The Journey of a Story Healer
People often ask me why I call myself a story-healer and not a story-teller. There is a big distinction for me: a story-teller is someone who is essentially skilled at holding the attention of others through the performance of drama, a story-healer on the other hand seeks to invoke the attention of heaven and earth for the transmutation of that drama.
I have spent many decades of my life deeply consumed with the study of narrative and human drama. I don’t mean that figuratively, apart from all the wonderful drama I created in my own personal life, I have also walked a path as a commercially successful award-winning theatre director, touring the world with my own productions and was even in the process of studying to embark on a film career. The one thing I understand is drama of our stories, how it captivates our attention, defines our experience and perception of reality and even shapes our biology. I am also a recovering drama-addict.
My initial intention for being a story-teller was in a quest for greater transformation. I began my theatre career during apartheid South Africa in a time when theatre was a vibrant, robust and revolutionary voice for change. At the time I was inspired by this medium because I believed, as Shakespeare said, that the play is the thing in which we can catch the conscience of the king. I believed that I could help make the world a better place through the power of telling stories that raised our consciousness and opened our eyes to what was truly going on. As I became successful in my career and tasted fame, I got distracted from that intention with all the trappings that comes with getting attention fo attentions sake. It took me me some time to find my way back.
Later in my life, concurrent to film studies, I was called to a path of healing and awakening to deal with the cycles of my own personal dramas and then started training as a transformational coach and facilitator. As my spiritual and healing journey deepened and as I really began to understand the intrinsic mechanisms of story-telling, especially in film, I came to the sobering and disturbing realisation that the endeavour of story-telling is intrinsically not about creating actual transformation but more about exploiting and compounding the paradigm of conflict in order to capture mass attention. Just as it is not ultimately in the interest of the medical and pharmaceutical industry to create a society of genuine self sustaining health and wellbeing, it is similarly not actually in the interest of the art and entertainment industry to transform conflict, ignorance and to bring workability to our world. If we are really willing to be brutally honest with ourselves the core business here is to feed on, stir up and sensationalise drama in order to keep people hooked and coming back for more. The more suspenseful, the more heightened and polarised the conflict, the more bums on seats and the more viewers are gained; that is the actual game and the measure of success.
As if we do not have enough conflict in our own daily human interactions we are so conditioned by our growing addiction to drama that we feel compelled to spend our evenings watching more of it on our screens and whether it is documentaries, soapies, series, horrors, crime stories, sports, news or scrolling social media feeds it is all the same thing; it is variations of drama and conflict that is simply designed to lock and hold our attention in a state of opinionated suspense. It is no wonder more and more people suffer from neurotic disorders.
As story-tellers and song writers we romantically tell ourselves that what we are doing is merely holding a mirror to society, representing the conflicts of the human experience, but nothing could be further from the truth; we are actually creating, compounding, shaping and exacerbating it. We don’t realise that our creative expressions influences and generates much of our collective reality: how people think, feel, dress and relate. How many of us have gleaned behaviours, expressions, beliefs and fashion from what we have seen on movies, television and social media? These expressions have even become a substitute for reality, we escape into stories because we find real connected living unpalatable. We are now a global generation of eyes hypnotically glued to flickering screens believing that we are in control because our thumbs can press a selection button or swipe when in fact we are neurologically wired to an endorphin/cortisol drip of mechanical control and manipulation.
What plagues us as human beings in the world now are the fear driven nightmares of our many fictions. Long ago, in the time of oral traditions, stories were simply words shared by mouths, heard by ears, temporarily held by minds and then moved on by the winds; now they are emphatically recorded, stored, manifested, franchised, mass replicated, broadcasted, digitally enshrined and institutionalised.
If there is to be a collective awakening and raising of consciousness for humanity what needs to transform in our world are our stories, the way we hold on to them and the way we relate to them, quite literally we need much less of them; stories must fall. The world is over-burdened with disempowering and conflicting narratives especially ones that condition our identity and perception; stories that precipitate prejudice, pain, conflict, mistrust and fear. The earth is literally breaking under the weight of our history as we drag age old stories of unresolved conflicts, traumas and ignorances from the past into our present reality. Our stories, the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we were taught, the ones we read in the news, the ones enshrined in scriptures and history books and watch on our screens, they do not actually open our eyes or empower us to the present moment, they blind us to the present world and each other, they distract us from what is really going on, they distort our reality, disconnect us from mother nature and make us sick in our bodies. The final world war is not over land or resources it is just a war of provocative and unconscious narrative. The battlefield of personal and collective opinions grows exponentially especially as we have more and more platforms for them to dominate our attention. If anything the Covid pandemic has brought to the surface is how our stories now increasingly polarise us from each other, from nature and even from ourselves.
One of the biggest epiphanies in reclaiming my own joy, wellbeing, presence and deeper connection in my own life was to firstly admit that I was addicted to drama whether it was what I was creating or just in being a spectator. After years of dealing with severe anxiety and depression my own sense of inner peace improved radically when I simply stopped watching TV, listening to the radio, reading news and limiting my online browsing time. The more time I spent walking in nature, sitting in silence with myself, watching sun sets and sunrises, playing guitar and singing, admiring the absolute magnificence of nature unfolding all around me and being present with people, the more connection, joy and divinity I felt. Mother nature is the greatest healer for she is devoid of story or opinion, she just is.
In these spaces of reflection and being with the immediate world not the virtual one, working deeply with sacred plant medicine teachers my process of spiritual expansion has actually been about narrative dissolution: the less stories I hold on to, the less opinions I have the more expanded my consciousness becomes and the more connected I am to the present moment. So I say again our stories must fall. Its not that we should not have any stories nor that we should celebrate them. Our narratives are unbelievably powerful, they are quite literally spells which means they can also easily become curses if not woven carefully and consciously.
I have long since walked away from my theatre and film career especially doing any work of a fictional nature, I practice only as a transformation coach and shamanic facilitator. The best way that I can describe the work I do as a story-healer is to guide people to untangle themselves from the stranglehold of their personal and collective dramas, to free their beings of the blockages of distraction to fully experience life again. Being a drama addict and a student of drama myself I understand the unconscious grip that our stories can have on our lives. Some stories especially influencing generational cycles can hold our family linage in a rip tide of suffering and unworkability. Our stories are often so deeply rooted in our psyches and emotional bodies that we walk them over and over again like complex mazes that we cannot seem to find our way out of even though we know it makes us unhappy, creates disappointments and attracts unwanted experiences into our lives.
My work is to guide people out of these mind mazes and back into their bodies and hearts which is why breath work, forgiveness journeys, plant medicine, dance, music and connecting with nature are such powerful tools. Only when we can truly be present in our bodies, in our emotions and in life can our natural process of healing, self-calibration and intuitive guidance unfold. When we can take full creative responsibility for all our stories can we then become conscious creators in our lives and for me that is the whole point of awakening; we get to choose the reality we weave.
The only stories now that truly inspire me are the real, immediate and personal stories of transformation where people vulnerably share their hearts. In those moments when pretences dissolves, when someone can be truly authentic about their inauthenticity, when they can hold their shame outstretched in their hands, when they can surrender their opinions, take full responsibility for their actions, behaviours and experiences, when they can own their raw truth and reveal what was hidden or in their blind spot and when they can wholeheartedly express their deepest love and devotion regardless of the risk, then there is an exquisite flowering of being where their souls literally shine through their bodies; they are alive again. It is a divine expression that transcends the sophisticated mechanics and artistry of any story-telling genre, instead it is a profound testimony to our human journey, it is the kind of heroes stories that angels, ancestors and guides take time to gather around to listen to, it is an expression that spirit moves for and the universe collaborates with.
That for me is what story-healing is about, helping people find their way back home to their true present lives and their connection with heaven and earth.