Authentic Relating through Council and Communication
Yoga happens in relationship. Yoga means to join. It’s about fostering unity here amidst all the whirling wonder of life. Wherever we came out of a womb, we are descended from people who gathered in circle to sing, dance, share food and story, to listen, and converse. Our linguistic and communicative capacities are amongst our distinguishing characteristics as human beings. If we are to come home to wholeness, if we are to integrate all parts of ourselves, this has to include our speech, language, and communication.
Satya – truthfulness, presence, authenticity, honesty – is one of the foundational principles of yoga practice. When we gather in circle, in a dyad, or even if we work with a journalling practice, tuning in to share from an honest, vulnerable place where we allow ourselves to be spontaneous, we can perhaps surprise ourselves and uncover more of the truth of who we really are. Council and authentic relating practices are often part of whole life yoga workshops, immersions, and courses.
Council – Listening, Sharing and Witnessing Circles
We gather in circle and we listen, we speak, we share, we reflect. Traditional cultures from all around the world have used some form of this type of gathering for millennia. It is a way to help cleanse our psyches, sharpen and broaden our awareness, expand our vision and invite new understandings. As we hear different perspectives, we apprentice ourselves to the nowadays often neglected and sometimes forgotten art of listening and witnessing.
Core Principles Shared by Council and Yoga
OUR LIMITED PERSPECTIVE
When we are human, we have but two eyes and there will always be more that we cannot see than what we can.
COLLECTIVE SHARING FOR GROWTH
We each have a unique perspective, when we gather in circle and listen to each other, we can expand our perspectives.
DEEP LISTENING, DEEPER CONNECTIONS
When we practice deep listening we can connect to the deeper meanings beneath the words and become more skilled listeners and communicators.
STRENGTHENING OUR TRUTH
Practices of deep listening and honest inquiry help deepen our relationship with Truth.
Truth is not a black and white absolutist matter. Truth is grey. It is nuanced, multi-coloured, multi-dimensional. And we only see the rainbow in the grey.
EXPANDING VISION COLLECTIVELY
Symbolically, we might say that Truth resides in the centre, in the real heart of things. As individuals, we may be limited by our particular perspective, by our conditionings and partiliaties. Still, each perspective can contribute to a bigger picture. When we gather in circle, we can expand our vision.
Life and reality is characterised by subtlety and infinite variegation. As we explore issues in a group it can help us learn to relax more in the uncertainty of reality and appreciate more its endless nuance and infinite variegation.
BREAKING HABITUAL PATTERNS
The deep listening and witnessing of different viewpoints is a great support for looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking, and thinking in ways that go beyond our habitual patterns.
This is not always easy. Part of the living wisdom of traditional societies is that they recognized this and so wove into life practices that help us do this.
Frequently Asked Questions About Council
What are the two essential agreements that create a strong and functional circle?
Two basic agreements can help form a strong and functional circle:
- Respectfulness: no cross-talk. When one person speaks, everyone else listens.
- Confidentiality: the circle is a safe space to share in confidence.
What are the key guidelines for effective Council practice?
In addition, there are four concise guidelines that I learnt while training in Council at the Ojai Foundation:
- Listen from the heart
- Speak from the heart
- Be spontaneous
- Be lean of speech
From practice, I also add a fifth guideline:
5. ‘Own what we say’: speak from what we know and our own experience, using ‘I-statements’ and avoiding projecting onto the listener with ‘you know, you do etc…’
How do the Council guidelines complement each other?
These guidelines are mutually complementary. They all ask us to be fully present with all of our awareness; to listen and witness with all of ourselves. This supports another foundational yoga practice:
-doing whatever we are doing with all of ourselves; unifying our thought, word and deed; consecrating our time and actions.
In Council practice, this means that when others are speaking, we listen. We do not divert energy to planning what we might say. If it is our time to speak, we speak, in a lean, concise way, from the heart. This further relates to foundational yoga practices: of giving ourselves permission to be fully here wherever we are, to practice living each moment as if it could be our last: to bring the depth of presence that makes the action its own reward, that makes each moment its own completion.
Working with these principles, we can explore a range of communication activities and exercises working in pairs and groups, learning together and from each other.
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