Shifting stories

how we see the world is changing. so is how we see.

The truth is, I don’t know how to explain. I know how to invite. I know how to listen and reflect what I see.

The truth is, I don’t know what is happening - not really. I only know what I see before me. When a client tells me a story, this thing happens inside of me where I am moved and moved into it. Into the client’s story world, into an imaginal space which is not mine. This is kind of but not really the same thing that happens when I am reading a novel or watching a film, I am moved into it.

My husband used to laugh. We’d come out of a movie and I’d still be inside the world of the movie. We’d be sitting in a diner in Nanuet, NY and I’d be still in Verona, mourning the loss of the love between William Shakespeare and Violet Aleta.

With a client, it’s different. I can hold a real person’s story with them. But it’s theirs. I don’t take it inside of me. I used to. But I don’t anymore. The more clients I worked with, the more my consciousness adapted. Now, I experience my clients’ stories inside of an imaginal room which is just …. there. It appears about five minutes into a client call, opening like a diorama to the right of my forehead. As I listen, the story builds itself in there. I can’t explain this either. All I can do is tell you what happens.

One of the challenges we are all facing right now is managing our inborn empathy. We are all empaths - all capable of feeling into, and entering into the stories of other people. This happens on social media, for example. If I follow someone closely, for a period of time, I get involved. I feel concern for them. This is a natural outpouring of connection, of empathy. On Instagram, though, it’s weird to care so deeply about people you don’t know - and never will.

This is interesting to me. What will we make - adaptively - of the flattening of separation between celebrity and regular folk. At first, for me, it all felt too close. I didn’t follow ANY celebrities. I didn’t want to see Reese Witherspoon’s closet, I didn’t want to see Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach argue. I didn’t want to be inside Jennifer Garner’s kitchen… but also, I did. You know? It’s weird.

This thing where we enter into alternate stories is not unique to me. You do it, too. We all do it.

I just do it this way. I wasn’t aware I was doing it this way. When I became aware, I was fascinated. I started to study it. I noticed that when I was in a client, inside of their story, time flowed in story time - that thing where, when you’re watching a film, two hours go by and you wake up to find the credits rolling and your popcorn empty. I was always fully present - but we were together inside of an alternate time, a liminal time outside of time. Inside of that liminal time/space, we could flow back to the past, through memory as if flying over a map of the client’s life. We could flow forward, not reading the future in a psychic sense but tracing the trajectories of probability. As in, if this pattern of thinking continues, it will lead here.

With films and stories (and Instagram) I couldn’t quite maintain my individual self. I could almost catch the moment when I slipped away - into the story, into Jamie Oliver’s family room. But it was like trying to notice the moment you fall asleep. You notice but then you’re asleep.

I noticed, but then I was swept into the story.

Anyway, right now, I think, we’re all slipping in and out of sleep - in and out of a dream. Pandemic. Trump/Pence. More pandemic. Biden/Harris.

We watch things on TV. We go on Zoom. For a moment, last year, when I was recovering from Covid, feeling dreamy, I noticed that when I went outside there was this weird click when I realized: I am outside, looking at nature but it feels like I am ‘watching nature’ as through a screen. As if nature was some performance on TV or the internet and I was viewing it through my virtual reality glasses.

I walked around touching things. This is real. This is real. This is real. I did it until the screen between me and the tree, the mailbox, the fence, the cow (I touched a cow) went away. That day was strange. It was during that time that I decided to shift away from social media.

Why am I writing this? because something inside of me as a writer is also shifting.

Also, I need to reach out today - I need to write about real things in the moment when they are happening. And today, the day after I announced this new format for my work, this is what’s happening: I am feeling vulnerable and I am reaching for the tree, the mailbox, the cow inside of myself. The touchstones that remind me who I am and what is real. For a writer, those touchstones are the word, the paper and pen, the reader.

It is not always easy to see and feel so deeply. And recently, I’ve been reading back through my Flow Journals to situate this time that we’re living through inside of my own story, my own time map. I started writing my Flow Journals about seven years ago, when my parents were both dying at the same time and I was trying not to lose myself in chaos and grief and overwhelm. I wrote down everything that happened - conversations, grocery lists, what I ate, where I went. It helped - and reading back through it, I can see that I was doing deep work.

I was feeling myself arrive inside of myself. That’s the best way I have to descibe it. As if I was living slightly outside of my own body and, through the Flow Journaling, and the intensive yoga teacher training I was doing, and the experience of grief and surrender, grief and surrender, I was experiencing, I was coming back to life.

This morning, in my 2018 Flow Journal, I came across this entry dated June 17th:

“I feel I have to drive to California. I need to visit Max - soon. I need to move - across space. My body needs to cover ground. I can’t explain this. I … have to move… Like, I want to go to Pacifica but I am not moving on it… “ I told my husband.

“Why don’t you get up and move this?” he suggested.

“What?”

“I mean stand up and move what you’re saying. Let it move.”

I stood up and closed my eyes and let moving move inside of me. My daughter was there and she said, “That’s eurythmy,” which is a movement practiced in Waldorf Schools.

“It’s not,” I said. “This is movement moving inside of me. Movement speaking to the body directly, without the intercessory of the mind between them.”

It feels important to say that while movement was moving me from the kitchen to the living room and out into the back yard, my husband pulled out his camera and started filming me. This feels important to say because of the strange convergence of surrendering to deep wildness and having to share that with an audience. That sense of too-closeness and living from behind a screen again.

I am aware that we are shifting - the whole culture, the whole world. I am aware that changes to our consciousness are occurring at the level of the root and that some of these changes are responses: we’re not wired to be so wired up, all of the cultures thrown together in one big Tiktok/Instagram/Facebook soup. We have to catch up. Which can feel, if you are sensitive to energy, as if you have stepped onto a magic carpet that likes to fly you slightly off the ground, faster than you are comfortable moving.

Which is to say that some of the changes - our attention span, for example, and, I suspect some of the inflammatory symptoms we’re seeing in the body - are probably adaptive. As we all try to keep up, we shift together, and our shifting shifts the culture - and that shifts the world. This may explain the speed at which the conversation around somatic experience and the effects of trauma is moving as we all become aware of our own histories - personal, ancestral, collective. And the rise of the parallel (not parallel but interconnected) conversations around sexual assault, systemic misogyny and structural racism. It’s all connected. We are (finally) all moving together.

It’s messy but movement will move. In the body, bound trauma will push to the surface. In culture, the same.

I could say that the world is falling apart for a reason but I don’t know. I will say that I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. I still believe this but in a wider, deeper way. A way that knows that even if this is true, I probably won’t ever know that reason. A way that understands that believing in ‘reasons’ may be a response to trauma - to something that’s upsetting or hurting us.

Reason is how we humans have adapted to change. A ‘reason’ gives us something to hold onto as movement rises inside of us and moves us. A reason makes things that don’t make sense into a pattern, an order, a story.

As movement moves us, reason names it wildness, labels it irrational and sets it to the side. Still, movement rises within us. Still, our cheek against the nubbly bark of a tree, our palm against the warm and prickly hide of a cow knows what it knows.

——

This is my current offering. If you’re interested, we begin next week.

If you’d like to join me for tea today, Live, I’ll be over here at Noon. (It’s a FB room, which is a new FB feature, little boxes with faces and talking, like Zoom. I’m told you don’t need a FB account to join me there. We’ll see.)