The Talking Stick
By Ina Mlekush M.A. M.F.C.C.
Communication is one of the most challenging and important aspects of a relationship. We learn that most of us, most of the time, think we are listening to the other, until it is time for us to repeat the essence of what was spoken. Then we have a different understanding of what was said and what we thought we heard. Have you ever been in a conversation, talked about it at a later time with the individual, and they do not remember you saying half of what you said? Or you do not remember ever making that statement or agreement which they swear you did? You were in the same room during that previous conversation, just different countries or realities.
Sometimes I think the only way we can be accountable for what we or others say is to write it down, date it and have it notarized. I know this seems like an extreme, but some of our arguments become extreme, trying to prove who was right, and of course you were the accurate one. Well maybe you were, or maybe you weren't. Bottom line, when you are trying to win an argument, no one wins. A win/lose situation does not lend itself to intimacy or a desire to be closer. If I am always losing to my partner, or he to me, this creates a wedge that separates, and resentments build. So how do we resolve this dilemma? Our English language, at best, can be misinterpreted by a glance, intonations of the voice, or an innocent plea of "I didn't mean that."
Making a Talking Stick
Here is a suggestion which comes from the ancient Native People of Turtle Island, as taught to me by my teacher Harley Swiftdeer, the Nagual Thunder Strikes, of the Deer Tribe: make a Talking Stick. This is how:
- Whoever lives in your household should participate, from the smallest to the oldest. If you are roommates, then gather together and go for a nature walk and find a branch that has fallen from a tree. Do not "saw" one off. When you find a beautiful branch on the ground, thank the tree for its give away. You can give a pinch of tobacco, blue corn meal or even your own spit or hair from your own head to the base of the tree.
- Take the branch home and add your love to it. You can remove the bark and see the beautiful moist wood under it. Let it dry in a natural state.
- You want to put the worlds of grandmother onto the talking stick. Tie them on or wrap them. Place a stone or crystal from the mineral world, some fur or feathers from the sweet medicine animal world, the stick is from the plant world and you the holder are the human world. If you have children, invite them to place something of theirs on the stick (you may end up with a toy dinosaur hanging from it).
- Place the talking stick on the West wall so the smallest person in the house can reach it.
Using the Talking Stick
When the talking stick is picked up and presented to you it means STOP what you are doing. What needs to be spoken is important and it is difficult, which is why the talking stick is being used. It gives strength and grounding to the individual holding it. Do not abuse the talking stick. Be sure everyone understands the reason to use it and to honor it. One uses the Talking Stick to Speak the Unspeakable.
Sit across from each other. The Talking Stick is held so one end of it is firmly planted on the ground. The person holding the stick begins by stating their feelings. Speak in short paragraphs, so the other person can repeat the essence of what you just said. The way this works is: I speak one paragraph, then we hold the talking stick together, lengthwise between us; take a deep breath together, looking into each other's eyes, exhale and release the stick. The breath and eye contact are important; it means you are both willing to stay present.
The person who is listening will repeat the essence only. Do not add in your own response at this time. And ask, was that correct? Give the stick back to the person who began, and let that person make another statement, or repeat what was just said in another way if you did not get it correct. Remember to keep it short. Now repeat the process of handing the stick, breathing, and the essence being repeated. You go back and forth in this manner until person number one has completed saying what is on their mind. Then the other individual gets to respond using the same method, one paragraph at a time.
As you can see, this really slows down the process. Sometimes we say things that we did not mean to say. The talking stick gives you an opportunity to correct yourself in the moment, to be sure your partner is really hearing you and not busy in their own brain thinking up what they want to say in defense or in retaliation. Of course none of us do this!
Most of the time we simply want to know our partner hears us. They do not need to fix anything. If something does need to be re-negotiated then you both have heard the other's issue and are better prepared to create a win/win solution. Remember there are 8 ways of doing any one thing correctly. Do not spend more than one hour with the talking stick. If you have not come up with a better solution, then get a third person who is experienced in the talking stick to sit in and mentor the process at another time.
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Ina Mlekush M.A. M.F.C.C., Sexual Solutions. Ina is a marriage/relationship counselor resolving sexual problems, in private practice dealing with issues of erectile dysfunction, early or delayed ejaculation, loss of sex drive, aging, and teaching female ejaculation and non-orgasmic solutions. Mature men and women, you do not need to be without honest intimate touching. Resolve doubt and sexual insecurity, erectile dysfunction, premature or delayed ejaculation.
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