Talking Stick Procedures
A briefing for use in working the circle
Written in 1995 for the Hundredth Monkey Project
AllTing is a circular social-communication process used in M100. In AllTing we use a talking stick, a magic procedural tool that encourages profound listening, helping build an atmosphere of mutual understanding. Its use is cross-cultural, multi-level and very applicable to social resolution and world healing in our day.
AllTing, a Nordic word, means both parliament and everything. It is a forum for hearing and being heard, for social and world healing, for catching the zeitgeist or spirit of the time, for bridging differences and fermenting breakthroughs. It is a meditative council-without-decisions. It draws in as much of the soul of humanity and as many dimensions of reality as a group can truly handle. It emphasises both social commonalities and individual diversity simultaneously. It is fascinating, deep, unforgettable, gripping and timeless.
AllTing is not for decision-making, following set agendas or seeking expected outcomes: it sets social communication free. However, fundamental and definitive outcomes can arise, shifting contexts, transforming attitudes and social situations and implicitly making decisions. Its effectiveness increases with participants’ motivation, with their willingness to ‘sit with the process’ and with heightened procedural clarity.
AllTing works well for 20-90 people – above this, audibility, time and complexity affect things greatly. An undisturbed and round or near-square space is required: in an evenly-sitting circle everyone can be equally seen and heard. A door-keeper prevents undue intrusions – arrivals and departures can sabotage the process.
In M100 prearranged themes can give AllTing focus and accelerate progress, though they are not imperative. Participants may however raise anything relevant that moves them, without any need to follow on from previous contributions. The point is to learn to move beyond personal viewpoints and premeditated contributions. It’s genuine free speech – with responsibility! One’s message is enhanced by getting to the heart of the matter quickly.
All contributions begin to take on an underlying pertinence when one looks over, under and behind what is being said in order to sense underlying significances and symbolism. This is a meditative challenge to ‘separate self from self’, to see threads, patterns and archetypes being played out in the circle.
Procedures are kept very simple – changes lead to confusion and weaken the quality of listening and of the bearing of witness. ‘Speak only when it adds to silence’. However, holding back helps no one either. Be creative!
After preliminaries from the moderator, often including an outline of procedures, the stick is placed in the centre. The first person who is moved to contribute may then take the stick and return with it to their place. They may then speak, sing, dance, mime, do an act or be silent. They may sit, stand or walk around the circle though they may not dominate others, manipulate anyone or leave the circle.
No one may speak except the stick-bearer. Everyone gives full contemplative attention and empowers all contributions. The stick-bearer may take as much time as is needed, though taking a lot of time can bring loss of attention, a prolonged AllTing or moderator intervention. So succinctness on communication is rather important here: try to get to the heart of the matter and avoid diversions.
When complete, the first bearer passes the stick to a neighbour to the left or right, who then contributes and passes it on in the same direction. The stick continues around the circle until all is complete – however long and whatever that takes. The bearer may not pass the stick to anyone other than their neighbour.
At first, people tend to contribute personal viewpoints, though later things develop toward something larger – the circle begins to act as one living being and to rise above its ordinariness and constraints. When this happens, time and space start dissolving and the circle enters the ‘heart of the world’, the core of humanity’s psyche. The circle becomes a magnified theatre of life, a healing microcosm of humankind, working in many dimensions.
The talking-stick proceeds until:
• it has gone round the circle once (especially if there is a time constraint);
• the process feels clearly complete;
• time is up (if a time-limit has been pre-agreed);
• someone proposes finishing and obtains unanimous support for it through the giving of a nod. If agreement is difficult, the stick continues in motion. It continues round the circle even if only some people need to contribute – others remain silent and pass it on. The stick may not be put in the centre without the circle’s and moderator’s unopposed assent.
Speak to the centre of the circle. Everyone is an equal when the circle is in operation. The interests of the whole circle generally override individual interests. All circle-members need to play their part when the stick is in their hands – if the circle is losing energy, do something to uplift it, start a song or propose a stretching session. A stick-bearer may not expect others to do things with them without agreement.
Arrivals and departures have a big effect – if a break is needed, propose it for all. The circle is not a forum for hurting others, for personal or criticism or complaint-making – make constructive, useful suggestions instead. Watch out for ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’. If an opinion is to be passed, it is best qualified with “My own view is...” or “I experience that...”.
Sixty three-minute contributions take three hours, so try to get to the nub of your contribution! If you get lost, try taking three deep breaths to change your energy. If you get uncomfortable or bored, it could be that your head is in the way, or that you’re avoiding something – try paying attention without judgment. Magic meditative attention: observe who sits opposite you, who harmonises and who grates with you, body-language, undertones, the flow of themes and any hidden messages behind what is said – witness the circle as a multi-level living organism. Observe your own state of being and reactions.
Bring something comfortable to sit on. Children are welcome if they are genuinely interested and can sit quietly: sometimes they bring great gifts. But they should not be allowed to become a distraction. Sometimes they can become victims of energy-intense situations or make such situations risky. The stick-bearer or moderator may request quiet or the departure of children.
The Drift menhirs, West Penwith, Cornwall
Pistyll Rhaeadr, Wales
The moderator sets the tone, arranges preliminaries, works to optimise the circle’s integrity, awareness and energy-flow and protects it from disarray or abuse. S/he may intervene on three counts only: 1. matters of procedure or breaches of procedure; 2. pre-arranged time factors; 3. relief of deadlock, adjudication over misbehaviour or managing tricky moments of indecision or chaos. The moderator’s decision, if needed, is final.
If asked, s/he may assist a stick-bearer to present themselves or help with language translation. S/he may give procedural tips or insights at apposite moments, though sparingly. Otherwise the moderator speaks only at the start and end of AllTing, exercising no control over content and over anything that is raised in the circle.
AllTing is a council of all souls, a forum for miracle-working, group-channelling, co-empowerment and awareness. Its main strength lies in creative innovation, accelerated truth, overcoming social problems, group bonding, world-healing and deep transformation. It is a forum for setting humanity free to unravel its future reality constructively and creatively.