Speaking from the Heart

Fri, 12/02/2016
A brief documentary made in 1986 by Jack Zimmerman and James Seligman that follows a senior class from Crossroads through their rites of passage program at TOF. Featuring some special background notes on council films from James Seligman.
This past month we waved goodbye as the last bus from Crossroads School went down the hill back to Santa Monica, marking the end of our final rites of passage program for the year.  As the “program season” wraps up, we can’t help but reflect on the 30-plus years of transformation we’ve been able to facilitate and witness, especially in our high school participants.
The Ojai Foundation’s land sanctuary acts as a safe container for these teenagers, providing a peaceful atmosphere far-removed from the distractions of the city where one can fully experience a new way of being. In an age where drugs and risky behavior have replaced more traditional rites of transition, we are proud to provide the opportunity to mark the threshold from adolescence to adulthood.
As part of our reflection, we are excited to share a gem from our archives of nearly 40 years of photographs, recordings, and teachings. Below is a short documentary from 1986 that follows students from one Crossroads class through their rites of passage program and experience with council. "Speaking from the Heart" was produced by Jack Zimmerman and filmed and directed by James Seligman. It offers an honest depiction of the growth and edges that come along with honest and vulnerable participation in council—the good, the bad, the ugly… the whole circle.
Read on for some exclusive background notes from James Seligman, director of several council films:
"The beauty of council first came to my attention in 1984 when Jack Zimmerman officiated my wedding. Jack agreed to play this important role with one proviso: that my partner Kathleen and I enter into a process with him called “council”. It was a revealing, challenging and inspiring experience. To this day our family still practices council as a way to connect, find resolution in times of conflict, and share insights with each other.
In 1986 Jack contacted me about making a video centered around council practice and I was instantly captivated. At that time, council was being practiced in a variety of places but just a handful of educational institutions -- Crossroads High School and Wildwood Elementary School were pioneers. The programs were being facilitated by The Ojai Foundation where educators were learning the practice and students were attending retreats. Back in ’86 portable video technology was still in its early years and we improvised and experimented with a lot of the methods needed to capture the spontaneity and authenticity that council evokes -- especially with the children and teenagers who were the subjects of “Speaking from the Heart”. Some of the most touching moments of that video were councils that took place at the Crossroads senior class retreat in Ojai. 
Over the years several more videos were produced that highlighted the positive impact and transformation that was taking place in the multitude of public schools where council was being practiced. These videos preceded the age of the internet and they were played on VHS tapes and screened on TVs to small gatherings of people in schoolrooms, living rooms, conference rooms and places of worship. Jack and Gigi Coyle’s book, “The Way of Council”, along with the videos, served as catalysts for many people that embraced the council practice in the following years.
Council is one of the most beneficial programs that a school could adopt. I hope that council continues to be embraced by an ever growing number of educators, students and the institutions that serve them."
To view more videos on council, click here.
Over the years, The Ojai Foundation’s rite of passage programs have become a staple of the Crossroads senior curriculum, leading to a felicitous partnership between the two organizations. Click here to see a full list of our current partners.