I have a wonderful, healing book by Jamie Sams called Earth Medicine. Each day has its own reading, and is one of 28 days in each of 13 moons, as the Seneca call their months. The section on respect and the type of listening that honors the person speaking stood out to me, shamed me, because I constantly interrupt people. In my daughter’s young Girl Scout troop, each parent was asked to make a teaching presentation to the girls and I thought of the Talking Stick. (Isn’t it so true that we teach what we most need to learn?)
My daughter and I went to a regional park and found a section of evergreens on small, rolling hills with winding paths. We were, I told her, going to build a Talking Stick. We found a perfect piece of wood for the base under the far-reaching branches of a tall pine. It was about eight inches long, an inch around, smooth, and straight except for one nice bend. We gathered pine needles, several types of leaves, twigs, small pine cones and rocks, and headed home. I was so excited! We laid everything out on newspapers on the table, got some twine and glue and began putting it together. My daughter stayed for about 15 minutes and then skipped off. It was a piece of art, if I say so myself, when I finished.
The girls, the Troop Leader and I sat in a circle. I passed the Talking Stick around, explaining my own problem with interrupting people, and when it came back to me, I told them how Native Americans used it, that only the person holding the stick could speak, and everyone else listened closely to what the speaker said. I talked about respect for the other person and the value of what each person has to say. As I passed it to my left, I asked each girl to speak from her heart about what was important to her. I can’t remember what each of them said, (there was a lot about family) but as the stick moved around the circle, they got the idea and their words grew more reflective.
Wow! This experience is still with me—the power of honoring the speaker and what that honor brought out in those young girls. I used to watch news shows with a moderator and a group of experts in attendance, but with all the raised voices and constant interruptions, nothing of value was ever shared. We must learn to honor each speaker with our own reflective hearts, minds and ears to hear what is valuable, and what is truly being said.