Staying grounded during chaos

art of hosting collective story harvest stories from the journey story activist Nov 05, 2023

I've been quiet for some time now, just cooking on my last journey and reflecting on the state of our world. There are two stories that stick with me from my very brief week in Istanbul. They reflect two lenses on what is happening and how we can host it.

The first is a moment in our Art of Hosting training. It was late afternoon on Day 2. Small groups of 6 - 10 were sitting around in various parts of our venue. We were deeply immersed in a Collective Story Harvest.

Our stories ranged from business to personal, but the one that attracted my attention most was unfolding in the corner of the main room. The storyteller was a young woman who has been working in the earthquake zone. I don't speak Turkish, but I could tell they were not doing the process. All of the people in the circle were crying and one young man was sobbing out loud.

And yet, I had the deep sense all was well.

I watched the group come to closure and all stand and hug each other. I later found out the young man was suffering from survivor's guilt -- perhaps it could be said the entire country is suffering from survivor's guilt. On the hierarchy of woundology, however, it doesn't rate and it has little place for expression.

I wondered to myself where, in any society, is the place to bring and witness these stories, and to create the container for people to hold each other for a moment. Just a moment to find connection, comfort and courage.

I found myself grateful to be in a practice that offers such spaces.

Other other story comes from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, where I had gone to fulfill a friend's request to stop there and look, telling me he had parked his van outside it for 14 days in 1969 as a hippie traveler.

I wandered into a shop selling Turkish delight and came away with a box of sweet magic and an amazing backstory.

I noticed the young man who served us had a tattoo on his right arm. Just the edge was showing. When he peeled up his T-shirt sleeve there was an image of an ancient Turkish warrior. He told us the story of why this was so important to him and what he felt compelled to stand up for. When we asked to take a picture with him, he said: "It would be better for you if you don't."

In moments like these, I practice deep story listening and witnessing. I become a StoryCatcher, taking his story with me and weaving it into an ever deepening understanding of what's happening in the world. There will be places where this story can serve.

This week I talked with a fellow Art of Hosting steward offering a training in Brussels at the same time the shooter was out targeting Swedish soccer fans. he had to be very grounded to supported both the team and the participants stay on focus. We talked about the capacity it demands to stay grounded during chaos.

These experiences have me realising once again that the work I do with narrative and hosting groups is deeply profound and edgy work.

Learning how storytelling works and taking up the power of your own story gives you an inbuilt resistance to the myopia of the single story and power of the dominant narrative.

Realising you have the capacity and tools to host the conversations that matter to you and work together with others to make change makes you a force to be reckoned with. 

Grateful thanks to all of you who encourage me to keep going!

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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