The conference featured a number of different viewpoints and speakers, from Aborigines and indigenous North American scholars to pasty-white Irish storytellers and theoretical physicists from England and India.
The idea is for the participants to put forth their thoughts, ideas and worldviews on the matters at hand, which this year were bundled up under the theme "Space and Place." From all these varied viewpoints, the theory goes, we can begin to weave the tapestry of reality.
I was thinking about this as I was trying to write a blog entry about "communication" in "relationships." Pre-Busting Loose, one of the bedrock beliefs in my relationship game has been that honest "communication" between two individuals in an intimate relationship will result in something meaningful. Not sure what, but something meaningful. More connection. Make-up sex. Less co-dependence. I don't know.
Now, I've got a whole theory that "communication" is, for most of us, just the web of stories we accumulate and repeat to each other in never-ending patterns, and that we should just dismiss them and move on. But as I was writing it, I reflected upon the conference speakers. The one's with theories certainly made a contribution. But it was the stories, not the theories I heard, that will stay with me.
One woman told a story about a great spiritual healing that took place at the site of a massacre of an Aboriginal community in Australia, more than 100 years after the event. Most of us were holding back tears by the end.
The pasty Irish storyteller (I kid you, James) told a wonderful story about visiting his deceased mother's home in Ireland with one of his sons, and finding the spirit of his mother still there, in a spring spouting the sweetest water his son had ever tasted.
A woman from an indigenous tribe told about a man diagnosed with incurable cancer whose life changed when he decided to raise buffalo instead of undergoing life-extending treatment suggested by his doctor. The man is alive and healthy, several years after his death sentence.
We learned of the secret lives of mice and rocks, lizards and trees, birds and mountains, through the many stories that were told and songs that were sung. I came away enriched by the experience of hearing these life-affirming stories.
The conference reminded me that storytelling is our most ancient art, our most ancient way to pass down wisdom, our most ancient way to reach each other on a deep level.
So when some smartass like me tries to tell you that your psychotic behavior is the result of you hanging on to your stupid "stories," and you can fix that by just not believing them, well, even I have to pause for a moment.
It is human nature to want to be understood and to express ourselves. That is why storytelling has such a a grip on us. So we even cling to the stories that maybe don't point to enlightenment: "I'm a victim of love," "I'm a woman who loves too much," "nobody appreciates/understands me," and "he left me for that little whore;" yada, yada, yada as my spirit guides from "Seinfeld" like to say. They may be unhelpful stories -- unhelpful in helping us expand in Phase 2 -- but they're our unhelpful stories.
Many of us will fight for them to the end. I remember meeting a disgruntled man at a personal transformation workshop who was complaining about his divorce -- 10 years after the fact.
In Busting Loose, Robert Scheinfeld correctly notes that in Phase 1, we focus on our stories and beliefs and illusions, energizing and giving them power. Power that is rightfully ours.
The solution is to exchange the stories and lies for the truth of who we are. I get that. But somehow it seems aesthetically unsatisfying. I mean, as great as the truth is -- that we are infinitely abundant, joyful, wise, powerful and loving -- it does seem kind of boring. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
So let's move toward truth, but let's be gentle. Let's respect our stories no matter what they say, They are after all, like all our creations in Phase 1, miracles. But let the old ones that don't support us go quietly and if we must have stories, let's create some new ones that point us in the right direction.
I'm reminded of where I was a year ago, in the throes of a separation from my partner. I was conjuring up re-runs of grade B horror movies about being unlovable, unappreciated, rejected and having screwed up yet another promising relationship. It was a familiar story.
But the story has changed. What my partner reflected back to me at that time set me on a new path, looking for another way. I see the bigger story in my more lucid moments and appreciate everything she and my Expanded Self had to tell me. As a writer and filmmaker, I will always love telling stories. But now I can glimpse the truth, and that's a happy beginning.