Archive for December, 2011

Gifting Hummingbirds: Anima Supporterships and Artful Thanks

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Gifting Hummingbirds:

Anima Supporterships and Artful Thanks

by Jesse Wolf Hardin – Anima Lifeways and Herbal School

My latest drawing is of an intensely purposeful hummingbird, feasting on the sweet nectar of medicinal Stachys cooleyae blossoms from British Columbia.  I stopped writing the endless articles and emails long enough to create this image in acknowledgment for Anima Supporter and herbalist Tobi.

Tobi is one of only 3 consistent Supporters of this place and work, folks who make a commitment to send a certain amount of money each and every month not to get something, but to give.  Anima Supportership is an opportunity to be an integral part of our efforts and work, helping enable all the programs, publications and services.  And this drawing for Tobi is one way that we hope to acknowledge and honor that commitment on the part of the 3 we’ve come to count on.  Thank you again Tobi, Nick and Resolute.

For a pledge of $50 or more, others can also share in getting the Anima work out to the world.  If you happen to be interested, please fill out and then send to us the:

Anima Supporter Application

Tobi didn’t ask for this drawing of her totem animal, nor even ask for any thanks.  The best gifts – like those that she regularly sends for Anima – are gifted without expectation, with a true gladness of heart.

And glad we are, to send this feathered acknowledment to her.

Kidnapping Santa Back: Reclaiming Real Holiday Spirit

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

The canyon got its first snow of the season, and is falling again as we post this.  Rhiannon has a spruce bough decorated with old-timey ornaments and with a little fur hatted Russian doll at its pinnacle.  The following holiday piece is classic Wolf, and some of you may already read it when it first appeared here about a thousand blog subscribers ago.  It’s one of 180 alternately sentimental and seditious essays making up a book we plan to publish in Summer of 2012: The Straight Shot: Backwoods Wisdom and Downhome Tales For A World Gone Astray, by Jesse Wolf Hardin.  It will have something for everybody… and the author claims, “something to stir or offend people of every set persuasion.”  Enjoy, and Christmas wishes from all of us at Anima. -Kiva and Family

An impoverished, misunderstood misfit... yet happy as a lark and generous as all get-out!

Reclaiming Real Holiday Spirit

by Jesse Wolf Hardin – Anima Lifeways and Herbal School

It’s been said many times and many places, that the health of the American economy is dependent on the institution of Christmas, accounting as it does for some huge percentage of total annual retail sales.  But if you ask me, “institution” is a word better reserved for bloated government bureaucracy, oppressive psychiatric facilities, universities and prisons than what I prefer to think of as the season of good will.  And there’s something disheartening about being subjected to a barrage of tacky ads starting the day after Thanksgiving, or seeing thirty part-time Santas suiting up for a day of taking orders for high dollar toys from TV-addled tots at metropolitan shopping malls.

Not only the American economy is affected, of course, but also countries like China which make the bulk of the geegaws that fill the gift aisles of the big-box stores.  When we cut back spending due to so called economic downturns, it is Chinese and Indian laborers that are put out of work as much or more as Americans, so it seems to be in the entire world’s material interest – allies and opponents alike – that we never run out of novel new things we want to buy and try.  The Arab aristocracy pumps money into failing U.S. banks and enterprises, not so much in a take over bid, as to ensure that the dollars keep being spent, and that a percentage of those dollars end overseas.  The implication is that being frugal, saving instead of spending, is not only unfashionable but unpatriotic.  Those with savings or assets are accused of being hoarders and part of the problem.  When there’s trouble, both Republican and Democratic Presidents exhort the population, insisting that since shopping spurs growth, it’s downright un-American to limit our spending, or to stockpile food, guns or gold instead of investing in endless disposable appliances.

Truth is, it wasn’t that long ago in historical terms that frugality was considered an American value, with everyone from children to seniors encouraged to save as much money as possible for possible future hard times.  And poor Santa Claus, first drafted to be the materialist usurper of this preeminent Christian holiday, has now himself been slighted, turned by advertising executives into a shameless salesman for some entirely unnecessary and disappointing products, a red suited boulevard pimp of the most de-natured commodities, a shrill and common carney barker using sentimentality as well as sensationalism to draw in the unsuspecting fair goers and relieve them of their hard earned money.  Rather than being an active agent of material desires run amok, the original Santa archetypes include a fur-trousered Sami wildman and the not terribly material minded Odin.  St. Nicholas, “Ol’ St. Nick,” was actually a Middle-Eastern Turk who gave away his entire inheritance to benefit impoverished children.  He dressed more like a holy man, a beggar, a bearded biker or that unkempt mountain man Ben Lilly than the cash booster in the crimson pajamas appropriated from myth and history by the marketing engineers of Madison Avenue and West L.A.   He’d surely be mortified to find himself recast as a poster boy for consumer excess, his censored and polished image plastered on freeway billboards and plastic Slurpee cups.  I far prefer to imagine him as he was, wandering from town to town, freaking-out the stodgy and narrow-minded with his ragged clothes and beatific grin, intent on social justice, handing out sweet fruits and blessings to the good hearted kids he meets along the way.

This isn’t to say that owning nice things or buying nice gifts is a bad thing.  Like all warm blooded critters, it matters to us to have what we need to survive and even thrive, we appreciate artsy stuff as much as any glitter-gathering grackle or blackbird, and know just how we want to furnish or cave, den or nest.  But next year, you might want to consider doing things just a mite differently.  Instead of buying mostly imported junk from Wally-Mart etc., try buying things made from local materials with labor from the region you live in.  Pick things that are made to last, instead of those designed to entertain for a short while and then break and be replaced.  Or quickly consumed presents that are at least good for you, like natural honey from the state where you live.  Avoid anything battery operated since those are unsustainable and from overseas.  Try to avoid plastic for once, and see what else is out there made of cotton or wool, wood or steel.  Try sending honey from the state you live in, solar panels that ensure light when the grid goes down, fishing gear in case the recipients ever need to feed themselves from a river instead of a store.

Better yet, whenever you can make time, make gifts for those people in your lives that you care about.  If they really love you, they’ll appreciate the silliest hand drawn card featuring your own sentiments over any purchased one with stock saying.  And they’ll be more touched by every bite of a special treat, if they can sense the time you put into it and them instead of just ordering a fruit and jelly sampler from an online company.  Everyone has skills for making gifts that suit the needs and character of those we want to treat, and gifts that say something about who we are.  Maybe we have some experience carving, and a back room shop that seldom gets used.  A talent for sewing, and a basket of embroidery thread.  A fine stove, and an heirloom recipe for gingerbread.  The hours spent driving to a big city shopping center and milling about with the other bedraggled consumers, might be better utilized whittling an oak walking stick for a dear friend, reloading some special loads for an eagle-eyed aunt, or bagging up some special medicinal or beverage herbs for your family and adding individually personalized labels.

Not everything about the holiday season has always been easy for me, as I readily admit.  Yet no matter what your experience of the holidays – blissful, stressful or both – surely you’d agree that the best of Christmas lies not in what we’re given or what we buy, but in the love that abides.  In the gathering together of relatives that may live hundreds or even thousands of miles from one another, with Grandmas and Grandpas happily soaking up all the attention, and their wild little grandkids doing their best to get their dress clothes dirty.  In cold noses and warm slippers, hot stoves and steaming puddings.  In a common table with simple decorations, on a day when even those who usually eat out choose to share a lovingly made meal.  In the honoring of our roots, telling revealing stories about distant and not so distant ancestors, breaking out the photo albums, then breaking out in smiles.  In honoring the start of Winter but also the return to lengthening days.  In joyfully stirring a campfire of memories, whose flames might otherwise die out and shine on the planet no more.

It is a time when some of the least enchanted among us can, for awhile at least, retire the sober attitude and suspend their disbelief.  It’s the season when a larger than usual number genuinely open up to the possibility of miracles, like children keeping an eye on the sky for a glimpse of flying reindeer.  Maybe it’s time we kidnap Santa back from the hacks and return him to blissful bedraggled form, bravely odd and thread-worn.

Bring it on, holidays!  With our minds enchanted and hearts unfurled, we may yet recall we reside in a sacred and magical world.

(RePost and Forward Freely)

The word is that old St. Nick is being held in an agency basement, dosed on oxy, while the bosses sell Corporate Barbies using a Santa body double... Make plans now to break him out!

The Power Of Story: Tips For Writing Our Lives

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Each of us has a story that is our own, and it can define how we see ourselves, how we are seen, and how we act upon the world.  The following article by Jesse Wolf Hardin has been revised for a general audience, from a longer version written for herbalists and appearing in the Winter issue of the journal of folk herbalism practice and culture.  Subscriptions and the 700 page long Annual book can still be had in time for Christmas, by clicking on the: Plant Healer Magazine Website

Tips For Writing Our Lives

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
Anima Lifeways and Herbal School –

Part I: The Vital Narrative

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” –Muriel Rukeyser

“Storytelling is our way of making sense of our world, making order out of [imagined] chaos.  When you tell someone something as simple as what you did today, you are recounting your part of a narrative that began with the dawn of humanity.” –Doug Elliott

We tell our stories, so that we don’t forget.

We tell stories, so that those we tell will remember, but so that we remember as well.  Remember who we are, and the why’s of what we do.  What we intend, as well as what we have gone through.  Remember the natural urgings of our hearts and not just the rote recitations of the mind.  Remember what frightens and threatens, and remember to act to protect ourselves and what we love.  It is our stories that keep us from forgetting our hopes and dreams, and that help us remember to realize them, to manifest, to make real and possible.  To remember the plaintive voice of our calling, and remember that we are both worthy and able to respond.  To recount our mistakes, and thereby drive home each one’s poignant lessons.  To remember all that we have accomplished, wonderfully if imperfectly, and remember to feel satisfaction.  Remember what needs still need to be addressed, and what deeds remain to be done.

There will never be any shortage of stories in the latest “modern” age, but increasingly they’re more like vicarious stand-ins for actual experience, sensation, involvement and risk.  We mustn’t forget that story has at its best always set examples, informed, and inspired action on the part of the listener, reader or viewer.  It does not substitute for our necessary real-world quests, but incites us to ourselves live the sort of life that makes for a good, honorable and possibly exciting tale.  Instead, the trend is towards ever greater degrees of vicariousness through the medium of TV “reality shows”, and escapist literary and film tales of superhumans and comic book superheroes, stories that are less likely to empower us than to make us feel small and insubstantial, in need of the direction, control and protection of superior beings or agencies.  We’re treated to theater or television screen characters that do things we assume we could never do, go places we imagine we could never go, face and overcome or resolve challenges we figure we’d never be able to deal with.  Even great and ancient tales meant to stir a well of courage and a lust for adventure in all who hear them, tend to be reduced to externalized entertainment rather than held up as irresistible inspiration and laudable example, partially due to our failure to notice our place, and our responsibility, in the greater story of contemporary existence.

Storyteller Gemmah Hannah

“I will tell you something about stories… They aren’t just entertainment.  Don’t be fooled.  They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”
–Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

We need to recognize, develop and exercise our stories, for without a strong sense of our own narrative and how it keys into the the bigger picture, we may well forget.  We may forget that extreme or heroic acts on behalf of others, the land or a cause, are for us to accomplish in our own time, and are not simply the province of historic figures and storybook characters.  That gardens and enchanted forests, instructive creatures and medicinal plants are not just things of the past.  That the age of miracles is now, with a individualized role for each and every one of us in nature’s miraculous healing covenant.  That the world truly is fantastic, every bit as much as any fantasy movie or novel.  And you need not concern yourself with toning down your story.  Truth is like a fish in a tank, that grows as its vessel is enlarged.  An absence of drama is not only un-compelling, but a sure sign that one’s tale about themselves is pure fiction.

“No storyteller has ever been able to dream up anything as fantastically unlikely as what really does happen in this mad Universe.”   –Robert A. Heinlein, Lazarus Long

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”     –C.S. Lewis

The problem is, that without a story to call our own, we may forget to remember.

Moreover, if we do not take responsibility for the content and telling of our individual and collective story, it will surely and ingloriously be shaped for us.  Events will mold us and the tale of our lives, without either prediction or preparation.  Authorities outside ourselves will decide our value, convention will decide our styles, and circumstances decide our roles.  If we do not actively help write and then communicate, we can easily fall into the template set out like a trap for us, a template of fear and self doubt, boring conformity and contrived normalcy, acquiescence and obedience, moderation and mediocrity.

It is for us, whoever we are, to author, embody, grow and tell our story.

Then whenever anybody tries to write you off, you just grab their attention (by the collar if necessary) and tell ‘em, “Hey, give me that pen!”

The Story of Story

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” —Harold Goddard

“If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.” —Siberian Elder

Story is at the very heart of human existence, defining, communicating and preserving cumulative experience, meaning and lesson.  Stories are, near as I can tell, the most effective way that we people have ever made sense of ourselves and our world.

The human mind has evolved to be naturally receptive to narratives, and to learn information best through illustrative stories.  In the spontaneous stories that children act out in their play, we witness them naturally expressing aspects of who they believe themselves to be and what they hope to become, and often within the context of a behavioral code, personalized morality, or even code of honor.  This is because story provides us a framework not only for identity but for motivation, direction and manifestation as well.

Without an interconnective storyline, life can seem like only a sequence of dimly related events and dynamics, offering the psyche no place to tether, root and grow from.  But with the development of an overall story that we’re an integral and irreplaceable part of, events past and present meld in the moment into a whole and active gestalt, a cognitive leap and unified understanding that affords clarity and stability/balance within a whirlwind of both pleasant and unpleasant experience.  In a society that feeds separativeness and disconnection – that paints us a world where all things seem isolated, temporal and amenable, discontinuous and subject to redefinition or reconfiguration – story is a way of firmly planting ourselves not only in the security of a specific physical and geographic location, but also in a bed of meaning and mission, and in sequence of events leading from and to somewhere, to one condition or outcome after another: what we could call our personal “story arc”.
Telling stories is as elemental as breathing and even more definitively human, for while breathing keeps us alive, it is the richness and significance of our story that can make our finite mortal years feel truly worth living.

And, we must add, worth sharing.

Aristotle says in “Poetics” that storytelling is what gives us a shareable world, connecting and identifying with others through an exchange of subjective tellings.  When entering a new relationship, we describe our selves and our current conditions in the light of future anticipations and valued memories, of an ontological mythos and sense of association, purpose or mission.
In many once land-based cultures, in fact, it is still not uncommon to hear someone ask “What’s your story?” upon meeting for the first time.  Questions such as “How are you?” or “What’s going on?” are naturally preceded by one’s first finding out who and what this other person is that they’ve encountered.  “What’s your name?” isn’t considered nearly as important as “What’s your game?”  The respondent’s introductory story may be long or short depending on the teller and time, but it will in most cases include the place where one calls home, what group or association they belong to or represent, and what they do.  This doing may mean their trade, such as being a woodworker or teacher, or the mission to which they’ve give themselves most passionately or immediately: “I doctor the village” or “I seek the healing yellow root”.

Everyone, from childhood on, is expected to be aware of and able to speak of their story.  It must include, like a fable in a book, an evocation of place and situation (which writers call “setting”), of self (“character”), purpose and challenge or conflict (“plot”), and projected result or resolution (“denouement”) of what’s has happened in their lives and what they are intent on doing.  Their stories describe not only where they come from but where they are going, in other words, their current position within a personal timeline of past and future, on the story arc of an already meaningful and eventful existence.

“Storytellers have as profound a purpose as any who are charged to guide and transform human lives.  I knew it as an ancient discipline and vocation to which everyone is called.”
–Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling

One who proves particularly adept at telling not only her own personal tale, but also the tales of her association or tribe, are featured and feted as honored “storytellers,” the acknowledged keepers of oral history and communicators of the group’s core characteristics, values and priorities.  They are the unofficial teachers, informally appointed through popular acclamation because of the skill and wisdom they evince, and because of this, the most influential sources.  The best instructors and leaders, motivators and singer/songwriters, care givers and herbalists are often also the most effective storytellers… and are nearly always at least aware of – and fully inhabiting – their own powerful story-lines.  What’s more, they are often familiar with the stories of the people in their audience, speaking to their known individual experiences as well as collective sensibilities.  It is storytelling’s subjective and highly personalized dimension that prevents movies and books from effectively taking its place.  Folklorist and wildcrafter Doug Elliott reminds us of an anecdote, wherein someone decides to donate a TV to a so-called undeveloped African village.  For a while, the entire village gathered around the TV, but after a while their interest waned and they went back to hanging out with the village storyteller in the evenings.  One of them was asked, ‘Why did you go back to listening to the storyteller; doesn’t the TV know more stories than the storyteller?’ The reply was ‘Yes, the TV knows more stories, but the storyteller knows us.’

Those stories which retain their significance from person to person, situation to situation, generation to generation, that meet the test of time by continuing to be found both subjectively verifiable and practically employable – are what we call “folklore.”

Part II:


“The story was the bushman’s most sacred possession.  These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization.  Without a story of your own, you haven’t got a life of your own.” —Laurens Van der Post

It is stories that shape our existence as much as any actual condition or happening, the subjective, honest or dishonest, contextual telling and retelling that colors the perception and programs the responses of us and those we interact with or are subject to.  These tales include especially the stories told about us, those we tell to and about our selves, and those we truly represent, wholly inhabit, live and express.

The Stories Told About Us

“Stories are the single most powerful weapon in an arsenal.” —Howard Gardner, Harvard University

“People take on the shapes of the songs and the stories that surround them, especially if they don’t have their own song.”
-Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

To the direct degree that we fail to develop, brand and communicate our story and the story of our group, it will by default end up framed and determined by commentators or authorities from outside.  Being less informed about us, our motivations, intent and methods, their tales will consist almost entirely of their impressions of our appearance and assessments of any readily visible results.  Even these proclamations will be distorted by their existing stereotypes, prejudices and presumptions.  And the less intimate and involved they are with us or our group, the greater and possibly more harmful their spin on things will be.  This is what the call “hanging a jacket” on someone, on the streets.  Women were considered and treated as inferior and ill equipped, before redefining themselves and publicly pushing forth a new narrative highlighting their strengths and abilities.

“The answer is always in the entire story, not a piece of it.” —Jim Harrison

Other’s stories about us personally can be dismissive, literally “writing us off”, unrealistically praiseful or unfairly critical, but in almost all cases will be an unbalanced telling.  Even if the appraisals are not mean spirited, they do us a disservice by being so awfully incomplete, poorly focused and un-nuanced.  You are never just what is thought and said about you.  You have gifts and skills, intentions and dreams that few may recognize if you haven’t wholly and audibly expressed your self and your story.  No description of a scientist or medical doctor is accurate without mention of her feelings and concerns, insights and sensibilities, and a portrayal of even the most informal or alternative herbalist will often need to include a reference to their careful keying out of new plant discoveries, and studious attention to clinical research and its continually revised conclusions.

Government authorities, belittling fathers, bitter grade school teachers, advertising executives out to get our money, and fear mongering Fox News commentators are all examples of external voices who are very, very good at framing, spinning and delivering a convincing narrative.  It is up to you, and to us, to get out the rest of the story…
…the whole story.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

“Those times of depression tell you that it’s either time to get out of the story you’re in and move into a new story, or that you’re in the right story but there’s some piece of it you are not living out.” — Carol S. Pearson

The stories others tell about us, can yoke us to an unjust or at least rigid characterization that affects how people view us upon first meeting.  Similarly, narrow or unjust characterizations of a group can result in reduced participation in its work and events, can make accomplishing its goals more difficult, and can even be the narrative that paves the way for the restricting or outlawing of a group or its practices.

Even more dangerous, however, are those untruths or unbalanced tellings that we spin for ourselves.

This is so whether the story is about us specifically, or about some element of our lives.  And whether we craft the tale, or merely repeat the untruths impressed upon us by our parents or peers.  In the former case, we may be unconsciously misshaping reality as part of our denial of or retreat from a traumatic experience, or we may be consciously protecting ourselves by telling a tough story when we really feel vulnerable.  In the latter, we have adopted a story refrain that was impressed or even pounded into us.  This can be as simple as a dishonest tale about a family’s race or origins, or as complex as a set of values and preconditions for relating to anyone or anything.  Or as insidious as a parent impressing with their shows of disappointment just how worthless their kid is.  Or as terrible as a sexually abusive parent, teacher or priest who instills in their victim the lifelong narrative that it was really theirs – the abused’s – fault for what happened.

Regardless of our stories’ veracity, source or source material, there are almost always deep ramifications and both predictable and unforeseen consequences to the particular narratives we construct or adopt, identify with and often attach to.
This applies not only to our narratives about our selves, but also to those that are about the people and elements around us.  For example, if we were to tell ourselves that nature is dangerous, that fitting-in is primary and intrusive government a necessary evil, we will be more likely to contribute to a reality that is wholly manmade, conformist and controlled.  We will welcome restrictions on our liberties for the promise of security, and likely be afraid to leave the security of the “shire” to chance some great adventure or quest.  We will surely be hesitant to be and express our real and whole selves, out of concern that we might be seen as different and therefore excluded from the fold.  We will probably fail to find instruction and inspiration in the natural world, while supporting endless development of wildlands, spraying toxic herbicides on tightly crew-cutted lawns, and mistrusting herbal remedies. But if we were to tell a story of rebellious heroes that buck the norm, embark on adventures and attempt the seemingly impossible, we would surely come to take risks on behalf of our passion and purpose.  If we were to tell of a nature that is inspirited and instructive, filled with sentient green beings whose medicinal properties can aid us, then we would just as assuredly find ways to actively oppose infringements on the last wild and biodiverse places, let our lawns grow or even dedicate our yards to reintroducing native species, and look to the green ones as accomplices to and agents of our healing of ourselves, other people and this planet we are integral to.  In telling ourselves a story of liberty and response-ability, individuality and community, connection and healing, empowerment and action, we begin to fashion for ourselves and all things a differently conceived world.
If the story we tell ourselves is that we’re inadequate or inconsequential, it makes it less likely that we’ll attempt the difficult tasks and changes that might be needed.  If the character that we paint of ourselves is held to be unworthy for any either real or delusional reason, we probably won’t do the things we want because we won’t think we deserve the experience, and for the same reason, we will have a harder time believing or relishing any credit, compliments, accomplishments or rewards.  But when our story focuses on our real selves and intrinsic worth,  – on our genuine character, certain gifts, proven skills, honest needs, sure potential, heartful goals and most insistent calling – the we can move forward, and manifest… just as we express.

The Story We Inhabit, Fulfill & Express

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” –Lewis Carrol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

No one is truly on the sidelines.  None is invisible.  There’s no one who isn’t a participant and thus co-creator of this reality and world.  It is so important, then, that we present what we want seen, tell of our selves and what needs telling, notice our effects, and act to best effect.  That we accept we have the response-ability to consciously and purposefully contribute to that co-creation through the story we truly inhabit, fulfill through the living of it, and express to all who will hear.

Our awareness of, taking responsibility for, learning from and sharing of our story can do the following:

•Honestly describe and define ourselves, for our own self perception as well as that of others
Frame, illustrate, color, represent and help to determine the course and flavor of our lives
•Contribute to the full expression of our full selves, and the most honest as well as characteristic expression of our group
•Incessantly illuminate and explore relevant ramifications and consequence, quandaries and questions
Provide us a means for a consciously and purposefully “shareable world”
•Contribute to a cultural and political narrative/mythology, independent of – or even in opposition to – the  narrative of the dominant paradigm
•Contribute to a needed mythos of personal and planetary health, of personal and earthen mission, in which we can each play a significant, exemplary or even heroic role

“Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell.”
–Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot

Storyteller Clare Murphy

Our story can be communicated orally:
•In installments, beginning with the most definitive and salient parts first.
•In a single telling at special dedicated time, for the benefit of someone that clearly interested.
•Not just at first meeting someone, but at every timely opportunity as you build mutual understanding and affinity.

Oral Storytelling Tips:

•Tell what is important to you, and it will be what you most want to share.
•Don’t think you need to be a great orator to vocalize your story.
•A story is just a conversation, in which the telling is purposeful and the topics significant and relevant.
•Besides live storytelling, record your oral story on whatever medium, for your own reference as well as to share with others.
•People will hear you best, if you also demonstrate a sincere interest in their own personal stories.
•You don’t have to be the obvious subject of the story, if your approach to to the subjects that matter to you demonstrates your character, values, interests, temperament, experiences and effects, intentions or aims.
•Trust the power of your true story, rather than relying on embellishment.
•Speak conversationally in your normal voice and timbre.
•Don’t worry about dramatizing, as your voice will naturally reflect the feelings and degrees of excitement that each portion of the story bring out.
•Shorten your story and speak more concisely when those listening are in danger of distraction or disinterest.
•Extend and flesh out your tale when they are paying attention and appear to want more.
•The storyteller’s success is not a matter of how well folks are entertained, but how much they really heard and any effects it may have on them.

Our story can also be communicated through writing:

•In installments focused on various aspects, as related topics or question arise in conversation.
•In a single exposition.
In the form of:
•Detailed letters and emails.
•Letters to the editor.
•Blog posts about past or ongoing parts of your life, that readers will find them engaging and useful.
•Hand written memoirs with photographs such as you might want to hand down to your children.
•A full autobiography, regardless of any possible literary merits.

Tips for Written Storytelling:

•Work on your ability to write clearly and powerfully.
•Do not wait until you are happy with your writing ability, before starting to write your story.
•An essay or article is just a story recorded in ink, don’t let writing intimidate you.
•Relax.  Spoken words may not be able to be taken back, but until you send it out, your written story can be reexamined and fact checked, adjusted and improved, expanded or erased.
•As with an oral story, written storytelling only differs from relaxed conversation in terms of its relevance, significance, focus and depth.
•Again, you don’t have to be the obvious subject of the story.  You share the story of your self when you write personally (not objectively) about any of the things in life that most matter to you.

There are elements of every person’s story in yours, which is what makes it possible for someone you don’t know to relate to it, but it is in another way your story and yours alone, exactly like no one’s story before you.  Our individual stories are like fingerprints, in that they are specifically identified with us… and because no two are ever exactly alike.

The fundamental elements of all our stories, no matter how unique, are character, intention, action/conflict, experience and effect/result.
The central character of your story is certainly you, including your characteristics… such as personality, appearance, temperament, attitude, energetics and constitution, interests, beliefs and concerns, values and priorities, propensities and passions.  This authentic, self-aware you sets intentions and goals according to your character values.  Action to actualize your intent, resolve conflicts and move towards your goals, includes personal subjective experience from which you can learn and strengthen, precipitating both intended and unintended effects and results.  In literary terms, action and conflict is the buildup leading to conclusion.  To the contrary, in our real life stories, each incidence of resolution sets the stage for the further efforts and events of a successive chapter, and our deaths are always the closest thing that we have to a final scene.

“Death is the sanction of everything the story-teller can tell.  He has borrowed his authority from death.” –Walter Benjamin

Our work, then, is to recognize, develop, brand and communicate our authentic, purposeful story.  We first need to recognize what is real and definite in and about us and our narrative, and what is artifice or illusion.  We next need to develop our tale and our character, with study and application, through the clarifying of our intent and missions, and through the conflicts we face in actualizing our intentions and manifesting our successive aims and goals.  And we want to brand our story with our unique, indelible mark, with the ways we are different as well as connected and related, with the touch of our non-replicable fire and spirit.

•Don’t let others write or delimit your story,  it is for you to author… and to live.

•Don’t let others determine how your story is told to the world, preempt or counterbalance with your own
engaging exposition.

•Don’t get trapped in one mood, chapter or scene of your story.

•It is the challenges, obstacles and surprises that forge you, as the main character of your story.

•Avoid stereotypes, which are never wholly accurate and seldom compelling.

•Never let story and fiction or projection begin to take the place of actual experiencing and doing.

•Realize that your path through your story is every bit as potentially magical and revealing as any piece of fiction, and that you are as able – as any realistically portrayed character – of significant feats, quests, discoveries, assisted healings and other meaningful acts of service.  And yes, of deep rewards.

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.” —Hans Christian Andersen

Tell the story of your life, remembering that every story should be made worthwhile.  Tell your story as completely as you can, while remembering that no story is ever complete.  Plant your story in the soil of truth, in the very real world.  Feed and grow it, then spread its seeds of nourishment, meaning and healing.  Tell it any damn way you want… but keep moving as you recount.

Tell your story walkin’.

“This part is my part of the movie, now let’s hear yours.”
–Jack Kerouac, Tristessa

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