Council Practice

A circle practice for deepening and strengthening community

The two primary practices of the Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago are meditation and council practice. Council is a practice of open, heartfelt expression and attentive, empathic listening. Council takes place in a circle and is an ancient practice common to most cultures around the world. It can support meaningful change in organizations, schools and families. 

Passing a talking piece with the intention of speaking authentically and listening attentively inspires deeper communication, intercultural understanding and the non-violent resolution of conflict. Council is effective in organizations that want to move from a hierarchical structure to a partnership model where initiative, responsibility, collaboration and leadership are shared. Through deepening trust, council supports the clarification of values and community. The Way of Council has been explored, developed and adapted to work in schools, communities, businesses, service organizations, prison, health care, end-of-life facilities, professional conferences, spiritual centers, and family gatherings all over the world. 


Four Intentions of Council

  • Speaking from the heart

  • Listening from the heart

  • Spontaneity

  • Being of lean expression

Opportunities for Council Practice

The Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago is committed to deepening the practice of council and offering continued opportunities for members and nonmembers alike to do this practice. For many years now, we have been exploring a governing model of shared-stewardship that incorporates council practice into our meetings. We will also begin to offer council circles at some of our Sunday Morning Zen programs, as well as our meditation retreats. 

The Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago is proud to also announce that we have developed a close partnership with the Center for Council. It is our intention within the next few years to develop an outreach program in our community that will incorporate council as a primary practice. 


"What an amazing experience! It was truly transformative as I felt more connected to others, to myself, and to my heart of kindness. The trainers are thoughtful, encouraging, and skillful in leading the group to a deeper sense of community and compassion. I can see how this training can be applicable everywhere in life."
—Diane Myogetsu Bejcek, psychologist


"I went into council training wondering what I would discover about myself. I learned how when I open myself up to vulnerable moments, I contribute to letting others discover their own moments. That interconnected sharing gave our sangha great bonding moments. I saw amazing personal discoveries by some strong men and women. If you don't go, you will miss this precious opportunity."
—Lori Snyder, medical librarian


"Council 1 training has been a formidable opportunity as I learn to listen and be fully aware and awake. Jared and Ann are wonderful teachers, providing a variety of teaching opportunities to support this excellent process. I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience Council training. It's good for everyone in every walk of life." 
—Mark Shishin Gelula, retired professor of medical education and past ZLMC board president


"Council training has helped me notice when I'm dominating a conversation. Now I encourage others to offer their ideas more frequently."
—Gerry Messler, retired field representative and organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU)