What Stories Shape Your Life?
Every creature has a story. A beginning, an arc of a life, and then an ending. Not just animals, of course. Trees, flowers, butterflies, spiders, rocks, planets, and solar systems all have their story.
All come from life, are infused and animated by life to become a particular life form, and then return to the pool of life. Along the way there are small and great dramas, crossroads of destiny, and surprises both wondrous and horrific. Some stories end very quickly and some go on and on. There are countless dramas within this leela, which I define as the entire theater of life and all its forms.
We are a species that learns by stories. Our families, nations, religions, cultures, and sub-cultures pass on knowledge through story telling, whether in prose or poetry. From first learning how to read to seeking truth and freedom, we look to stories to show the way. And they do.
When we evoke the story of Christ, or Buddha, or Harriett Tubman, or Ulysses, or Wonderwoman, or Harry Potter, it changes our state of mind (as well as our physiology.) When we follow the arc of their lives we see a mirror of the blessings and curses of our own lives, and we gather nourishment and/or learn essential warnings from their stories.
We are inspired and cautioned by stories. From leaning to be on time by hearing our mother read The Pokey Little Puppy enough times, to realizing the great follies of our vanity from the classic epics of all cultures; from the daily headlines of the tabloids to the tragedies and comedies of Shakespeare and the latest super-hero, we learn what failure is, what perseverance means, how the choice of an instant can change a personís or a countryís life. (In our times, how the choice of an instant can threaten all life forms.)
We are entertained by stories in movies, and books; in gossip and in scripture. Stories are the vehicle and proof of the power of language, the central jewel in the crown of language. And mostly we are swept along with the prevailing story. The latest reasons for war, the necessity of doing more, the apocalyptic end of the world, etc. We are manipulated by the stories we read and re-read, and tell and re-tell.
Just becoming more aware of the stories we live, along with their infinite plot lines and sub-plots, begins to wake us up. As in lucid dreaming, we become aware of ourselves as both in the dream (story) and outside it. In lucid dreaming, as in lucid living, we are no longer tyrannized by the stories circulating around us and inside us. The nightmare can be faced directly; the flying dream can be enjoyed in the moment.
What is your story and what is it teaching?
You discover your story by noticing what you are telling yourself, over and over. Notice what you tell yourself about your past, your present, and your future. In order to have any lasting impact (our) stories have to be told and retold. All stories have a narrative. What is your narrative? You can check right now. It is bound to be familiar.
I am not suggesting that you change your story, although you can and are free to. I am simply pointing to the fact that you have stories, you live in stories, and their power is heightened as they are told and retold.
Since all stories, stories archetypical and stories banal, ultimately teach us something, investigate what your story teaches? Regardless of where you are in your story (still at the beginning, the hopefully long middle, or near the end), what bigger story does your life story contribute to?
Since stories are kept alive by gift of human imagination, your imagination has the capacity to change the elements of your story. You can remove yourself as either victim or victor of the story you tell. You can even imagine your story with someone else playing your role.
When you remove yourself as both narrator and leading character, what is left?
When you are clear or lucid in your story, does the story change? How?
What do you learn from your story?
Thank you for participating in this investigation of reality, real and imagined!
Gangaji will present her new book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story at a weekend retreat in the San Francisco Bay Area, October 29-30. In November and December she will hold retreats and weekends in Australia and New Zealand. Read more about Gangajiís events and catalog of books and videos online. You can also join Gangaji in monthly Webcast/Conference Series which will begin an in depth study of Hidden Treasure in November.