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 Appreciation. 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 Stick. 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 only listen. 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 Stick. Portions of this article excerpted from Moon Lodge Visions, An Acceleration Handbook