Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Opening Our Stories

I love stories. Stories are how we learn, how we make sense of our own lives and the world, how we co-create meaning and magic. Some people seem to think that living without any story is the way to create a more "spiritual" life. From my perspective, that's just one more story. Which is not to say that our stories can't create challenges in our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves unconsciously living out a story that isn't ours or an old story that no longer serves life. Sometimes our stories become too rigid to allow needed change. So, it's a good idea to shake up our stories now and then. How we can do this is something I wrote about in The Call:

"Who would you be if you did not do whatever it is you do every day? What if you experimented in ways that would do no harm to yourself or others- were soft where you are normally hard, tender where you feel you must draw a firm line, giving where you usually take, receiving where you have no expectation or habit of receiving?

What if you played with this solid sense of self you have built up, said what you were thinking where you make it a rule to remain silent, were quiet where you always felt you needed to add something?

How much of the story you have created do you mistake for who and what you really are? Do you believe it liberates you from daily decision-making to focus on other things? How much does it confine you, dictate which thoughts and feelings you follow into doing?

Create a gap in your story and sit within the gap, sit in the emptiness of not knowing who or what you are until an awareness of your essential nature fills you. We think the call, that which beckons us away from identifying exclusively with these stories we create, comes and goes. But the truth is, it is always there, it is the very ground of existence. What comes and goes is our ability to hear it, our willingness to let go of what we think we are so we can open ourselves to hearing that which calls us back to what we always have been. When we open to this constant call, we remember why we are here and allow this knowledge to create a new and fluid story coloured with that knowledge and never mistaken for all of who we are." From The Call by Oriah (c) 2003


  1. This couldn't be closer to the truth on what I need to do in myl ife. Create a gap in my story... sit within the gap... sit with the emptiness...

    Thanks Oriah.

  2. a wonderful reminder. my yoga practice really helps me undo the story attachment. : )

    thank you.


  3. I think, all too often, we have a tendency to wait until we are forced outside of our story. Even when we find ourselves trapped in our own miserableness, we remain within what we think comforts us. For me, it took the crash of a 22 year marriage and the onset of a number of life threatening diseases. It's funny - when we think of what keeps us comfortable, we generally think of our current story...only better. More money than we have, a better job than we currently have, fixing up the house we have... we never think of tragedy as anything other than "tragedy". We rarely think of coming out the other side a better person. And not that that's the only way or that I would EVER hope any kind of devastation on anyone. But sometimes these things are what shake us up, break us free - open our eyes to a world we were previously unable to see. Do I wish that my children would not have had to suffer through divorce? Absolutely. Do I wish I was still running marathons and not in the midst of chemotherapy? Absolutely. Would I give up what I have gained from all of this? Never in a million years.
    I spent 22 years of my life as a pastor's wife in rural America. Let me tell you, my picket fence was pretty damn white. When I found myself walking into a domestic abuse shelter in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota without a penny to my name, five children and no where to go - I pretty much lost my story, and it scared me to death. As I look back on that day, as I look at my life now - it's the letting go of that story, it's the opening up to new stories - whatever they may be - that has made life not about conformity (which is all in my head anyway) - but about being alive.
    So now, when things pop up in my day - canceled plans, broken down cars, missed engagements, sickness, preoccupied and somewhat narcissistic teenagers - I stop my story in it's tracks. Before I flip to that next memorized page, I just breath, and ask myself, "Well, I wonder what this new story is all about?" And for me, having done this enough in my life to make it a habit, it has turned what used to be a stressful and tense situation more into one of letting go - a sort of freed anticipation. A trust in my world I have never had before. A wonderful and calming peace.

  4. Life is about stories? All I want to do right now is really to sit within the gap and sit with the emptiness. A BIG STOP sign has just parked right in front of my life. I do not know which direction to go, how to continue my story. Is this part of mid-life crisis?

  5. Theresa, I think you are absolutely correct- most of us are not consciously aware of the story we are living, or even question whether or not it is a story that serves life until something interrupts that story- divorce, illness, loss of a loved one, a job, a home etc. Love your question: "Well, I wonder what this new story is all about?" and how you ask it even when small things disrupt plans. Great idea!

  6. Anonymous- yes I think you are on to something there. Mid-life crises are often brought on when either something happens (an illness, marriage ending etc.) that interrupts the story we have been unconsciously living, or when we begin to feel that the story that suited us when we were younger is just no longer a fit. Sometimes that is because that never was our story- but the one we inherited and were taught by parents, teahers, church etc. and it takes some maturing before we realize it is not our story. Still, it is not an easy place to be- in the gap between stories. :-)

  7. Beautiful post. Speaks to this Heart, especially "sitting in the gap of not knowing...until an awareness of your essential nature fills you." I recently had this experience. I was broken open in the shower, singing a Lady Gaga tune :) Maybe this is not exactly "the gap" you had in mind, but it seems my "essential nature" knew how to open the gap and get in. :) Go figure.

  8. Mystic, Lady Gaga? Why not! Take the gap and the awareness that finds you within it wherever it comes :-) (I know quite a few folks who feel their deepest moments come in the shower or bath- perhaps something about water on the skin, releasing, cleaning.)

  9. Hello Oriah

    I am a recent liker to your work, your vision and your inspiration and just really who you are. I find your writings sink into a space inside me that I just cannot vocalise or literise (is there such a word?). I have absolutely fallen for your spirit of love and brutal honesty of the soul.

    Thank you for all that you do for my soul.

    Greetings and love from me in South Africa.

  10. Thank you Lezzet- although I do hope my honesty is not too "brutal." :-) Am so touched by how manhy folks from South Africa read here and on the Facebook page- such a lovely connection from the other side of this (apparently) very small planet.

  11. Oriah when I said brutal I meant the manner, through your gift of the written word, are able to make 'me' (as I cannot speak for anybody else)really look into myself without being afraid to admit that yes, after all, even without the restrictions of being human, I am. And that there some truths about myself, although difficult to admit, I am not ashamed to face and in that, it always leave the space for growth. It is a smaller world than we imagined but it is beautiful.

    Thank you for your response :)

  12. Your writing resonates with my soul...