Practices for openhearted speaking and devout listening to restore harmony in families, relationships, schools, workplaces, and communities
• Details how to approach life with a listening heart and create a sacred space for communication
• Offers exercises for new peacemaking circles, ceremonial ways to begin each circle, and peacemaker tools to unmask the needs and feelings behind conflict
• Explains how to apply this practice in multiple ways, with groups large and small
People are afraid of conflict: it is something “bad” that must be managed and resolved. In the face of conflict we focus only on facts--who’s at fault and who should be punished--rather than seeking to restore harmony. But conflict is inevitable and presents an opportunity to establish deeper connections with others. By learning to speak honestly and listen devoutly, we can overcome our culture’s hierarchical and punitive approach to conflict. We can learn to relate to each other in a sacred manner and create relationships and communities that are egalitarian, liberating, and transformational.
Revealing that we are all peacemakers at heart, Steve Beyer details how to approach life with a listening heart and create a safe and sacred space for communication: the peacemaking circle, centered on the talking stick. Whoever holds the talking stick gets to speak. There are no interruptions, no questions, no challenges, no comments. People speak one at a time, honestly from their hearts, and they listen devoutly with their hearts to each person who speaks. And, as Beyer shows, the effect can be miraculous.
The author explains how to apply this practice with groups large and small to deepen relationships, heal old wounds, and restore harmony among families, spouses, classmates, coworkers, and communities. Sharing stories from his work as a peacemaker, he offers exercises for new talking stick circles, ceremonial ways to begin each circle, and tools to ensure the telling of complete stories in cases of conflict. He addresses the nature of apology, forgiveness, and the urge for revenge, and he explores the spiritual challenges faced by those who walk the peace path.
Exploring the shamanic roots of the talking stick practice, the author extends the lessons of the healing circle and the listening heart from our homes, schools, and communities into our relationship to spirit and the Earth.
About the Author
Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D., J.D., is a well-known writer and speaker on shamanism and spirituality. He is also a community builder, peacemaker, and carrier of council. He has been trained and certified in many areas of circle processes, mediation, and nonviolence and has offered peacemaking workshops to a wide variety of audiences, from therapists to theologians, and at Montessori, charter, alternative, and public schools. He has served as a Lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice at Chicago State University, teaching undergraduate courses and graduate seminars in restorative justice and in the theory and practice of nonviolent resistance. He lives in Chicago.
“This book would be particularly helpful to teachers, bosses and anyone seeking a way to resolve conflict. VERDICT: Every reader has something to learn from this work in order to deepen and grow their relationships.” — Library Journal, Natalie Browning, June 2016
“TalkingStick is written with all of the clarity and intelligence we expect from Steve’s work, but this book is enlivened by the profound passion of his heart. As such, this is one of those rare books that becomes a teacher. While passing the talking stick is familiar protocol in shamanic circles, the art and warriorship of becoming a peacemaker is not. Today’s shamanic practitioners are being called out by the illness of our time to embody their practices, heart and soul. Here is a teacher who shows us how to step from being contemporary people using shamanic skills to being shamanic people living in the contemporary world and becoming the medicine needed by our time.” — Christina Lee Pratt,author of An Encyclopedia of Shamanism
"Steve offers us a teaching central to our needs as a people. He guides us in a practice of peace, not only as avoidance of violence but as realization of our true nature. At the heart of this approach is listening, a core value of powerfully transformational poetry and music as well. Talking Stick is about healing the world." — George Quasha, author of Axial Stones: An Art of Precarious Balance
“Steve Beyer has taken a bold step toward illuminating a path to conflict transformation through a process of peacemaking by which people meet eye to eye, listen, and speak with an open heart. In this way, sacred spaces are created and relationships are affirmed. Talking Stick is a primer for all those seeking supportive change, be it in the therapy office or in the wilderness.” — Dene Berman, Ph.D., coauthor of The Promise of Wilderness Therapy
“. . . a delightful and inspiring book. . . . a unique and valuable how-to guide, chock full of practices mixed in with insights and challenges. In embarking on the spiritual journey, the reader will sense this wise elder’s presence--an unexpected and special pleasure.” — Douglas Thomson, Ph.D., founder of Justice Not Prisons
“Beyer’s gentle and easy style offers a wealth of traditional wisdom about peacemaking, human relationships, and human nature. Don’t be fooled by his good-natured and humane voice. Beneath his words lies a warm sophistication that comes from great experience.” — Allan Combs, Ph.D., coeditor of Thomas Berry, Dreamer of the Earth
“Talking Stick is a strong reference for understanding how conflict can be transformed in home, school, and community environments. When everyone is heard, there is a calm that allows for collaboration and consensus. Talking Stick provides another way of thinking about how our world can become a more peaceful place.” — Patricia Yonka, member of the American Montessori Society Peace Committee
“Stephan’s book contains not only instructions on how to create a circle, hold council and listen with heart, but he also describes various applications of the process when folks are wounded and in need of healing, where there has been harm to experience empathy and forgiveness. Many parents would profit from studying what he has to say about how to use an ‘invisible talking stick’ with one’s children. The approach recognizes the dignity and worth of the teenager.” — The Intuitive-Connections Network, July 2016
“Beyers says that we are all peacemakers at heart but we live in a culture that is hierarchical and punitive. This manual on alternative conflict resolution is written with clarity. There are concise instructions on how to create a council as a safe place.” — Awareness Magazine
“Our culture, in teaching the need to always be prepared with a response, does not teach us how to listen to each other. Sitting in council, watching the talking stick come around the circle to you, you may try to think of what to say, or you might hear someone say something wrong and watch for the stick to come to you so you can correct them. Either way, what you aren’t doing is listening. Conversation between two people often finds one person talking and the other person not listening, but reloading. Council and its sacredness is about relationship; before we enter the council circle we intend, among other things, to speak honestly from our hearts. The pronoun “I” begins almost everything spoken in the circle because it is the speaker’s heart being shared, the speaker’s truth. Being listened to is a powerful way to connect to another. Any time you devoutly listen to another person, whether in a council circle or anywhere else, you are creating sacred space. You are powerfully modeling peacemaking by bringing peace into the room.” — Spirit of Change