Friday, September 13, 2013

Writing a Book, pt. III – Re-creating Our Stories & Creatively Journeying Through Life

The ‘Something So Obvious’ Healing Journey Workshop

Something So Obvious is about how people heal, how they become enlightened, and what they do with that awareness. It’s a lifelong process that we can learn to accept and improve upon as we go. We’re all on a journey of self-discovery as we discover the world around us, and that includes experiencing setbacks and uncovering vulnerabilities. So we must as well heal as we go or else our growth will be limited and true satisfaction fleeting. Seeing our lives as a journey of healing, growth and joy – while overcoming occasional blockages and traumas – is different from pursuing happiness and stopping reluctantly to deal with one crisis after another. Incorporating the challenges into the journey, they become inspirations and catalysts for self and life improvement.

In putting this book together – characters, experiences and growth opportunities - we’re also creating a program for journey work at Middle Way Health. The Something So Obvious storyline mirrors anyone’s story. It represents our struggles and growth. It even exemplifies how we at Middle Way Health lead people through their own healing and growth. Because the only way to talk about and envision the whole journey is via a relatable story or biography which people can identify with. Then we go from healing (feeling safe, comfortable and empathized with) to learning healthier living (a new way of being). We’re not just solving problems but moving beyond them by visualizing and practicing new ways of experiencing life. As well, we re-write our own stories as we choose.

Why is the story so important - becoming aware of our personal stories, or what Stephen sometimes calls our ‘inner screenplay’? It’s important because we will usually stick to our previously-written script whether it’s working for us or not, whether we’re aware of doing this or not. Becoming conscious about the story we’re telling ourselves - the novel where in, the big screen we see ourselves on - allows us to question who really wrote the story, what it’s based on, if it fits us, and whether we believe we can change it.

The kind of “story” we’re talking about involves the assumptions, beliefs and unconscious patterns we developed long ago, the basic building blocks that frame our current actions, reactions and emotions. We get tricked into thinking that if we just keep doing the same thing over and over again, a new outcome will eventually occur. As well, we’ve become so accustomed to our dysfunctional patterns that we choose the broken record over the effort it will take to make a new one.

And yet, sometimes it’s not enough to just write down our story and then reframe it in a positive light. We have to dig deeper and then evaluate who, what and where we actually want to be. Stories stick with us because we haven’t checked them for accuracy or validity. It’s hard to make change at that level because we’re not trained on how to go about doing it. That’s why we need others to help us, a healing team to access the story from different angles. We need help getting out of the crash-and-burn-and-heal habit, and into an engaging, authentic pattern of deep healing and self-actualization.

But uncovering the old story and writing a new story is still not enough. If we lived only in the ethereal dreamland of our new story – not actually acting it out in real life – we’d just be swapping a fairytale for a fantasy. Trying out our new story, and editing and improving it as we go, takes us from just surviving to actually thriving. This is what we call ‘La Dolce Vita’, or the sweet life.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Writing a Book, pt. II – The Philosophical Side of a Creative Project’s Journey

Recently on the Heart & Soul blog we talked about embarking on a long-term project and how it stacks up in the scheme of our lives. While there’s a thrill from the potential of the project and a motivation to keep going, there is at times also a wistful aura around it when interruptions force a temporary separation.

But interruptions aren’t actually separate from our creative life’s journey; they are part of the journey. Like being on a road trip and having to pull over to change a tire… It is simply a detour to a new and unexpected experience. And it should be savored (or at least accepted) rather than viewed as something that’s not supposed to be happening.

So then what exactly does a creative project mean as it relates to our lives? Because there’s always some connection and some grander meaning to our creative endeavors. Using our imaginations to think differently, we are connecting with a deeper part of ourselves and bringing it out into the world. Therefore, any creative or novel activity not only brings about a new facet of reality, it also reflects our private inner journeys.

A book, for example, is always somewhat autobiographical, being part of the writer’s own story. And as the story and characters evolve, so do those of us involved. A certain partnership develops not only between those working together on the same project, but between project and creator. And as these relationships strengthen, so does the potential for our lives. For example, the vision for our fiction novel Something So Obvious has expanded along with that of our practice at Middle Way Health. The project itself has become part of our inner vision, part of our personal growth, and part of our professional growth.

Collaborating with others on a long-term project requires a mutual respect and admiration. This then evokes an equality that allows us to inspire one other, be open to new ideas, brainstorm out of blocks, and keep each other on track. We stay grounded by creating a healthy sense of place, which we accomplish by meeting at the office once a week, catching up on personal stuff, and then delving into the deliciousness of letting our minds wander freely.

But it is nonetheless a process, and process implies movement. It’s almost as if we’re all on a pilgrimage together, like we’re traveling in a moving train across landscapes that continually change and yet sometimes repeat without ever being exactly the same. Our lives go on just as the train traverses boundless territory. Meanwhile, we are part of the landscape - not mere observers - affecting it as well as we go. The conversations change as we get older and grow, incorporating our newness into the story and the story’s excitement into our own lives. The settings and characters constantly evolve, just like real life.

And yet, there’s also an odd ‘Alice in Wonderland’-like quality to the journey that can cause us to wonder at times whether we’re really going anywhere or if it’s the landscape that’s actually the thing moving around us. So we pause and ingest the big picture - newness and all – and realize that our project remains a tangible thing, building a framework to which we can take hold and a structure for the relationship that enables a genuine richness to flourish.

Any relationship is unique in itself, but it takes on another dimension when we have a common goal and work through it together. Like traveling companions, our conversations and habits change when embarking on this kind of a journey. There is a familiarity that allows us to share what feels necessary or right, and a focus that then pushes us to get down to the work at hand; Work that takes effort and persistence in bridging inner and outer worlds, but includes plenty of play in the rich realms of imagination.

Creating something, imagining something to life, and working with others on its manifestation can be a dizzying process. It may be moving fast when we want to slow down or it can seem at a standstill when we’d really like to be cruising at a comfortable pace. But here’s where the lesson of the journey is: We’re not in total control of the wheel, the winds, visibility, or other variable factors. They too are our silent partners, whether supporting us, guiding us, inspiring us, or providing necessary detours along the way.