Usually around Passover each year I think about the concepts of Freedom and Bondage and how they are showing up in our personal lives, our hearts and our minds. This year I have also been thinking a lot about storytelling and how crucial it is on our personal and collective journey toward (or away from) this freedom.
One of the mitzvah’s of Passover is telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Why?
So it is never forgotten and so we are less likely to repeat the mistakes of the past, to remember the pain and soften our hearts, to see where in ourselves we are both slave and enslaver, to not take freedom for granted, to remember to say no to injustice and to remember to stay awake!
So I ask you, do you think that you are free? Do you know where you are not? Are you awake to it?
When thinking about the world we are a part of – family dynamics, society, news, social media, politics, global affairs; are you aware of how much you are embedded in, even lost in these influences around you?
Think about your mind and heart for a minute. How much of the time are they alive and free? If you look more closely, chances are you are less free than you would like and are really chained to what is comfortable and known to you, at least partially so.
You are chained to the known and seemingly safe.
And I get it, we all want to be safe, comfortable and okay. But also, because of this, it seems like we are more and more needing to split the world into what we like and agree with, what is comfortable to us – and then to essentially try to kill off, metaphorically speaking, what we don’t like, what we disagree with.
This is true even if we are more on the “enlightened” side of society, whatever we think that is.
There is this movement towards essentially killing off in our society right now and it is alarming: book banning, restrictive and discriminatory laws being passed, absolute rejection of other’s ideas and beliefs, cancel culture.
What happened to thoughtful, intelligent debate?
Why is our ability to tolerate differences seemingly getting smaller and smaller for so many people?
We are becoming more fragile inside and less free. Many people now need other people and circumstances to be very certain ways for them to feel okay, to be okay.
This trend is heartbreaking. I loved having friends that I disagreed with on very core, fundamental issues, like spirituality, religion, spiritual healing, business or politics. We would have thoughtful, impassioned discussions. Giving each other the opportunity to formulate our thoughts and express ourselves. The gift to hear and be heard – to stand openly with another person and really take them in, even appreciating the beauty of their expression – even if I fundamentally disagreed with what they were saying.
Disagreeing didn’t have to diminish the beauty of the human in front of me expressing themself. It didn’t need to threaten me. It didn’t take anything away from me to experience them that way.
In fact, giving them permission, inside of me, to fully exist as themselves, actually empowered me.
It let me stand in my own BEINGNESS just as I allowed them to stand in their BEINGNESS. We both became more whole and complete humans – in a completely different paradigm than one of us being so-called right or wrong.
These are very core and fundamental needs each one of us has. To express ourselves, to be known, to hear and be heard. The real need isn’t to be right, but somehow we are losing sight of that.
In short, I fear that we are putting ourselves in chains. We are making ourselves smaller and more fragile, and it is so painful and heartbreaking to see.
As we need to make our experience of life smaller and more limited, to be okay, we are cutting ourselves off from the rest of life too: pleasure, companionship, joy, beauty and grace. We can’t simply cut off parts of life we disagree with and think it won’t affect the rest of who we are.
Initially, turning towards life is harder and often even more painful, in the short term. It means having uncomfortable conversations, taking risks, being vulnerable, feeling difficult feelings like shame, fear, anger and confusion. We are human so sometimes we will turn away, but then it means turning back towards and remembering we want to be in life more, part of life more.
This is where true freedom comes from.
It also means being able to choose what is right for you and what is not – a discernment born from knowing oneself and facing your fears and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, we think we are choosing or discerning but in reality we are just trying to save ourselves from what we don’t like, making us smaller and more fragile instead of more open, flexible, larger and spacious.
So what does Sacred Storytelling have to do with this?
Our society has trends in it right now where people are afraid of telling the stories of our collective past. There is too much shame around what we have done to each other and continue to do in a lot of ways. We’d rather bury our heads in the personal and collective sand than talk about what happened, explore different points of view, and hear about how other people have suffered.
In addition to NOT telling the healing stories of our past, there is also the trend to make up stories that reinforce the splitting of the world, strengthening fears and creating more separation.
To deny the stories of our past is a sure road to repeat the same mistakes.
Many have spent decades fortifying a sense of a secure self and would rather lie to themselves along the way and believe the lies, because it is more comfortable than to question their beliefs.
To really open up to something different is too terrifying for so many people.
To this point, honestly, it also comes down to the unconscious terror that everyone carries about the destruction of their sense of self. The desperation to stay in the known is born of the terror of annihilation of the ego, but that is a deeper topic for another discussion.
If you know someone who just isn’t willing to consider another point of view, if they are locked in their familiar, comfortable perspective, remember, the concept of change may be so unconsciously terrifying to them. Perhaps along with our intolerance for the intolerant we can also remember some compassion for what lies beneath.
Back to storytelling. So many things to say here about what I have learned along the way:
1. What about the story of your past, including your old wounding or trauma? Telling the story of it will start to “wear out” the teeth and bite of your past. Not right away, but if you tell your story over and over, safely, and in settings it can be heard and held, the original binding of life will start to relax and unwind. You will start to find more of yourself in it. It will be able to live more safely in your body and mind, more as the past event that it was and less as the life-derailing, psyche shaping event that you experienced it to be.
2. As we tell our stories and they are heard and held, the trance of the past will weaken. As it weakens it is able to inhabit more of its rightful place, as events that occurred in the past and that don’t need to shape the present so much.
3. Deepening relationship! To listen to another’s story, to really allow yourself to be present to it without needing to fix it or add clarity or perspective or somehow “save” them from their past. Something miraculous happens when we can bear to be with something, anything, simply as it is – this return to Beingness occurs and it is real, modern day magic. It transcends the details of someone’s past, yet somehow has a place for it. Life and our inner world no longer contracts in response to what happened and life can then go on being, go on living, in the present.
4. When we can hear and be heard in this way, our heart, our open heartedness, becomes more of the natural state of being it is supposed to be.
Pay attention and ask, “Does telling your story liberate you? Does it make others feel safer and understood? Or does it simply shore-up a rigid state of mind and heart? Does it help life to move forward more freely, more tenderly, more vibrantly, more interconnected, more nourished and dynamic? Or does it cut the world into smaller pieces and simply validate what you already “know” to be true?”
Does it nourish and honor the infinite diversity that is the truth of all of life?
May we all know ourselves and our stories with kindness and compassion. May the knowing of our stories bring us more freedom and peace. May they help us know our place in the infinite, interconnected web of life, of which each of us is an integral part.
~ Damon Farnum, A Life Awakening