Want to Silence Your Inner Storyteller? Try This
In the practice of meditation, we frequently speak of its ability to cultivate calm and focus.
What I’d love to hear more of is how this practice has the ability to erase narrative, to wash away one’s story and offer the opportunity to begin anew.
When I say “story,” I also include identity, perspective, worldview: all that you think is possible, probable and real.
Just a few things I’d say are part of our stories:
- Your attractiveness, even lovable-ness
- Your self-esteem and the esteem of others
- The relationships you’re in, the conflicts, the people you carry in the center of your heart
- What you’ve done recently, how deserving of praise or blame
- Your aspirations, ambitions, and obstacles
- Things that might go through, things that might fall through
- What you do and don’t have enough of
- Your state of health
- Your relationship to time, and if you live in its abundance or scarcity
One’s story is arguably the most powerful creative work a person has the opportunity to produce, a construction under constant renovation.
It consists not only of the things that people believe themselves to be, but also what they are capable of seeing and interacting with, the entire world that they occupy. There cannot be an actor without a stage, and the two intermingle into a “play” — my favorite metaphor for reality.
Flexible, positive stories leave room for growth, joy and evolution. Rigid, passed-down stories limit our growth, our happiness, and prevent us from authentically analyzing risk and opportunity.
I’ve met people who’ve gotten stuck in a role in a play that happened ten years ago. Or sometimes it’s as simple as not letting last week’s mishap prevent you from being present today.
The thing is, stories are easy to create, but difficult to shift. If one has been thinking, perceiving and acting in a certain way, it’s challenging to just start being another way. Usually, what happens is either déjà-vu and repetition, or overcompensating and rebellion — there are countless other ways one’s previous story can sneak into one’s current attitude.
To shift one’s identity, it’s ideal to spend some time in silence.
Imagine you had a painting and you wished for a different one. Would you try to move the already-dried colored oils on an old painting in a different direction? Or would it be easier to paint a layer of white over it and start again?
I call this place of clarity “Point Zero.” I don’t think I’ve ever fully touched it — I don’t know if a monk meditating for 20 years has fully touched it — but I’ve found that the closest I’ve come within this realm of emptiness, the more control I feel over the story I live.
When you get to a place where you quiet the mind, you also quiet the narrative, the ego, the story-building machine. It’s a soft place, where maybe there is the breath, and maybe the body, but little else. The immediate world becomes all-absorbing. One is suddenly aware of how bright that street sign is, or how loud the cafe.
Point Zero is a state of mind that cannot last long but whose importance cannot be overstated.
It is where you develop the perspective of the “witness”- the vantage point from which you see all the other “me” characters. It’s a level of consciousness that observes, not judging or reacting. Once you live in this witness place, you begin to shift your identification from the roles and thought forms, and more with the witness. This process becomes more like watching- and ultimately directing- the play instead of being the central character.
By providing a blank canvas in the mind, reaching Point Zero gives you the opportunity to create according to your desire, instead of your patterning.
I believe it’s a healthy practice to seek out Point Zero at least twice a week. What could be better for creativity, inspiration, and good decision making?
Practices vary — for some, yoga, meditation, or running, can help them reach this spot. So can massage, and maybe floatation tanks, and any number of therapeutic practices for self-care. My favorite way to try to reach “Point Zero” is to lie down and be bathed in the sounds of ancient Tibetan instruments. This is the practice of Sound Meditation, also known in some circle as sound healing, sound therapy or sound baths. It’s the fastest, surest way to reach the deepest meditation — for me, and maybe for you, too. Sound is a powerful tool for affecting consciousness. It bypasses language, culture and ingrained thought patterns to communicate directly to the core of your awareness.
But no matter what your practice is (and it may change over time), it’s worth making a priority in your life. Putting some time on the calendar, and honoring that appointment. It’s worth the investment, worth the time, and worth the dedication for the opportunity to create, and renovate, your story.
I run events on Sound Meditation in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Join our facebook group and learn about the next one.
If you live in Los Angeles, please join our sister group, Sound Meditation L.A.
A huge thank you to Lyman Benton, Danielle Insalaco-Egan, Julia E. Morton and Charlotte Medlock for editing this piece.
And extra gratitude to Charlotte for sharing the journey with me.
Lovely artwork is by Luisa Mesa. Available for purchase here.
If you enjoyed this story, please do recommend it so more people will see.