What’s Your Story?

 

During a mindfulness meditation class at the Council on Aging in January, we were encouraged to let go of our storyline.

This is a very powerful exercise! The instructor used her own story as an example. Her son had been killed in a tragic accident. She was so consumed by grief that she told herself, “I’ll never be happy again.” She really believed that she would never, ever be happy again, so completely devastating was her loss. And, for a while, she did manage to never feel happy.

One day she was talking to a seriously ill cancer patient who was trying in spite of everything to live as full a life as possible. The patient said, “I am not my disease,” meaning that there was more to her than the cancer.

Our instructor thought about that for a moment, and it resonated—she was not her condition, either. As much as she missed her son, there was more to her than her grief. 

That’s when she took up meditation, and she learned that in letting go of that story she was telling herself (“I will never be happy again”) and being fully present in the moment with whatever came up—even when what came up was absolute gut-wrenching pain—she could, in fact, find a way to make peace with her new reality. She could allow the grief to happen in some moments, but also allow happiness to happen in other moments.

I see people in my practice every day who cling to a storyline that interferes with their ability to be truly healthy and vibrant. A common one is, “I’m just getting old and falling apart with age.” Another one is, “I can’t relax. I’ve always been stressed out and I don’t know how to be any other way.” Some people own their condition so fully, it’s almost the first thing they want people to know about them. “I have __________ (a bad back, high blood pressure, etc.). It runs in my family. It is what it is.”

Sometimes we have conditions that do run in families and progress despite our best efforts. Still, I would argue that there’s always SOMETHING we can do to improve our situation. By contrast, if we allow our storyline to inform our behavior, it becomes self-limiting and reinforces a negative outcome. Imagine a person who says, “I have arthritis in my back and hips and there’s nothing I can do about it,” compared to a person who says, “I experience pain, and some days are worse than others, but I know I can moderate it by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding foods that cause inflammation, and doing appropriate exercise.”

It can be hard to let go of our storyline. The first story I had to let go of in my meditation class was, “I’m so bad at meditating!” I have to re-let go of that one almost every time I sit down to practice!! It’s OK if we have to remind ourselves and make many attempts to release our negative self-talk.

During mindfulness meditation, it’s particularly important to detach from all our preconceived ideas and just be fully present without judgment. But there are other times when telling ourselves a story actually can be beneficial! How much better will a presentation go if a person’s storyline is: “I’ve got this, I know my stuff!” 

I often tell myself, “I move through the world with ease and grace,” because of the wonderful, late Louise Hay and her book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” and her adamant belief in positive affirmations. (In this case, if I remember correctly, she had some kind of pain but she didn’t want a limp to exacerbate it. So if she felt herself favoring one side, she straightened up and simply said, “I move through the world with ease and grace”—and it did lessen the discomfort.) I think of it as I’m driving as well—“I move through the world with ease and grace,” and therefore I will not be involved in an accident or be bothered by a bit of unexpected congestion. 

I once met a law enforcement officer who worked in SWAT, and he told me that every day, every time he faced a potentially dangerous situation, he repeated to himself again and again: “I will survive no matter what. I will survive no matter what.” That was his storyline, and his mindset of determination probably saved his life many times.

Every day we can choose to let go of storylines that are holding us back, and choose positive affirmations instead. Like these, again from Louise Hay: “Life supports me in every possible way. I now choose to release all hurt and resentment. I am welcoming happiness into my life. I am surrounded by love. All is well.”

May all be truly well in your world!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth Posted on April 17, 2018

2 Comments → “What’s Your Story?”


  1. Karen Ball
    7 months ago

    Well said, Julie. Thank you.

    Reply

  2. Kimberley Jardine
    7 months ago

    Great piece, Julie!

    Reply

Leave a Reply