Exploring Your Current Story
What is the story of your life? In answering, your first instinct might be to list in sequence the significant events you’ve experienced. However, if you define your story in this way, you may not recognize your authorship of it. It might seem that things happen to you without your having much control over them.
To claim your role as the storyteller of your life, it is helpful to observe that your story has pat- terns and themes. In this chapter, you will work with exercises that allow you to discover your story’s themes, which serve as organizing principles for the events of your life.
Shamans look beyond the sequence of what happened and when. They see the themes of a person’s life as energetic threads woven into a fabric, and pull out certain threads so that they can be replaced with new ones, reweaving the person’s present and future. As you identify the themes in your story, you will come to better understand the idea of energetic influences on your story. A thread of caretaking, struggle, leadership, or curiosity may be a part of your fab- ric without your realizing it. One woman found in the process of discovering her story that the theme that most stood out for her was a fear of being swallowed up, or subsumed, and being forced back into old patterns.
Examining your story from different angles and telling it in a variety of ways makes it easier to identify such themes. In this chapter, you will do many writing exercises and answer many questions that will help you in this task. The insights you gain from doing the work in this chap- ter will make it easier for you to recognize which energies you want to bring into your life, and better understand the experiences you will have, when you start using the practices described later.
Each of these exercises will be helpful in exploring your story because each allows you to see it from a different angle. Start by doing the ones that resonate most for you. Take your time with them. After you begin to work with the shamanic and Jungian techniques and take jour- neys, be sure to complete all of the exercises in this and the following chapters. It will take some time to get through all the exercises in the book, but you will find they enhance your jour- neying and other shamanic experiences, and vice versa.
Some of the exercises may be emotionally challenging to work with. If you find it difficult to complete one, put it aside and think about it for a day or two before coming back to it. Do your best to answer the questions. In time, come back and reread what you have written and think about whether you would have different answers, having gained new insights as a result of doing the exercises.
The scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski stated, “A map is not the territory it repre- sents.” Your life is more than a series of events that happen over the course of time. It is a story with themes and patterns. How you tell your story is up to you, but if you can tell it honestly and are willing to work with energies that affect your personal energy field, you can write an en- tirely new story with new themes and new patterns of events. It may be far more empowering and fulfilling than the one you tell now, even though you will not change the facts about what happened to you in the past. You will modify your interpretation of them, and your framing of them. The emotional charge of your wounds will be diminished, and your experiences can be infused with new emotional energies, such as pride in having survived difficulties, or joy in hav- ing created something positive out of suffering. The beliefs and emotions that color the tale may reveal themselves and even change as you explore your story.
Imagine that you have been an actor in a story written by someone else. You have acted ac- cording to a script, unaware that you could change it at any time. Now you are going to be the writer and director as well as the actor. A part of your awareness can step back from the stage or move behind the camera to see the events being played out. You can call “cut” and redirect what is happening. You are reclaiming your power to tell the story you have lived and direct where it goes from here.
You have not been the only director of your story until this point. Parents, friends, bosses, teachers, loved ones, and even time and inertia are just a few of your co-directors. It’s hard being the director of your own story, but as you become more used to witnessing and directing what is going on in your life, you will find you are less willing to relinquish your power. As you begin the process of stepping back to observe your story, you will experience many emotions and perhaps many new insights as well, if you are paying close attention. Be sure to set aside time to completely focus on doing the writing exercises in this chapter.