We are nearly at the midpoint of the solar year, and as the evenings deepen and lengthen it seems a perfect opportunity to gather around a fire and tell stories. And eat heartily and drink wine, obviously.
Most of us love stories. Most of us heard stories as part of our childhood and for many of us those stories were springboards for imagination, for magic, for possibility. For me, the stories were also a way of exploring worlds of experience that were beyond my own and for wondering…what would I have done? Would I have been so brave / stupid / greedy / faithful?
Most of us also like to tell stories. If someone asks how your day was, and your answer is more elaborate than a monosyllabic ‘fine’ or ‘crap’ then you will usually tell a story. Not necessarily a gripping one.
It’s usually a story of who did this and said that and how we replied or what we thought in response. But we also tell stories when we want to connect with others – stories about how we came to be where and who we are today; stories about people we know and what happened to them; stories about that time when; stories about how this event years ago set a course and a shape that impacted so many things; stories that may have a hidden recurring theme that shows up over and over in different relationships or in different guises but always has the same outcome.
The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a storyAnthony de Mello
For your reflection: What are the stories you tell about your life – your day – your interactions?
Could it be that you are telling yourself a deep truth in your stories that you have not taken the time to notice?
Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world.Jean Houston
For your reflection: Could it be that you are telling yourself a lie in your stories that you have not taken time to question? Could your perception be false and fuzzy and in need of a change?
Could it be that you tell both kinds of stories??
The stories we tell offer us the opportunity to polish our image or to connect. They offer us the opportunity to hide or show up. The story is our way of being real and vulnerable…and it’s also our way of living in the projections of our personality’s mask.
So when we gather for our solstice feasting next week, part of the evening will be telling stories.
In Priya Parker’s book ‘The Art of Gathering’ (which I have mentioned before) there is a chapter titled Keep Your Best Self Out of My Meeting. In this chapter, Priya recounts how she repeatedly found that gatherings for the purpose of creative problem solving often failed to bring anything substantially new to the conversation because people were polishing the mask version of their story. Despite the intention of the gathering people were meeting each other superficially, staying in the narrative of success and emphasising their achievements. But as we all know, creativity requires a level of vulnerability, risk, uncertainty, willingness to fail or make crazy out of the box suggestions. Which meant that the people in the gathering were stuck in their stories and the problems they gathered to solve remained stuck too.
Priya managed to break the impasse by hosting a dinner – before the planned gathering – where everyone was invited to give a toast to a theme announced at the beginning of the dinner. The toast was to be prefaced by telling a personal story about an experience from their own life – real and authentic – and then to signal the end of their story by raising a glass to the value or lesson behind the story.
The stories were unrehearsed, fresh and varied. There were risks taken as people spoke of what had been real and meaningful and formative for them, as values were revealed and people were moved by what they heard. And as a result of the connections that were made over dinner that night, the creative energy flowed more freely in the meetings that followed.
We are going to copy some of that format for our solstice dinner. Priya’s gathering was given a frisson of urgency by the rule that whoever went last with their toast had to sing. We may (or may not) have this rule…. or we might make up one of our own.
We’ll also have a black/white/shades of grey dress code for our evening together, and if you want to, add a splash of one colour – something that tells of the promise of spring ahead as we tilt back towards the sun.
…to the stories you tell about your day and listen for the truth in what they are telling you – the story you tell yourself. Listen for the misperceptions, too.
Observe and Reflect…
…how you respond to other people’s stories. What truth do you hear? How are you sensing/ feeling/assessing the story? What can you learn about your filters of perception from what you notice?
…what’s real. Priya talks about the difference between a sprout story – one that springs from a tender, new, fresh insight which is inherently vulnerable – and a stump story – one that has grown out of the foundations, old, established and safe. Who do you share sprout stories with? How might you create spaces for more sprout story sharing in your life?