It’s more challenging than it sounds, isn’t it? This work of shifting dominant stories, whether personal or cultural stories (and for most of us it’s both)?
The shifting, the uprooting from false ground, has tested me mightily, I admit, and brought me to my knees, or to the doorways of apathy or despair, more than once.
If I hadn’t been able (and equipped with the tools, practices, my anam cara, and more than a little Grace) to center back into the greater purpose and vision, a.k.a. the point, at some of those crossroads, I’m certain I’d have been sucked under well before now. There have been some close calls, for sure, and more than a few dark moments, tough choices, losses, and sacrifices along the way.
And yet that’s the Great Work, the Great Turning as some call it, that we’re living in … or a good part of it, anyway.
The old stories — the dominant stories or ‘life as we know it’ — have a momentum to them, a traction. They’ve been fed and worked for a long time, so they’re strong.
And they have their gatekeepers, even when the stories themselves are no longer green and vibrant; even when the old stories are actually harmful, they still have their tenders and defenders.
The new stories, the emerging ones, can be more like tender green shoots just emerged at the surface of the soil, or maybe even still in that early stage of reaching up through the ground, not yet showing their green vibrance to us.
The new stories are timely, but they’re vulnerable still; they’re gaining strength, growing roots.
If we’re not attentive, much of the time anyway, the forces and gatekeepers of the old stories will eat the emerging new stories for lunch.
And in between the old and the new is a sort of proverbial ‘no man’s land’ — you’ve been there, right?
That ecotone*, marsh, in-between, where the old decomposes; where we’re ‘uprooted from false ground‘ (as John O’Donohue phrased it), and where two or more ecologies are in a sort of transformational, creative tension.
And in this ecotone, this in-between, the new gestates and takes shape.
And we feel that … we feel the new stories growing in us.
As Arundhati Roy reminded us, we can hear the new stories breathing, if we’re attentive enough. And because they’re new, they require more conscious, intentional tending. Their way isn’t yet ingrained, the new story hasn’t yet become habit.
It’s uncertain ground, and that feels anxiety-provoking and also, if we can strengthen this neuropathway or lens, a creative adventure rich with possibility (and yes, danger or risk).
So it takes the devotion, the love, the heart-centered (and spirit-sourced) will.
Like the blades of grass that, according to the Talmud, have angels praying over them, “Grow, grow,” the new story requires just that from each of us:
Our heartful tending and devoted focus when it’s not yet grown to the comfort of habit, and a fair measure (more than we think we have) of patience, faith, and trust that this is what’s underway, this metamorphosis. And Grace, lots and lots of Grace — let’s invite it and invoke it, for ourselves and for each other.
My fellow blogger, Janet Chui, shares a related musing in her recent post, The Passing of Old Ways.
Here’s an excerpt that gets to the heart of what underlies real shift, shining a light on just why it takes those not only with a ‘devoted discipline’ to it, but also a hardiness of heart, a resolve, and no small measure of resilience.
“Creating new ways of life, new systems and new patterns requires two things: The withdrawal of energy/attention to that which we no longer want, and the directing of energy and attention towards that which we do. But the former cannot be done without examining where we have been giving away our energy, power, and tacit approval.” ~ Janet Chui, The Passing of Old Ways.
Read Janet’s full musing — and see her wonderful painting (which reminded me of The Fool in the tarot … not inappropriate to this Great Work ‘new story’ task we’re living) — here:
The Passing of Old Ways, by Janet Chui.
Need help navigating the ‘in between’ of your own shift from old story to new story (and/or your part of the greater cultural shift to the new story)?
Send along an email (you’ll see the link above, OR leave a comment below and I’ll connect with you) and we’ll explore some heart-and-thought-partner dialogue, believing mirror, or spiritual direction sessions (often it’s a hybrid of the three!).
Big Love and Devoted StoryShifting,
* An ecotone is “a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. It is therefore a place of danger or opportunity, a testing ground.” (Ecotone Journal)
According to Wikipedia, “The word ecotone was coined from a combination of eco(logy) plus -tone, from the Greek tonos or tension – in other words, a place where ecologies are in tension.”
March 25, 2015 at 4:39 pm
I have been feeling this odd sense of uncertainty and a feeling of being stuck. This is the best way I can describe it at this moment. In this, it does require more conscious tending per’se. This has actually been the case for a very long time now, but something is different. I can’t quite pin point it.
March 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Thank you, Marcie, for giving voice to what I know more than a few others are experiencing, too. It’s curious territory, isn’t it? And yet as you say, there’s a sense that something’s happening, or something’s different. Quite a different sort of adventure, with more subtle signs, clues, and omens? I appreciate you stopping by. 🙂 Love, Jamie
March 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Beautiful written – as always. Definitely resonates with how I’m feeling now. 🙂
March 25, 2015 at 4:49 pm
beautiful core writing. Thanks
March 25, 2015 at 7:22 pm
Thank you, Bostjan. I appreciate your kind words. And you’re very welcome, too. 🙂 ~ Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 7:03 am
March 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm
The realization that I have been tending a garden whose roots have long been shriveled up and lacking the richness of nourishment from the soil hit me hard ~ And with that knowing comes deep despair because I just am not sure I can do this. . make a new choice and tend to a new garden.
I recognize that, just as you say, these old stories have been tended to and even defended for who knows how long and they are strong but. .as I write this and feel what lies in between the words, I am becoming aware that there also lies within me a new choice and it is one that has its own tenders and defenders brought forth through the essential and ever vigilant divine grace that you also speak of.
Thank you for sharing this today, I had to wait until the tears stopped streaming down my face to even comment and my eyes are welling up now just thinking of the Grace that manifests in such a beautiful and tangible way through your compassion and understanding. There is such power in co-creation and I feel that more and more through the amazing posts that arrive on the wings of Angels aka the interconnected web of Love that continues to grow and pops up in my email 🙂
With Love and Gratitude to you Jamie,
ps.. Also a huge Hug and Lots of Love to Laura Bruno for bringing your words into my awareness. <3
March 26, 2015 at 2:58 pm
Thank you, Suzanne. I’ve just been breathing deeply and sitting with what you’ve shared in your comment, being present with it. I’m glad the post was timely for you and resonated, that you felt ‘seen’ by it. And you’re so right … there *is* such enormous power in the co-creation and co-encouragement (en-heartenment!) that comes through the web of Love … that’s a beautiful metaphor and visual, to be sure. Love and gratitude and deep wellbeing to you as well, Suzanne. I so appreciate you stopping by! Love, Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 1:07 am
As always your wonderfully considered words find a space to squeeze into my thoughts and hang a while to be considered. Your writing is insightful and thoughtfully penetrative, your blog, a delicate refreshment for the soul. Thank you.
To share a curious little experience with you…some weeks ago, I think it was towards the beginning of January, I was greeted by a dog, a silver-haired Whippet as I recall, whilst walking across wooded heathland en route to work. It was a wonderfully sunny day, albeit windy and the pathway a little water-logged following an earlier fall of rain. I have a natural affinity towards cats rather than dogs yet adore all of nature…my walk across the heathland being the only real anticipated pleasure of my daily commute… but this beautifully sleek, incredibly gentle and superbly athletic animal with serene, almost beatific eyes that melted the heart would not leave me alone. She came and stood between my legs and despite early attempts to ‘set her on her way’ refused to move and allow me to continue. For several minutes I delayed my onward journey whilst I stroked her velvet coat and shared the gift of her loving energy. At some point the dog’s owner came rushing by looking a little anxious at temporarily mislaying her charge. ‘There you are! I’ve been looking for you for ages!’ Well, the dog didn’t move a muscle or even acknowledge her owner’s presence but continued to stand between my legs and allow me to enjoy her undivided attention. Feeling a slight sense of awkwardness I was about to say something when the owner continued, ‘Oh my, well now, she’s never done that before!’ ‘Done what?’ I asked, looking down at her beautiful animal. ‘Stood between someone’s legs like that! She is so very shy and normally doesn’t approach anyone other than me. But look at her, she is so calm! She must sense something about you to be so trusting’. ‘What’s her name?’ I asked. ‘Leeloo’ the owner replied. ‘Leeloo?’, I replied, ‘that’s unusual’. ‘Yes’, said the owner, ‘She’s named after the character from the film the Fifth Element…Leeloo is the Supreme Being…and it looks like she’s found you’. How I smiled inside knowing that the world I stood in at that very moment was elementally complete and resplendent beneath the brilliance of a fiery golden star.
DN – 26/03/2015
March 26, 2015 at 3:01 pm
Thank you for your kind and beautiful words, Dewin, and for sharing the wonderful story about Leeloo the sweet silver Whippet! What an extraordinary and heartful interaction and visit the two of you shared. When I saw ‘Leeloo’ I thought of Fifth Element immediately, too. The sensitive animals know well ‘good juju’ when they come upon it, and it sounds like Leeloo shared her blessing with you as well. Beautiful. I’m so glad you shared it! Thank you. 🙂 Love, Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 1:40 am
This is such a beautiful article Jamie. My mind immediately went to Saturn in Sagittarius, the development of new stories – outgrowing the old ones and allowing the new ones to mature into being. I relate to these truths deeply and appreciate your ability to create such illuminating
March 26, 2015 at 3:04 pm
Greetings, Linda. Thank you. And yes, true enough with Saturn in Saj and the ‘new stories’ theme (and releasing or letting old no longer helpful stories dissolve … easier said than done). I’m definitely seeing that theme or meme coming back to the surface (it’s spiraled around a couple of times that I can think of). You’re right, though … it’s a good Saturn in Saj theme, in the higher expression (the fundamentalist clinging to old-story may well be something we see, too, so counter-medicine will be an important contribution!). Well, here’s to mindful and joyful and skillful storyshifting magic and grace, then. 🙂 Wishing you very well, Linda. Love, Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 6:54 am
Wow, thank you to the link to my post. What an honour! I’m glad it fit, and it’s been wonderful reading others’ experiences of this period too.
March 26, 2015 at 3:05 pm
You’re welcome, Janet, and it’s my pleasure. I’ve been really enjoying your posts and beautiful artwork that you share, so it’s a pleasure for me to point others in the direction of your blog, too. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to continued inspiration-sharing. Blessings, Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm
Definitely feeling the new stories growing roots Jamie! Thank you for such a lovely post — as always! Blessed be. NadineMarie <3 <3 <3
March 26, 2015 at 3:05 pm
Beautiful, NadineMarie. Here’s to graceful storyshifting (as I just ‘wished’ together with Linda, too)! xoxo Love, Jamie
March 26, 2015 at 3:11 pm
🙂 Thank you dear! Ditto…
March 26, 2015 at 3:16 pm
March 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm
Wonderful post Jamie! I love the analogy to planting new seeds. They definitely require tender care of time and attention to keep those new stories growing. to growing new stories. 🙂
March 26, 2015 at 3:24 pm
Thank you, Brad. That makes us ‘story gardeners’. 🙂 It’s beautiful to apply the ‘garden’ and ‘gardeners’ metaphor that way! 🙂 Blessings, Jamie
March 27, 2015 at 1:31 am
I’m also a nature lover and fumbling gardener so you struck multiple chords! 🙂
March 27, 2015 at 12:27 pm
It works on so many levels, Brad. 🙂
March 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm
January 26, 2017 at 10:58 am
Captivated by this: not least as I have just published a book called… Shifting Stories – looking at precisely this issue: how we loosen the grip of old stories, discover more helpful ones, and enrich the plot of those new stories in our lives.
January 27, 2017 at 6:12 pm
Excellent, Andrew. I’m glad to know of your Shifting Stories work and the book that’s just emerged from it (congratulations!). Blessings to you. Jamie