About Life Story

about life story

The dancer and musician Gabrielle Roth shared some potent wisdom when she said

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? Especially the stories of your own life?”

As industry slows, nature grows more vibrant. 

And as our industriousness wanes, so can our soul-sickness dissipate.

This morning I connected with an online group where we each spoke about what has changed in our lives since Covid. Many people shared the same responses.

‘I’ve had to stop and sit with myself rather than be distracted with busyness.’

‘For the first time in ages, I’ve gotten to do things I want to do rather than just fulfil obligations.’

‘It has allowed me to connect with my neighbours reminding me of what it was like 20 years ago before we all became strangers.’

People spoke of how clear the air was, how connected they felt and how peaceful life had become.

Collectively, we hoped that the gains we’ve made would stay once normality returned.

Beauty making was another theme. We were asked what creative work was rising within us and how we could help create a better world.

It reminded me of the glorious phrase Maggie Smith’s closed off with in “Good Bones”, a poem encouraging people not to be overwhelmed by the immensity of the issues we are facing:

“This place could be beautiful, right? 

You could make this place beautiful.”

Having been bogged down doing things that don’t particularly speak to me, I’ve noticed a shift in the last couple of weeks as I’ve returned to doing life story writing.

Events in my past which seemed arbitrary took on a great deal of meaning as I looked at them with awakened eyes.

The combination of introspection and writing helps us to view life as a great adventure and privilege. It infuses soul back into our lives. And as the Philosopher, Heraclitus so sagely pointed out “You could not discover the limits of soul, even if you travelled every road to do so, such is the depth of its meaning.”

A facilitator in this mornings group shared a most exquisite poem. It was written recently to capture the zeitgeist. 

Keeping the Smoke Hole Open

Seek Vigil Not Isolation

life stories 

In Siberian myth, when you want to hurt someone, you crawl into their tent and close the smoke hole.

That way God can’t see them.

Close the smoke hole and you break connection to the divine world. Mountains, rivers, trees.

Close the smoke hole and we become mad.

Close the smoke hole and we are possessed by ourselves and only ourselves.

Close the smoke hole and you have only your neurosis for company.


Well, enough of that. Really, c’mon. We’re grown-ups. Let’s take a breath.

We may have to seek some solitude, but let’s not isolate from the marvellous.


High alert is the nature of the moment, and rightly so, but I do not intend to lose the reality that as a culture we are entering deeply mythic ground.

I am forgetting business as usual. No great story begins like that.


What needs to change? Deepen? What kindness in me have I so abandoned that I could seek relationship with again?

It is useful to inspect my ruin.

Could I strike up an old relationship with my soul again?


You don’t need me to tell you how to keep the smoke hole open. You have a myriad of ways.

We are awash with the power of words—virus, isolate, pandemic—and they point toward very real things. To some degree we need the organisational harassment of them.

But do they grow corn on your tongue when you speak them?


Where is the beauty-making in all of this?

That is part—part—of the correct response. The absolute heft of grief may well be the weave to such a prayer mat.

Before we burn the whole world down in the wider rage of Climate Emergency, of which this current moment is just a hint, could we collectively seek vigil in this moment?

Cry for a vision?

It’s what we’ve always done.

We need to do it now.


by Martin Shaw

I suggest that writing our stories allows us to connect with the transcendent and clear our minds of the day to day concerns and worries that can sap our spirit.

Indigenous cultures had carefully mapped out rites of passage to help them awaken a vision for their lives. Today we have this opportunity through writes of passage, which combines depth psychology and reflection to help keep the smoke hole open.

Find out more about the benefits of life writing

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