Have you ever looked back over your life and suddenly recognised something in your story that you had never seen before? Years ago I told a counsellor about my rather dramatic conversion to Christianity. He proceeded to highlight how a number of external factors in my family, school situation, and personal journey were connected with my spiritual experience. This new insight changed both my understanding of the experience and the trajectory of my faith and life.
As we explored last week human beings are storied creatures. Our stories shape who we are and what we do. One key element in every story is time. The spiritual practice of engaging with our story’s timeline teaches us to own our story and change it, which can be a source of deep healing and well-being.
Every one of us has arrived in our current time and place as the result of a journey. We have come from somewhere and somewhen, we currently inhabit somewhere and somewhen, and we are on a trajectory to somewhere and somewhen. There are also cycles and patterns that repeat as we age and change over time. This means that our story is like a spiral containing multiple elements that can all be revisited and reinterpreted in our quest to become more connected, compassionate, and contributing human beings.
OWNING OUR STORY
It can be a deeply meaningful spiritual practice to regularly return to our journey, integrate it more deeply into ourselves, and ensure that it influences us in positive ways as we move forward. Like any story, our journey consists of three parts: past, present, and future. We will explore each in turn over the next few weeks, but for now it is enough just to recognise them.
It is also important to recognise that each part contains both good and bad:
- In our PAST there will be experiences that we celebrate and carry with pride. I call these our trophies.
- But there will also be experiences of which we are ashamed, that contain trauma or failure or regret. I call these our wounds.
- In the PRESENT there are things we cling to, that bring meaning and value to our lives. I call these our treasures.
- But there are also things that we would love to get rid of, that burden us and make our lives more difficult than we would wish. I call these our junk.
- Finally, as we look to the FUTURE we will feel good about some of what we expect on the road ahead. I call these our hopes and dreams.
- But, there will also be things that we do not expect to be good, that will bring us pain, discomfort, or grief. I call these our fears and dreads.
THE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE OF WORKING WITH OUR STORIES
Take a moment now to reflect on your own story. What are your trophies, treasures, hopes, and dreams? What are your wounds, junk, fears, and dreads? Can you own everything or do you feel tempted to disown parts of your story? Can you feel compassion and pride toward your past self and can you carry confidence into the future?
Notice that there are elements in your story that you highlight and others that you downplay. Would you want to change how you tell your story at all? And if you do, how would that change the actual story for you?
As we learn to own our whole story and change it through changing how we tell it, we can find tremendous healing, empowerment, and meaning. And that can change the whole trajectory of our lives.
How have you worked with your story up to now? It would be wonderful if you would share your experiences in the comments below, and also let me know if this post has helped you in any way.
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