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Processes for Councils
The beauty of Councils of All Beings is that there are no set ways to do it. All kinds of process and activities are very powerful. Here are write ups of both old and new pieces of the work to inspire you.
Evolutionary Journey - Future Human Visualisation
Surrender to Earth
100 Year Circle
Open Heart During Milling
Other Process Notes
ECO-MILLING — John Seed
We are here because our world is in distress ...
Of course you can make up different steps for the milling, but the ones I commonly use are:
1. Walk around fast looking at the ground. 2. Slow down, watch your breath. 3. Start to make eye contact. 4. Take a couple of minutes each to share ... maybe something important/transformative that's happened to you in Nature. Or: Here is a person living on planet Earth at the same time as you. Share with them something you love about yourself, and something you love about the Earth.
5. Person "A" put up your hand. Put the palms of your hands together and person A lead, person B follow. After a couple of minutes, "person B lead, A follow". After a couple minutes more: "now, without stopping your movement, continue but with neither leading nor following.
6. Look into this persons eyes and let the thought arise in your mind that here is a person who loves Nature, that's why they're here for this weekend. Consider the millions of people who are doing something else (e.g....), but this person is here out of that love of Nature and desire for her wellbeing. Allow whatever feelings may arise in response to this thought (pause for a minute). Now, dropping this thought, allow the thought to arise in your mind that here is a person who has great knowing about what's happening to our world ... they know which mighty power dropped which bomb on which other mighty power in August 1945 ... they know which countries are preparing to do far worse even now ... they know (whatever you want to fill in here). Once again, allow any feelings to arise in response to this thought. Now consider the dangers in the world that this person inhabits. They could die of a cancer as a result of the poisons spewing into their environment. They could die in a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, this could happen at any moment and without warning. In fact, these could be the last pair of eyes that you'll ever look into. Again, invite any feelings that may want to arise in response to this thought.
7. Take this person's left hand in yours and begin to explore it. Feel the texture, the heat/cold, moist/dry, explore it with great wonder, as if you've never felt anything like it before. The skin, bones, knuckles, sinews, strong opposable thumb etc. Now, see what this hand can teach you of it's history. Is this a hand that has done a lot of hard manual labour? etc. Now allow this hand to take you back, see if you can feel the hand of the child that once was this hand, the baby, now even further back, can you feel the paw in this hand? the claws that led to these nails... the fin... can you feel the very dust of stars of which this hand is composed?... Now, with your eyes still closed, without words, say goodbye to this hand and start milling again.
8. Blind walk. Person A lead, B follow. This is about trust and about opening to your senses other than sight. Five (or 10) minutes each way. Person A, a few times in the course of the blind walk, when you see something that you want to share with your partner, position them so (model this), move their head into position and then squeeze their shoulder. Person B, when you're shoulder is squeezed, open your eyes for just a second, like a camera and take in what person A is sharing with you.
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SHAMBHALA STORY — Joanna Macy
In workshops, I often tell this story, for it describes the work we aim to do, and the training we engage in. It is about the coming of the Kingdom of Shambhala, and it is about you, and me. It is a prophecy that arose in Tibetan Buddhism over twelve centuries ago. I learned of it from my Tibetan friends in India when, in 1980, I heard many of them speaking of this ancient prophecy as coming true in our time. The signs it foretold, they said, are recognizable now, in our generation. Since this prophecy speaks of a time of great danger—of apocalypse—I was, as you can imagine, very interested to find out about it.
There are varying interpretations of this prophecy. Some portray the coming of the Kingdom of Shambhala as an internal event; a metaphor for one's inner spiritual journey independent of the world around us. Others present it as an entirely external event that will unfold in our world independent of what we may choose to do or what our participation may be in the healing of our world. A third version of the prophecy is the one given to me by my friend and Dharma brother Choegyal Rinpoche of the Tashi Jong community in northern India.
There comes a time when all life on earth is in danger. At this time, two great powers have arisen; these are the laloes (the barbarians). One is in the western hemisphere and one in the center of the Eurasian land mass. Although these two powers have spent their wealth in preparations to annihilate each other, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable death and devastation, and the technologies that lay waste our world. It is in this time, when the whole future of sentient life seems to hang on the frailest of threads, that the Kingdom of Shambhala begins to emerge.
Now you can't go there, for it is not a place, it's not a geopolitical entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors—that is the term Choegyal used—warriors. Nor can you recognize a Shambhala warrior when you see her or him, for they wear no uniform, no insignia, carry no banners. They have no barricades on which to climb to threaten the enemy or behind which they can rest to hide or regroup. They haven't even any home turf; for always they must move on the terrain of the laloes or barbarians themselves.
Now the time comes when great courage, moral and physical, is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept, to dismantle them. To dismantle weapons, in every sense of the word, they must go into the corridors of power where decisions are made.
Now the Shambhala warriors have the courage to do this because they know that these weapons are manomaya. They are "mind-made." Made by human mind they can be unmade by human mind. The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers that threaten life on earth are not visited upon us by any extraterrestrial powers, or any satanic deities, or any preordained evil fate, but they arise, rather, from our own choices, our own lifestyles, their own relationships.
So in this time the Shambhala warriors go into training. When Choegyal said this, I asked, "How do they train?" They train, he said, in the use of two weapons. "What weapons?" I asked, and he held up his hand in the way the lamas hold the ritual objects of bell an dorje in the lama dance.
The weapons are compassion and insight. Both are necessary, he said. You have to have compassion because it gives you the juice, the power, the passion to move; when you open to the pain of the world you move. But that weapon by itself is not enough. It can burn you out, so you need the other. It is insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena—their interconnectedness, their deep ecology. With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between the good guys and the bad guys, but that the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. With that insight into our profound interrelatedness you know hat actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern.
By itself, that insight may appear too cool, too conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so you need the heat of the compassion. Together, within each Shambhala warrior and among the Shambhala warriors themselves, these two can sustain us as agents of social change. They are gifts for us to claim now in the healing of our world.
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MOURNING — John Seed
After the intros, milling etc, tell the Shambhala tale and then ask people to spend five minutes considering something that they sincerely mourn, something lost from the Earth— maybe a species of plant or animal in danger or extinct, some landscape from your childhood buried neath a freeway or shopping mall, some quality of the human spirit disappearing in the confusion of these times or just a relative, friend or pet that has died and we haven't completed our mourning.
Then we find an object, leaf, stick, stone to represent what's been lost, then gather in a circle and one at a time (but as we feel moved, not in order), we go to the centre of the circle, tell the story of our mourning and lay our object on the cairn of mourning.
Then introduce thus: We have been conditioned to deny our feelings. If we ever express them, it makes our friends anxious, they ask us to lighten up. Any feeling of grief that we have about what is happening to our world may be interpreted, "reduced" to personal pathology by psychiatrists and others. Yet, without the feelings, our knowing the facts of what's happening doesn't change anything. We must allow ourselves to be moved. It's only to the extent that we can feel the pain of the Earth that we can be instruments for Her healing.
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EVOLUTIONARY JOURNEY – FUTURE HUMAN VISUALISATION — John Seed
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny—in the womb we first ; as embryos develop gill-slits of fish, then the three-chambered heart of a reptile, finally the tail of a mammal.
So, you've all just reached human, bumping into each other in busy city streets and you realise that the vast ancient play of evolution is now over unless... the future human can emerge. So, we invite that future human, we invite the incredible miracle of evolution to take us the next step, the sustainable ecological human.
We lie down and feel an umbilical cord to the heart of the Earth and with each inbreath we draw the raw power of evolution into our belly, the energy that has taken us right from the Big Bang thru all the stages that we've just experienced. We breathe this in and with each out breath this same energy, now in it's other manifestation, love, with each out breath we feel our hearts become soft with this love and this warm feeling of compassion, loving-kindness spreads into our chest cavities, and begins to fill our entire bodies (slowly) with goodwill, friendliness, joy and love, till our bodies can no longer contain it and it spills out into the area surrounding our bodies. Can you feel the moment that this energy starts to mingle with the energy spilling out from your neighbours? Now making a sphere of energy and we are contained within this sphere which expands outwards with each inbreath of evolutionary energy and each outbreath of love, flowing through the countryside, high into the air and deep into the ground.
Each time it passes some being, that being, human or animal or plant, is softened by the touch of the surface of our sphere which accelerates outwards, out beyond the atmosphere, deep into the molten earth of which we were formed... and go thru The geography of the region, country, hemisphere, containing now the world, 20 Earth diameters, containing now the moon, now the nearby planets, Venus, the asteroid belt, Mars, one planet after the other, the sun, the whole solar system, every particle primarily influenced by the sun and then into interstellar space, the nearby suns Centauri Proxima, Centauri Alpha and all of their planets, 10's, 100's, millions of suns, billions of suns till with 100 billion suns inside us we now contain the Milky Way, our home galaxy, look inwards at the vast glittering flattened spiral and sense our own sun invisible near the end of one of the spiral arms and we continue to expand outwards, it grows smaller and we include other galaxies—the Magellenic Cloud, more and more galaxies 100’s lOOO's millions of galaxies (slowly) till suddenly we stop. We reach the edge of the universe where our sphere becomes one, coextensive with the sphere of the big bang still expanding out at the speed of light from the point in space and time where our evolutionary journey began.
And here at the point of maximum expansion a gift awaits each of us. The gift of the qualities we need for our evolutionary journey to integrate the present crisis and to continue. With great gratitude and humility we accept this gift and take it to our heart.
Then return the way we came, falling back, imploding leaving more and more galaxies behind, feeling the gravity of the milky way invisibly embedded deep inside us and it feels so good to be coming home to our Milky Way bearing our precious gift... then we see the MW, getting larger and larger, inside the MW, feel the pull of the sun, mounting joy at homecoming, now we see the sun, now the largest planet glints like a speck of dust circling the sun now we see the Earth, growing, big as a pea, an orange, a small melon but now our joy to be returning is tinged with Anxiety. As we look more closely we realise that something is wrong with the Earth, a gray palor surrounds her, the Earth is sick, maybe dieing.
Here our descent stops and we take the Earth and cradle it against our breast and realise with a shock that after all these millions of years, billions of years where the Earth has been our mother, has nurtured and sustained us, now we must become Earth's mother. Without our care and nourishment and sustenance the Earth may die! So, like the mother of a helpless, newly born child seriously ill, maybe dieing, we hold the Earth to our breast and rocking her, we put out every ounce of our caring and healing. We will the Earth to survive.
—long pause- -
Now letting-go of this image, we continue our descent (go thru all the geography, a storm over the Atlantic, make it real)... back into this place, into our circle of friends, into your body, into your Heart. Lie there as long as you need to, feeling whatever you're feeling. Whenever you're ready get up and join two or three other people to share whatever is coming up for you or just to touch and hold each other.
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SURRENDER TO EARTH — Patrick Anderson
Every moment of our lives we are carried and supported by the Earth. This idea can become a rich experience by paying attention to the ways our body is in contact the Earth. "Surrender to Earth" uses awareness of our contact with the ground in walking, standing, sitting and Iying to bring our connection with the Earth and the Earth's support of us to life. Experiencing this relationship allows new levels of trust, gratitude and communion with the Earth to flower.
Walking: "Feel your feet on the ground, your whole weight supported by the Earth. Take a step, feel your weight shift onto one foot. Feel the sensations of contact with the earth in your foot. Take the next step and give your weight to the ground. Notice the way the Earth is present for every step you take, supporting you."
"Give in to the next step, feel the union of earth and foot. Earth, like a lover, matches every contact you make with equal intensity. Yield in the walking. Discover how intimate you can be in your contact with the earth. Let your foot touch the ground with the sensitivity of touching a lover. Make love with the Earth through every step, through the rhythm of contact. Pressure, lifting away, stretching, placing. The rhythm of love making. Loving the earth." [Move around in your own space or take 10 or 20 paces, turn around and walk back and forth for 5 minutes.]
Standing: "Come to a standstill. Standing on the earth. Become aware of the balance of weight on your feet. Aware of the contact with the ground through your feet; grounded, steady, alive. Notice your upright posture, your body rising from the ground, vertical, balanced. Each moment the Earth is holding you. As you stand, your body is swaying in space. Become aware of the top of your head, connecting you with the sky. Grounded through your feet and connected with the cosmos through the top of your head. In between the earth and the sky we live and breath. Standing, breathing, aware of your body as a column of earth, rising into the sky. etc." [Stand connecting the Earth and the Sky for 5 minutes]
Sitting: "Now moving from standing to sitting. Move slowly, deliberately, letting yourself sink down onto the earth. Stay attentive to your contact with the ground as you lower your body. Find a position that you can relax into, keeping your spine upright. Feel all the places where you make contact with the earth, notice the sensations; pressure, hardness, heat. Experience your body breathing, as it sits on the ground, the flow of air and life in and out of your body. Rest in the sitting, the upright posture. Feel into the support the earth gives each moment. Become aware of your spine, of the energy of the earth rising up your spine. Allow the Earth's energy to fill your body, to fill your being." [sit as Earth for 5 minutes]
Lying: "Relaxing from sitting to lying on the Earth. Allowing the pull of gravity to tug your body down onto the ground. Melting onto the earth. Letting go of the tensions in your body holding yourself separate from earth. Embrace our great mother/father earth. Allow the Earth to hold you close, like a mother holding a young child to her breast, secure, nurtured."
"Surrender to Gaia, to the one who supports every step you take, who rests steady when you stand, who breathes with you as you sit, who is present supporting every moment of your life, who embraces you now as you lie upon your great friend. Embrace the great mother/father. Surrender to Earth." [Lie breathing, relaxing, embracing, surrendering for 5 minutes]
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100 YEAR CIRCLE — John Seed
I just awoke here in Kyoto, from a dream of a new process for today's Council of All Beings and it's something like this:
Introduce the process with a list of predictions of what's going to happen to the world in the next few decades if the present kinds of destructive forces were to continue—million species extinct by the turn of the century, life-support systems damaged beyond repair, damage to the climate, growth of deserts, intractible nuclear and chemical waste everywhere, population of 11 billion people etc.
Then talk about the denial that allows this to take place. That even though we know this, we turn the other way. We're afraid to look at it. Afraid of the feelings that it will bring up, afraid that we'll be destroyed by these feelings and what for? We're not going to be able to do anything about it anyway are we? It'll just leave us feeling terrible with nothing gained. Then talk about the consequences of this denial of feelings, the despair and helplessness, hopelessnes, the psychic numbness, the huge amounts of our energy tied up in keeping this material unconscious.
So first we'll stand in a circle and go round calling out what we think the world's going to be like 100 years from now, the things that may have happened.
Then form 2 circles and the inner circle is young people from say 100 years from now inhabiting such a world, and they don't understand how this could have happened. How could their ancestors have been so stupid? Was it stupidity? Or selfishness and greed? How could they have let such things happen? Maybe they didn't know, didn't see it coming?
It's our job in the outer circle to explain to these beings what it was like towards the end of the 20th century that allowed such damage to take place to the world.
Here are two suggestions for this process from the Kyoto sharing circle:
1. In the intro, mention of the Amerindian tribe who, before any decision was made, asked what effect this would have on the seventh generation. We have lost this perspective and must learn to reinhabit time. So now you are sitting opposite a visitor from the seventh generation, etc.
2. When I was ready to draw this process to a close, I had people sit in a circle again and this time imagine that things had turned around in the '90's, the revolution in consciousness had taken place. Now call out what things are like seven generations from now. Then... what did people do in '91 to create the conditions for this change in consciousness. What did YOU do?
Now, 3 days later The process was STRONG. It was overall a very powerful Council and several people reported that this new process (which I told them afterwards had come to me in a dream, inviting them to dream up new processes too) had been the most powerful part. We had been mourning forever it felt and I was feeling like I'd never feel good again, and whoosh, a great blaze of joy swept thru us as people ecstatically visioned the circle unbroken once again.
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OPEN HEART DURING MILLING — Heart Phoenix
Yesterday Susan, Anew and I got together to do some planning for our Council here in Florida. The amazing thing is that we came up with what John wrote about yesterday. The fact that people want to open up and feel more and those exercises that bring that out will allow them to open up for the mourning and the Council itself. We thought about the Council at Wainwright and everyone felt that perhaps the milling was too rushed and that was the reason the mourning wasn't as emotional and stirring as it could have been or has been.
We decided that during the milling we would do an "open heart" exercise where each pair would put their hand on the other persons heart and during this time look into each other's eyes while the facilitator speaks about the heart, etc. We agree and find it rather amazing that feeling the touch of love is the most important healer there is.
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Other process Notes
Shamanic Journey — John Seed
Jim O'Connor will also be co-leading a Council in Princeton, NJ with Bobbi Parmet, Laurie Huntsman and Bert Rinkel. Bert is a shamanic counselor and this is an interesting development in my own Councils, where both Councils in Finland included a Shamanic Journey as our method of connecting with our non-human ally for the Council. I must say, I find the shamanic journey very profound and in both cases my ally continues to work with me long after the Council is over.
Support Circles — Laura White
We sat close and each was invited into the circle to share their intentions for the Earth, community, their life, as a result of the Council. Then each was to share what support he or she needed (from us and in general). Then we laid on hands, expressed love, appreciation, precise feedback, then sang a simple melody: "I honor you, I empower you, to be who you are." Very lovely, a nice transition to closure.
Calling the Council — Joan Zimmerman
"Beings", he said, "are anything that is."
Rivers as well as fish were what he meant,
Wind as well as the grass it bent,
Rain, the clay it cooled, the worm that went
Among the earth.
He touched all lives to his.
"Counsel," he said, "is what they give."
He meant their knowledge and actions that would advise
Of possibilities for being wise,
The taste of granite, sight through spider eyes,
Eaglets at birth,
Oceans where dolphins live.
Notes on the Council and Evolutionary Journey — Pat Flemming
PREPARATION: Instead of the beings cross-interview before the Council to assist deepening identification, Helenka and I used powerfully an exercise going on from the exploration of movement, habits, habitat of the being, leading into sounding more the deeper voices of the being and taking the movements into something of a ritualised rhythmic dance of that life form for about five to ten minutes. This meant people stopped trying to be literal and let some of the quality of that being take form, expand and express itself (powerful). Then to move straight into the Council.
We then set up the ritual space with a minimum of forms. Partly being in England and not especially being grounded myself in Native American rituals, I abandoned the language and the elaboration of the four directions and three times.
We did acknowledge these briefly but made the grounding and connecting of the ritual through silently and meditatively passing the four elements around the group for everyone to touch and acknowledge—a bowl of earth, a candle of fire, a bowl of water and smoke of a smudge stick for air. Lovely!
Then we welcomed the beings. Helenka and I decided beforehand to be very dynamic and non-compromising in both modelling and explaining the forms, so there was a minimum of human-type mouthing-off/confusion of roles.
HUMANS IN THE COUNCIL: We also decided to gestalt the humans, as we were a smallish group and had cushions in the middle to be addressed as necessary from the beginning and none of the ins and outs of mask-taking-off to become token human in the centre. So people were in the role the whole time until they'd spoken their blessings and encouragements to humans and then entered the centre.
I personally found that this gave people a deep identification and clear expression and didn't draw out the Council unnecessarily which has happened previously. I've found in that in larger groups the energy can drop with so many people needing to speak and some drifting in and out of the role. Yet you may have totally different experiences. It's like with sex—we all find what is best for us, despite all the formulas and forms!
EVOLUTIONARY JOURNEY: I find the edited version in the book from where people begin to move as single cells onwards not usable as an exercise to be read out. It jumps too much and I wish it had a qualifier that it is to be used as inspiration rather than literally (ie needs more preparation). I've tried reading it out and abandoned it.
I also find group participants are quite jarred by the latter leap from peasant social existence through the past couple of centuries, which of course expresses something of the dislocation that's happening anyway.
Ah, yes, I also used the Patrick version of having each life form go through a typical earth day, finishing with rest and sleep or whatever the next transition to the next life form. They wake up and experience the next life form.
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