What Does True, Sustainable Democracy Look Like?

‘Where I sit is holy, holy is the ground. Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound. Great Spirit circling all around me.’
Native American Chant.

Way of Council is an ancient form for a circle of people to communicate as individuals and as a collective group, used by ancestral and tribal peoples. It can be used to foster healthy relationships, to explore conflict situations, to make decisions, to encourage teamwork and for a host of other  examples of personal, interpersonal and group development. Rather than debate, argue cases, decide and divide, the group is encouraged to connect with the synergistic, sacred wisdom of the collective, to work as one.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in a Way of Council workshop, led by Rob Dreaming. Rob is someone who, following years of soul-searching, pledged to dedicate his life to training others is this ancient custom with a clear 21st century imperative. A small band of us in Somerset decided to enlist his help in incorporating Way for Council into our work and personal lives. We were a group of teachers, therapists and coaches, all used to working with others both one to one and in groups and keen to further our knowledge and competence.

The weekend workshop provided me with an opportunity to deepen my experience of this form of group engagement. I had previously practised and facilitated some Council practices as they are incorporated into the work of Joanna Macy – The Work That Reconnects.  However, I wished to learn more about the depth and diversity of this form of encouragement of group sharing and intimacy. I found Rob to be welcoming and accepting in his presence. He led us gently, using story, song and humour, through as many examples of different forms of Council as we could comfortably manage in the time available. This weekend has inspired me to learn more about and, most importantly, to practice and integrate the Way of Council into my personal and working life.

Since the weekend, I’ve been wondering why it might be that our local, state authorities are called ‘councils’. Could it be that they were originally intended as a group of respectable, competent and heart-centred elders, installed by a community as a trusted and reliable means to make life-serving decisions on behalf of its people? Somehow, having lost sight of this particular meaning of the word Council, we’re now using it to denote merely an administrative body, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Yet, Council, in its true sense offers so much more than this. The potential for community building, enhancing and enriching lives and maintaining harmony seems huge.

I hope that, if you haven’t already discovered the Way of Council, you will consider seeking  it out for yourself, your family, schools and home education groups, businesses and local authorities.

Suggested Further Reading:  The Way of Council. Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle.

Rob Dreaming’s beautiful and very informative website can be found at: www.heart-source.com




4 Responses to What Does True, Sustainable Democracy Look Like?

  1. Pallavi April 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Thank you this and for all your posts Sally. I find them enjoyable and therapeutic.

  2. Sally April 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks Pallavi. That’s good to know.

  3. Sue Stephenson April 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Way of Council sounds a great idea. It connects with how I understand the Occupy movement make/made? decisions. However, trying to find anyone in this country, the UK, who runs workshops and wants to share this way of working in groups has been impossible. I’d be really grateful to get in touch with a person or organisation who is interested in this genuinely democratic and empowering approach to finding concensus and making good decisions.

  4. Sally April 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Hi Sue. You could try contacting Rob Dreaming (website at the bottom of the article above). Or there’s also Pippa Bondy. Her website is here: http://www.ancienthealingways.co.uk. In London, Sophia Please offers both 1-2-1 and group work based on the Way of Council. Her website is here: http://www.wisdom-ways.co.uk.

    Does that help?

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