Our lives are made up of stories. It is natural for our minds to want to make sense of things by creating stories. Stories help us remember, understand, explain, and project into the future. The problem comes when we start believing and identifying with our stories. We believe the thoughts and feelings we create, and by repeating them over and over again we become stuck. Our past stories bring up our anger and depression. Our future stories trigger our fears and anxieties.
One way out of this predicament is to learn not to believe everything we think and feel. To realize that our stories are not real and that we can let them go. We’ve made up these stories through our thoughts and emotions. Remembering that thoughts and emotions are like clouds in the sky—they come and go and are not what is real, thus our stories aren’t real either.
An example of a constructed thought and accompanying emotion which has become a story is of a woman who recently lost her job. Even though she has a cushion of six months financial security and is being interviewed for several positions, she’s convinced herself that she is going to go broke, lose her home and have nowhere to live. This “story” is accompanied by fear and anxiety. These emotions affect her daily mood, ability to sleep and relationships with others.
As we come to learn and experience that we are not our believed thoughts and feelings, a greater space opens up within us. When this happens, we have the experience of being in the present moment, which is all we actually have. This space is not ruled by our stories. One way to experience that we are not our thoughts and feelings is through meditation and mindfulness, where we learn to step back and witness our thoughts arising and dissolving—seeing them as our mental constructs.
“Our stories of the past shape our experiences of the present. The primary value of a story is how it helps us create the world we live in.” (Tantra Illuminated)
My older son, Christopher, who wrote Tantra Illuminated, is the one who brought home to me how my stories about the future in relation to a family member were bringing me fear and anxiety. With his gentle feedback I saw how I was creating a story about a possible future that did not exist. As I dropped the story my fear and anxiety disappeared. I was left in the present moment with my breath and a feeling of peace. When I find the stories wanting to come back into my awareness, I remember Chris’s reminder, “Mum, there you go with your story—remember it is not real,” and I drop it and return to my breath and a state of calm.
Self inquiry is a very helpful process when we want to learn from our stories and let go of them.
Byron Katie’s “The Work” (http://www.thework.com) is an excellent way to do this.
I love her 4 Questions to ask about a story:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
It’s worth taking the time to examine your stories, especially the one’s that come up over and over again and keep you stuck whether they are about the past or the future. The more we let go of our stories the more we learn and grow and come into the present moment. In the present moment we feel our heart, experience the richness of silence, and enjoy the clarity of knowing what our next best step is.
What are your stories that are not serving you?
If you’d like to explore how to examine and let go of your story or stories please sign up for a free coaching session here on my website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Nothing can drain our life-force energy faster and more effectively than a well-spun story that is not in alignment with reality.” Tantra Illuminated
So many times when we are going through a major life change we come to an impasse. We feel stuck and don’t know how to break through. We’ve worked and worked at the situation, and we feel like we’ve hit the wall.
This is a very common experience, and there is a process which can support us to breakthrough or break out of this stuck place.
Bottom line—the best thing to do when you hit an impasse is to STOP and step back, let go, release. It’s important to let go completely of all your emotions and thoughts that are wrapped with the situation.
How can you do this? By shifting your focus to a totally new direction—quit concentrating on yourself, on how you are doing, performing, appearing and focus on what is going on outside your narrow focus of self interest.
What should you focus on instead? Engage your mind and feelings on something completely different—an activity that has a repetitive action which takes you completely away from your previous line of thinking. There are a variety of things you can focus on, and you will need to find out what works for you. For some it’s going out into nature—walking, jogging or sitting quietly in a beautiful spot and watching the sky, the birds, the waves, etc. For others it’s listening to a favorite piece of music, viewing a work of art, taking a long hot shower, knitting, meditating, praying, gardening…you get the idea.
What’s important is that the activity helps you completely step away from what you’ve been struggling with and the new activity is repetitive and non-stressful. It breaks you completely away from the self-limiting beliefs, anxieties and frustrations associated with your impasse.
What’s next? Once you are completely disengaged from the struggle or impasse allow yourself to become fully absorbed in the new activity you are doing. Often what happens is that a thought, image, refrain seems to come “out of nowhere,” giving you a whole new outlook. This may not happen every time. It takes practice, patience, and being without expectations in a completely relaxed state.
My experience: The other day I was struggling with trying to figure out how I could support my loved one with his illness. After stepping away from the struggle and sitting quietly focusing on my breath and letting go of all the thoughts and anxieties related to my struggle, while I was still and quiet, an idea came that I could create a love circle of friends and family that could send prayers, blessings, love and light to my loved one. I was immediately energized by the idea.
There is a great source of inner wisdom inside each of us and by letting go—refocusing, relaxing, and creating space—this allows the wisdom to emerge. Our job is to stay attuned and listen.