“The Council of All Beings [is] a series of processes that dispel the illusion of separation between human beings and nature. It’s ritual and ritual touches us at a deeper place than our intellect. We resonate with it.” -John Seed
This page is still under construction. It displays information relating to an overview of the Deep Ecology process in it’s “classical” form, as introduced in the Book “Thinking Like a Mountain- Towards a Council of All Beings“, By John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arne Naess and Pat Fleming. Arne Naess himself always asserted that Deep Ecology is not a homegenous or monolithic structure, but a philosophy of life informed by ones own environment, conditioning, and the needs of the time we live in.
This is reflected in the wealth of forms that Deep Ecology Process has taken on, including for example in the rich interweaving with Buddhist philosophy, eco-psychology and environmental activism found in Joanna Macy’s and Molly Brown’s “The Work That Reconnects“.
Naess’ view is is also reflected in John Seed insistence that the group process requires no great insight or experience to share. Ones own authentic intention, combined with the intrinsic truth of humanity’s inter-dependence with all life, is enough to imbue the process with transformative power for those willing to become involved.
In support of that intention we present here excerpts from the original “Thinking Like a Mountain” text, along with material from a later manual for facilitators developed by Eshana Bragg. Lastly, we also provide links to additional resources. These can include background information, videos and transcripts from John Seed’s renderings, and variations developed in response to particular situations, such as larger or smaller groups, adults or children, or online versus in-person process.
A DEEP ECOLOGY PROCESS MAP
1: THE INTENTION
2: THE MOURNING
3: THE REMEMBERING
4: THE COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS
5: THE GROUNDING
Starting with a clear intention as to our purpose in this work will carry us through difficulties or drudgeries it may present. Our efforts are made much easier by remembering that we do not need to “make it work” for our own sakes, but that we are simply, for the sake of all beings, offering a structure through which energy can spontaneously flow. The primary aim of the Council and its workshop is perhaps just this: to enhance human commitment and resources for preserving life upon our planet home.
This purpose happily includes a number of other subsidiary objectives:
- To foster compassion for all our fellow beings and to sharpen awareness of the dangers and difficulties they face.
- To become more conscious of the commonality of our fate.
- To motivate sustained action on behalf of all beings.
- To remember and appropriate our larger life story through the long evolution of life upon this planet.
- To take strength and authority from that larger, longer lifetime of ours.
- To open ourselves to the resources of courage, endurance and creativity which are available to us in the web of life.
- To become whole again, healing splits between mind and body, reason and intuition, human and nature.
- To play together, giving permission and scope to our imagination and to the child within.
- To build trust and a deeper sense of community with our fellow humans.
- To prepare together for joint actions in defense of Earth and of future generations.
What all these objectives amount to — and the list could go on, if we were to itemize all that people have experienced in the Council of All Beings — is a shift from the shrunken sense of self, to which our mainstream culture and its institutions have conditioned us, to a larger, more ancient and resilient sense of our true ecological Self.
Facilitators Guide: The Intention
Deep ecology remains a concept without power to transform our awareness and behavior unless we allow ourselves to feel — which means feeling the pain within us over what is happening to our world. The workshop serves as a safe place where this pain can be acknowledged, plumbed, released. Often it arises as a deep sense of loss over what is slipping away — ancient forests and clean rivers, birdsong and breathable air. It is appropriate then to mourn — for once, at least — to speak our sorrow and, when appropriate, to say goodbye to what is disappearing from our lives. As participants let this happen in the whole group or in small clusters, anger and fear and hopelessness arise, too — and something more, a passionate caring. Caring, and the interconnectedness from which it springs, emerge as the ground of this anger and grief. It is an important part of the workshop leaders’ role to point that out. Why else do we weep for other beings and for those not yet born?
Deep ecology serves as explanatory principle both for the pain we experience on behalf of our planet and its beings and for the sense of belonging that arises when we stop repressing that pain and let it reconnect us with our world. This stage is very similar in nature to the Despair work, and it is preliminary to the other stages for several reasons. It erodes the culturally conditioned defenses of the separate ego, the fictions that “I” am or should be in control, that I can hold aloof from what befalls others. Secondly, mourning lends authority to notions of our interconnectedness or deep ecology. And, thirdly, it deepens trust between members of the group for all the work that follows.The time allotted to this stage need not be long. What is essential is to help people tap into the authenticity of their caring and move beyond fear of the pain it entails. For that purpose one or several of the following exercises can be helpful.
Facilitators Guide: The Mourning
(From a working draft prepared by Eshana Bragg, PhD) accessed on Rainforest Information Centre website.
The mourning is an exercise which needs to be introduced well, because it must be clear that it is worthwhile and safe to move deeply into our feelings of grief or anger at what is happening to the Earth. The person who introduces this process should be very comfortable with others expressing their true feelings, and know deeply that no harm will come to people if they do this, and that it is a very healing process.
See the transcript of John’s introduction to the mourning for more details, but the key points to raise in the introduction are:
* History. The despair and empowerment work of Joanna Macy. Process was introduced by a participant.
* The nature of feelings and how our culture teaches us to deny and suppress our ‘bad’ feelings. Feelings are a type of intelligence, how we survived before our huge brain evolved. The fallacy that can feel good by pushing away ‘bad’ feelings. Feelings are like a wave, all we can choose is the amplitude. Takes energy to keep the bad feelings at bay – creating depression, disempowerment, apathy.
* In an emotionally safe, loving and healing atmosphere, we are free to feel and express our negative feelings about what’s happening to the Earth. Freed from the fear of our bad feelings, we have more energy. We get in touch with a valid source of information about the state of the world. We can be motivated by our feelings (feelings rather then thoughts are what motivate us).
*Thich Naht Hahn: “The most important thing we can do is to hear inside ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying.”
*Instructions. Find an object to represent something that is being lost from our lives, something that you can genuinely mourn. Bring the object to the center of the circle, in no special order, just when you feel moved. Those of us on the outside will support the person in the middle. It is not a competition, not about being dramatic, etc. This is a time to genuinely grieve what is happening to the Earth.
Sometimes, participants bring hope into the mourning circle. If this happens, we may intervene to ensure that participants understand that this particular circle is a place to give permission to ourselves and others to express our deepest darkest feelings. Bringing words of hope and comfort and a more positive perspective can often prevent others in the circle from expressing their ‘bad’ feelings because they (like in our normal lives) feel expected to repress any negative feelings and look on the bright side, not give in to negativity etc. Maybe the introduction to the mourning, could explain that if people (consciously or unconsciously) try to ‘make things better’, the facilitator will interrupt and remind people that this is a circle for expressing negative feelings.
If the feelings of hope are expressed towards the end of the mourning, they might simply assist the process’s movement up from the depths towards ‘normal reality’. In a full-length workshop, the mourning can last for a longer time and can spiral ‘downwards’ to a very deep and healing place, so it is worthwhile encouraging the depth. (It is important not to invalidate people’s very real and worthy positive feelings, but just to explain that it is not appropriate to express those feelings here.)
Another process point to watch for is if the ‘sharings’ (independent sharings from the heart) turn into a ‘discussion’ (where people are commenting on others’ sharings and move towards a mind-level debate). These sorts of discussions are well worth having, but are probably better after the sacred safe space of the mourning circle.
In the longer workshop-form, this is a good place to have lunch, but encourage people to not over-eat, and to watch whether they use food and/or conversation to push-down any of the bad feelings which are left over from the mourning.
After lunch, have a sharing circle where people express anything about how they’re feeling. This is a good place to encourage people to say anything which didn’t fit into the instructions of the mourning exercise. This sharing circle helps people to process any ‘left-over’ feelings. After this sharing circle, if anyone has any other processes they wish to include (especially something physical), this is a good time. The Evolutionary Journey (see ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’ for instructions) is often included here or the Cosmic Walk..
Resource Library: The Mourning
Displaying posts from this website related to The Mourning process.
- Podcast: The mythos of Grief, Tears and Renewal on The Emerald
- Embodied practice: Breathing Through
- The role of hope in the Truth Mandala
- Process Intro: The Mourning.
- Transcript 2: John Seed’s intro to the MOURNING.
As organic expressions of life on earth, we have a long and panoramic history. We are not yesterday’s child, nor limited to this one brief moment of our planet’s story: our roots go back to the beginning of time. We can learn to remember them. The knowledge is in us. As in our mothers’ wombs our embryonic bodies recapitulated the evolution of cellular life on earth, so can we now do it consciously, harnessing intellect and the power of the imagination.Certain methods help trigger this remembering. They are various guided meditations focused on our evolutionary journey, evoking our four-and-a-half billion-year story as Earth (or our fifteen billion-year story as the universe.) Here are some forms which have been used fairly extensively to good effect.
The Evolutionary Remembering (page 43) can serve as the cognitive basis from which you can build and lead the forms you choose. It is offered here as a two-part exercise. The first part takes us through the story of the universe from the “Big Bang” to the beginnings of organic life on earth. It is best offered as a narrative, a story. In preparation, ask group participants to sit or lie in a comfortable position, where they can remain alert and relaxed. The narrator reads slowly, with pauses, as s/he invites a journey of remembering back to the very beginnings of the universe. The second part is a guided movement meditation on the evolution of organic life from single cell existence through the complexities of form and expression possessed by present-day humans. We explore the steps of human evolution, replacing the primitive creation myths with the reality of our actual journey. (Participants act out this remembering, “feeling,” as it were, the process of their own evolution.) Allow one to one-and-a-half hours for this exercise. Begin by asking participants to lay on their backs or bellies, in a comfortable position, relaxed and breathing easily. In this guided meditation, ask them to begin each evolutionary stage by imagining fully, in their mind’s eye, the movements being described before beginning to move. Some people will prefer to experience the whole exercise as a visualization, sitting quietly. Encourage the participants’ authentic responses to the instructions, allowing them to move as much or as little as they wish. Participants are often surprised by how much their bodies already know. In the more mobile stages, participants may find physical contact with others an appropriate response, but they should be asked to beware of human conditioned responses, like apologizing. A drum or rattle may be used to signal the end of a stage, instructing participants to come to a resting position before the next set of instructions. Allot a half-hour at the end to allow people, sitting or stretching out in pairs, to review the process verbally. Describing to each other how it felt in the mind-body to remember being lizard or small mammal makes it more vivid and assists the recall. This meditation through sound and movement assists us in experiencing levels of awareness below that of words, giving us a powerful sense of the untapped memories and wisdom within the cells of our bodies.
Facilitators Guide: The Remembering
Resource Library: The Remembering
Displaying posts from this website related to The Remembering process.
- Meditation: Remembering Cosmogenesis, “Our Life as Gaia”
- Embodied Practice: Introduction to Sitting
- Embodied Practice: Introduction to Mindful Walking
- Cosmic Walk Timeline
- Song: “I Am A Child Of The Universe”
THE COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS
The narrative in this book (beginning on page 79) can serve as a guide in leading the ritual proper. Remember that each Council, being essentially the extemporaneous expression of those present, is different from all others. Each has its own character and flow. Some release torrents of intense feelings, others appear lighthearted or relatively staid. Remember, too, that appearances can also be misleading: participants who seem awkward in their roles, or relatively silent and uninvolved, can be deeply affected by the Council. While the opening of the ritual is preplanned, the nature of its ending can never be foreseen. How it concludes depends on the mood of the group and the dynamics unleashed. Some Councils wind up reflectively in silence. Some end intimately as the humans in the center hum or chant, or with reverence as each mask is placed on a wall or makeshift altar and thanks offered to the being it represented. Other Councils burst into hilarity with spontaneous drumming and dancing, with hoots and howls and other wild calls. Still others have ended with several of the above in succession.
At the closing of the ritual or soon after, the adopted life-forms are released, allowing people to withdraw from identification with them. Preferably this is done by a ritual burning of the masks, one by one around a fire. Each person thanks their Being as they put their mask into the flames, while the rest of the group joins in saying, “Thank you, owl,” “Thank you, Sahara . . .”Allow two hours for the ritual Council, and let the time following the day’s work be relatively unstructured. It is good to rest and relax together after the evening meal, telling stories or giving messages, dancing or just watching the night sky.
Facilitators Guide: The Council of all Beings
(From a working draft prepared by Eshana Bragg, PhD reproduced with permission from Rainforest Information Centre website).
Briefly introduce the next exercise, which is where we will speak for a non-human being in another sharing circle called the ‘council of all beings’.
Key points to include in this introduction (see John’s transcripts for details) are:
* Being a medium for wisdom to speak through unusual in our culture, but easy to remember. Similar feeling to the following our partners’ hands in the milling exercise.
* Any non-human beings are welcome (animals, plants, features of the landscape).
* Why humans are not part of the council (this is a very important point to stress). Humans have been so dominant and talked so much, that it is now time for the voiceless ones to be heard.
* How to find an ally.
* Mask-making instructions.
Try not to create unrealistic expectations for people. While allowing the possibility of amazing shamanic experiences to occur (feeling the human self disappear and the spirit of the ally speaking through them), also allow people to see it as a ‘role play’, an ‘exercise in moral imagination’, simply practising what it would feel like to see the world from another creature’s perspective. Assure people that it’s okay if they feel themselves coming in and out of their human selves during the council. It’s important that participants are not distracted by anxiety that they’re “not doing it right”!
There are many ways in which we can find our allies, the non-human beings for whom we will speak in the council. Depending on the time and place available, these are some suggestions:
* Vision quest. Ask people to take a walk through the garden/hillside/forest (whatever natural area is available) for about an hour or so. Suggest that they be very playful with this and allow themselves to walk wherever they are drawn, not to think too much. Just wander about and invite a non-human being to contact you in some way, who wishes to speak through you in the council. Sit down and meditate somewhere and let anything happen. Keep an open mind. (I find this process to be the most effective.)
* Shamanic drumming/sounds – e.g., drums, chanting, rattles while people sit silently. This helps people enter an altered state of awareness where it is easier for our ally to contact us. The being often ‘appears’ in a dream-like vision to participants. (This process takes less time and is a good night-time process, but I don’t think it is the most effective. If it is long, people can easily fall asleep if they are lying down.)
* Shamanic dancing. Have someone play drums or use some recorded drum dancing music (something very Earthy and danceable is essential). This can be done outside or inside, night or day. Start by having people standing, eyes closed, focusing on their breath and feeling of their feet on the ground, etc. As the music builds, ask them to feel the energy moving up from the earth into each part of their body (start with feet, knees, hips, belly, etc. moving up the body). Encourage them to move each part as the energy reaches it until they are fully dancing to the music (by this time, it is good for them to have their eyes partially open so that they don’t bump into other people!). Then ask them to invite the spirit of their ally into their being, and to dance that creature. To end the process, get people to silently thank their ally for identifying itself, and agree to speak for it in the council the following morning. Slowing down the dance, release the ally, and slowly open your eyes.
Remind participants that if nothing chooses them in these processes, they can just actively choose an ally themselves.
People can spend as much or little time making masks to represent their creature (including the time when others are out wandering about contacting their ally). Just tell people by what time the masks have to be ready (usually after breakfast on Sunday morning).
Supply people with a minimum of cardboard (from old cardboard boxes); crayons, textas or other coloring materials; wood-glue, sticky tape and stapler (for attaching natural materials); scissors and utility-knifes; and string.
This is always a wonderful time of creativity and fun, where people return to a child-like focus. Encourage participants to do this in silence as it is a time to reconnect with their ally. (It is okay though if people talk a bit, but just not about their everyday lives and other things.) It is important to tell people to make a large mouth-hole in the mask so that others can hear them easily.
If the decision is made to do the council process the following morning, then mask-making can continue after dinner if people like. Nice to have a fire outside if possible with drumming, dancing, chanting, singing etc.
The following morning start with meditation, yoga, ritual in nature – whatever anyone has offered. Then have a sharing circle after breakfast, just to check in with everyone, share any dreams, etc.
The council of all beings.
Briefly introduce the council process with the following instructions:
* Use the ‘first person’. Introduce yourself as your ally – e.g., “I am snake and I live close to the Earth…..”
* Refer to humans as “they” or “the two-leggeds” etc. That is, don’t talk to the other creatures in the circle as if they were human – this is very confusing for them.
* Feel free to let your ally express itself in any way – including movements and noises which it likes to make.
To deepen the council, some warm-up exercises beforehand can help. For example:
* A long silent walk, with drum, to another area of the venue
* Silent time to reconnect with the allies (just move a little way away from others in the group, and sit with your mask)
* Practise speaking for your ally in pairs with eyes closed (don’t put the mask on, just have it nearby). Take a couple of minutes each while the other listens … just let anything come out, don’t think about it too much.
* Creative movement meditation, moving the Earth energy up through feet and legs, bringing Sky energy down, dancing with drums and other percussion, building the energy up and shaking and jumping, then moving and sounding like our allies. Ground the energy by touching the Earth, then move silently into the Council itself.
A ritual opening and closing is very important for this process, to move back and forth from humans to non-humans and back again. A simple way of doing this is by using the ‘gateway’ of sweet-smelling smoke and sound (rattles, drumming, chanting, etc.) which can be made by two facilitators. Ask participants to put their masks on the outside of the gate, but as they one-by-one enter the gateway into the council of all beings, they invite their ally into their body. On the other side of the gate, they begin to make the noises and move like their ally and slowly form a circle.
When the circle is fully formed, as primary facilitator for this process (decided beforehand), your being welcomes everyone else to the Council of All Beings, and is first to introduce yourself and how you see life on planet earth at the present time.
Remember, every council is different. There is no set thing which needs to happen apart from the experiences and expression of non-human beings’ perspectives on life. Don’t be afraid as facilitator to sit back and let it happen.
If the process is really getting slow (sometimes caused by it being held late at night, or if it is too cold or too hot), some ideas you might like to introduce through questions to the group by your ally include:
*Ways we can help the humans stop harming us (ways to contact the humans)
*Gifts, skills and teachings we can pass onto them (This is often good to introduce near the transition into the human world.)
Another task of the facilitator in this exercise might be to introduce a little negativity towards humans (if this seems to be being by-passed by the group).
If a human appears in the council do not panic! (This has been known to happen.) The group as a whole usually deals with this situation in some creative way (e.g., in a recent council in Chile, Tool introduced himself to the circle, which responded with some fear and mistrust , but then ritually transformed him … he ‘rusted’ back into the earth). Humans are often bothersome at the council – not simply because they are uninvited, but because they tend to talk a lot (and in a really ‘heady’ way). They tend to take up far more than their fair share of the talking time and do not listen well. Often, the creatures in this situation end up compromising by allowing the human(s) to stay, but promising to be quiet and listen.
If it doesn’t spontaneously arise from the group, find a smooth as way as possible to move into human form (i.e., to take off our masks). The way we usually do this is to suggest that we move amongst the humans in human-disguise, “putting on human masks”. But be creative … try anything! Once the primary facilitator has indicated that he or she thinks it would be a good idea to wind up now (e.g., by suggesting that maybe we should take on human form), then the other facilitators should assist in the transition by adding further comments in the circle-sharing.
Closing the council process with a ritual is important. Sometimes, spontaneous rituals occur in the group (e.g., the transformation of Tool), and this can often be a good time to end the process (it naturally and organically finds its own ending).
However, it is still important to close the circle as it was opened: through the ritual gateway. It is best to (i) have the ‘gateway’ in the same place and use the same instruments (e.g., drum, rattle, smudge); and (ii) have people exit from the circle into the outer area where they were before the council began. It also seems more powerful if the creatures don’t take off their masks until moving through the gateway, so the transition from non-human to human is clear. This is also a good time for the creatures to state clearly and concisely what gift they will bring, or what they will teach the human world.
Ritual burning of the masks.
This is a final release of the spirit of everyone’s allies back into the world, and a chance to thank them for the specific gifts they have brought to us and that we will carry on into our everyday lives. One by one, we place our masks on the fire and speak our thanks.
Some groups have decided that they don’t want to burn the masks but have passed them on to a pre-school or other group of children for them to use. The masks are also very useful for direct actions. and can be given to an appropriate environment group The ritual burning, however, is powerfully symbolic of transforming the magic of the council into reality, and ‘grounds the energy’. An alternative is to burn a piece of the mask.
This is a good time for lunch or at least some kind of break. In the new format which John and I will be experimenting with, this will be the ending of Saturday. Maybe followed by dinner, and then by drumming, singing, dancing etc.
Resource Library: The Council of all Beings
- Book: “Thinking Like A Mountain”, By John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arnes Naess and Pat Fleming
- Council of All Beings – process description
The Follow-Up: Integrating And Planning
When the group reconvenes in a large circle, begin by letting people share their personal reactions to the Council ritual. They need to express some of their reflections on the experience, and some of the inner responses it stirred in them, before they can concentrate well on anything else.The first portion of the hour is not a discussion. Remind people of this as you invite them to speak at random, and leave a moment or two of silence between utterances so that they can hear each other better without need for comment. These expressions can take the form of song, movement, spoken words, and can include the dreams which came in the night. This time can deepen the experience the participants have had together, as well as their sense of community.
Now, after some minutes for moving and stretching, is the time for planning work together. How are we drawn now to act in the world? What changes do we want to make in our lifestyles? What actions do we feel inspired to undertake? How can we help each other in this work?You can start with brainstorming ideas, with scribes noting them on sheets of newsprint. The ideas which arouse special interest can be discussed as a whole group or in small clusters. Now is the time to become concrete, to share information and resources — books, tapes, organizations. And now is the time to make specific plans for actions and subsequent meetings. Be sure that the next steps are determined before the workshop ends.
As is appropriate to the depth of the Council of All Beings workshop, its ending takes a ritual form. This can be as simple as a standing in a circle where thanks and reverence are expressed for the life which pulses through us all, and spontaneous prayers and commitments are uttered. It can be a more elaborate ritual designed and offered by the participants. The closure should include a thanking, honoring and releasing of the four directions, if these were invoked at the beginning.The Council workshop is now over in one sense only. While it is unlikely that this particular circle of beings will meet in its entirety again, it will continue in the thoughts of all those present as a part of their internal landscape, reminding them of their larger, truer, ecological self.
Facilitators Guide: The Grounding
(From a working draft prepared by Eshana Bragg, PhD, reproduced with permission from Rainforest Information Centre website).
The very last part of the workshop, the moving into everyday reality, is very important. (This section has a tendency to be mistakenly reduced because it is not so ‘extra-ordinary’ as the rest of the workshop.) It is by fixing this ‘new reality’ (which we have perceived through the eyes of our allies) into strategies for concrete action and continued community that the effects of the Council of All Beings are felt in the ‘real world’.
Personal goals and strategies.
If there is more time available than one hour, another process can be inserted before the final sharing circle – anything which encourages participants to translate their weekend experiences into relevant actions and life-changes. An example is an exercise adapted from Joanna Macy’s book, ‘Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age’ which I call “If I was completely fearless….”. This is a pair exercise, so ask people to find themselves a partner. It will take about 45 minutes. (Remind people that they are a part of the Earth and that their goals may indeed include caring for themselves!)
The members of the pairs take it in turn to be (i) question-answerer and (ii) scribe (question asker and recorder of answers). Ask participants to decide who will be person A and person B. Explain that person A asks person B this question and then records in note form their answer.
1. If you were fearless and completely in your power as a part of the web of life, what would you do to care for the Earth?
Allow 2.5 minutes for people to answer this question, then ring a bell or bang a drum. Then get person A to ask person B the next question and record their answer. (Repeat for the following questions.)
2. What abilities, attributes and skills do you bring to this task?
3. What do you need to acquire, learn in order to achieve you task, what resources do you need?
4. What obstacles will you put in your way of achieving the task?
5. How might you overcome these obstacles you place before yourself?
6. Think of a specific amount of time in the future, 12 months or less. What do you need to do in this time to achieve your goal?
Person B then reads person A’s answers back to them. For example: “Eshana, now that you are fearless and comple;ly in your power as a part of the web of life, you are going to ……….”. After the whole piece of writing is read out and the paper given to person A to take home from the workshop, the whole process begins again, but with person B asking the questions to person A.
(A 15 minute version of this involves the facilitator asking the questions, and each person writing their own answers down. In partners, read the answers out to the writer. Because there is a possibility that an even number of participants requires the facilitator’s involvement as a partner, it should be noted that trying to keep time and participate is difficult. We suggest that two of the facilitators get together as a pair, and both keep their attention divided, so that the time-keeping is accurate.)
After this partner exercise, hold a sharing circle in which people briefly describe their current environmental work; their ‘new’ task and how they feel about it; and what they need. Encourage people to be concise. This is the beginning of networking and strategising for future environmental work.
It is helpful at this point to hand out a list of participants’ names (and allies?), complete with address, phone number, email, and a space to write notes. (Try to arrange with the workshop venue and organisers for copies to be available by this time in the workshop.) Suggest before the sharing circle that people write brief notes about the people whose work most interest them and who they would like to connect up with in the future.
As facilitator, your job is to try and link people together. See if there is a particular project /s which people can get together and work on, or if there are common themes emerging amongst participants’ projects (e.g., kids, adult education, tree-planting, direct actions, council of all beings). One technique for doing this is to use a white-board, writing different projects/themes up and connecting participants so all can see.
Then encourage people to get together and arrange concrete meeting times and events. It is really important that these workshops do not simply act as isolated events in people’s lives, but that they continue in some meaningful way (through more rituals and community feeling, and through concrete environmental action).
After this concrete networking, it is important for the participants and facilitators to have a brief feedback circle: positive and negative. “What was the worst thing and the best thing about the workshop for you?”. This helps in the completion process for the participants, preparing them for the outside world and letting go of any feelings and comments which belong in the circle. The feedback session is also very useful for you as facilitators, who could take notes, as it will help in improving your future workshops , build your confidence and encourage you to do more.
It’s important as facilitator to give people a bit of a rave about ‘grounding’ after the workshop. It has been an intense shared experience and the energy-field built up through such an event is suddenly not there for participants once they leave. This can leave people feeling rather “spaced out”, a bit “out of their body”. Warn people about this and make sure they are careful driving home etc. Give people suggestions about how to deal with this over the following days, incl;uding:
* Pay attention to your legs and feet, walk in nature, do physical exercise
* Have time alone to write in your journal. Don’t try to share everything that happened during the workshop with your friends and family, all at once! Talk to a sympathetic listener, preferably another workshop participant.
* Eat grounding food – protein, root vegetables, etc.
* Garden, recycle, buy organic food – keep your practical connection with the Earth.
Some kind of ritual closing is necessary. In some workshops, we have left the ritual burning of the masks until the very end of the workshop. Sometimes, we just have a big group hug, which is sufficient, but a longer process is nice. Sing a group song or two, especially one about appreciating each other, and say good-bye to everyone. One process which works beautifully is that, while singing, the large circle of participants holding hands breaks at one point and one person leads the circle back on itself (inside the circle), looking into each person’s eyes and hugging them.
After the workshop
The co-facilitators should also get together after the workshop and have a critical evaluation session, general sharing and appreciation. Don’t forget to tell each other what you really liked about each other’s facilitation styles. Congratulate each other and thank the Earth who supported you!
All fine tunings which you come up with will be very useful for the forthcoming manual, so please send them in!
Resource Library: The Grounding
coming soon: posts from this website related to The Mourning process.
Deep Ecology Process Map