Sunday, July 3, 2016

We Are The Stories

studio shot
As I got ready for a visit with a friend I haven't seen in a while the thought crossed my mind that I was looking forward to hearing the story of how her life was right now. And I thought about how I would share the stories of my life, what was blooming and wilting, what I'd neglected or nourished. I looked forward to the walking and talking we were going to do.

And then I realized we humans have always told stories, to our friends, to our children, to our lovers. Really, we are all about the stories. We create them, we live in them, we anticipate them. It does something important for us, it connects us, it helps us understand, it comforts us.  Sitting around fires or wells or tables we have told and continue to tell the story of family, our work, our history, of love and betrayal, of amazing feats and failures. Depending on our inclination we peer into the past and tell those stories. Or we might be inclined to tell the stories of the future as we nurture our aspirations and intentions. We love to read a good story, to watch a good story but it is the interactive stories that build and sustain relationships and help us make sense of our lives.  These are the real meat and potatoes of life (we do offer a vegetarian substitution here, no extra charge).
two on the wall
My friend and I, as we covered the ups and downs of our 7 kilometer walk told each other the stories of now; what was going on what puzzled us, what troubled us, and where we were learning and growing, the funny bits, the awkward bits. We offered each other encouragement and insight as we are want to do, and shared bits of wisdom that had been gifted to us over the years that might be helpful to the other.

It can be in the hearing ourselves tell the story that we make sense of them because often that's what we're trying to do.  It's like EM Forster's comment "how do I know what I think until I see what I say", which is about writing but works equally well for the oral tradition. We connect through the sharing of our stories. We offer our vulnerability to another so that they may share theirs., so they feel less alone. We become visible to one another in all our confused imperfections and our shared humanness.

Though the content may be different, the eternal themes stitch us together. Here are a few we covered as we passed through patches of sun and shade on the road, walked up hill and down, paused to enquire about a neighbour's garden: It can be difficult for us and those around us to effect real change. Things don't always work out the way we expected. People don't do what we think they should.  We don't do what people think we should. People change. Feelings get hurt, soft spots get poked. Wasps sting us. Learning and growth make it all worth while. We are all works in progress.  Our shared stories connect us little human dots.  It warms our heart to know someone cares enough to want to hear our story. We recognize the generosity of our own heart (all of us) as we listen to the other person's story.

It's been so long since I've posted (I kind of feel like I'm writing a letter to a dear friend) There are so many tiny bits of story I want to share. Mostly it's the tidbits that have inspired me that I think might uplift someone else. I have read "The Brain That Changes Itself" and "The Brain's Way of Healing", both about the incredible power and weirdness of neuroplasticity. I love to hear about the science of the mind but always it feels incomplete if it leaves off there. We are so much more than science can ever comprehend. But the books inspired me to take a Feldenkrais class which accesses the some of the hidden potential of the brain. I was smitten by James Doty's "Into The Magic Shop" which is written like a page turner and offers a non Buddhist approach to Eastern practices.

Doubt has been up on my art radar with huge intensity and I've been reluctant to share for a few reasons but it's a worthwhile dissection I think. If I'm fortunate the patient will not survive dissection. It's been an interesting few months but that's another blog post.

in progress
And the last tidbit: On a long drive to the most westerly part of our coast we listened to a recorded retreat by Eckhart Tolle (sorry Lynette) and found such wise simplicity. One thing really resonated. It went something like this: A lot of the time when we complain and grumble about people and situations what we are really saying is "this shouldn't be happening" which is vaguely astounding when you think of it this way. One morning as I listened to my neighbour filling the airwaves with industrial park sounds from his woodworking shop I realized (as I grumbled) that I was saying just that. And it struck me as ridiculous because, it was happening. Tolle reminds us that we have a choice about how we are going to hold that situation.  We can allow it to disturb us and flavour our day with bitterness. We can brace ourselves against it or we can find a way to be with what is. And this has stuck with me as I recognize myself in big and small ways saying "this shouldn't be happening" and reorient myself.  So wishing you days filled with "this should be happening" or at least "this is happening". Be well.


  1. Good to see some of yr writing, again. We can, of course, get over-involved in the story of "our life". i like to say "It's just scenery."....(with a nod to Uchiyama Roshi)..."Don't take yr life personally." Anyway, loved yr words and artworx :-)

  2. nice to see you here too! thanks for the wise words and the kind words, Bernard. <3

  3. Good to hear from you, Carole. I'm not using FB any longer so I've fallen out of touch. I loved what you wrote about checking in with your friend about what's going on in your lives, what's working, what's not, etc. To be honest, I don't know if I've ever had a friendship quite like that, what I would characterize as a dharma friend whether or not your friend is a practitioner. This is something I've been looking at closely for the past year, among other things. It doesn't suffice any more to swap stories like pissing contests, to rehash wrongs done by me or to me, to gossip, to be flitteringly social, etc. Yet most if not all of my friendships have been based on these things. Consequently I've pulled way back into reclusiveness in the past year. I got so sick of my own story and I don't have a lot to say in its absence.
    Your paintings are gorgeous, lush, rich. Happy summer to you!

  4. this friend is not a dharma practitioner but in classic introvert style we like to chat about internal processes rather than external things. Sounds like you just haven't found the right match yet. I know the feeling of being in the awkward spot of recognizing you don't want to do something anymore but not yet having anything that replaces it. sounds like you are on the road though?

    thanks for the kind words and yes happy summer!

    1. Thanks for your reply, Carole. I think you're right about that particular style of communication being an introvert-to-introvert thing. As a matter of fact, I have been deepening a friendship with a fellow introvert and am enjoying the rewards of more-real communication about things that matter. Thanks again.

  5. Your words always inspire me, enlighten me, and give me chewy thoughts to think on. It is beautiful to have a friend you can share those bits of life with. I love Ike what you say about embracing what happens because it's happening, and the importance of telling stories. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous paintings and all the other chewy ideas.

  6. I always love your posts, and these paintings are wonderful. I love what you share and the Eckhart Tolle quote is lovely. Dealing with the same issue, Matt Khan says to say thank you and to love what arises. Sometimes hard to do, but helps so much when I remember. I have been dealing with the flip side of doubt-faith, and it seems loving what arises helps with that too. xoxo

  7. Thanks Annie <3. I just pulled out my copy of Sharon Salzburg's "Faith" yesterday after being reminded of it by a friend. I was curious as Faith seems the polar opposite of doubt.

  8. Love 'Faith', such a soothing read and Tolle ...such a wise voice for wisdom and your share of walking talking friends listening caring sharing deciding what is worthy of story fire side wells of discovery recovery...yum.

  9. awww, thanks! yes, we are usually on the same page <3