The Magical Talking Stick That Brings Out The Listening In All Of Us


In this month of gathering together and sharing stories, I invited author, friend, and coach Marilyn Shannon to share her experience with her magical talking stick she introduced me to years ago. The idea stuck with me so deeply that I want to share it with you here. Bring your love, your curiosity, and your listening heart to the season this year and learn how a magical talking stick can change your world, one person at a time.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
~ Ralph Nichols

We live in a world where children grow up knowing how to communicate and listen. They share their words in peace and understanding, respecting the words of another. We do!

We live in world that encourages all people to present their ideas, feelings, dreams, and their sacred points of view. We do!

We live in a world where we feel listened to and connected, our hearts are open, and we welcome in all people. We do!

We live in a world that is abundant, full of riches for all. We do!

This is actually the world we live in. It’s sitting right on the surface, under our noses, on the tips of our tongues, in our hearts of hearts, waiting for us to listen it into being.

Let me tell you the story.

In ancient times, Native American Indians used a special device called a talking stick with super powers, full of magic. They used this stick for their tribal meetings and as a way to mediate conflicts. The tribal chief adorned a stick with artifacts that had meaning to him and from then on, this stick carried the energy of community and healing.

Sitting in a circle the stick was passed from one member of the tribe to another. Whomever had the stick spoke, sharing his/her point of view while the others listened. All eyes and ears were focused on the speaker and his/her words. Anytime this occurred, time stood still and the space for contemplation and deep connection emerged. If you have ever experienced this, it can seem like a magical moment. The beat of your heart in sync with the beat of another. Fantastic right?

Here is the thing: Why does it have to be magic? What would it take to make this a more normal occurrence when we are simply listened to?

Today the stick’s magical process endures and has the potential for global unity and peace. When people come together—whether adversarial or cohesive, families and individuals—using a talking stick process for the sheer purpose of being listened to and valued, anything is possible.

In the circles that I have orchestrated, each individual places on the stick his/her own meaningful personal item(s) such as family heirlooms, gifts, items representing stages of life, including precious moments and mementos.

Once all of the individuals in the circle have had the opportunity to place their item on the stick, they then begin sharing what their item is and what it represents. The process of feeling deeply listened to and understood is expedited in these moments as each person’s soul emerges because he/she was listened to. Imagine holding someone’s life story, tears, passion, heart and energy in your hands. At this juncture we can recognize with sympathy and empathy the similarities within us all and wholeness reigns. This is a powerful, warm, and joyful process that brings our humanity and human being-ness to the surface where we are beautifully vulnerable and our freedom rings.

The talking stick process is a nonjudgmental, neutral way to bring together men and women, young and old, East and West, likely groups and unlikely groups that will listen to each other! The stick breaks through barriers and finds its way to a point of solidarity. The more individuals find themselves there, connected by a theme in their stories or because of some small gesture, the more equal we feel. At this point of connection, equality and solidarity we find ourselves living in a world that is less fearful of who we are.

Marilyn Shannon
Listen With Me
Coach, Author, Speaker, Journalist, Mediator