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Simple Settings for Spiritual Growth – Part 2: Story & Relationship

This is part 2 of 4! Click here for Part 1, here for Part 3, here for Part 4!

STORY

Just as we are adeptly attuned to Nature, humans are adeptly attuned to stories. Since time immemorial – even eons before our current, media-saturated information age – people have dedicated as much time as they can afford to stories. It’s part of what makes us human: we perceive the passage of time and events, cause and effect, truth and beauty. We record it in our memories and share it with each other. We’re cognitively designed for this.

kid taking photo with smartphone amidst huge crowd in Times Square

For better or worse, that’s all great news for media creators and companies. Thus, nowadays we are completely submerged in stories everywhere we turn – books, movies, TV, news, social media, etc. But usually little of it feels like it holds much enduring meaning, and it can all be more disorienting than illuminating. Often in the ever-deepening deluge of it all, we can forget we and those around us have stories of our own. Just like we’re made of Nature, humans are made of stories, and so is every other Sacred thing.


Our stories are almost always messier and harder to interpret than the ones projected at us. But we can reclaim the skills of story-interpretation, in part by learning from the creators and companies that have studied what is actually an ancient spiritual art, science, and craft of storytelling.

journal and pen on desk

Day-to-day life can seem like a mere wandering stream of experiences: stuff happens and time progresses, but it doesn’t always feel like it’s adding up to something important. It usually feels more mundane than meaningful, not really like a story at all. But we also all have moments or seasons of life where we feel profound emotion and transformation. These are more seared into our memory, and are what typically constitute the kinds of stories that make it into mass media. But what makes a truly memorable story? One that sticks with us, that we take into ourselves, that we come back to again and again for new harvests of insight?


Is it just the ones with simply the most action, the flashiest plot? No – it’s the ones that have complex characters and themes, immersive settings and patterns built into them. And why do these stories stick with us? They’re the stories that are most like our own.

peering into mountain mist looking for source of steam flowing past - Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington, USA

To this you might respond, “Hold on – maybe I have some other complex characters in my life, but surely not me! I may have visited immersive settings a few times, but I’m not there regularly! And as for themes and patterns – yeah right! You want me to believe my life is some sort of spiritual epic?”


Well, yes – because it is! You are a complex character, immersed in an amazing world that is both all your own and shared with all of us. Your life is – as we speak! – tracing a compelling arc through consequential themes and in an elegant pattern. Even amidst your uneventful daily muddling and your chaotic bursts of crisis and change, your life has a sublime design to it. And you can learn to read, witness, and author it the way you would another story. How? Follow the links at the end of the article to learn more! And read on…


RELATIONSHIP

More than anything else, our relationships with others shape our story and identity. Whether family or friends, colleagues or community, significant others or strangers, our health – in every category – depends on our healthy connections with others. Few things can hurt as much as feeling too separated from someone else’s Soul or too enmeshed with their ego. And few things are as uplifting as true belonging. It makes you feel like your whole self can expand to fit the largeness of your Soul, as you were always meant to.


It’s almost as important as breathing. But relationships can be stifling too, which is why outer belonging also needs room to breathe – we need the inner belonging of solitude. We need a healthy balance to feel truly alive. We need to be able to inhabit our relationships Soulfully, and we need to be skilled at inviting others to do the same.

elder holding hands of kid

When two or more people’s Souls meet each other – with voices, gaze, touch, tears, laughter, or even just simple presence – it can feel like a quiet miracle, yet one that was somehow inevitable. It’s like an old wound somewhere in the heart of God has suddenly healed. It’s like Goddess has invited you to dance to your mutual favorite song. It’s like Spirit itself somehow experienced a revelation, learned some joyful news it never knew before. It’s like coming home.


We should all get to be at home and feel the nearness of the Divine in our relationships. The first step toward this is getting acquainted with our own Souls so we can bring them into interaction with others. This is inherently vulnerable and can be painful, especially if relationships have brought Soul-disconnection for us in the past. But by cultivating inner belonging, we steer toward the right kind of outer belonging. So when that presents itself, we know we can be ready to enter into it.


If you’re looking for more inspiration around how to integrate story and relationship into your life, you can find more resources here on the InVocation blog!



Along the way, I offer you some reflection questions:

  • How have you been affirming of the beauty of your and others’ own stories?

  • How have you been embracing the complex characters and themes, immersive settings and patterns, in the spiritual epic of your life?

  • How have you been cultivating true belonging, including solitude and inner belonging?

  • How have you been getting acquainted with our own Soul and bringing it into interaction with others?


Image credits: #1; #2; #4

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