Story telling is of significant value
This is a monthly column on spiritual development and my topic this month is storytelling and its value for our spiritual growth.
My wife Linda and I have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005 in the house in Ledge-Lowe once owned by Ed & Sarah Naylor and before them by the Hennings. As you enter the house there is a room on your right that serves as the room where Linda and I see clients and teach seminars. On the wall hangs a framed jigsaw puzzle which I spent maybe six months putting together about twelve years ago. It pictures a white-bearded grandfatherly character who has come into the forest to tell the forest creatures the story of what human beings are like. His audience is foxes and cats, faeries and elves, giants and princesses, gnomes and knights: in short, figures that often populate human stories of what the spirit world is like which in turn serve to stretch our imaginations about that world. The effect of the puzzle picture is to shift the viewers perspective about what it means to be human and to wonder what the storyteller might be saying about humans.
This is what stories do: they stretch our imaginations about the topic of the story and in turn they transform our view of ourselves.
I remember many years ago my Contemporary Philosopher professor referred to human beings as “the king of beasts, self-proclaimed”. At the time I thought to myself that of course we are the “kings” of beasts but that simple sly remark he made planted a seed inside of me that blossomed decades later in my openness to the shamanic worldview that humans are not superior to the rest of animate creation; rather we are all equally a part of the vast interconnected web of life. When you think about, lots of things are okay until humans start messing with them.
In psychotherapy the therapist helps the client to “re-frame” his or her story so as to see it in a different light. For example, just because your parents got divorced doesn’t mean it was your fault. Just because there’s a disagreement, doesn’t mean your position was wrong.
Jesus was an effective storyteller who often used his parables to help people see things from a higher perspective: “We only have five loaves and two fishnot enough to feed this crowd; send them away”, say the apostles. Jesus says, “Tell the crowd to be seated.”
Linda and I are going to be spending our Thursday evenings this autumn telling stories in the little St. Agnes Historic Chapel at Washington & Church Streets. We’ll spin a yarn, the group will create a story (have you ever seen the movie “Out of Africa”?), we’ll do trance-telling, biography, acting and “where do I come in”? In the process, the magic of story will descend upon the group and we will see all kinds of things differently, especially ourselves. We will also discover a deep level of love called community. We start at 7:30 PM each Thursday. Come when you can. (A ten dollar donation will be requested. A basket will be on hand. Thanks)
(Bill O’Brien, M.A., M.Div., is the founder of the Nathaniel Center for Spiritual Growth and has been mentoring souls in their growth to wholeness for decades. 304-876-6071)