Why Spring could be your perfect story seasonApr 17, 2022
Last night while celebrating Passover at a Seder dinner with friends, one of them told me Spring is his favourite season. Is it any wonder so many of the major religions take this time for celebration and remembrance?
What once appeared cut down and dead is now blossoming with new life. Where we felt constrained and small inside during the winter months, a new freshness calls us out. It is good to be still for a moment, reflecting on the trials of the past and feeling gratitude for the present.
Rituals like these remind us that we live in a layering of stories. When we feel overwhelmed by the story we are living in, we can remind ourselves to ask: "Where is my ground of being?" and find it anew.
On Friday I attended an event with Christina Baldwin, hosted by the Jung Center of Houston. She calls these story layers we live in Kronos (the personal story), Epos (the societal/historical story), Aionios (the spiritual or timeless story) and Kairos (the activator, or the point when the story shifts).
Most of us focus almost exclusively on Kronos -- the happy or turbulent thread of our personal story -- the one right in front of our noses. We are the hero of this story, so its focus is "all about me." This happened, then that happened. It's a chronology, a timeline. What happens now is understood in the light of what happened before. This story functions as the guide to life. It acts like a map.
We are at the ground level, where our feet touch the earth. But what happens when you throw in a major disruptor? A pandemic, a series of personal losses, a war, a flood, a genocide, trauma? The thread of your personal story may appear to be broken beyond repair. And you, in turn, feel lost.
At the Epos level of story we find ourselves in the social narrative. This is the context we all live in. This is like rising up to the 5th floor of a tall building and looking out at people crisscrossing in a busy street. They don't see the overall pattern, but we can.
This level of story may also be disrupted by the same events as our personal stories, or the deeper tangled threads of racial, ethnic and gender identities, religious beliefs and practices, historical conflicts, economic frameworks, etc. This reflects story as a weaver of patterns. Patterns are made. And patterns are also broken.
And yet there are still other layers of story to turn to.
In Aionios we find story as a reflection of the mystery, the timeless. This is the place of myth, creation stories, destiny. This is the place of the timeless now. And also the reason why the great myths and stories are still intriguing to us. This is the place where one human life can rise to be all human life. Where the specific transforms into the universal.
Imagine those first astronauts who, turning back towards earth from the moon, were awestruck at the beauty of the earth. They saw it without borders or boundaries, one beautiful, living organism, turning gently in space, shining.
And finally, the Kairos moment, when something unexpected happens that could only have happened in that moment of readiness. Imagine yourself turning a corner and suddenly finding yourself in a changed reality. Civil Rights marchers on the bridge in Selma. Government making a formal apology to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the Stolen Generations. The Berlin Wall coming down. This is emergent story at the uniquely right timing.
Christina reminded us that we all are holders of the StoryField. Elders can use story as a tool for empathy and good, as an intervention to reframe and renew, and for creating a path forward. She reminded us that story is a dynamic, living spiral:
- We enter it at the personal survival level and we can ask ourselves: "What does this mean to me?"
- We can allow story to sink deeper and ask: "How can I integrate this?"
- And then: "Who am I now as a result of this?"
When she thinks about her own ground of being, Christina says she goes to the water and spends time around rocks. She lets herself come to rest and sends out blessings again and again. This struck home to me as she ended our time together: "We don't know the impact we're having. Do what you can. The rest is none of your business!"
Feeling the shift coming in your personal story? Know you can't do it alone?
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