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Way of Council: Ancient Healing for a Modern World

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

In a world where technology dominates our lives, and isolation seems to be on the rise, the ancient practice of the Way of Council is a powerful and transformative tool for healing and connection. Rooted in indigenous traditions and adapted for contemporary settings, Council represents a profound method of communication and community-building that transcends cultural boundaries. This article explores the essence of the Way of Council and how it can be applied in different contexts, and its profound healing and transformational benefits.

What is the Way of Council?

The Way of Council is an ancient practice of sitting in circle and using a talking piece to listen and speak from the heart. Used by indigenous cultures around the globe for millennia, Council is a simple yet profound method of communication that fosters deep listening, empathy, and shared understanding. It is a sacred space where individuals come together to share their stories, experiences, and emotions without judgment or interruption. In this circle of trust, participants speak from the heart, while others listen attentively with an open heart and mind.

The sacred agreements of Council

There are four sacred agreements of council that together create a safe space in which participants can express themselves freely, and from this can arise deeper, more honest and compassionate communication, connection and profound healing. These sacred agreements of Council are:

  • Speak from the heart: Council encourages authentic and vulnerable expression, enabling us to tap into our inner wisdom and emotional truth. The simple act of telling our own stories from the heart helps us to make connections and gain insights that have previously eluded us.

  • Listen from the heart: Council emphasises respect for each individual's unique perspective and the honouring of their experiences. Participants actively listen to one another, demonstrating empathy and compassion without interrupting, imposing their opinions or judgments or providing unsolicited advice. Council is not about trying to "fix" someone's problems and there is no talking across the circle during the sharing process. The emphasis is on bearing witness to each other's stories and experiences. By being fully present in this way, we can hear others - and ourselves - more fully.

  • Speak leanly: this is about speaking our fullest truth, in the most economic amount of time, speaking only what serves us, the circle and the wider community. This enables the speaker to focus on the important points of the story they are sharing, and allows space for others to share their stories too.

  • Be spontaneous: not scripting or rehearsing what we want to say before we hold the talking piece, and when it is our turn, we don’t edit what we say. This allows the flow of words that come from the deepest parts of ourselves. It matters less what we say than the fact that we are saying it.

We also honour confidentiality within the circle - everything shared in Council is held in strict confidence. This fosters an atmosphere of safety and trust, enabling participants to express their deepest thoughts and emotions freely.

Benefits of the Way of Council

In Council circles, participants are encouraged to speak from the heart and be authentic. Some people find this challenging to begin with as most of us are not used to communicating in this way, or being ourselves when we’re around others. In everyday conversations, we are used to a more conversational style, in which people take turns to speak, often interrupting or finishing another’s sentences, or showing their approval or disapproval through gesture. and facial expression. But in Council, when we are holding the talking piece and are safe in the knowledge that we have the time and space to tell our story without being interrupted, judged or advised, we are empowered to embrace our true selves and connect with our inner strength. By engaging in deep introspection and sharing, we also develop heightened self-awareness and gain insights into our thoughts, behaviours, and emotions.

​The Way of Council also nurtures a sense of belonging and community. Participants often find comfort in knowing we are not alone in our experiences, fostering deep connections with others. And by providing a safe container within which participants can express themselves freely, the practice of Council encourages emotional release which can lead to cathartic experiences, allowing us to let go of emotional burdens and find emotional healing.

Applications of Way of Council

The Way of Council can be applied in many different ways: sharing stories in order to gain personal insights, for decision-making, or witnessing grief or sorrow, and is used across the globe in a variety of different settings, such as:

  • Schools: Council can be incorporated into schools and educational institutions to promote emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and empathy among students and teachers. It creates a space for authentic dialogue as the balance of power between educators and students is shared equally, allowing each person – regardless of their age, role or position – to speak freely about their experience and feelings, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity among the school population.

  • Corporate and organisational settings: The Way of Council has proven to be transformative in corporate environments, as it improves communication, collaboration, and understanding among employees in a non-hierarchical way. In a world of work that is becoming increasingly tech-driven, Council humanises the workplace and encourages a sense of belonging and purpose by providing a way for colleagues to engage in person-to-person dialogue. Council improves listening skills and the ability to communicate with empathy and understanding. This newfound communication style positively impacts relationships, both personal and professional. In dispute resolution and mediation, Council gives each party a safe space in which to express their feelings about a situation, without fear of repercussions, thus opening up more honest and productive lines of communication between groups and individuals.

  • Conflict resolution and restorative justice: Council has been successfully utilised in conflict resolution and restorative justice programmes. It allows individuals involved in conflicts to share their unique perspectives and express their emotions, facilitating understanding and reconciliation between the parties.

  • Women's circles: The practice of Council is especially powerful when applied in women's circles, where women come together in a safe and nurturing environment. These circles provide a supportive sisterhood where women can express their joys, struggles, and aspirations openly. Council in women's circles fosters a deep sense of connection, empowerment, and healing, where women can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment.


The Way of Council is a profound and ancient practice that holds the power to heal, transform, and unite communities. Through its principles of respect, active listening, and authenticity, Council allows individuals to be seen and heard in a way that fosters empathy and understanding.

As we navigate an ever-changing world, the Way of Council serves as a reminder of the deep connections we share as human beings. By embracing this transformative practice, we can create spaces of love, compassion, and healing, paving the way for a more harmonious and empathetic society. Let us look to the wisdom of our ancestors and continue to pass down this invaluable gift to future generations, perpetuating the healing and transformation that Council brings.

Joss Anderson is a qualified and experienced Shamanic Practitioner, Shamanic Reiki Master Practitioner and ICF-accredited coach, based in Cambridgeshire, UK and online.

© Joss Anderson 2023; © The Wild Edges, 2023

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