Storytelling Animals

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” – Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal

 What stories are you telling today? What stories are you repeating in your head about yourself?

Explicitly, does it sound something like this: I am a failure. I am not smart enough. I am unlovable.

Or like this: I am interesting. I have many gifts to offer. I love myself.

What stories are you telling about others? What stories are you believing? What stories are you questioning?

How are you educating yourself? What sites are you reading on the internet? What images are you seeing? What books are you reading? What entertainment are you seeking?

How are your dreams at night? Do you remember them? Do you want to remember them? How can we remember them? Do they evoke excitement or shame or fear? How can we change our dreams? How can we make them better?

Why do we use the same word to describe our mind’s stories, but also our mind’s deepest desires? Where do dreams start? Do our sleeping dreams come from the stories we tell our waking selves? Or is it the other way around? Where is the subconscious and how do we bend it? Can it be shaped or are we at the mercy of our place in this tangled web of storytelling animals?

Affirmations. Meditations. Physical fitness. Spiritual community. Yoga. Creative outlets. Gratitude.

You can do all of these things in an attempt to tap into your subconscious, but unless you remain aware of your stories in every moment of every day, you can lose reign on your thoughts. 

I returned home this afternoon after a full productive morning. I saw opened empty boxes and instead of feeling gratitude for the new bedding I ordered for my family, I saw messes. I saw unwashed dishes on the counter and instead of feeling proud that I cook for my family, I saw a dirty kitchen. I saw the opened suitcase with clothes spilling out and instead of recalling the sweetness of my weekend in Seattle, I saw more messes.

What if the piles of papers on my desk means that I am involved in my daughter’s education and what if the jumble of photographs in my desk drawer means I am rich with memories and what if my plethora of notebooks means I have multiple projects and passions and trains of thought?

These are little things, but the little stories add up to the big story. The more good things I believe, the more good I find. It’s a simple equation. It helps me write. The more I write, the more inspired I am. It helps me smile. The more I smile, the happier I am, the more I smile. It helps me understand others. The more empathy I have, the less I judge and the more I love. And love, I believe, is the only path to heaven on earth.

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One thought on “Storytelling Animals

  1. I have been reading, “Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting,” by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn and just in the last chapter I was reading how when we are rigid about our beliefs about people and how things are that we deny evidence for the contrary. Sounds like you are seeing what is really behind the mess, a beautiful life filled with creativity and love! The chapter ends with a beautiful poem:

    Be empty of worrying.
    Think of who created thought!

    Why do you stay in prison
    When the door is so wide open?

    Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
    Live in Silence.

    Flow down and down in always
    widening rings of beings

    RUMI

    Like

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