Way of Council


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COUNCIL is a modern practice derived from many ancient forms of coming together and communicating in a circle.  Council is an important core practice at all Bearing Witness Retreats.

The practice of deep listening without judgment fosters an atmosphere of respect for one’s self and for others and promotes empathy, dissolving barriers to cooperation, understanding, community.  Council focuses our intention and energy on the common stories, values, fears and aspirations that make us human; it reminds us that we are more alike than we are different, more capable of finding common ground than we may have thought.

Council allows for all sides to be heard in a context of mutual respect and trust.  It fosters a sense of containment that can lead to an atmosphere of safety and confidentiality.  Using a set of simple intentions, or ground rules, Council can lead to common ground, beyond opinions, prejudices or preconceived ideas.

The intentions of Council are:

  • When listening, to listen from the heart, without the need to analyze, agree or disagree;
  • When speaking, to speak from the heart, naming what is alive right now;
  • To be lean of expression, going to the essence of what needs to be spoken;
  • To be spontaneous, trusting what comes, rather than what one has rehearsed or what one thinks should be said.

This practice is best learned through the formal training offered by Center for Council, or one of their affiliated Council Trainers. There is also a wonderful book which describes the practice: The Way of Council, by Jack Zimmerman & Gigi Coyle, as well as many other resources available on the Center for Council website.