Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Living by story

Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them, like predators stalking in the bush. The trick is to put ourselves in a place where the Big stories can find us.

All of us are living a story. If we don't know what it is, it is likely to be a little story, a limiting one, woven from past disappointments and stitched tight by the people who are forever telling us who we are and what we can and cannot accomplish. If we fail to define ourselves, we let ourselves be defined by others.

As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observes in After Virtue, "We are story-telling animals who must ask ourselves, "of what story or stories do I find myself a part?' in order to answer the question, 'what am I to do?'"

When we are seized by the Big story, we step beyond limiting definitions and beliefs. Great healing becomes available because we can now draw on the immense energy that becomes available when we know we are serving a larger purpose. We gain courage and stamina to get through the ups and downs of everyday life, aware that we are acting in a deeper drama.

This summer, I'll lead a weekend workshop devoted to "The Healing Power of Story" in a marvelous octagon building in the midst of blueberry fields in Ashton, Maryland. We'll explore and perform some of the Big stories from myth and literature that can heal and empower: the Japanese story of the sun goddess who hid her light because she was abused, and how she was coaxed back; the Gnostic story of the forgetful envoy who was sent into this world on a vital mission but forgot what it was; Dante's story of how we approach our truest life teacher by knocking on the heart. From dreams and shared journeys, spontaneous theater and entertainments, we'll harvest personal stories, charged with energy and meaning, in order to become the authors of our own life scripts.

The image is of the torchlit path to the meeting yurt at one of my favorite retreat centers, Mosswood Hollow in Duvall WA (think Wind in the Willows in the midst of the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest). I am leading my Dream Teacher Training here in July and a weekend of Imaginal Healing in October.


Worldbridger said...

Like Sam Gamgee says to Frodo as they head toward Mt. Doom ... "Someday they might tell stories about us Mr. Frodo."

But do we all want to be heros?

I think the wonderful thing about Lord of the Rings was the way Tolkien put the comfort-loving hobbit in the center of the story. An unlikely hero for sure.

Me, I think I'll stay in the Shire.

Naomi said...

What a beautiful photograph, Robert. Just makes my soul sing to see it.

Patricia said...

Again, you reach across the world to encourage me in my story. I am reminded of a dream from long ago when I am encouraged to leave a place to escape a bushfire that is heading in our direction. As I walk down the path beneath familiar trees and the spider that spins its web in them, I am told 'there will be other trees and other spiders, just don't forget the story.'
All this as I am preparing to present a weekend workshop in Melbourne on exploring the Archetypes that appear in literature and modern day movies. They are aplenty and exciting to discover both in myself and in the people I work with.
Like the story that will hunt down the person who is to tell it, the Archetypes seen in this way have been hunting me down for a long time. I'm ready to share the experience. So,Bring it on!!
Thanks again.

Robert Moss said...

Patricia - Always good to hear your voice from across the waters. Your Melbourne workshop on the archetypes in literature and film sounds fascinating. Do you read Robertson Davies? I've come to find the voice of this most witty and erudite Canadian novelist very congenial, and I can think of few fiction writers who have been as deeply and usefully influenced by Jung's work on the archetypes - or (as Davies fictional analyst called them in The Manticore, "The Comedy Company of the Psyche"). You'll find my most recent essay on Davies and Jung a couple of weeks back on this blog.

Patricia said...

Robert, Yes, I have been following the Jung series with great interest. The Red Book is a great treasure. Robertson Davies is worth checking out, so he is on my list of books to read.
When I saw your photo for this log, it reminded me of that dream. As you say, the story is important and must be told, identified and lived. Some scripts are written for us, but in the long term, it is necessary not only to idenify the story but to question it, examine it and make changes to it. The workshop that you describe will give the participants the opportunity to stretch into the bigger story that is their gift. I wish them well and wish I could be there as well.
As for now, I'll be stretching myself out as best as I can. There have been many short stories bursting out lately. They are making noises so loud and they are not satisfied until they are locked into the computer.

Robert Moss said...

Naomi - As I noted, the photo is of the torchlit winding path to the yurt at Mosswood Hollow, in the foothills of the Cascades, where our dreaming community shares many adventures in group travel and spontaneous creation. Maybe your dreams will guide you to join us there at the right time.

R said...

I've read a few mentions about Big Stories in some of your books and the idea is just fascinating- and empowering!

Might there someday be a book from you Robert that goes deeper into the idea and the value of stories?

Robert Moss said...

Thanks for asking, R. This is in fact the main theme of the book on which I'm currently working which will - if all goes well - be published in the spring of 2011.

R said...

That's great news! I'll keep my fingers crossed that I see it up in book stores. :)

Don said...

Robert, I think you have presented something very important here.

My children spent their early childhood at a forest ranger station 70 miles from the nearest town. We had no TV. Even radio did not work very well out there. Sometimes in the evenings, especially when the power was off and the room was lit by candle light, we would take turns telling stories. My children, then, were brought up telling stories.

This was not like school. They were not graded. We did not correct their stories. Consequently they felt free to express what they really felt. They told wonderful stories straight from their young hearts. And they grew up to be good story tellers. Three of them have published a few stories. But it is the stories in their hearts that are the most meaningful to them. Those are private stories they still live by. They do have healing power, too.

I don’t know if any of this qualifies as big stories. However, I think it is important to let children tell their personal stories without criticism or correction. My children have raised their own children to tell stories the same way. I am very pleased with that.

Robert Moss said...

Don - It so important for us to raise our children to tell their stories without judgment, and to be heard. Thank you for carrying on this tradition within your family.

Alla said...

Well well well, I'm looking forward to the Ashton meeting! :-))))))
The picture of the path is terrific, indeed.

My big story, where are you? Why does it seem to me that I'm lost that long?..