The Talking Circle – Guidelines for Success

The Talking Circle – Guidelines for Success

What is a Talking Circle?

We establish a talking circle whenever a mutually respectful and protected dialogue is desired. It allows for each member to be heard as equals, able to express themselves safely and freely. All in the circle are being held, supported, and respected by their community. A moderator should be designated at the onset of the meeting to ensure these rules are followed and that time sharing is equitable. A moderator should recuse themselves from participating in the conversation during the formal part of the meeting. However, a moderator can ask another member of the circle to fill their position, when they wish to contribute during the formal conversation.

Talking Circle Guidelines

The following are basic guidelines that are universal and allow for a talking circle to function as intended. These guidelines apply to virtual talking circles as well and are easily adapted.

How to Prepare a Talking Circle

The moderator is encouraged to open Sacred Space in a mutually acceptable manner. Generally, sacred space involves calling aloud to each of the Cardinal directions, i.e. (I call to the winds of the East, etc.) as they are associated with the Elements and universal forces of Creation. The Earth is honored, a giving of thanks and gratitude for sustaining our lives. Finally, attention is then directed to the Sky above, the Universe, Creator/Source, Great Mystery, Great Spirit. We acknowledge the unknown in an inclusive manner, all may silently acknowledge the Divine according to their own personal beliefs, in a moment of silent prayer. Opening of Sacred Space sets the tone and intention, providing protections to all members of the Circle.

Candle- Lighting a candle at the onset of the meeting and placing it at the center of the circle is encouraged.  The element of fire is highly symbolic. The candle at the center of the circle can hold many meanings. One of which is a place holder for the eternal soul, acknowledging our Ancestors and departed loved ones. Some may see it as a Portal to which eternal wisdom may be accessed.

Smudging-  An Indigenous tradition recommended at the onset of talking circles. Smudging with dried plants such as Sage, Cedar, or Palo-Santo are traditional choices. Using a Feather, gently fan the smoke starting at head down moving down to feet of each individual. This is to cleanse any negativity they may be carrying with them. A smudge stick should remain burning for the duration of the meeting. When emotions are intense, it’s especially important to use this plant medicine to ward off any negativity.

The Organizer/ Moderator- will share aloud the following guidelines at the onset of each talking circle. All participants will be seated in a circle, turns go in a clockwise fashion. The Moderator will use the same clockwise order of speakers for online gatherings. General time allotments are established, based on total expected meeting length. Limiting speaking times, (1-2 minute blocks of time, for example) maintains the flow and ensures all members will have equal opportunity to share within the Circle. Experiment and adjust accordingly.

Guidelines for Participants

1) Only one person may speak at a time- which is the person holding the talking stick, feather or any object recognized symbolically by the group. Moderators of online circles ensure the order and equitable time for each of the participants. Conversational exchanges are not part of a formal talking circle. However, time may be allowed at the onset or conclusion of the formal meeting for exchanges. For Virtual meetings, the same applies with the exception of the talking stick, the moderator serves on its behalf.  The Speaker will let the circle know they are finished talking, saying “A-ho” is a traditional way of concluding one’s words. The moderator will keep each speaker to their allotted time, preventing interruptions and keeping the conversation moving according to the guidelines established at the onset of the Talking Circle.

2) Introduce yourself- it’s a general custom to begin by introducing yourself in the first round. Introductions are a respectful and polite way to begin sharing one’s perspectives. Use your given name first, followed with any other (spiritually) significant names you may wish to be known by.

3) Speak from your heart- the speaker addresses the entire circle, coming from heart space, with honesty, integrity, and respectfulness. The Circle will establish how long each member may speak on their turn, which is necessary when time is limited. It is important to have respect for the time of others, ensuring all have an opportunity to speak. When finished speaking, pass the talking stick to the person to your left. Moderators will ensure time allotments are adhered to.

If you do not wish to speak at that moment, simply say “I pass” and hand the talking stick to the person to your left. For virtual meetings, moderators, maintain the same speaking order and establish a clockwise movement within the circle, calling on the next speaker. The speaker will say aloud that they’re finished speaking to avoid confusion and delay.

4) Listen with respect, and be present- All members listen attentively and give their support to the speaker. Listening with your heart allows you to hear and feel the speaker’s true intentions. Listen to the speaker in the same manner that you wish to be heard.

5) Do not repeat what was said in the Talking Circle – Depending on the intention of the circle, what is said within the circle stays confidential. This is especially true when the circle is being used for healing. If the circle was used to arrive at a decision, then it’s the final unified decision that is to be shared freely.

6) Speak in the first person narrative- When speaking in the circle, state your feelings and thoughts using “I”, speak for yourself in the first-person narrative. Avoid speaking for others.

7) Do not speak directly to the comments made by another speaker- This includes direct criticisms or even compliments of other speaker’s words. It is best to echo the comments of another if you feel aligned with them. When you disagree with a statement made by another, only offer your own perspective and feelings on that subject.

8) Be humble and respectful of all in the circle –Avoid criticizing or negating the words of others, We are all Equals in the Circle. Speak instead of your own ideas and feelings, I feel- followed by your own perspectives.

Conclude each talking circle by closing sacred space, if it was opened. The organizer should say aloud that the Talking circle is now closed. At this time, conversations may take place or simply conclude the gathering with any final messages. If additional guidance on sacred space, Talking Circle etiquette or any questions, the author (Leslie Hart) is very happy to provide additional assistance.

The Council Fire Project

The Council Fire Project

 A Call to Mother Earth’s Wisdom Keepers


The Council Fire Project represents a reimagined model of collective conversations and decision making. It provides humanity with a blueprint for governance and decision making that is based upon the ancient Circle model. Within the Circle, we are all equal, and therefore we seek to build consensus rather than majority rule. The Council Fire establishes a new Constitutional Law, of which Natural Law and Egalitarian ideals are central. The Council fire Project draws upon the wisdom of the Iroquois Great Law of Peace.

The Council Fire calls for Mother Earth’s wisdom keepers to come together, to communicate and spring forth from the shadows. It is beyond time for us to take our rightful place around the sacred fire, to step into our roles as Leaders. It is time that our collective voices are heard globally, that we come together to form a powerful organization. Its time for those of us who are drawn to ancient indigenous wisdom and knowledge, to revolutionize our world.

We are at a time of immense transition, which presents humanity with great opportunities, but also brings with it great peril. We find ourselves in a pivotal period of time, where humanity’s next stage of evolution will be decided. This stage of evolution coincides with what is being described as a great global Awakening , bringing forth a transcendental shift in our collective consciousness.

We must transcend our limiting beliefs and social constructs, we must evolve to realize our true potential. Our very survival depends upon our recognition of the role we are playing in the destruction of our Mother Earth and the  life that she sustains. We must rediscover those ancient egalitarian practices, and come back into balance with the natural world, of which we are inseparable.

In nature, all species play an instinctual role in maintaining balance and contributing to the ongoing cycle of life here on Mother Earth. Human beings are the only species that are born lacking the innate knowledge of who we are and where we fit into the circle of life. The Lakota express our connection to the Natural World with the phrase- “Mitakuye Oyasin” meaning that we are all related, all are my relations. It is also a prayer which extends to all people, all forms of life, all that comprises Mother Earth and beyond.

What is the next phase of Human Evolution?

Well that depends upon all of us, as it’s a choice that we must decide upon collectively. Will we choose a path that is in balance with our natural world? A path that is of sustainability, that is based on Indigenous Egalitarian beliefs. These beliefs are not only that all people are created equal, deserving equal rights and opportunities, but also extends to all life upon Mother Earth. The Ancient Egalitarian societies, acknowledges that all life is sacred.  A sacred rule that humans may draw from the natural world only what is actually needed for us to survive, and nothing more. The Indigenous Peoples also revered Natural Law, which is that a creator source supersedes the Law of Men. That all people are Sovereign individuals, that we have a Natural right to life and freedom to make our own decisions.

There are many who are working to define what our next phase of human evolution may look like. Of these voices, I share;

Author Dr. Alberto Villoldo speaks to this next phase of human evolution, referring to it as becoming Homo Luminous.

Setting the Stage for the Sages and Wisdom Keepers

Collectively, humanity has the following choice, evolve as a species, or become extinct as one. This is the precipice we stand upon. Unlike previous species on our planet who have gone extinct either through natural selection, a cataclysmic event or because of human activity. We as human beings are now conscious of the impact we have upon the natural world, and for an unknown period of time, still hold the power to change the course of our Destiny.

How do we make this transition from where we are now, to where and whom we wish to collectively be? I believe answers await us in conversations yet to be held around the coming Council fires. I will do my part, to build these fires, to set the stage for the sages and wisdom keepers of our time. I cry out to each of you, step out of the shadows, seek out and share with our world sacred knowledge, and timeless wisdom.

Archetypal energies

There our certain archetypal energies that transcend cultures, through out our collective history. These Archetypal energies permeate pop culture in all sorts of surprising ways, and it is even expressed within our music. What does the legendary band Led Zeppelin have in common with the Southwestern Native Americans? In Led Zeppelins song Stairway to Heaven, they reference a Piper. This Piper is an Archetypal energy that has similarities to one found in the folklore of  Native Americans.  I propose that this Archetypal energy transcends all cultures, that it is a universal energy and conscious.   I call upon Kokopelli, the bringer of life, to play your flute for us once again! Will you, answer this call and help show us the way forward?

A Piper, one that will lead humanity back to Reason.

The following video contains petroglyphs, depictions of the flute-playing god Kokopelli. Among Southwestern Native Americans, He is known as the god of fertility, a prankster, healer, and wonderful storyteller. Some of the first petroglyphs of Kokopelli were carved over 3,000 years ago. Legends suggest that the hunch on his back depicts a sack of seeds and the songs he carries. Bringing forth life, abundant crops, vegetation, and rebirth. It is believed that his flute playing symbolized the transition of winter to spring, the time for renewal.

Of legend, it’s said that Kokopelli’s flute could be heard in the spring’s breeze while bringing back warmth to the land. It is also believed that he was the source of human conception, a bringer of fertility in every sense. I introduce Kokopelli to you as a source of divine renewal, music-making, of dancing, celebration, and the bringer of joy to all he encounters. I ask Kokopelli to play his flute once again for us, to let his songs be heard in the wind, leading us back to our ancient roots of living in balance with the natural world. I can think of no better symbol or representation of a Piper, one that will lead humanity back to Reason.  (Will you join us? Contact me if you wish to answer this call.)


In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder, Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.

In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder, Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn , For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter. ~ Led Zepplin

Stairway to Heaven on Native Flute

(c) Can Stock Photo / frenta