To Get Out or Not?
On the path of spiritual and personal growth you might hear different recommendations as to what to do with your personal “story”. Story, meaning who you are, your past, your childhood, your work, your current relationship dynamics, hopes, dreams, fears, etc. What do we do with all of that? Go beyond it? Dive into it?
Some folks say you need to get out of your story altogether because it’s what holds you back in life, keeps you stuck, and only transcending it will help, and that is where peace and enlightenment lie.
Other folks might say that transcending your story is ass backwards and you need to get into your story more; it’s through your personal story and understanding it that you grow and relate more authentically with yourself and others.
How About Both?
In my experience, these aren’t the only two options. There’s at least one other possibility that I’ve found incredibly helpful along my path, one that I am still learning every day. I’d like to share this possibility with you in the form of a practice. In this practice you are going to both get out of and into your story. Try it out and see how it lands for you in your own experience.
Practice, Part 1: Getting Out of Your Story
In the first part of this practice, you’re going to get “out” of your story.
Sit in a comfortable yet attentive posture. Feel into your body, notice any tension, openness, or apathy in the different parts of your body. Let it all be ok. Then relax everything a bit.
Now listen deeply to your experience with freshness, as if you were listening to a stranger tell you about their life. Your story might come in thoughts, feelings, or sensations. Listen to all of them impartially and openly. At this point, do not start a story about what you’re experiencing and noticing. For the moment, you’re going to pause your inner storytelling. You’re not trying to make sense or understand anything at this point, you’re only witnessing and directly experiencing yourself as you are in this moment.
After you finish, perhaps 5-10 minutes, simply relax and let go, in the same way you might rest your eyes after having focused on an object for a long time. Just letting go without needing to do much.
This is getting out of your story. But note, it is not ignoring your story. It’s deep, radically open listening to your experience.
Practice, Part 2: Engaging Your Story (Your Life)
In the second part of this practice, you are going to integrate what you’ve directly experienced into your ongoing life story. This is the point at which you can start to understand your life, your story, in the present moment, with fresh awareness, and you do it on the foundation of that radical, impartial openness.
In this part, you could take any number of approaches to explore your story, especially therapeutic techniques. A simple place to start might be to ask an open question. What is needed? is one possible question. Using “what” here leaves it open. You, someone else, your relationship, your work, all of these or something else might be needing something. However, there are a number of questions you could ask. I suggest keeping them as open ended as possible.
Here you’re doing more listening, but you are engaging your life and your story with a deeper level of love and openness. From this space you can have a more organic and authentic relationship with your experience and how you show up in your life and take action.
Practicing in Every Moment
From directly experiencing ourselves as we are in this moment, nakedly, we will be able to understand ourselves anew. From this, we can then more deeply understand our story: our past, our present, and where we want to go in the next moment. And then we’ll have to do it all again, in every moment. There’s no escaping the present moment, ourselves, others, or life itself. Doing a simple practice like this can both cultivate space to open up to our own experience and other’s, and to respond with compassion and insight, regardless of our story and because of it.