"Talking Stick" Circle LO1110

George Por (gporg@ols.com)
Mon, 8 May 1995 15:05:36 -0700

I received a request from 48 members of this list to send a copy of a
briefing paper I wrote aboutr the Circle process for a group of Canadian
managers, 3 years ago. This level of interest was so inspiring that I
decided to revise the old paper and update it in light of more recent
experience. Here it goes:


compiled by George P=F3r

"Circle is a mutually-supportive group convened for a specific purpose. It
is a gathering held literally in circular form... It is a mechanism of
self-empowerment in which leadership rotates, responsibility is shared,
and the group relies on Spirit to hold and focus energy." (Calling the
Circle, by Christina Baldwin)

"Those who are willing need to step forward in self-authority and balance,
and claim their part in creating the change towards wholeness in human
affairs." (RainbowHawk and WindEagle, Ehama Institute)


Stepping forward is what everyday heroes do when they don't let the
pressures of the job override their desire for trustful and caring
relationships at the work place.

The vitality and performance of a social organism is largely dependent on
the healthy, balanced, and co-creative relationships among its members and
stakeholders. Technological and business innovation grows better in
relationships of people who have fun working together.

Healthy, balanced, and co-creative relationships at work, are easier said
than done. Yet, we all have some experience of them, otherwise we
couldn't even imagine how they may be. In times of crisis, or making any
decision about complex, multi-stakeholder issues, it is the quality of
relationship that, ultimately, decides the outcome.

In those situations the Talking Stick Circle serves as time-proven method
to ensure that everybody's voice is heard. Every stakeholder has a piece
of the truth; everyone's contribution is needed to make it whole.


* A group process for developing direct, honest, and effective
communication in a team or community, using the "circle" as organizing

* A method of collaborative learning built on the ancient wisdom
traditions of the Americas.

* A realization of the power of shared minds.

* An experience of a partnership model in action, when the "compete
and dominate" models, under the condition of increasing complexity and
interdependence, are growing largely ineffective.


"The American Indian regarded the circle as the principal symbol for
understanding life's mysteries, for he observed that it was impressed
everywhere throughout Nature. Man looked out on the physical world
through the eye, which is circular. The Earth was round, and so were the
Sun, Moon and planets. The rising and setting of the Sun followed a
circular motion. The seasons formed a circle. Birds build their nests in
circles. Animals marked their territories in circles. In the old days,
tribes lived in circular homes called tipis and their communities were
arranged with the tipis in a circle. Indeed, to the Indian, the whole of
life appeared to operate in circular patterns." [1]


* A framework and tools for using the diversity of views and talents
present in the group, to create better decisions and strengthen community,
by reaching high-level synergy.

* New possibilities for better understanding self, others, and the
issues at hand.

* Improved communication and collaboration.

* Better coordination of action due to higher response-ability.


* decision making

* inquiry management

* prioritizing opportunities

* clarifying group dynamics

* team product development

* problem solving

* planning

* conflict resolution

* creating the bonding needed to build learning communities

* or just about anything that organizations use meetings for


"As in the ancient circles of elders, each Council member comes to know
they bring a piece of the truth to the circle - essential in itself, but
only a part of the whole. The passion of our personal vision is shared
without attachment, and then our position is released to the larger truth
of the circle." [2]

In the Circle, a specially chosen object -frequently a "talking stick"- is
passed around, and each person in turn speaks his or her truth. "Talking
sticks embody the wisdom-heart of their group, and are often artifacts of
great beauty, simplicity or significance. They spiritually empower their
holder to speak her or his heart-truth as an offering to the group." [5]

"[The stick] should serve as an invitation and encouragement to speak from
the most undefended place in one's self." [6]

"Three rules: speak honestly and truthfully from the heart; be brief; and
listen attentively." [2]

"Speakers can speak from a deep place without concern that they will be
interrupted, criticized or judged. Thus they can be more truthful,
creative and less self-conscious... The process is not one of making
strong arguments for or against something, or convincing one another of
right or wrong, but a process of becoming still and quiet, connecting with
greater wisdom. When the truth is spoken on some issue it is seen and
heard as such- it rings true'." [3]

"It's listening without reacting or intending to respond, listening
without being influenced by long-held images and memories or firmly held
position, listening instead with a beginners mind... ." [2]

"Listeners may listen free from the need to construct responses, be
intelligent, witty or critical. They are available to take information in
and not respond, thus relaxing and opening to the full and true content of
the speaker's message." [3]

"This is not to say that all is serious. Wholeness includes all forms of
experience, good and bad, light and heavy, joyous and sad, trivial and
significant... The group mind wants to see it all; it seeks the whole
picture, even when the parts that show up don't seem to hang together...
Everything is an invitation to look deeper,sense more fully. The power
lies in our seeing and feeling exactly what is, and suspending the noisy
internal and external responses that get in the way of that... There's no
right and wrong way to do this. There are only honest efforts to hear,
see and say what is most real at any given moment." [5]

Developing competence in holding Circle around relatively simpler issues,
pays off when the issues are hot, complex, requiring immediate attention,
and it's challenging to rapidly grow listening/speaking discipline
necessary to its success.


Whether with humor, the weaving of words, or silence, strong leaders stay
present and committed to what is actually taking place, rather than
invested in the Circle being "successful"... a truly successful Circle is
an authentic one, no matter how dark or unresolved the outcome.

Good facilitation is usually "transparent," in the sense that members
leave the Circle less impressed with the wisdom and power of the
facilitator(s) than with a strong feeling of the movement and
interconnectedness of the whole circle.

There are times when the talking stick doesn't go in round, but to the
center, when somebody has spoken. Whenever another member of the circle
feels moved to speak, s/he picks up the stick again.

"As members of a group talk, only one will have the most powerful idea at
anyone time. If they are alert, the others in the group can feel who is
about to speak, and then can conscioiusly focus their energy on this
person, helping to bring out his idea with the greatest clarity... . The
key to this process is to speak up when it is your moment and to project
energy when it is someone else's time." =00[4]


[1] The Medicine Way, by Ken Meadows,

[2] Council, by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, in Utne Reader, 1991

[3] Speaking from the Heart, with the Talking Stick by H. Schechter and L.
=46aithorn, in Vision -Action, Journal of the Bay Area OD Network, December

[4] Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield

[5] Simplest Talking Circle Instructions, by Tom Atlee (personal communicati=

[6] Using a Talking Stick, by Joseph Jastrab, Wingspan: Journal of Male
Spirit, April/June 1991)


Ehama Institute

The Ehama Institute For Self Knowledge & Earth Wisdom Teachings is
a rich source of deeper knowledge in circle matters. Its Council Teachings
series of ceremonies is a unique form of transmitting an ancient body of
information that goes beyond the subject of this article. For information,
call 408-282-4537 or write to Ehama Institute, 31440 Loma Prieta Way, Los
Gatos, CA 95030 USA.

Ojai Foundation

There's a training of council facilitators in Ojai. Many of the
ideas quoted in this briefing are from Council professionals in Ojai. An
instructiuon booklet and a video tape are also available. For information,
call: 805-646-8343


"Calling for Change is a training session in circle and council
skills designed to be used by groups in business, civic organizations,
churches, temples, schools, and private settings." PeerSpirit, the group
offering this training can be reached at 206-321-8404.

Online Circles

There are a number of groups in cyberspace that have experimented
with "online circles." The pioneers of combining spirit and technology are
Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz of Awakening Technology. For information, send
e-mail to p+t@awaken.com .

Organizational Learning System offers training and coaching for
online circle facilitators in the corporate world. For information, send
e-mail to gpor@ols.com.


Calling the Circle: the First and Future Culture, by Christina Baldwin,
Swan*Raven & Co, 1994

The Ceremonial Circle, by Sedona Cahill and Joshua Halpern, Harper 1990

George Por
Organizational Learning Systems

"Electronic media is to be one of love's most powerful and effective tools
of transformation during the last days, facilitating education
and catalyzing widespread awakening."
Starseed: The 3rd Millennium
by Ken Carey