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:
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.”