Sharing our stories is one of the unpronounced rituals of our lives. We all do it— we tell stories every day, and so many of them we construct without notice. Like focusing on the breath, I believe there is invaluable space and peace to be found in focusing on the art of telling our stories. Because every story we tell is both true and not true at all. This is where we live as human beings.
Sometimes we get caught in our stories. We can’t see it any other way, and this is where the power of storytelling is so potent. It is through using a practice of storytelling that we become free inside of our own lives: free to switch roles, rewrite our lines, flip the script, change the ending. To tap into this power, we have to ritualize our relationship to story.
Know, too, that no story ends. Like a play getting made and remade, all of your stories continue to shift with time, with new wisdom, with new breath. For example, how many of us when we are experiencing a break up feel certain we are at the center of a tragedy? Breakup pain is some of the worst pain to be doled out by life (as ego-bound as that is), and yet, when we are far enough away, we can look back with sweet nostalgia for the moment when we got ourselves back from a failed relationship. Truly, the eras of my past breakups are some of my favorite memories in my life, because with the perspective of time, they are indeed my sweetest moments with myself.
To ritualize your story practice, take out a piece of paper or journal and your writing instrument of choice (you must love what you are writing with— it must be your favorite pen, no computers) and answer the following:
- What are the three most important stories of my life?
- Are they comedies, tragedies or both? Or is it a love story? Heroism? Come to categorize what these tales are — your life, a piece of shakespeare — what are its themes?
- Now, what is the first sensory memory from your life? Write about your earliest memory or memories when you experienced the world with awe. What happened? Was it the first time you saw the moon? Was it your reflection through the looking glass in your mother’s bedroom?
- Now choose one of the most important stories of your life and write it out longhand. Next, use the emotion of your sensory memory, and import it into your story. Bring your earliest sensory memory into the most important story of your life — somehow, with alchemy, mix them. There are no wrong ways here, and if it feels difficult, then we are onto something.
- Lastly, change one detail in your story. Add something truly fanciful to your tale, whether it is the presence of something supernatural, or a resolution that was not possible.
- You are finished. Bravo. You have unlocked the power of changing your stories, and you have tapped into who you are, while acknowledging the magic stories intrinsically contain. We are sensory beings, and how we tell our stories is how we ultimately feel our stories.
If you want to take this as far as you can, add this to your morning ritual. Write a very short story from your life— mundane, profound, recent, ancient— all within a few sentences. Keep a running log. This will change your life, as you practice the sacred human art of storytelling.
Every story is true. No story is true. It is here where we live: between the truth and imagination, both prisms of the infinite.
Paula Gilovich teaches storytelling workshops, works as a storytelling consultant for CEO’s, C-suite executives and businesses, and helps individuals unveil their skills as natural storytellers.