Zen Council Practice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Native American practice of council circle, used in a growing number of White Plum sanghas, is an important part of our growth as a Zen sangha. Zen Council at SMZ takes place the first Thursday of every month (except in July, August, and during our ango study period in February and March).

Zen Council circle affords us the opportunity to respond to a question about our Zen practice in the world, posed by one of the teachers. The question is sent to members a week beforehand and posted on the bulletin board, allowing time for reflection. Council then gives us the opportunity to examine our own practice, to express ourselves and to listen to the experiences of others in the community. Only the person holding the Council stick speaks, there is no cross talk at this time, and one does not have to speak if one does not wish to. Council is a way to listen to the collective wisdom of the group. After all have finished speaking, there is a short period for discussion.

"Participating in council teaches us how to let go of personal expectations and become fully attentive to others. The practice fosters a compassionate response and provides a continuing source of wisdom. Compassion arises naturally when we listen with respect and when we express ourselves with an open heart. Wisdom flows from the wholeness of the circle and reveals itself as the truth of council. Listening to the voice of council teaches us that the circle's knowledge is greater than the totality of its members' individual knowing." -- Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, The Way of Council.