Sacred Storytelling

Everyone has a story written under torn paper.

Our instructor in last week’s writing workshop told us Sunday night things would get intimate very quickly. Having been to numerous retreats where I did my own personal work among other women, I am used to that kind of intimacy. But this was a writing workshop. I expected it to be an English class. I’d learn how to develop a character, outline a plot or experiment with phrasing.

The first writing exercise was a timed event with some writing prompts designed to inspire a story from our lives. I wrote about our family’s love of watermelons and my paternal grandfather. I’d written this story before, but I wanted to take another stab at it when I had others to help me evolve the structure. As I wrote, I became a little girl sweating in a Louisiana summer wiping watermelon juice off my elbow. My grandfather came to life, and I felt his presence. I heard his voice extolling the sweetness of the melon. The Pacific Ocean gave way to a green pasture with a picnic table off Hunstock Road.

There are days when go through the motions of writing. On other days I am whisked away to another time and another place. I don’t feel like I’m writing. I’m channelling a story from somewhere else. Writing like that is a spiritual experience. I float. I disappear. I flow.

As my energy shifted in that room of 17 women, so did the energy in the room. One woman after another read a story from her life. There was abuse and abandonment and laughter and grief. Although the narratives were different, the experiences were universal. Just as the writing had deepened my inner experience, the reading deepened the connections between us. In the span of an hour our little tribe transformed. Walls evaporated, and a river materialized. Within its depths there was room for all of us. As one organism, we flowed deeply through the wilderness of our hearts.

Secrets make us sick. The intimacy that develops when people tell their stories is a salve. I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and we crave the mingling of our souls. The Bible is a collection of stories designed to illustrate the imperfections of being human. Twelve step programs and therapy are other healing practices designed to encourage storytelling in a safe environment. We aren’t inspired by being told what to do. We are inspired when connecting with others. Through the dissolution of the walls between us, we strengthen.

Will you tell yours? Have you written down any of the stories of your life? Could you share them with someone?

11 Comments on “Sacred Storytelling

  1. When I was working for the consulting firm developing training programs, some colleagues and I put together a training session for our group of training developers in storytelling. We brought in a guy who has worked with TedX to help us understand how to develop Ted Talk like experiences. The clinician wasn’t really very helpful, but I and my work colleagues each developed a short (5 minute) talk that, in virtually every case turned out to be personal and revealing about ourselves. This was a group of about 25 people, almost all of us women. The session was designed to help us hone our storytelling skills. An unintended benefit was that it made us closer as a group through the act of revealing ourselves to each other more fully. Revealing oneself can be a very powerful act.

    • I love this idea! I have no idea why our culture evolved in the direction of hiding ourselves. I think we are seeing the symptoms of that right now.

  2. As one of the writers in the workshop, you captured our transformation from uneasy strangers (Will my work be good enough? Am I brave enough to share this secret?) to a supportive group of writers of all genres and levels. The brave “first responders” who read early, were met with nods of understanding, sometimes tears, and always acceptance. Enjoying your terrific blog, Sharon! P.S. I am just starting to set up my blog. Thanks for encouraging me! Best, Meg.

  3. “Secrets make us sick. The intimacy that develops when people tell their stories is a salve.” So good. I wholeheartedly agree.

  4. Hi Sharon. You’re right. If you go to my blog you’re gonna see the inscribed title: I AM A BOOK.

    Why this? Well, I got thinking sometime back and it really bemused me why writers never write about themselves. It’s always characters, plot, furniture, trees, monsters, space and whatnot, but never about the writer themselves. That’s the thought process that led to me rebounding my site. I am a book. I am what you read and not some hardcover. Me.

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