The Council of All Beings
Humans have become a dominant animal presence on this planet, living in almost every ecosystem, and rapidly destroying natural habitats to make space for more humans and to gain resources needed to support a modern lifestyle. Yet humans are just one amongst thousands and thousands of species, and most of these other species have been harmed or threatened in some way by human action. However, we rarely stop to recognize this, or to hear the voices of beings that we share the world with. The Council refers to a way of communication, where people listen and speak from the heart.By intuitively connecting with other life forms and sharing their message in a circle, this activity gives space to express the numerous voiceless inhabitants of the natural world. It allows humans to get a sense of what other non-human beings might have to tell us, enabling us to see our actions from their perspective.
Group / Experiential
1 to 3 hours
To feel what it might be like to be another non-human being living on Earth with humans
To allow for creativity and artistic expression around the ecological crisis on the planet
To learn about the relationship of humans to all other species on the plane
Required Materials and Tools:
A quiet place outdoors or in a room where you won't be disturbed. Avoid rooms with fluorescent lights, or bring a small lamp if you are doing this activity in a classroom. The mood really does matter in the Council.
Art supplies: construction paper, paints, crayons, stones, shells, or other found and recycled objects, scissors, glue, any other art supplies that you have.
Explain the entire process before the beginning, so that participants know what is going to happen.
Invite participants to sit or lie down so that they are comfortable. Ask them to close their eyes, and let the image of an animal, human or part of nature or landscape, come to them in their imaginations. Remind them not to force themselves to think about a certain animal or part of nature, but rather to let the being visit them in their thoughts.
Ask the participants to “become” the beings that have visited them in their imaginations. Ask that they feel themselves turning into this animal or part of nature (such as a cloud, a mountain, a tree, a wolf, a spider, or another human). Ask them: "What is happening to me as this being? How do I feel? What is my life like? My days? My nights? My interactions with other beings? With my environment? What do I want? What do I have to say? What would I like to tell people? What wisdom do I have as this being?” Remind them to listen inside for the answers.
After giving participants some time to really "become" their being, bring the art supplies into the center of the circle and invite participants to open their eyes and to silently make a mask to represent themselves as this being. The mask does not have to look like the being, as long as it feels like it is representative. Some participants will be tempted to spend a long time on their mask. Remind them that the mask is only a representation. Allow some time for this part and give a five-minute and one-minute warning for finishing the mask. It is also an option to introduce the idea, and then give participants a day to come up with their costumes. This works especially well when the Council is held in the evening. When everyone has finished their mask, or prepared their costume, form the Council by sitting in a circle.
Remind people that Council refers to a way of communication where we listen and speak from the heart. Invite people to speak spontaneously, without planning and thinking too much about what they will say. It is also important to express in clear and short statements. Emphasize that silence in between the spoken comments of Council members is an important part of the sanctity of the Council.
One by one, each being in the circle should introduce him-, her-, or itself and say what their life is like, who they are, and how they spend their time. After each being speaks, the Council should respond by saying, "We hear you ____ (name of being)."
Ask the beings to each speak again, this time telling the Council what is happening to them, including what people have done to them and what they would like to say to people. Once again, the rest of the group responds by saying "We hear you ____ (name of being)."
After each being has spoken again, ask them to talk once more, sharing whatever wisdom, knowledge, or gifts they have to offer and what they might teach people who are willing to listen. The group responds by saying "We thank you ____ (name of being)."
Finally, after each being has spoken for the last time, ask participants to remove their masks one by one. As each of them takes off the mask, invite them to turn their masks toward themselves and make a small promise to change one aspect of their life which hurts their being.
- The Council ends when you say something like "These promises made shall not be broken. Many thanks to the beings who have come together today to share their feelings, dreams, hopes, and wisdom.”
THE INSTITUTE FOR HUMANE EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 260
SURRY, MAINE 04684
What what this experience like for you?
Did you manage to gain insight into the way other non-human beings perceive the world?
Do you feel closer to other forms now?
Instructions for Submission
Upload a photo in Moodle of the people with the masks and submit a short text with the answers to the questions from the Reflection section. Instructions on how to submit things or upload photos in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for Assessment
Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback
AuthorCreative Commons - ySI4R Content Team (Instructions were taken directly from online activity provided by THE INSTITUTE FOR HUMANE EDUCATION and adapted to be a shorter activity)
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