The Male Journey UK – Way of Council Training
Participants Feedback: July 2016

1. What was the best thing about the training?
MH: Difficult to pick out one thing as the whole package was really good. But probably the highlight was the way the group gelled together and the high levels of trust that enabled us to do some profound work together.
SL: The best thing about the training was the power of bringing the witnessing element into the awareness of everyone. It sharpens the focus and allows us to go deeper. The fact that the council could hold what came in the spectrum of emotions and unforeseen events, everything and everybody belongs.
PP: The doing stuff.
SB: The chance to spend extended time experiencing council and learn by practicing. Spending a whole weekend in a spirit of 'wisdom'. Learning from an ancient tradition. Connecting with other men on a similar journey.
MR: The best thing for me was Rob and Yven as a pair of teachers, both bringing something different and complimentary in their style. It was well held and felt safety to share.
PN: Sitting in council with experienced facilitators, and other men from The Male Journey.
RS: As ever, the best thing was being together with men who are open to sharing their lives in depth and with vulnerable honesty - prepared to be real and giving everyone else permission to be real too.

2. What did you wish had been done differently?
MH: It would have been good to have done the training with another person form our group in Manchester so that we could then work together to with the group. But I can see the rationale for just one person from each group at this stage.
SL: I honestly can’t think of anything I would want done differently.
PP: Well, in Denmark we have a more Christian flavour in our gatherings. I can do without, but I guess if there is no singing, praying, scripture, ritual og anything you will miss out of the Christian identity.
SB: I would have liked more chance to practice Way of Council when used for making decisions, finding wisdom and discernment.
MR: It was a very busy weekend and I would have preferred more free time to walk and relax in the beautiful grounds, less is more sometimes.
PN: Honestly can't think of anything. No concerns or niggles regarding planning,  execution or follow-up.
RS: To have devoted more time to practising the various  forms of Council, and a little less on the  ‘games’.

3. Please list at least 3 ways the training has improved your ability to serve your Local Group. Please be as specific as you can.
MH: -Bit soon to say as we have not met yet since the training, but I feel I have much clearer and deeper appreciation of the Way of Council, and expect this to pay dividends as we move forward.
-I am also using the approaching other work I am involved in, including ACTA (A Call to Action) which seeks to promote dialogue and a more democratic way of working within the Catholic Church. In fact yesterday I was talking to members of our steering group about the Way of Council and how it might serve us in our work together. They were incredibly open to this. Really encouraging...
-My wife are currently bringing together a group of 13 people for an initial meeting (conflict resolution). I’m hoping we will use Way of Council as our approach
SL: I have the confidence to take risks and work with what comes and adapt with what comes if necessary as a stoker. Me practicing it will enable others to do the same.  
  I feel able to introduce the witnessing element to the group. That will pull us together and help us go deeper. I feel confident to introduce Response Council. We had already just begun it recently.
PP: Being clear in ledership, i.e. express what I want. Experience how fish pool works. Reading the life of a circle.
SB: I feel more confident facilitating a circle knowing the wisdom behind some of what we do. For example, having a candle or chime to signify moving into council; the different purposes of moving the piece round the circle or having web-style. Having practiced council, I feel more able to be alive to what is happening in my own body when in a circle, and to what is arising in the circle generally. I feel I more able to pass the form and wisdom of council on to others.
MR: i) it has helped me to recognise and name the different processes such as the witness and this validates what we had a organically   moved in to.
    ii) I will be more confident in bringing in the idea of themes to use the way of council to explore, I think our group was mainly checking in.
    iii) A reminder of the core essence of sharing will be more in my mind and heart.
PN: I can explain what council is and the intentions which make it most effective.
I can create an effective prompt question that wil encourage men to share deeply from their experience.
I can suggest and facilitate different styles of council.
I can explain where our lineage of council comes from.
Having met men from other groups in the country, I am more confident about the role our organisation is playing in Men's lives as a worthwhile effort. It has encouraged me.
RS: Reflecting on how we operate as a local group I think the training will help me to offer:
a) Greater attention to preparation of place, making it a place of beauty, attention to the  ‘centre’ (candle etc) to help our awareness that this is sacred space.
b) The practice of using  ‘prompts’ for Council, naming a possible focus to start us off…I think this will help to keep the meetings fresh, whatever direction the Council  then takes.
c) The opportunity for us to re-visit the four intentions of Council and so to renew our  commitment to this way of growth and being together.

4. What factors most helped you to learn and grow through the course? (eg the material, the theory, the hands-on… )
MH: All the ingredients were vital including wonderful trainers.
SL: Hands on was an important element, that makes it stick and makes it real.
PP: The modelling
SB: There was a good balance of theory and practice. I wouldn't have wanted any LESS theory, but it was important to get us out of our heads as much as possible so learning by practicing. The concept of 'witnessing' was reasonably new to me, and was very helpful in reflecting on what we were learning as we went along, as well as developing an ability to be present and attentive to what is arising when in council.
MR: I think   I was helped by the practical experience of taking part in the councils, and experiencing the difference in people's sharing.
PN: Being with the men - deepening understanding, making friendships, letting go of the need to record everything.
RS: I was most helped by experiencing the varied forms that Council can take: the basic Council that we are most used to, doing the round with the taking piece…but then also the spiral Council and the dream Council (if we have a couple of overnights as we have thought of doing) opened up new possibilities.
The hands on experience of supervised  ‘paired facilitation’ was quite a learning curve. Renewed respect for facilitators - not as easy as it looks!

5. What factors most hindered your learning and growth?
MH: Cannot think of anything
  SL: I was not in a good place emotionally. I held back.  I am not so comfortable with larger groups. Some smaller groups would help. Outdoor sessions, undercover if it rains would be good.
PP: I was free and easy going, so no hindrenses.
SB: Being stuck in one room for much of the training became a little tiring. All the opportunities to move into other spaces were welcome. We were somewhat hindered by the weather from being outside more.
MR: My own factors hindered my growth, I felt irritated at what felt like some peoples verbal and emotional incontinence. It was however helpful to experience the difference between people displaying emotions and those expressing feelings.
PN: My own expectation for intellectual learning over bodily understanding.
RS: Some of the games: not so much hindering my learning and growth as putting me out of my comfort zone. No bad thing in itself, but when feeling challenged in the Council circle you can take care of yourself by choosing to remain silent…but when a ball is heading in your direction there’s no real opt out clause!! Not easy when it triggers childhood shaming. So is this a case of being  ‘forced’ out of one’s comfort zone?

6. Is there anything else you think we should know about your experience of the Way of Council training event?
MH: Nothing further to add.
SL: A massive thanks to you, Dave, for arranging this.
PP: I do not think so
SB: The chance to spend a short time with the Perth men's group round the fire was really encouraging.
MR: The venue was OK. It was close to a busy road with traffic noise. The food was not very good and the kitchen staff were not really sympathetic to supporting retreatants. The gardens were beautiful.
thank you for organising a great weekend training.
PN: It was ace. I loved it. Thank you.
RS: Just gratitude. It was a wonderful experience. And, thank YOU for all your work in making this happen. It was a wonderful experience. We missed you. I’m really sorry you couldn’t be with us…but even more so that your son has been suffering. It is good to hear that he is making a good recovery. You have been, and continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

7. How would you rate the trainers?
MH: Extremely highly
SL: The trainers were excellent.
PP: Wonderful, open and experienced.
SB: Rob and Yvan were excellent. They clearly brought with them a wealth of wisdom and experience of council, and created a strong and warm container. They attempted to be flexible as to what material was covered in response to the needs of the group. 
MR: The trainers were excellent and a good combination of knowledge, clarity, challenge and gentle humour.
PN: First class, they used transparent facilitation so we could see how they were facilitating us - what considerations may be useful etc. They also shared with us how they felt they could have improved as part of the recap at the end.
RS: 100% brilliant. Nothing less than generous in giving of themselves and their wisdom…in great humility.

8. How confident are you, you will put your learning into practice?
MH: Very confident, but would feel even more so if there were someone else nearby who had been on the training and with whom I could work as co-facilitator
SL:  It was a lot to take in, so I know I/we will have to get into practice quickly to hold it. 
PP: I have been working this way many years and I am glad to get focused training.
SB: I am certain I will put this training into practice, not just in my men's group, but also in my church, and hopefully in social groups and with family and friends. I left feeling more inspired than ever that Way of Council offers something unique and desperately needed in finding a way forward for healing in our society and our world.
MR: I am confident that I will be putting what I have learned into practice
PN: I already am! Holding Council with my partner, Men's group -  offering it to the Charity I work with in Barnsley...
RS: Apart from a social gathering when we will enjoy a night out together, my own men’s group will not meet until September…but I am  confident they will be receptive to what I have to offer from the training, and look forward to enjoying the fruits of the new life I am sure it will bring to our council. 
But let me share a story of how I have used the training in another context. I am part of a working party set up by our bishop to look into ways of better offering support to the priests in the diocese. We have been meeting for a few months, examining various models & action plans. Another meeting was scheduled just days after our time at the Bield. I knew that following our experience I just COULD NOT go into this meeting and sit around a table  shuffling papers and discussing more ‘plans.’ So I emailed the guys and asked If they wouldn’t mind if I took the lead at this one. No problem.
Following the principles of Council, I moved the meeting into another room, away from the conference table, where we could sit in a circle. When all had arrived I set out the centre, with its candle, and named it as a sacred space & time together…then inviting anyone, when moved to do so, to light the candle & dedicate the meeting. One of the participants got up and dedicated our time to the name of one of our colleagues who had recently died, who had been a recovering alcoholic and, for many years, a great support to guys who were in any way broken. The opening up had already begun.
I then named the four intentions of council and, given the reason for our gathering, by way of focus asked them to tell of a time when they had felt  most deeply supported…introducing the use of the talking piece to do so. I was frankly stunned and deeply moved by the level of shared vulnerability and outpouring of honesty that followed. I think at the end each of us was rather dazed at what we had heard and said. In being real, we certainly did give each other permission to be real too. And everyone wanted more of it, and for more of our brothers to experience this level of sharing. 
If you knew the degree of defensiveness that is usually present in gatherings of priests, you’d have an idea of what a shift this represented! It was a real joy…and hopefully to be built upon.


Feedbacks from other sessions –

Pre-Birth Council

'We were at a crisis point in our relationship and the space you held helped me to connect and process some dark and truly uncomfortable emotions. I had felt totally disempowered, fearful and spiritually void, which is a terrible position to be in when one is at loggerheads with one’s partner and about to have a child. I found the experience transcendental and shamanic, in that so much of the detritus was cleared without the need for words. Having you come on such short notice to mediate for us was a priceless gift. I felt truly supported and part of a real community!
I’ve no doubt that the journey we three took through council helped our son to be born safe and well in a peaceful, loving and welcoming environment.
Blessings on you and many, many thanks'

R. V

...during our council session with him (Rob) we experienced a deep sacredness in our communication together, and the impact of this on our relationship has been profound

R. F.

Relationship sessions

I found the council a few weeks ago deeply moving and inspiring and it has appeared to facilitate S and I taking the step to actually gift each other with freedom and commit to unconditional love. We will see how that unfolds for us as individuals and as partners.
I notice you used 'heart full' to describe your experience and that is exactly how I experienced your facilitation: i wanted to thank you for that.


As a group we were all finding the pace of life stressful, our ability to communicate our feelings, concerns and ideas became increasingly harder to achieve. Over-reacting emotionally led quickly to arguments and further distress for us all.
Our group session with Rob unblocked the energy, feelings and concerns that we were all suffering. By having the opportunity to speak uninterrupted in a safe and regulated environment allowed us all to witness and empathise with each others concerns. It removed much of the defensive and fearful aspects of engaging in debate. We rapidly moved forward and began to enjoy our exchange of ideas and feelings. This has led to a greater feeling of mutual and harmonious solidarity. Change for us now is very dynamic and exciting. I think I can speak for the group by saying that the experience was both rejuvenating and healing.

C.G. – UK

Thanks for Rob's help! One day with Rob's help our family quickly ended the kind of dreadful atmosphere in our new life. His gentle attitude and bright ideas quickly opened all of our hearts to the sunshine and now we can get warm sunshine from each other! We could talk, criticise, communicate easily and we are in such a harmonious happy family. We are thankful to you Rob!

L.Y.J. – China was a pleasure even for that day. We applied the council with Stella my wife, it seemed like the most honest and real conversation we had. It's like it dissolves fear of judgement on the one part and judgement altogether on the other.

N. M. – Greece

And I want to share that I invited to and held a family council last Sunday with my family (brother, father and mother). Basically I had really badly cornered myself in my relation to them, thrown a few bombs and was not able to see any other reasonable solution than inviting for a council (which I think I always thought impossible to have with them) or quit all further contact with them.

Pushing the send button for the invitation I was shivering all over.... And waiting time was a bit unbearable until they all accepted.

So they went into council without knowing anything about it. I spent 15 minutes framing it very clearly and opening (mother decided it be fire to open council) the council I was actually able to let go of facilitator role and let the council carry us through. Feelings were intense and lots of old stuff was shared. But everyone stayed all way through both physically and mentally and listened to eachother.

WAUUUU it was and still is a fantastic experience what we were actually able to share in those one and a half hours the council lasted. And afterwards the general feedback was very positive. For me I feel I am no longer holding back a part of myself from my near family whish is such a relief. It feels like some rinsed our relation with nurturing water and we can all breathe freely in the relation again.

T. M . – Denmark



'The atmosphere at these meetings reminded me a little of present opening on Christmas day.  People sitting around giving, while each of us was invited to open ourselves up and get a chance to really check out the person inside.  This person had been boxed up under the tree for long enough and I felt that mixture of expectation, awkwardness, fear and exhilaration.  From the circle I felt loving kindness and the reassurance that it doesn't  matter so much what comes out, as much as how we respond to it in our hearts.   I found the experience by turns delightful, scary, transformative, mysterious, embarrassing, something to be cherished...  It felt like I had started to discover, with the help of every single person in the group, an ancient portal into a healthier way of living.  Delicious stuff.'

L. Williams

'...thank-you for an inspiring set of WOC gatherings. I found the experience a very moving one.  Something about pure listening and being listened to.  So far from the usual round of "conversation" and "discussion".  I thought the group was magnificent, it all ran so beautifully, I thought, for everyone.  I felt very safe, and included, and I felt lovely things were happening all around. I am very grateful.'

Rev M. Gould

'’s hard to put into words what the group has meant to me, but it is big!  There’s a warmth of community, a spirit of joyfulness & an opportunity to grow from the heart that has enriched my life & my soul.  Thank you, what you do is very special and much needed in our world.  Someone said something on a retreat last year about an atmosphere of ‘kindly appreciation’ allowing us to be who we really are, and this really resonates for me about my experience of WOC'
J. Wright –

'I really got a lot  from the circles that I did attend...I feel like I learnt something core, about the value of the real. I will definitely be attending more circles in the Autumn. And possibly attending some drop in sessions too ...'

A. RenskeMann