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The following is an introduction to the Center for Council.
What is your organization’s name?
Center for Council
What is your mission?
Center for Council delivers programs and trainings that promote communication, enhance well-being, build community, and foster compassion. Our work supports a sustainable shift toward a more cooperative, creative, and engaged culture, transforming relationships, strengthening teamwork, fostering a sense of inclusion, and supporting health and wellbeing. Center for Council offers training workshops and council-based programs within the criminal and social justice, educational and health care systems, and alongside businesses and community based organizations, to develop compassion-based tools for increased communication and wellness. Practitioners of council are powerful resources to communities in need, enabling individuals at odds—including incarcerated persons, correctional officers, system-impacted youth, and members of disenfranchised communities—to cultivate tools for increased communication and engagement, to find common ground, and to create compassionate and thriving communities. Our programs train leaders to develop skillful means to deliver customized, on-the-ground, community-building solutions where and when they’re needed most.
Where is your organization based?
Los Angeles, California
How many regular members do you serve?
Tell us a bit about how the group was conceived?
Center for Council began as an initiative of The Ojai Foundation, which was host to decades of seminars, workshops, residencies, and lectures by teachers and elders from a wide range of traditions and cultures. Council, as practiced within the programs and workshops offered there, evolved and was shaped in collaboration with renown teachers and elders over the course of many years, including Andrew Weil, Arvol Lookinghorse, Deena Metzger, Francis Huxley, Grace Spotted Eagle, Jean Houston, Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Jose Arguelles, Joseph Campbell, Pir Vilayat Khan, R.D. Lang, Robert Bly, Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna, Terry Tempest Williams, Thich Nhat Hanh, Wallace Black Elk, and many others. We are deeply indebted to the generosity and insight of these and other revered teachers, and we are profoundly grateful for their care and partnership in helping the practice evolve. Incorporating strands from many dialogic traditions throughout North America and around the world, the practice was codified and popularized with the publication of The Way of Council, written by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, in 1996. Building on research and practice conducted throughout the 1990s and 2000s at The Ojai Foundation, Center for Council evolved and eventually launched as an independent project in 2014. While our base of operations remains in the heart of Southern California, our expanding team of Certified Council Trainers travel the world to support individuals, organizations and communities longing for compassion-based tools for developing more skillful communication, deeper connection, resilient relationships and flourishing communities. Center for Council has had a deep collaborative relationship with Zen Peacemakers for many years, supporting council practice in Bearing Witness Retreats and trainings for affiliated sanghas and communities around the world.
Tell us about one exciting project, retreat, or other offering that you are currently working on.
Our “Beyond Us & Them” initiative holds a vision of a culture of social connection, engagement and resilience that promotes mutual respect and care and dismantles systems of oppression, exclusion and racism. Integrating contemplative practice and evidence-based methodology, Beyond Us & Them provides a platform for easing suffering, cultivating humanity, increasing engagement, and flourishing together as a community at a time when this is desperately needed. Beyond Us & Them is focused on providing council-based training and curricula grounded in contemplative neuroscience for law enforcement, community-based organizations, educators, healthcare workers and policymakers to work more skillfully with compassion, humanity and resilience; it is a movement, an aspiration, a daily practice, a future we commit to realize. More information on this initiative can be found at www.beyondusandthem.org.
How do the Three Tenets inform your social engagement?
The methodology of council is based on letting go of preconceived ideas and concepts and bearing witness (listening from the heart), as well as finding our authentic expression (speaking from the heart) in words and actions. With programming built on the premise that slowing down and sharing stories in a respectful and intentional way leads to healing and community well-being, Center for Council offers programs and trainings throughout the criminal justice spectrum, on-the-ground within impacted communities, and through community-based organizations. Increasingly, it also presents public programs centered on the concept of strengthening community and building compassion. By fostering attentive listening and authentic expression, council values every voice, reinforces respectful communication, dissolves bias, builds positive relationships between participants, and neutralizes hierarchical dynamics and conflict. Center for Council promotes a more just and equitable society by encouraging respectful dialogue, promoting compassion and collaboration, and raising up individual and community voices. It also provides a resource for systems change, supporting inclusiveness and justice for traditionally marginalized individuals and communities. Center for Council’s programs develop skills and create spaces for stories that have become invisible to be recovered, and for voices that have been silenced to be heard. Learning and practicing ways to increase attention and become more skillful with communication creates an opportunity for richer relationships to emerge, often healing rifts and misunderstandings that have become obstacles to building together. Center for Council’s work offers a way for adversarial dynamics to heal and disenfranchised individuals to reconnect to community, as well as for systems to be transformed in support of social justice.
What is the most meaningful challenge your organization faces?
As relations between law enforcement and community members are increasingly strained – leading to unprecedented tension, mistrust and sometimes violence – Center for Council is committed to finding ways to foster recognition of the value of our diverse cultures and shared humanity, and to promoting practices that generate productive dialogue and opportunities for connection. Our work enables law enforcement officers and community members to develop tools for practicing mindfulness and skillful communication, with the intention of enhancing individual well-being and creating more inclusive community. Our programs begin with a focus on understanding and practicing self-awareness and self-regulation skills within individual groups. The focus then shifts to experiencing and learning to facilitate council circles within affiliate groups, leading eventually to methods of bridging with external groups. Council invites stories of our common human experiences and leads to critical conversations around shared goals and challenges, triumphs and resilience, and improving community-police relations. When communities weave through council programs, it creates a living expression of “Beloved Community” that offers an opportunity for healing bruised relations through the simple act of sharing authentic stories and listening from the heart. This work fosters critical communication skills, which are the undergirding for meaningful procedural justice. When we learn to listen and respect one another’s stories, we find ourselves moving toward one another, healing rifts and easing challenges.
Your main website URL:
Your main contact for members:
Jared Seide, Executive Director
In addition to a variety of grant-funded and contracted programs, Center for Council offers individuals frequent trainings and facilitated council offerings — like our pay-what-you-can Social Connection Councils, offered throughout the week. For more information and upcoming opportunities to participate, please visit https://www.centerforcouncil.org/get-involved.html