Learning to Listen - Speaking from the Heart
Listening from the heart - really hearing what the other person
is saying - is almost impossible these days.
If you want to prove it to yourself, try this simple test.
Engage someone you know well in a conversation about anything or
real importance to you.
As the conversation progresses, notice how often you jump ahead
to your response in your mind, before the other person even
completes their current thought.
Learning to really listen is one of the most profound lessons I
ever received from my Native American friends. I noticed the
intense focus in conversation, almost always, and the way that
the ceremony leaders seemed to energetically come forward when
someone spoke to them, in what I can only call a state of Sacred
The pause before speaking, after I had completed what I was
saying, was also a Sacred thing. It let me know that, not only
did they hear everything I just said, they waited til I was thru
before they started their response. They were not ahead of me.
They heard me fully.
Along with the Sacred Sweat Lodge, Pipe Ceremonies, Sundance,
and other ceremonies I've been privileged to participate in, one
of the most valuable tools for honoring close relationships and
for learning respect, honor, and listening skills is The Talking
I remember sitting in circle and learning how to listen. Really
listen. I learned this thru the use of The Talking Stick.
The Talking Stick is simply a Tree Person branch that has been
so dedicated as a Talking Stick to be used for creating more
open and sincere dialog.
Important note: I am not any kind of authority on Native
teachings, nor do I represent myself as a teacher of the ways of
any specific indigenious peoples. Teaching is the path and walk
of the Elders and Leaders within each tribe. I am simply sharing
my own experience with a simple, Sacred, and profound tool that
has enriched my own spiritual path.
For the Talking Stick to be effective, there must be total
agreement between the two parties that, when The Talking Stick
is present, the rules of the ritual will be honored by both.
The rules are simple......
When one wishes to be allowed to speak fully, freely, and
without interruption, they pick up The Talking Stick. The
picking up of this designated Talking Stick during a circle is
an immediate sign that everyone else should quiet their own
questions, comments and thoughts, and focus respectful attention
on the one person holding the stick.
While it is being held, the other person listens ONLY. The
other person doesn't interrupt or insert. The other person
attempts, to the best of their ability, not to interject vocal,
or even physical responses to what is being shared but to ONLY
listen with an open and unjudgmental ear. When the one who is
talking is finished, The Talking Stick is laid down and the
other person then has the opportunity to pick up the Stick and
to speak openly and freely.
One of the great values of this tool, from my own perspective
and experience, is that you may begin to realize how much of
what you started to say was only reaction. By the time the stick
is passed to you, something has shifted. In the waiting, there
has been a change.
There is a new attentiveness, and less of the need to defend or
put in your "two cents worth" after every sentence your partner
says. Somehow, this simple yet profound process teaches us how
to ferret out what is most important within all that is said by
our partner, and we learn to respond to what is most important.
A lot drops away, and loses importance, when we are forced to
Eventually, the mind lets go of all the various things it thinks
it wants to say, since it begins to understand that it cannot
speak just yet. In that mental release, new understanding is
possible. I learned about the Talking Stick through Lakota
friends. I am deeply grateful for this knowledge, and feel the
use of this Sacred Tool has enriched my life.
Having relationship problems? Try the Talking Stick! -
If you really want to gain the fullest benefit from the
relationships you have chosen at this time, make a Talking Stick
and use it. You can find a special stick in the woods, use a
length of cane, or any other natural item. Personalize it with
spiritual medicine that represents both you and your partner
(and children, if you have any--they should be in family circles
and listened to as closely as you will be learning to listen to
each other). You can add feathers, crystals, stones, sprigs of
sage, etc. If you'd like further guidance, in creating the
Talking Stick according to Native-American tradition, seek the
guidance of a teacher of Native-American ancestry.
Though it may be challenging at first, to let someone speak
without the need to interrupt or respond, you will find that it
becomes more and more a way of communicating, even when the
stick is not present. The more you use it, the more you will
learn about patience and the more you will discover about those
closest to you and also, about yourself.
I've often thought that it would be a perfect world if we could
all walk as if each person, at all times, carried a Talking
Portions of this article excerpted from Moon
Lodge Visions, An Acceleration Handbook