What do we know about the world? How do we know what we know? We might respond that we have learned about our world through books and classes we have taken in school. What it comes down to is that our human world is based on story. For thousands of years stories were memorized and passed down verbally through the generations. Once written language came into being stories were recorded in written form.
I have always loved stories and probably because of this I became an avid reader at a very early age. I also loved learning about the world, different cultures and the history of the people who have inhabited this planet for thousands of years. My six year old twin daughters just started first grade and we had an option at their school to have them take an early morning enrichment class in which they will learn Spanish and about Latin culture. One day after picking them up from school they were excited to share with me the new Spanish words they had learned that day. They asked me “Where do people speak Spanish?” and I explained a bit about Spain and then how the Spaniards had traveled to what is now known as Mexico, and how the language was adopted by this other land. My daughter Aubrey then asked me from the back seat “Mommy, how do you know all these things?” It was such a curious question and I responded that I had learned about these things from books and classes and that my love of history led me to take a lot of history classes.
While I may have a college degree in history I sometimes still wonder “What is history?” Sure there are some hard facts involved with so-and-so being born on such and such a date, or a war beginning in a particular place on a particular date, but those facts are part of a bigger story, a human story. While we may think that our history books are based on facts, they are also infused with the perceptions and biases of the historians that wrote them in their current time. How historians view something in a particular era, century, or even in a particular decade, changes and evolves, because the historians themselves are going to be influenced by their own life story, which has been formed by the time period they grew up, their personal views, opinions, prejudices and personal experiences. There are also the ones behind the scenes, such as the publisher or the powers behind a publishing house, who may have their own ideas or agendas into what gets published and what doesn’t. One may try to be impartial and unbiased, but our own stories will and can color how we respond or view things.
One of the papers I wrote for a university history class compiled how the historical perspectives changed over time regarding Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois and their roles in the civil rights movement. Both hold a significant place in American history and African American history. It was fascinating to see how the historical views and opinions regarding these two men shifted and evolved through the years.
|Card from The Voice of Knowledge deck by Don Miguel Ruiz|
Where I am leading with this is to a much more personal level. We all have stories. Our lives are stories, series of happenings, events, activities, doings, and while some fade into the mists of the past and out of our memories, others stay with us. Some of them are certainly, and hopefully, positive, and bring forth feelings of nostalgia and can even have the power to conjure up feelings of contentment and happiness even in the present moment. Yet our human nature also gives us a tendency to remember and hold on to events that were painful, and if we give our stories power and hold to them tightly, these stories can affect us deeply. We can even give them the power to create very real psychic wounds. The painful stories, if held onto too tightly, and believed in strongly enough, can unfortunately lead us to negative spaces and dark places.
Just like any other person walking this earth I have my own collection of stories. Stories about my childhood, my family, events that took place, traditions carried on, my young adulthood, my relationships and on and on and on. Some of the stories were sweet, others comical, some were painful, and I even allowed a few to take me to dark wounded places. Some life events came into alignment though that led me to delve deeper into my stories, sometimes so painfully, that I went through what I describe as a dark night of the soul, and yet the healing that took place on the journey has been most remarkable. These life events include: choosing a life partner, moving, marrying, becoming a mother to twins, struggling in my marriage, shutting down, gaining 100 lbs, retreating from relationships, experiencing shifts in friendships, questioning my life purpose, developing cracks in my rose-colored glasses, entering into therapy, learning to accept, then like and love myself, forgiving both myself and others, finding a tribe and community (Cosmic Cowgirls) that nurtures me, gaining courage, taking chances, entering into marriage counseling and therapy one more time, claiming to be an artist and writer, writing, painting, learning, teaching, loving and grasping the true meaning of grace.
I have been contemplating and wondering about how we hold onto and process our pain and wounds. What I realize from own experiences it that it took doing a few key things that culminated in me seeing my stories with new eyes. The first was the talk therapy that helped to purge all the really old stuff that had been crammed into my soul for way too long. Yet, I know that talk therapy would not have been quite enough to help move me through my process. What also deserves a great deal of credit for the personal growth and healing that took place is the work I have done with Cosmic Cowgirls. I entered into the tribe via attending the Bountiful conference in October 2008. The work that Cosmic Cowgirls is doing is revolutionary. There is a reason that women from all walks of life, artists, writers, therapists, healers, poets, dancers, singers, spiritual leaders and creatives of all types, are being drawn to the courses and workshops being offered. While some women may be initially drawn to the painting portion of the classes, or others to the writing part of the classes, it is how everything is blended together spiritually, that leads one through a process unlike any other.
What is it that Cosmic Cowgirls offers that promotes healing and personal growth? As an example I will share my most recent experience at the Cosmic Cowgirls Feast of Frida Story Weaving workshop. Our Cosmic Cowgirls always begin with us gathering in circle. The space is safe and sacred. During our circle time we share in the Red Thread Ceremony where a long red thread is passed from woman to woman as we share our names and usually some word or sentence that gives insight into where we are at or what we wish to gain from our experience with one another. The Red Thread Ceremony always concludes with each woman getting to keep a piece of the red thread as it represents how we are all connected to one another.
In this particular workshop we were focused on artist Frida Kahlo and yet we also took it to a very personal level by reflecting on our own stories. We created paper altars over the course of the two days and they came into being from prompts, by quiet reflection, journaling, sketching, some one-on-one sharing, and then turning the stories into art with drawings and paintings.
This particular process had us pick one particular story from our past. In the first corner of the panel of the altar one was to share a story about something that had happened. An example given was of a woman who was told her art wasn’t any good while the art instructor tore up her picture. In this particular version the person was then to depict what she decided about herself based on that one experience or story. In this particular situation the woman decided or came to believe that she had no artistic abilities. The next panel or part of the story was to share how this experienced had informed who she was now. In our example this woman feels sad and feels creatively stuck. In processing this story she is asked if this story is true. Does this one experience really mean she is not an artist? Does the opinion of this art instructor really mean anything? The woman was then asked to claim a new belief about herself, in essence to create a new story for herself. In her new story this woman gets to claim herself an artist and free her creative spirit.
|Card from The Voice of Knowledge deck by Don Miguel Ruiz|
What I found refreshing for me during this experience is that most of my old stories had lost their charge. I knew what the old story was and I could write about it and talk about it, but I no longer felt that emotional tug when I thought about it. It was an aha moment of realizing how far I had come in healing old wounds. Writer and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant states that “When you can tell the story and it doesn’t bring up any pain and tears, then you are healed.” I found that when it came to creating my own personal altar I was much more focused on my image that represented me today and on what I was claiming for me now and in the future. Most importantly I really believed what I was claiming, rather than it being wishful thinking or about where I wanted to get to at some point in the future.
Creating new stories for oneself may take some time. It may also take time to release old stories. Some questions to ask yourself as you consider your own stories are “How does this story serve me and my life?” Is it helpful? Does it make me feel good or bad about myself? Is it healing or hurtful? If it protected me in the past, do I still need protecting now?
You can also consider viewing your own stories through a more neutral and objective lens. If you have ever felt that you are not enough. Take a step back and ask yourself “Is that true?”
Author Kris King who wrote a beautifully thoughtful book called My Heart Has Wings: 52 Empowering Reflections on Living, Learning, and Loving wrote this about telling stories, “If you want your future to be a repeat of your past, keep telling your story. If you want your future to be a bold and daring adventure, start dreaming. The choice is yours!”
At Cosmic Cowgirls we believe that you get to write your story, paint your story, dance your story, dream your story, sing your story, create your story and most certainly, even turn your story into poetry.