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What is Practice Circle?

ZCP has been practicing “Council”  for the last year; during retreats, extended sits, and at time when the community/Sangha has  wanted to listen to each other on certain issuers or concerns as expressed by the community.

What is it?

How is ZCP incorporating Council into practice?

The following comes from Council Guidelines, being used by ZCP senior practitioners facilitating Practice Circle.
(taken from “The Way of Council, by The Ojai Foundation, Ojai, CA”)

Council is an ancient form and modern practice designed to elicit an experience if true community, recognizing that each voice needs to be heard, that every person has a gift, a story to share, and is a piece of the whole. In its highest aspiration it is a spiritual practice that embraces every encounter -personal , familial and professional. The heart of Council is listening and the essence of truly empathic listening is full and non-judgemental acceptance of who people are and how they express themselves.
Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean agreement, but it does require a subtle and vigilant practice of witnessing both self and other. It involves being aware of our responses while maneuvering through the internal minefield of our own attachments, judgements and reactions while giving full attention to the other’s authentic being. From a place of full acceptance, it is then possible to engage in full and authentic relationship.
Do we always succeed? Not at all. Council is not a cure-all for the foibles of human nature. But the power of any spiritual practice is that it provides a center to which to return when things unravel or fall apart.


• No one of us is as smart as all of us.
• Health – of the individual, team, organization – is a function of participation.
• Everything is connected to everything else.
• Trust is a function of self-revelation.
• What we are unaware of ( our shadow) holds us prisoner.
• Advocacy must be balanced with inquiry.
• Communication= Communion.

The quality of our work in the world flows from our relationships. The quality of our relationships flows from the quality of our communication. The quality of our communication flows from integrating Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit.

Council is an effective tool for:

  • Discovering group mind
  • Co-visioning
  • Arriving at consensus
  • Brainstorming
  • Building a sense of trust and teamwork
  • Taking the temperature of the group
  • Confirming the integrity, or wholeness, of a decision before implementing.
  • Returning a group to center when things get out of hand
  • Embracing differences and diversity

Council is NOT appropriate for:

  • The agenda part of business meetings
  • Discussions
  • Debates or arguments
  • General information sharing
  • Q&As
  • Voting


  • Listen from your heart
    • Seek understanding (vs agreement)
    • Accept others as they are (vs fixing them)
    • Empathize (vs criticize or judge)
    • Read the field (the group’s energy and mood)
    • Stay centered ( calm the “monkey mind”)
    • Witness your internal responses and put them on hold
    • Honor feelings (both yours and others)
    • Find the gift in the wound
    • Listen for the soul of the circle
  • Speak from your heart
    • Tell your personal story (vs philosophizing)
    • Use “I” statements (vs “you” – avoid characterizing others’ thoughts and feelings)
    • Favor feelings over mere facts and opinions
    • Reveal your process (how you got where you are) as well as you conclusions
    • Tell the fullest possible truth (vs edited truths)
    • Cut to the chase (avoid “fill” or thinking out loud)
    • Be spontaneous (vs rehearsing or editing)
    • Move toward vulnerability (vs away from it)
    • Trust your listeners and the circle
    • Honor the Still Small Voice Within
  • Be Spontaneous
  • Be lean and to the point
  • Speak to whatever will serve yourself, the circle, and the Highest Good
  • Whatever is said in the circle stays in the circle
  • Speak to the circle rather than to individuals

And finally ……………….

  • Favor curiosity over opinion
  • Favor understanding over self-defense
  • Favor building community over scoring points
  • Favor being truthful over being right
  • Favor trust over doubt



About Thomas Miller

Ordinary Mind Zen Senior Zen Practitioner since 1996 Marble Sculptor Owner of ZMassociates Environmental Corporation Passionate about saving the environment