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  • Nadya Booyse

Narrativium is powerful stuff. We have always had a drive to paint stories on to the Universe. When humans first looked at the stars, which are great flaming suns an unimaginable distance away, they saw in amongst them giant bulls, dragons, and local heroes. This human trait doesn't affect what the rules say -- not much, anyway -- but it does determine which rules we are willing to contemplate in the first place. Moreover, the rules of the universe have to be able to produce everything that we humans observe, which introduce a kind of narrative imperative into science, too. Humans think in stories...

- Science of Discworld I -

 

Human beings are hardwired for 2 things: growth, and storytelling. You can give someone all the facts that you can pull out of your grey matter, and with a serious amount of effort, they may end up absorbing some of it (more likely though,is that they are going to take the facts that suit their story, and ignore the ones that don't). But tell people a good story, story that shows us to ourselves, and they will draw it down into their hearts and bones as undeniable truth, even if the outline of the story is just make believe.

 

We know this, and this is why we tell our kids stories. But we also think that stories are only good for kids, so we stop teaching this way altogether at some point, even though evidence clearly shows us that stories are the way to go. Irrespective of the medium used, a good storyteller will hold a mirror up to the human condition, showing us the questions we need to consider, the changes we may need to make, how ridiculous we are, how we've grown, where we might be heading to, where we have come from, and what is possible. Storytelling is an art, or perhaps art is storytelling, and it is built into our very existence.

As individuals, we have an even better ability to tell and retain stories about the events of our lives, and these come to live in our daily physical existence even more so than external stories. The thing is that we are most often not aware of these stories or how they affect, sometimes even dibulitate, our everyday lives.

 

We are not Homo sapiens, Wise Man. We are the third chimpanzee. What distinguishes us from the ordinary chimpanzee Pan troglodytes and the bonobo chimpanzee Pan paniscus, is something far more subtle than our enormous brain, three times as large as theirs in proportion to body weight. It is what that brain makes possible. And the most significant contribution that our large brain made to our approach to the universe was to endow us with the power of story. We are Pan narrans, the storytelling ape.

- The Science of Discworld II -

 

When our stories affect our actions, we find ourselves repeating the same patterns, experiencing the same discontents, having the same arguments, over and over again. There are many ways to become aware of these stories and patterns. One of the ones I enjoy the most is yoga, and I combine this with a couple of other skills and practices to assist my students in unraveling themselves. As they become aware of their patterns, in movements as well as thinking, and the reactions these evoke, we start looking at the deep seated beliefs that form the core of these patterns. Perhaps we go as deep as trying to uncover the original event and the story that was told around it, but how deep we work is up to each student.

 

Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell. - Charles de Lint -

 

Becoming aware of the patterns and learning how to navigate around and through them, is already enough to start each person on a journey towards rewriting how they live. There will be no denying of the events or the effects they had, but there will be a chance to learn how we are still reliving them even long after their time has passed.

 

The work we do is about learning to live fully as we rewrite our own stories; it is the big change that comes after the crisis of the plot has already been revealed, where there is an understanding of what is not working/has failed/requires a revolution, and the main character needs to take the next step to action, or have no story apart from repeating that which has come before. Most heroes choose to be a bit clever, to change, to understand, to adapt, and maybe even to fight, no matter how much they have suffered or how stupid they have been up until that point.

 

It is about finding the courage to unravel and reveal your truest version, to find out what has been broken, what requires healing, and then to live from that space.