The Way of Council

The Way of Council

Posted on: November 10, 2010

There have been many times in my life where I have sat down with someone to talk something out, only to find that my heartfelt intention was not enough. Some of these times I found myself feeling more defensive and angry with the person that I was before we sat down and other times I felt like I had caused a similar reaction in them. Often, I have gotten up from these conversations feeling like nothing got through – that we never actually got to the core of the matter.

This past weekend Lori Austein with Hilary Leighton, in partnership with Royal Roads University, came to OUR Ecovillage to train a group of us in The Way Of Council I. I had come across council first at the Ojai Foundation in California, and again here at OUR Ecovillage. It is truly at the core of how the Ecovillage functions, and provides an appropriate way for deep communication to happen. As this course seemed to be popping into my field for many months, I decided to register.

When the day arrived, we gathered in the big room of the sanctuary, a sacred space of warm earthen walls and wooden accents that echoed the timelessness of this ancient art of communication and group facilitation. We came from a variety of different backgrounds, from large corporations to ecovillages to students but all felt the desire to take ordinary discussion and group process to a new level in ourselves.

The training began with a circle game game, each of us throwing the ball to one another and saying each others names. Before we knew it, ball after ball was added to the circle until our focus could barely shift from catching the ball to throwing it before another was coming down the pipe. It wasn’t long before I began to see why communication can be so complicated, especially in a large group. The balls were analogous to words, ideas, feelings, emotions, intentions and hopes that get thrown back and forth between people in a discussion. I realized quickly how easy it has been for me to assume that everyone can catch and throw communications and that everyone will do it in the same way.

What The Way of Council did for me was level the communication playing field, so to speak. I found that each exercise laid the foundation for a shared language of communication and intentions with which to govern communication, in and out of council. You can be sure to see me at the Way of Council II, coming up in March.

Council is the practice of speaking and listening from the heart. Through compassionate, heartfelt expression and empathic, non-judgmental listening, Council inspires a non-hierarchical form of deep communication that reveals a group’s vision and purpose.

Council offers effective means of resolving conflicts and for discovering the deeper, often unexpressed needs of individuals and organizations. Council provides a comprehensive means for co-visioning and making decisions in a group context. Council is about our personal and collaborative story.

-from the Ojai Foundation


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