Joanna Macy and Pat Fleming

(Excerpted from “THINKING LIKE A MOUNTAIN_ TOWARDS A COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS”, by John Seed – Joanna Macy – Pat Fleming – Arne Naess, 1988, New Society Publishers)


In response to the progressive destruction of the biosphere, Arne Naess called for a perspective and set of values he called “deep ecology.” The name and the idea have caught hold around the world. Earlier in this book, Naess also calls for a form of community therapy or experiential process by which we can genuinely appropriate the perspective and values of deep ecology, and develop an ecological sense of the self. The group process called the “Council of All Beings” is intended to do precisely that. It is only one of the many forms which will undoubtedly arise to help us humans move beyond an anthropocentric and exploitative mindset in relation to our natural world, but it is a form that is already present among us and whose power is already known. A central aim of this little book is to share that form more widely.

The name “Council of All of Beings” has come to be used in two ways. In the narrower sense, it refers to a ritual form, a council circle of one-and-a-half to two or three hours, where people gather to speak on behalf of other species. The term is also used more inclusively to refer to a longer process, one that runs from one to several days and includes exercises and activities leading up to and flowing from the ritual proper. This process amounts to a workshop, often held over a weekend. In the workshop setting, the ritual council takes on more authenticity for the participants and seems effective in engendering change in their lives.

We offer guidelines here for the more encompassing form. There is nothing esoteric about conducting this form of group work. It is a natural and easy way to help people expand and express their awareness of the ecological trouble we are in, and to deepen their motivation to act. We do not need to be ecological experts or charismatic group leaders. The essential is already present in our desire that life go on, the desire which led us to pick up this book. Beyond that nothing more is required than clear intention, a place which is large and private enough for people to feel at ease, and a modicum of skills which can be acquired in guiding groups.

The intention

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.

Place, time and numbers

The Council of All Beings has been held in a wide variety of settings indoors and out, from the Grand Canyon to a college student lounge, from a grove of towering redwoods to a Midwestern police armory, from a school gymnasium to a church sanctuary.Numbers of participants have ranged from fewer than a dozen people to more than one hundred, and have included people of all ages.The Council’s duration has been as short as an hour-and-a-half and as long as four days. Choose what is feasible for the people you want to involve.

Preparing to lead a workshop

{Read Chapter Four of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (New Society Publishers, 1983) by Joanna Macy which details the requirements for leading a Despair and Empowerment workshop. They are essentially the same as for leading a deep ecology workshop, a Council of All Beings. Pay attention to the sections on leadership roles and styles, on varying the pace, on working with the breath and the body, on the uses of sound and silence, and on dealing with the release of intense emotions. Heed the importance of having worked with your own emotions. Leaders must have encountered the depths of their own inner responses to the dangers of annihilation of life and moved beyond their fear of these powerful feelings.}

To guide a Council or a Council workshop, a delicate balance is required of the leaders. On the one hand, they offer and orchestrate a preconceived structure and need confidence in it in order to keep the process “on track.” On the other hand, they must play the role of facilitator with enough humble ordinariness and flexibility to allow people to believe in the naturalness of the process and in expressing themselves genuinely and spontaneously.Because as leaders we are inviting people to engage in an activity that is novel for them and risks appearing contrived or silly, it is all the more important for us to see these people in the perspective of deep ecology: that is, for us to address and believe in their larger ecological selves. No need to preach or push, only to allow people to open to the wisdom and pain that is hidden in each being as an intrinsic part of this beautiful and endangered world.

It helps to have training in group dynamics and experience in facilitating the expression of deeply felt concerns. It helps, equally, to have already participated in a Council of All Beings workshop. But these factors, while desirable, are not essential. The kind of skills you need to guide a Council can be developed. Plan to share leadership of the Council workshop with one or two others, especially if you are new to it. Working with an experienced facilitator is the best training. Co-leading has two other advantages: it models for all involved the synergistic cooperation integral to the ecological perspective. And, as you alternate responsibilities for different parts of the workshop, each of you can participate more freely, expressing your own feelings and knowing more fully. Don’t forget critical evaluation and mutual feedback afterwards, as important to effective co-leadership as careful preliminary planning.

Children enjoy participating in the Council of All Beings. At an early age they are able to understand its purpose and to derive encouragement and comfort from it. Less conditioned to feel separate from the natural world and to censor what they perceive, they have much to offer. An intergenerational Council has its own particular power and delight. Children under the age of ten can become restless and distracting if expected to sit through the full process. They also can inhibit the older participants from expressing their fears, anger and sorrow about the condition of our world. If you decide to include them, arrange for childcare and decide which portions of the proceedings you will invite them to share.

The workshop structure

In the group work done to date, the reclamation of our ecological selves has involved three generic approaches. They consist of mourning, then remembering, then speaking from the perspective of other life-forms. Each approach or stage of the work can be served by a variety of exercises, some of which are detailed later in this chapter. Let us first see how these stages unfold within the chronology of a workshop, following upon the affirmation/clarification of intention and culminating in the making of plans for action and change.

Group intention

We meet because our planet is in trouble. We meet because we who are party to the destruction of our biosphere must also be part of the healing which must occur. As John Seed said at the start of a workshop:

“When a group of people gather together for a day or more with the intention to help each other heal our separation from nature, this shared intention is itself the healing we seek. So it is important to dwell upon this intention, to fix it firmly in our minds and hearts. Let us meditate for ten minutes now on this sacred intention.”

If a workshop is longer than one day, people are urged to hold that intention very consciously as they go to bed the first evening.The commitment to appreciate and serve life is made evident in the opening introductions. As people say their names, they are invited to speak of one (only one!) particular, ordinary aspect of the Earth that they love. If time allows, they can also tell what errand or felt urgency brings them to the Council. Sometimes we pass around an Earth ball of ceramic or rubber or a stone or crystal for people to hold as they speak.


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.

Telling our eco-stories

This exercise is for the opening session of the workshop, as it lets each person be heard at length from the outset. In groups of three of four, participants take a specific amount of time (five to fifteen minutes) to recount particular life experiences in which they felt powerfully the presence of the natural world and/or felt pain over what is befalling this world. The leaders can model this for the whole group, and then emphasize that this storytelling is not a conversation; people are to listen to each other attentively without comment. A bell or drum can mark the time allotted to each person, and let silence surround each one’s story.In introducing this exercise, Joanna often quotes the words of the poet Thich Nhat Hanh: “What we most need to do is to hear within ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying.” Each of us hears these sounds in a different way. How have you heard them?

Meditation upon chief Seattle

The eloquent and prophetic words of this great Native American chief over a century ago and recreated by Ted Perry in 1970 can serve as a “scripture reading” for deep ecology work. The text of his testimony is passed around the circle, each person reading a short paragraph aloud, in a strong voice, please. (See page 67 for Chief Seattle’s testimony, divided up into suitably short paragraphs.)At the close of the reading, the leaders let a silence occur, and then invite those present to speak what is in their hearts. “We can speak as if to Seattle himself, here in our midst, telling how it is now for us and for our fellow-beings.” There will be no lack of response, for Seattle touches a deep chord. What follows is usually a cleansing “speak-out.” Its role in the first half of the workshop is similar in function to the confession of sins near the start of the Christian liturgy; without it we risk hypocrisy in thinking of ourselves as agents of wholesome change.

Honoring endangered species

This is a ritual form similar in function to the Chief Seattle exercise. Several voices simply read aloud from the list of threatened and endangered species. (Available through organizations for the preservation of wildlife. The meditation “Bestiary,” page 74, can also be used for this purpose.)After each name of plant or animal life now facing extinction, a pair of sticks or clackers are struck sharply together, with finality, like the sound of a guillotine — for extinction is forever. Since we stage no funerals for other species as they pass from our midst, it is appropriate to hold them at least for a moment in our collective attention, honoring the particular qualities they brought for a while to this Earth we share.Leave time at the end of the reading for spontaneous response from the whole group. The leaders can invite this response to come in as pure sound, beyond words. Tapes of whale song can elicit and embrace this sounding, which often takes the ancient form of keening, allowing tears which are appropriate and want to be shared.

The Eco-milling

A nonverbal form of interaction that gets people moving around the room or space, this exercise is a kind of guided meditation through successive, silent encounters between people. As they move or mill about, upon spoken cues from the leader, they pause again and again in front of another person, taking their hand and beholding this being, this life-form in all its intricacy and vulnerability. Relieved of the necessity to respond, participants can direct full attention in accordance with the leader’s suggestions — attention to the being they now see and touch, to the human form chat has evolved over millions of years, that now feels grief for its world, that has powers within to act and rebuild.This deeply evocative and powerful exercise is easy to lead.* Let the silent encounters which you invite people to make honor their concerns for life and the dangers they face in this time:
As you look in the eyes of this being, let the possibility arise in your mind that this person may die of cancer from something they breathe or drink from our environment. . . . That possibility is part of being alive in this planet-time and you are strong enough to face it and deal with it . . . . Without words acknowledge this in any way which feels appropriate.

In the same fashion, invite the people as they face each other in pairs to “let the possibility arise in your mind that this person before you may play a decisive role in the healing of our world. . . .” Let them respond spontaneously to that eventuality as well. The exercise can be expanded to include space for increased personal sharing:
As you walk, notice how a human body feels. Now approach someone else’s, someone you don’t know and take their hand in yours. Taking turns of a couple of minutes each, tell them of a special time, of a strong experience you have had within Nature, something that stands out for you and remains with you . . . now thanking each other, begin to move around around the room again at your own pace, taking time to breathe fully as you move …
Other exercises described in Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, such as the guided meditation called “Breathing Through” and the imaging exercises which use colors or clay, are also suitable for this stage of deep ecology work. They both allow, with the silent support of the group, repressed concerns about our world and its future to come to the surface. As this material is acknowledged and integrated in conscious awareness, energy is released for creative response.


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.

Evolutionary Remembering

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.

Our Life as Gaia

A text for this is offered on page 57. It can be read aloud, or learned and extemporized with your own variations and additions, both to small groups and large audiences. Do it, if you can, to the sound of a drum, drumming a heartbeat, the heartbeat of each of us and the heartbeat of our world.

The Gaia Meditation

Presented here on page 41, this form is also well suited to large groups and congregations. It is especially effective, however, when people are seated in pairs facing each other. They serve then as each other’s “meditation objects,” as we evoke the wonders of our biological nature and the dynamic elemental flows which sustain and interweave our beings.

The Cradling*

If you lack time or space for the whole process — an hour and room to recline — a simple cradling of another’s hand can be done to great effect. With large audiences, this five minute process can be inserted into a speech, program or religious service. In workshops it can be used in tandem, or as a substitute for the “Eco-milling” as one of the nonverbal encounters people are directed to make. Invite participants to close their eyes, so that all their attention can be directed to the sense of touch.

Note the intricacy of the bone structure and musculature, the soft, sensitive padding of palm and fingertips. No shell or armor here, or protective padding. This is clearly an instrument for knowing as well as doing. Through it our earth can touch itself and know its shapes and texture…You could be anywhere in the universe, in any dark corridor of space, and if you encountered that object you’d know you were home. For it’s a human hand of planet Earth. You don’t find that anywhere else. It took four-and-a-half billion years and the particular conditions of this planet to make it . . . . It was a fin once in the primordial seas where once we swam . . .

Let your words evoke its story, how it pushed up on dry land, learned to reach, to grasp, to fashion tools, to weave and plant, to build temples and telescopes, gas chambers and hospitals . . . work which is in store for it in the times that are coming, work in building a sane and decent world.In working together to develop an ecological sense of self, we rediscover how ancient we are. As a workshop leader you can remind people of the authority and endurance with which that great age endows us. When in defense of living species we stand up and speak to corporations, government officials or the military, we don’t do it out of personal whim or passing fancy — but with all the authority of our four-and-a-half billion years!


Another exercise for reintegrating the human into the biosphere is called “Eco-Breath” designed by John Seed and Robert Rosen in Australia. It is based on a workshop form called BRETH (Breath Releasing Energy for Transformation and Healing), a pathway of personal growth similar to “Rebirthing” where connected, holotropic breathing is used to put oneself in touch with deep, unconscious levels of our being and to come to terms with unresolved situations in our past that limit and condition our present life. In a rebirthing group, people choose a partner and take turns being “breather” and “sitter.” In a session which typically will last several hours, the breather lies down and by adopting a particular breathing rhythm, may experience profound insights into deep areas of their being. This may be accompanied by intense visions and memories, strong feelings and emotions, weeping, shaking, raging and so forth. A sense of problems solved, healing, integration and empowerment typically follows several rebirthing sessions.

BRETH is similar to rebirthing, but adds considerable emphasis on the intention with which the person enters the breathing session. The intention is consciously formulated, and in the group sharing and discussion following the sessions, the breather’s experience in the session is usually found to relate closely to his/her intention. In the Eco-Breath workshops, we spend two days in BRETH sessions. In the second set of workshops, the intentions change from personal, biographical to planetary. These sessions have proven effective in reaching transpersonal, even trans-species levels of our being. For more information about Eco-Breath workshops, contact John Seed c/o Rainforest Information Centre, PO Box 368, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia.


Identifying With Another Life-Form

Through mourning and remembering, the workshop participants have opened to the universality of the life within them. They are ready to shake off their solely human identification and for a while imaginatively enter the experience of another life-form. It is as satisfying to do this as it is to resurrect a half-forgotten skill or after years to sing a once familiar song. The workshop helps us feel our way. We choose — or let ourselves be chosen by —another species. Harkening to the whispers of the natural world around us and within us, we stretch to see and feel what lies just barely beyond our human knowing.We prepare, in other words, for the ritual of the Council of All Beings. And the preliminaries involve three stages: letting ourselves be chosen by another life-form, making a mask to represent it, and practice in speaking for it.

Being Chosen

In inviting people to let themselves be chosen by another life-form, you can speak much as Frank did in the narrative of The Council of All Beings earlier in this book. When working out-of-doors in nature, give at least an hour to this process, urging people to go off alone and find a place which feels right to them as on a Vision Quest — which this part of the workshop is often called. The participants are finding an ally to speak for in the Council.If you are working indoors, the quest is entirely internal and the time can be as short as ten or fifteen minutes. Play an audio-tape of wilderness sounds or a meditative drone; avoid music which might distract or direct attention. Ask people to relax deeply, preferably lying down, and to wait with an open, non-discursive mind as they invite the presence of another life-form to join them. Whether working indoors or out, encourage people to stay with the first impulse that arises. It is not a question of choosing a species you think you know a lot about, but rather allowing yourself to be surprised by the life-form that comes, be it plant, animal, or ecological feature, such as swamp or canyon. Ask people to visualize this being fully and from every angle, its size and shape and ways of moving. Ask them to request this being’s permission to enter it, so they can imaginatively sense its body from within. Finally, let them ask the being how it wishes to be represented and what symbolic form can be made as a mask to be worn in the Council.

Mask-Making (in silence)

Lay out the materials (cardboard, color markers, paste, tape, scissors, string, etc.) on ground cloths or tables. Have people work without speaking. You can encourage relaxation, spontaneity and creativity by playing a tape of nature music. The originality which emerges in the concoction of these workshop masks is often remarkable.The masks can either be attached to the head by string, elastic, or by taping the mask to a stick which can be held before the face. The latter is preferable for the purposes of the Council as it is more easily maneuverable as participants shift from their human to their other life-form and back again. Be sure everyone cuts holes to see and speak through; a mask which blocks the mouth makes hearing that being difficult. Some people prefer to make a breast plate or to paint their face. Whatever the choice, emphasize simplicity and ease of movement with the mask on.A half-hour should suffice. When the time or setting available to a Council does not allow for mask making, you can give people small squares of paper — or blank sticky labels — and let them simply take a moment or two to draw a shape or symbol of their life-form. When even that is not feasible, given the size of the gathering or other considerations, don’t be overly concerned. Participants in the Council can simply announce who they are.

Moving Meditation on the Life-Form

If time allows, this exercise helps people identify more fully with their life-form. Masks are set aside.Sitting comfortably or lying on the ground, relaxing and breathing easily, begin to let yourself feel how it is to take body in this new life-form . . . . What shape are you? . . . How much space do you take up now? . . . What is your skin or outer surface like? . . . How do you take notice of what is around you? move, if indeed you move at all . . . Do you make any sounds? Play with these sounds. . . .

Practice Speaking for the Life-Form

Donning their masks and in small groups of three or four, participants are given the opportunity to practice using their human voice to speak for their adopted life-form. This process, like the preceding one, deepens identification. Without such preliminary work, the beings in the Council risk speaking from too human a perspective — moralizing, blaming, or loading their utterances with generalities and scientific data.Invite each being to speak in turn for five minutes to their small group, introducing themselves and expressing how it feels to be who they are. Urge them to stay focused on their physical nature and way of life, avoiding pronouncements on present environmental conditions.
Gifted fully with the power of speech, tell how it feels to be you. What are the strengths and qualities you especially enjoy? Try to stay true to your new being and speak in the first person. And those listening can ask questions to assist the speaker to express and know its being more thoroughly.

The process often brings much laughter and mutual delight. It is so effective in demonstrating to people their capacity for identifying with other life-forms that it is sometimes used in lieu of the Council of All beings when there is insufficient time for the Council ritual to be held. In those cases, the content that the small groups address is expanded into three stages. After portraying the nature of their experience, the beings are invited to tell how life has changed for them under the present conditions that humans have created in the world. Lastly, they name the particular powers or gifts they would offer to humans to help them stop the destruction that is going on.

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.

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.

The Closing

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.


These are examples of workshop formats we have used for one- and two-day events. They reflect only a sampling of the wealth of exercises, meditations, and rituals we have used in the Council of All Beings over the past three years. Each format aims to include the essential features that lead participants to a fuller understanding of deep ecology, and their individual roles within it.


  • 9 AM – Registration and orientation to workshop environment
  • 9:15 – Physical warm-ups/breathing exercises/games/ chanting etc.
  • 9:30 – Welcome and introductory talk
  • 9:45 – Introductory exercise
  • 10:00 – Eco-milling
  • 10:20 – Evolutionary remembering
  • 11:30 – Time alone with Nature/finding an ally
  • 12:30 – Lunch break and mask-making
  • 1:45 – Voice/body warm-ups. Whole group check-in
  • 2:00 – Meditation on chosen life form
  • 2:15 – Small groups to interview each other as life-form
  • 2:30 – The Council of All Beings Ritual-opening of ritual space, readings, Bestiary/list of threatened species, introduction of beings present, invitation to humans to join as silent witnesses, further responses from beings to humans, humans ask for guidance, time alone in nature to bid farewell to being, ritual releasing of the being, closing of the council
  • 4:00 — Pairs looking at how to live deep ecology values
  • 4:13 — Brainstorm on what is “work for the planet?”
  • 4:25 — Pairs focus on what our individual work and commitment is/will be and what support we will need over the next year
  • 4:40 — Report back/closing circle—evaluation, remarks, “humming-bee”/song
  • (Note: This is a fairly intense schedule designed more for indoor work. If the workshop is outdoors, lengthen the schedule by at least an hour to match the slower outdoor pace.)

TWO-DAY WEEKEND WORKSHOP (Friday, 7 PM to Sunday, 4 PM)

Friday, 7 — 9 PM
  • 7:00 — Registration/orientation
  • 7:13 — Welcome and introductory talk
  • 7:30 — Introduction exercise
  • 8:00 — Game/songs/choosing affinity groups
  • 8:20 — Affinity groups meet — affirm individual intentions for the weekend
  • 8:30 – Goodnight story/songs
Saturday, 9 AM — 9 PM
  • 9 AM – Game/stretches/game. Review of day
  • 9:20 – Affinity groups meet and design opening ritual
  • 9:30 – Opening of ritual space by affinity groups
  • 10:10 – Eco-milling
  • 10:40 – Evolutionary remembering
  • 12:00 – Time alone with Nature; finding a special place for quiet thought12:30 – Lunch break
  • 2:00 – Whole group check-in/game
  • 2:15 – Readings—Bestiary/list of threatened species— ending with Chief Seattle reading/exercise
  • 3:00 – Vision Quest—finding our ally (time alone)
  • 4:00 – Mask-making
  • 4:30 – Exploration of new being—meditation, and in pairs
  • 5:00 – Dinner break
  • 7:00 – Our Life as Gaia meditation
  • 7:20 – Affinity group meets—listening time on whatever is unfinished; then designing eco-drama
  • 8:10 – Performance of eco-drama
  • 8:40 — Cradling exercise
  • 8:35 — Goodnight song
Sunday, 9 AM – 4 PM
  • 9:00 — Announcements/description of day/group check in
  • 9:15 — Voice and body warm-ups
  • 9:30 — The Council of All Beings ritual
  • 11:00 — Time alone in nature
  • 11:30 — Affinity groups meet to examine their experiences
  • 12:00 – Lunch break
  • 2:00 – Whole group check-in/songs/games
  • 2:30 — Integration exercises — In pairs: How do we integrate what we’ve learned into everyday life? Brainstorm: What is our work for the planet? Small groups: What is/will be our personal work for the planet and what support do we need in this over the next year?
  • 3:40 — Closing circle — closing of ritual space/support networks/group benedictions toward all beings/final comments/humming-bee