The Way of Council at the On Purpose Woman Conference.  Council or talking circle is one of my favorite topics to share about as I feel it is such a valuable tool for our times and one that supports living in the energy of the heart.  Coming together in circle is a process that is as old as time itself.  It is a practice that is a foundation in many indigenous cultures and one that is seeing a resurgence in our own society as people feel the call to gather together in a more intentional, heart centered and authentic way.  The loss of a sense of connection is one of the great maladies of our times and coming together in Council is a process that can help us to connect more fully to ourselves, others and the collective wisdom of life itself.

In preparing for my talk, I really felt the inspiration to focus on utilizing the principles of Council in daily life as much as in the process of gathering together in a Council or circle process.  The Way of Council symbolizes an approach to life which can be used as both a group process and a personal practice.  The guidelines or principles of Council offer a foundation for living in an authentic and heart-centered way.  When we gather together, we practice this in the container of our circle, however we can walk in the way of Council in each and every moment.  Council is really about creating a sense of intimacy, trust, and connection.  If we can allow ourselves to move in this intentional way throughout our daily lives, we carry the circle of wisdom, love and understanding with us where ever we go, into all of our relationships and into the world as a whole.

As we gather in Council, we are reminded of the circle of life, the interconnectedness of all things and our place in it.   As we gather in circle, we benefit from the collective wisdom of all participants.  Each person is considered both a giver and receiver.  Drawing on our collective life experiences and wisdom allows for the emergence of new understandings and new possibilities.  Imagine if we were to carry that intention with us into our daily lives, reminding ourselves in each moment of this bigger picture.  Every interaction is a moment when we can connect with and honor the sacredness of life.  Every experience offers an opportunity to be both giver and receiver.  Every relationship is an opening into oneness, love and understanding.

In a Council gathering, a talking stick or piece is used to signify who is the speaker at any given time.  In many indigenous cultures, the talking stick was used during circle to discuss issues or concerns peacefully by “speaking from the heart” and by listening intently to what others had to say.  The person holding the talking piece is the only speaker and all others are active listeners.  This guarantees that every person in the group has the opportunity to speak and to be heard.  It also allows the listener to simply listen instead of reacting to what has been said.  And, it provides an opportunity for speaking without fear of being interrupted, criticized, or judged.   Whether we are in an actual Council gathering where we are using a talking piece or as we are going about our daily life, shifting into a space where we allow ourselves to speak from the heart and listen actively in a non-reactive, non-judgmental way is a powerful practice.

There are a variety of council formats for different needs, such as community building, visioning, peacemaking, etc.  The following are some basic Council principles which can be used in the process of a Council gathering or can be adapted for a personal practice of living the way of council in daily life:

  • Sit in a circle to foster connection.
  • Use a meaningful talking piece to empower the speaker and focus the listeners.
  • When not speaking, listen actively and attentively; this is an opportunity to practice mindful listening.
  • Don’t interrupt – even by disagreeing in silence; try to be open-hearted as you listen.
  • Be spontaneous and in the moment; avoid rehearsing what you will share.
  • Accept others for who they fully are.
  • Witness your own internal response or inner dialogue and just let it be until it’s time to for you to share.
  • Speak from the heart; sometimes this requires fewer words than when speaking from the mind –  try to be succinct.
  • Be aware of the energy and spirit that is present; notice shifts and changes in the field from moment to moment.
  • Seek to understand individual positions and assumptions, even unconscious ones; avoid defending or attacking.
  • Seek a collective truth, viewpoint and wisdom from the circle, one greater than that of any individual, including yourself.
  • Listen deeply; listen for what is emerging.
  • Listen between the lines;  listen to what is not being said as well as to what is spoken.
  • Consider everything that enters into awareness to be part of the process, including environment, interruptions, sounds, etc.
  • Favor inquiry over advocacy.
  • Favor curiosity over opinion.
  • Favor understanding over self-defense.
  • Favor building connection over scoring points.
  • Favor being truthful over being right.
  • Favor trust over doubt.

Council can be a valuable tool for individuals, community, groups, families, relationships and organizations.  It fosters authenticity, awareness and a heart centered approach to life that is applicable as a group process in the form of a Council gathering or as a personal practice in everyday life.  It supports the development of self-awareness and self-expression, empathy and listening skills and a sense of interconnection with others and the world.  As we begin to live more from the heart and embody greater authenticity in our daily lives, our world changes.  Council is a way to explore what’s possible!

I hope you will join us in exploring the principles of Council both in community and as a path of a personal practice toward a more heart-centered and authentic life.

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