I’ve been sitting with the concept of storytelling: both as an art form and as a learning tool. Clearly, there is a lot that can be said about storytelling and there is plenty of research about the effectiveness of storytelling. My goal is not to make all the points or to share all the research, rather I wish to convey some recent thoughts.
As some of you know, I like to find a book which can be read as a daily source of inspiration. My current source of inspiration is Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Untie the Strong Woman. Dr. Estes identifies as a cantadora (a keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition) as well as a poet, scholar, diplomate, and Jungian psychoanalyst. Her cantadora identity is evident in all of her writings and recordings as she deftly conveys complicated ideas with easy-to-understand stories: one way storytelling is effective as a learning tool.
Dr. Estes enumerates some of the ways stories are used. Stories can:
- warn people about dangers (cautionary tales)
- teach values
- share information, even coded
- empower or inspire people
- reflect culture
- change mindsets
Storytelling also is instrumental in either preserving a culture or dismantling a tradition. In other words, stories can be used to keep a tradition alive or stories can be used to replace and to supplant an existing tradition. Both indigenous people and colonizers use stories as a tool to maintain or to create culture.
Dr. Estes speaks to the practice of “erasing the holy” as an effective tool to abuse people and to diminish hope. Specifically, Dr. Estes points out the intentional erasure of “Our Lady” or the “Holy Mother” by invaders as a means:
- to diminish the “sense of true self”
- to eliminate a “spiritual anchor and rudder”
- to remove images which encourage resistance
- to redefine spirituality as a way to control behavior
- to create a sense of unworthiness among the conquered people
- to dehumanize the conquered people, and consequently, make it easier to brutalize them
- to exploit resources: both people and the land
- to spawn fear in conquered people, and subsequently, to reduce their desire and ability to self-advocate and to seek justice
Is it no wonder that invaders attempted to erase and to dilute the Holy Mother? She is a huge impediment to oppression and suppression. The Divine Feminine evokes compassion, empathy, and kindness toward others. She sustains hope and promotes self-worth. The Holy Mother both protects us and forgives our mistakes. She listens to our woes as well as fuels our liberation. She stands for the OPPOSITE of colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.
For all the above reasons, it is so very important to pay careful attention to the stories we listen to and tell. What stories have been handed down to us? What stories do we solicit? And most importantly, what stories do we create?
I recently attended a meeting in which folks were brainstorming ways to create a beloved community. One person suggested collecting stories which encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion as a step toward creating community. I agree this type of story collecting is helpful with one important caveat: I believe we should not ask a person to share a trauma story for our own edification. (Volunteering a story is different.)
Too often people who experience marginalization, abuse, injustice, or cruelty are asked to tell their story so people who are privileged can understand why things need to change. Asking for their story is another form of oppression.
For this reason, I always ask clients if they want to speak about their pain. I do not expect it. Every time someone shares a part of their life with me, I consider it a privilege for I recognize the courage and strength it takes to tell certain stories.
The Shakti Cookbook is another type of storytelling. The stories found within this remarkable collection are about love and connection. Each submission is a gift from the heart: a memory of a good time or something they hold dear.
If you are looking for a holiday gift or simply want a delicious and inspirational keepsake, then please consider purchasing a Shakti Cookbook. All proceeds go to a scholarship fund that will help women attend future programs and events at Shakti.
A couple of announcements before I go:
- December 16 is the last Makerspace Open Hours until January 6. We are making cookies!
- The Winter Solstice Celebration is December 21 and is open to all ages and genders. Please come for all or only part of the festivities.
- Shakti is closed December 23 – January 2.
- We’ve got some new offerings as well as returning activities scheduled for the winter season. Stay tuned for the official Shakti Winter Calendar.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Since 2010, Kim continues to build and to support a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.
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