An Insight into The Way of Council with Lori Austein
Here is a closer look at Lori’s story, the woman who teaches The Way of Council at O.U.R. Ecovillage through Royal Roads University.
When I arrived on Vancouver Island from Los Angeles six years ago, I knew that I needed to make a new home, a new community for my soul’s work, The Way of Council. I knew that I needed to find a place to hold council trainings in which the land was truly stewarded; a place where a person could be in council with one’s self, with other people and with the nature of which we are a part. Fortunately, I landed in the Cowichan Valley, home of O.U.R. Ecovillage. What I immediately understood upon meeting Brandy Gallagher was that O.U.R. Ecovillage understands that sustainable community includes
stewarding the land and also includes keeping human relationships alive, free, open and constructive, both in times of joyful community celebration and in times of conflict. As a demonstration site offering itself up to be witnessed by all who seek a way different from the dominant paradigm, O.U.R. Ecovillage is a onderful place to hold Council.
I began my training in Council in 1998 with Joe Provisor who currently serves as Director of the Ojai Foundation’s Council in Schools Program and is the Program Expert for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Council Practitioners Center and began my active work with Council then. I continued training with Jack Zimmerman and Gigi Coyle, authors of The Way of Council and other mentors and elders in the process which continues today. In fact, I can hardly wait to return to the Ojai Foundation next month to sit in a circle of my peers and continue exploring my edges with this work.
I have used Council with youth as part of the Palms Elementary School Council Project and with several classes at Sunrise Waldorf School. I have trained educators in Prince Rupert to facilitate Councils with their students. I have used Council for blessing ways, birthday celebrations, with co-housing groups and organizations such as O.U.R. Ecovillage, Yarrow and Windsong. I’ve used Council with parents of kindergarten children, sharing their feelings and thoughts as their children leave early childhood for the grade school. With a 5Rhythms teacher, I have used Council with women to understand just a little bit more about how they come to know themselves and I have used Council with my husband, both to sustain and nurture our marriage and to bring the practice to other couples.
In Council, people are invited to speak deeply and only from their own experience and perspective. There is no one right way to view things, only the understanding of another’s point of view.
I find Council particularly suited to eliciting presence and heartfelt participation around emotionally charged experiences in a way that allows for relationships to develop or deepen. It also allows us to hear ourselves, often in a new way. Through the practice of empathic listening and learning to monitor one’s own emotional activity, Council encourages going beyond one’s position with which one might have entered the circle and allowing something new to emerge.
Council does not seek to create concensus, but allows for and recognizes the arising of a “cohesive group wisdom” which is a harvest of diversity, where the sum is greater than the total of the parts. A vision arises that includes everything expressed as a recognition that each member of the circle carries a piece of the collective wisdom. Decisions taken in Council can take longer to arrive it but they hold and are supported because everyone has been heard and all viewpoints are included.
One of the ways in which we practice monitoring one’s own emotional activity is by slowing down and breathing when radically different points of view are spoken into the circle. Also helpful is the awareness that we speak into the circle without directing our perspective at any one person. It is amazing to witness oneself being triggered, breathing and listening from the heart and then truly hearing the other. Allowing those sometimes radically different perspectives to have their space in the circle leads to greater wisdom for all.
In my experience the questions used in Council seek to delve under the surface. Silence in the form of deep listening is participation as is sharing in any language or form. In fact one is invited to listen with one’s whole being to better receive both what is spoken and that which is unspoken. This allows us to respond from a place deeper than personality. The circle weaves a tapestry of community that is palpable.
I am obviously passionate about Council because I believe that Council energizes people in a different way by creating a container safe enough to allow us to show up in our authentic, vulnerable wholeness. I look forward to the opportunity to sit with you, hear your stories and weave our collective wisdom on the beautiful land so lovingly cared for at O.U.R. Ecovillage.
Click here to register now for The Way of Council Level I at O.U.R. Ecovillage taught by Lori Austein on behalf of Royal Roads UnIversity