September 2022
In this Drumbeat...

The Spiritual Practice of Council
by Jim Burns, Illuman Communications Council Chair

We help create men through the listening we bring to them. 

Humans have held conversations around a circle since at least the discovery of fire. The way Illuman applies this ancient practice—what we call the way of Council—is extremely powerful and produces transformative results. We have each experienced this. We participate in Council in support of our “inner work that makes a difference in the world.”

Council as Spiritual Practice 
Council is one of the five primary methods Illuman identifies as part of a masculine path to healing (ritual, nature, image, story, Council). As such, it is best approached as a formal spiritual practice. The practice of Council helps men develop three challenging but important capabilities:

  • Deep listening – Men are often notoriously poor listeners, typically listening critically with an intent to provide a viewpoint or advice. In Council, men practice being fully present, using the art of deep listening to hear without judgment, fixing, or giving advice.

  • Shift our primary locus of attention – Men spend most of our time inside of, and operating from, our head-space. In Council, we shift our method of perceiving and acting beyond the thinking, judging brain, down into the feeling, perceiving heart-space, along with the sensing body. With practice comes the ability to harmonize all three of these "centers" (what the teacher Gudijieff calls “three-centered awareness”)1.

  • Become more authentically open and vulnerable – Men regularly report they don’t feel heard; they have no one with whom they can share in confidence their internal thoughts and feelings. Within the confidential Council space, we share our personal stories in increasingly more open, authentic, and vulnerable ways. 

If you don't regularly participate in a Council, consider joining a virtual Council or starting your own!

Introducing Men to Illuman via Council
Setting up and conducting your own Council (what we call being a Council Stoker) is a great way to fulfill Illuman's Five Touchstones of Spiritual Practice, especially the fifth touchstone of Service, i.e., becoming "men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community." Inviting men to Council is also an excellent way to draw new men into the work of Illuman without needing to do the heavy lift of convincing someone who knows nothing about us to commit to the time and expense of the Men’s Rites of Passage or attending Soularize.

Many men would like to start and lead Council, and yet actually doing so can sometimes seem like an intimidating and daunting hurdle. But the reality is that inviting another man into a council session—perhaps a session specifically intended as an introduction for new men—is easy, even enjoyable.

To help make this easier for men, we have prepared this document with checklists and written guidance on the method and process for Council. It includes the following:

  • Council Background and Context – an explanation of the intention, principles, methods, and process of Council.

  • Council Outline – specific steps to running a session

  • Council Session Opening Statements – to open and set the container for each Council

  • Inventory of Council Prompts – a link to our ever-growing library of topically oriented starting prompts. (The initial phase of this curation work is complete. It will continue to evolve as we continue to curate and better organize prompts, both new and old.)

We encourage you to print copies of this and use them to prepare for and convene your next Council session.

With these tools, anyone can initiate and facilitate an Illuman Council. However, if you would like even more intensive training on how to be a Council Stoker, consider signing up for our Council Stoker Training Series, starting up again after the New Year. (Details in the next article below on our upcoming Council Stoker Training.)
1 -  Cynthia Bourgeault, “Three Centered Awareness, Lesson 15,”

The Way of Council is a central part of what Illuman does to promote healthier masculinity and “inner work that makes a difference in the world.” If you’ve ever participated in this practice, you’ve hopefully experienced good Council Stokers—i.e., the leaders who facilitate the Council practice.

While anyone can lead Council with some minimal resources (see the previous article), there’s an art to being an excellent Stoker. Developing this skill is easy to learn but requires practice, especially in getting out of your own way.

For those interested in going deeper into this core practice and developing this skill, we will be offering a six-session series on The Art of Being a Stoker beginning after the New Year. These 90-minute sessions will be offered on the first Saturday of each month at 9am Pacific/Noon Eastern.They will be led by Dave MacQuarrie, one of the original instigators of Illuman’s Virtual Councils.
The schedule is as follows:

January 7, 2023  — Session One — The Intentions of Council
February 4, 2023  — Session Two — Participant Roles
March 4, 2023 — Session Three — Creating Sacred Space
April 1, 2023 — Session Four — Themes and Prompts
May 6, 2023 — Session Five — Managing Difficulties
June 3, 2023 — Session Six — Loose Ends

All are welcome: the curious, first-timers, and repeaters. Even if you can’t make it to every session, it is okay to join the ones that you can. If interested, please contact Dave at

Illuman recently launched a new kind of Virtual Council that we are calling Passion Circles. These provide opportunities for men to gather online around shared aspects of their own personal spiritual journeys and/or mutual common interests. “Interest-oriented” Passion Circles provide an opportunity for deeper, shared learning, as well as preparation for service. “Issue-oriented” Passion Circles provide support for men during difficult times. Who better to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with, than other men who have experienced similar challenges?

Click through for a list of current Passion Circles, and to read more about our newest addition, On Becoming Elders.

Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
November 36

Join us for Soularize, our annual gathering for men’s spirituality and transformed masculinity! Not just a “conference,” Soularize offers deep connections and profound inner work through nature wanderings, ritual, story, poetry, drumming, and small group Councils. This year we will be working through a process by Joanna Macy known as The Work that Reconnects.

Open to any and all male-identified persons, Soularize is a great way to reconnect with old friends or discover Illuman for the first time. Awaken with us as we reconnect, realign, and re-engage as contemplative activists who bring beauty and healing to a desperate world. 

Illuman’s signature event, this 5-day, 4-night experience awakens men to the adventure and mystery of their own masculinity, their deep spirituality, their potential for leadership, and their life’s purpose. We have two more Rites remaining in 2022:

Help Us Spread the Word!

Pali Retreat Center, Running Springs, CA
Sept 30 Oct 2
Brothers, Illuman en Español is asking you to reach out to your Spanish-speaking friends and associates to introduce the first-ever weekend retreat completely in Spanish: Nuestras Heridas: Puertas a lo Sagrado – Illuman Español. The theme, Our Wounds: Doors to the Sacred, is based on Richard Rohr's teaching about how we embrace our brokenness to find healing, hope, and new life. All the information is found on our website and you can download a flyer for it here. Having lived the RITES is not a requirement. Please help us spread the word!

Holley Family Village
Brooklyn, Michigan
October 12
Come participate in meaningful rituals, experience time in nature, and spend quality time with your son. Come build something together by gifting him this drum-build experience. It is our hope that this rite of passage will be one of those safe containers where a youth can approach a passageway to liminal space and sense a healthy vision of his maleness and future manhood. Hosted by Illuman of Indiana/Michigan.

A 9-week online community for fathers and soon-to-be fathers

Tuesday evenings starting November 1st

Two time options: East Coast: 9–10 PM EST; West Coast: 8–9 PM PST
Designed to meet new dads at a moment when life has initiated them into fatherhood. Meetings are just one hour each week. If you are a new or soon-to-be dad, then this course is for you! If there is someone like this in your life who might be interested in our journey together, please share this with them and encourage them to join us!

Connect with other men wherever you are. Just click here to find a list of Virtual Council options and pick the one that works best for you. All are invited!
Illuman is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose vision is to see men transforming men and, through them, families and communities for generations to come. Our mission is to support men in their life-long journey of spiritual transformation. 
Your support in all forms, including prayer, service, and money, is met with gratitude and a commitment to honor your gifts by using them to support men on their spiritual journey.
Please also remember Illuman in your estate planning. Contact us at for more information.


We are men transforming men through a power greater than ourselves.
We seek a life changing spirituality.
We focus on inner work that makes a difference in the world.
We are fed by the wisdom traditions of forgiveness and radical inclusivity.
We recover traditional patterns of male initiation.
We affirm a masculine path to healing that reveals the true and false selves and honors the path of descent.
We do this through the power of nature, ritual, image, story and council.
We seek to form future generations of men who will restore these practices.
We are building a world that celebrates the beauty of all beings.