Monday, December 6, 2010

In the Deep, Dark Cold of Winter Comes the Warmth of Story!

Now's the time of year to deepen your roots in preparation for a greater blossoming. One way to do that is through discovering your own myth -- your deepest and truest story, the one that holds your passion and purpose in life.

Here's a quick story exercise to help you find your myth. It's taken from Tristine Rainer's book, Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature, (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1997). I highly recommend this book to people who want to find the story in their life, and I often use it to help my private clients get a big-picture story sense of their life and the shape of our work together. This tale can be drawn, danced, sung, and acted out. But the essence, in my experience, is writing it first. (Please remember that this exercise, almost verbatim, is Ms. Rainer's, and not mine originally.)

"Write a fairy tale about yourself in 3 sentences or short paragraphs, without too much thought, in 10 minutes or less.

In its simplest form, a fairy tale has 3 parts:

-- Something happens that causes a problem for a person or a group.
-- They struggle to find a solution.
-- They experience a transformation and have a realization.

(Example from Tristine Rainer's book, p. 45:
-- Once upon a time there was a little girl whose mother was dragged away kicking and screaming by men in white coats.
-- The little girl began to hate her mother and wish she would never come home.
-- In the end, though, she felt compassion for her mother and loved her as she had always wanted to love a mother.)

Now it's your turn. You can pick something that happened in the past, or that is happening in the present and imagine the change it can bring about:

'Once upon a time, there was a...(little girl, woman, boy, man, family, team, village, etc.)'

-- the problem;
-- your struggle to resolve it;
-- how you changed and what you learned (or how you could change and what the experience might teach you)."

Me again: You have here the bones of a possibly huge story that can be fleshed out over weeks or months. This is at least part of your personal myth and it can help you understand in a deeper way who you are and where you're going. The point is, and I hope you see from this quick exercise, that you have a story. Your story imagination is instinctive, it's dynamic and full of unseen possibilties, and it gives structure and meaning to difficult experience.


Are you interested in this? Please write me at if you would be interested in participating, either in person or online, or if you have questions about any other services I offer.


For healers, writers, other artists, coaches, people in transition, and anyone interested in applying the power of the story imagination to their life.

When someone undertakes a great work -- be it getting well, rebuilding a life after it's been shattered by loss, finding meaning and purpose in life, or starting a creative project -- they step out on a hero's journey that mirrors the first great heroic journey in life: the developmental stages through childhood to adulthood. In story, these stages are thresholds expressed as chapters, scenes, and vignettes. Creative struggle in adulthood can bring to light buried thresholds and parts of the self that need attention and nourishment for one to become whole.

Working in a metaphorical, right-brain developmental model such as the hero's journey provides safe access to these places in the unconscious, at the crossroads of mind and body, that lie beyond the limits of rational exploration through memory and ordinary language -- often without ever talking about them. This is the healing power of art. In the "Once upon a time" realm of myth, crisis or challenge opens a path to the inner grail that all people seek: peace of heart and mind, alignment of intention and action, and full release of the life force into one's present life.

The ancient narrative of resilience and transformation that tells of disaster, quest, victory, and wise return can be found in every great story, transformational experience, and meaningful life. It tells of the universal struggle to navigate and grow through crisis and shows us how to transform personal and collective misfortune into deep and necessary change. Using stories and poetry from the exuberant mosaic of the world's written and oral traditions, this unique writing group will teach you how to apply the inspiring hero's/heroine's journey paradigm to any challenging project, difficult life passage, or simply to enrich life itself.

Comments from previous participants: 

"Life changing. Affirming what I thought, taking me to the next level from where I was to where I want to be in life. I gained many new insights into myself, relationships, and place in the world. Deep inner change at my core. I took on a writing challenge during this group to write a novel in one month, and they each seemed to feed each other. Would I have accepted the challenge if I hadn't been on the hero's journey? Who knows. The depth of change would probably not have been there. My imagination seemed to open up. I became a better writer and person. I started a book on 11/1 and completed it on 11/22 -- 177 pages, 53,480 words! Woohoo!"

"I loved that it was a small group, with a sense of space and time that I loved. I felt seen, heard, understood, and encouraged. The framework of the heroine's journey is very empowering. To see my life as an epic adventure allows for all the catastrophes and losses to be incorporated, to be seen as part of the celebration of life, rather than shameful episodes that need to be covered up as quickly as possible."

"During the course I felt more and more comfortable about my work and sometimes even proud or surprised. Every class was a new thing and I never knew what to expect from myself. It just felt like I could trust my gut, let go of the inner police, and enjoy, create like a kid, play! I was able to remember how to play!"


In my private practice I work with adults coping with past trauma, loss, life transition, and relationship/work issues. My clients also include people who want to explore their creativity or need support for a creative project. In addition, I am now offering my story consulting services to socially-conscious businesses and organizations that want to provide stress reduction and team building programs for their staffs. Write: