Storytelling and Story Listening

As a shaman, storytelling is important to me. Storytelling can be used to keep an oral history; it can be used to teach; it can be used to process; it can be used to find cultural threads; and it can be used to heal. I suppose there’s the entertainment aspect, too, but a good story will have some of those other components as well.

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference at which the keynote speaker, Crystal Blanton, spoke on the importance of honoring the Other in everyone. One of the things that stood out for me was the idea that telling one’s story (which could be much more than just the story of one person) starts to heal both the person telling and the person listening. We are all interrelated, and our stories intertwine. As we acknowledge each thread, we see where it weaves around or through our own threads. Hearing, really listening, a story can give us healing or expansive insight. It starts to remove the illusion of separation without dishonoring or discounting experiences which differ from our own.

Allowing someone to be heard can be the greatest gift you can give them. The key to really listening is to just listen. Don’t relate, consciously, in the moment, your own experience to the story. Be present. Hear what it is they are telling you. Listen for the emotions. Don’t talk. Don’t think about talking. Just listen. Don’t take the story personally, it’s not your story. Just listen.

After the fact, you can analyze and process, and see where your threads relate. In the moment, though, be in that moment. If you need to, imagine this is your most important teacher telling you this story. In that moment, they are.

An angel once told me, “As you go about your journey, don’t forget to stop and ask people how they are. No one talks to each other anymore.” I think we’re all talking, but are we really listening?

May you be the light of the world.

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