Friday, August 26, 2011

Stopping the story spinning

Listen to this post:

I know I'm a gifted storyteller; after all, I trained and worked as a journalist. For years, I spun the most positive stories for businesses. I began journaling 12 years ago, exploring my inner stories. Now, I'm finishing a book about my spiritual journey and how its individual movements are universal. I'm constantly listening for and composing stories.

And the internal stories have taken on their own life, projecting truths, realities, emotions and suffering that do not exist. My ego spins them, causing separation between me and others, me and God. The reel loops and loops, casting me as the victim.

A good example of this exploded into my life last Sunday. For the first time, I sat in Quaker worship and could not worship. I have never had that experience. Sure, it has taken most of the hour to settle, or my thoughts would sail in and out, but I always centered at some point. Not so Sunday. My chest was pounding, much like it does when I have ministry to share, but it didn't feel like worship. And it wouldn't die down. There was something grasping my heart that I had to let go. At the end of worship, in the time set aside for joys and prayer concerns, I stood, almost against my will, and in a weak voice asked for prayer for "forgiveness issues" with which I was struggling. I could hardly get the words out before the tears formed, muffling my voice even more. I sat down, quivering, yet managing to hold the other spoken joys and prayer requests in the silence. That, I could do.

As soon as the service was over, a handful of caring souls were at my side, softly rubbing my back, praying, asking what I needed, silently hugging me and sending their loving energy to me. I believe the entire room was.

I don't want to analyze what happened, just accept it with the awareness that seeing a dear F/friend (code for Quaker Friend and personal friend) really opened me and my heart. His presence allowed my soul to pick the scab off my heart and let the wound air. Publicly would not have been my preference, but, apparently, it was Spirit's.

Sight of him, with whom I feel intrinsically connected, reminded me of my communal concern for a number of members who have left the congregation hurting, seemingly disappearing without much pause. That has been my interest for a long time. One, I sometimes have felt led to personally remedy. I had not realized, though, that it had become mine personally – that I experienced a painful episode here. I felt unheard and have been dealing with that hurt, finally stuffing it down. I believed it was gone ... til Sunday.

Vocalizing that concern, being heard and loved, no matter what, in this community lifted a heavy burden. As I remarked at what a mess I was, a kind voice instantly responded: "We love you just the way you are here." My mind, body and spirit needed to hear that. It echoed my all-time favorite movie line from "Bridget Jones's Diary," which I had just watched, when straight-laced Darcy tells let-it-all-out Bridget: "I like you just as you are."

Yesterday, I had a pivotal phone conversation with one of my Quaker mentors who said the reason I had not received feedback after the painful episode was because no one wanted to contribute to my stress.

I had never considered that, only that they did not value me, my gifts or my work, they were not happy with what I had offered, they only wanted all I had to give ... you name it, the lies about the situation have all played out in my head. In the silence, I construed so many negative and harmful story possibilities.

A recent horoscope, which I read about twice a year, said what the silence offers me is good for me, even when it's nothing. Instead, I have woven that silence into something it was not.

My desire is to learn to accept, even revel in, what is offered me now and do so without all of the story spinning. Eckhart Tolle writes in "Stillness Speaks" that deleting the stories will simplify life. I want that, though I will use my gift to deeply listen to others' stories.

• What stories do I tell myself?
• How can I see the untruth in them?
• When have they caused suffering to me or another?
• How has that erupted or called out to me?
• What practices help me to diminish that tendency?

I'm so good at the spin,
I don't even know I'm
doing it

today, I'm paying

I caught myself
thinking the woman
who cut me off in the parking lot
only wanted to get somewhere faster,
not caring about safety – hers or mine

then, I remembered:
I have no idea of her intention

maybe she was rushing to meet a school bus,
take groceries to an elderly mother or
just not paying attention

I began to realize the ridiculousness
of the spinning, how much
energy it sucks

then, I let out a big
belly laugh and, God,
it felt good

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