Talking Circles

In a talking circle, participants form a circle, typically with men positioned to the North and women to the South, while the conductor often sits in the East. A symbolic token, like a feather or a special talking stick, circulates clockwise around the circle. When a person receives the token, they have the floor to speak freely, addressing any topics they choose, including those raised by others in the circle. Once they’ve finished sharing, they pass the token along. Those who prefer not to speak can simply pass the token when it reaches them. The token may circulate multiple times until everyone has had ample opportunity to share their thoughts. The conductor concludes the circle once all participants have had their say. 

Key guidelines for participation: 

One speaker at a time: Only the individual holding the feather or talking stick is permitted to speak, ensuring a respectful and orderly exchange. Dialogues are discouraged to maintain harmony within the circle. 

Introduction: It’s customary to introduce oneself during the initial round, using either one’s spirit name or given name as a sign of respect. 

Speak authentically: Participants are encouraged to speak from the heart, taking as much time as necessary while remaining mindful of others’ time. 

Respectful listening: All members, aside from the speaker, listen attentively and supportively, striving to understand the deeper intentions behind the speaker’s words. Listening with empathy sets the tone for mutual understanding and respect. 

Confidentiality: What is shared within the circle should remain confidential unless the speaker explicitly grants permission for its disclosure. 

Before commencing the circle, smudging participants with sage helps dispel any negative energy they may carry, akin to cleansing one’s spiritual essence before entering the circle. Maintaining a burning sage smudge throughout the session, particularly during emotionally charged moments, serves to preserve the circle’s positive atmosphere and prevent negativity from infiltrating the space.