What is your story? What are the messages that you tell yourself everyday about who you are, how you interacting with, and impacting the world around you? Does your story empower or dis-empower you? Is it full of villains and events that are out of your your control, forcing you to tow the line? Is there never enough time for self-care? Are you never good enough, smart enough, or efficient enough?
What if you could change your story? We are all defined by our stories, and every one of us has a story. My mother, a late-in-life author was still teaching her peers in their 80’s and 90’s to write memoirs, to ‘tell their story’ for the future generations. And while our lives are full of events and experiences, even underneath this story lies a sub-text that is rich with read-between-the-lines undertones and sidebars.
As I begin the process of becoming a writer, with the goal of writing daily, not only my thoughts and musings, but inspiring poetry, and an attempt to write a book reflecting on my experiences studying Shiatsu in Japan over 20 years ago, a field of awareness has arisen for me. I am struck by the thought that it is not just WHAT we experience in our lives that creates the story, but HOW WE PERCEIVE that story that creates the content and quality of our lives. Dr. Alberto Villoldo, Shaman/Teacher and head of the Four Winds School writes that we live out over and over again the myths of our journey, where we play either villain, victim or saviour. And in the way of the Laika, the high Shaman-priests from the Andes, we need to release our attachment to these myths. We must become aware of our story, much as the passing of time and reflection has allowed me to do with my ‘story’ in Japan. And then, we must take our power back by owning our story, honoring our rites of passage, and ultimately taking responsibility to pick up the pen (or tablet) and write the next chapter. Will you become the author of your own story? Will you become the hero central to your own journey?
Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book, The hero with a thousand faces, delves deeply into the mythology of our hero’s journey as he indicates that we all reach moments in our life where we answer the call to the journey, go through challenges and set-backs in order to learn something about ourselves, and transform ourselves, returning a different person. In the course of our lives, we will go through this cycle of the Hero’s Journey again and again…so why not choose to become the hero in your own story?
A few years ago I decided to volunteer my time offering some meditation classes at a retirement home, knowing and understanding that the ideology and concepts I was sharing needed to be made appropriate to that generation. One of the things I did share however was the commonly known Buddhist practice of Metta meditation, where we breathe consciously sending universal compassion to others. This practice has been around since the time of the Buddha, about 2,600 years ago. During this meditation to enhance the visualization for my participants, I suggested visualizing sending ‘love and light’ to others, friends, family, community, country, world and so on. And while there are those on the internet who say that our prayers and good intentions of sending ‘love and light’ at times of turmoil are useless, everything in this universe is made up of energy and energy is continuous. Even our thoughts and intentions can carry energy with them. And if in addition we can take physical action, all the better.
In this instance however, I was joined in my class by a couple in their 70’s, who had been following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese father of Buddhism, for many years. As meditators, I had hoped they would add to the energy of my class, but in fact they made a point of undermining almost everything I said with interruptions, corrections and opinions. It was very disconcerting. And at the end of the class, the women of this pair stayed to say to me in a very condescending tone, “Love and Light Dearie, love and light. I always think that the people who spend their energy sending love and light are too airy-fairy. They are totally out-there. What are you bringing into the real world?”. I was aghast, and hurt by the rebuke, and thought to myself, ‘Well, for one, I am volunteering my time to teach these classes. And it’s only one of the things I do very consciously throughout my day to help those around me.’ When the class had all left, I broke down into tears. How could she say such a mean thing? And especially with being a meditator for 20 years! She doesn’t even know me. I felt totally attacked, less than, and scared to continue the classes. This was not at all what I had intended!
I carried that story with me for quite some time. How I was the victim, and this mean woman had attacked me, the villian. Recovery seemed hard, until I realized we are all living our own dream. We have absolutely no idea what is going on in anybody else’s world, what the reality of their days is, and in the case of someone who lashes out like that…what kind of pain they might be in. I returned with determined dedication to my meditation cushion, to the stillness and silence that guides me. And I came up with this…the choice to become the hero in my own journey. To forgive and let go, to respond with even more kindness and compassion, and to write the next chapter consciously. And since that day, I have taught with even more passion, trusting that those who come to learn will open their hearts as much as they are able. My job is to provide and give what I can…and the rest…is up the them.