I use the book Peacemaking Circles in my University of Wisconsin – River Falls Restorative Justice Courses. I hadn’t read the book in awhile. On a side note, I have a cherished copy that Kay Pranis signed for me at my first Circle Training back in 2003. The books were just out it was exciting to be part of. Anyway . . . last year a student approached after one of our classes. He talked with me about being so struck by the 14 pages of the book dedicated to the ‘Talking Piece’. I love hearing someone elses thoughts on what stirs them (especially when it comes to Circles). Dan shared that is seems such a natural thing to use it (we had several weeks of class and several Circles, since each class is in Circle). He even mentioned the book dedicates 14 pages to the Talking Piece. Dan renewed my understanding and appreciation for just how special Talking Pieces can be.
It’s important to use “Talking Pieces” for their full potential. A few pointers.
1.) Item of significance. If it is important to you, you can share your connection to the item. By sharing that, you share a ‘piece’ of you when it is passed around. You role model sharing in Circle when you talk about the talking piece and you demonstration ‘connectedness’ by talking about the connection. Catherine uses a hockey puck, and one of my students attended a Circle she facilitated and when I asked about it he said “she sure loves hockey”. It was very positive. Things like this are remembered in Circle, they are remembered because a Story is being shared about the talking piece.
2.)Keep the tone positive. Remind that the talking piece is an opportunity to speak from the heart. Not a negative that “no one else gets to speak”. More about that in this post. Natural items like stones and deer antlers I have found to be calming. Reminding people of a walk in the woods.
3.) Use the Piece itself for a question or a lesson. I’ve been in a Circle where a piece of drift wood was used. We all had the opportunity to talk about what we saw in the wood. This end up it looked like a seal, the other way it looked more like a blooming flower. Each person got to share an interpretation. The question was used as we got acquainted in the Circle. When it returned to the Circlekeeper, she shared a story.
A young woman returning to her community (from a residential setting) was meeting with her community to repair harm and plan for a successful return. She kept passing and not sharing. Finally she had the talking piece (the same driftwood) and she turned it and finally said “I feel like this talking piece” and she began to share that she was having many different feelings and reactions to returning home.
Recent Circles at the Restorative Justice Center have me letting my students select Talking Pieces from those we keep around on shelves. We ended up using Catherine’s Talking Piece, a hockey puck. I was sharing in the Circle, holding the puck and realized how ‘handy’ it is. Easy to hold, I found myself wondering the ‘story’ of it. I also thought about all the ‘Underage Youth’ and Community Members that have shared wisdom while holding it. It really struck me, I knew it was a powerful tool. I appreciated it because I appreciate Catherine and the power of Circle.