I have a story that ...

21 April 2023
Picture of a guy wearing sunglasses in front of a graffity wall showing the empowerement of a life well-lived.
By Ben Schoelzel
As the soul and the brain of Samaṇa, Ben focuses on changing his being in the world by being a resident at a Zen center, authentic relating and interpersonal meditation, as well as via an ongoing IFS-practice. He started writing poems in his teenage year and rediscovered his joy for writing with the newsletter and articles for Samaṇa.

I have a story that...

... you read this article because you like stories
... you are telling yourself stories all the time
... you have stories about pretty much everything and everyone around you

At least that's the case for me and what power these stories have over me!

In an earlier article I wrote about personal development being more and more able to stop "being subject to" things and "making these things objects" instead. Having stories that whisper into our ears, often subconsciously, is for me a prime example of "things I'm subject to". Let me elaborate with a few stories...
A Moktak instrument played by a person
A Moktak instrument

The stories we tell ourselves...

I've moved a fair bit in my life: from Germany to the UK, from the UK to Hong Kong only to move back to the UK. Next to China and after two years I hopped over to Taiwan. I then returned to Germany and although I hadn't planned it, stayed in Berlin for the most part for the past 7 years. Except that one time I moved to the US to a temple for a couple of months to then spend some more time in Brazil (all of this was before I gave up on flying due to the ecological impact it has).

Since then I've moved around a lot in Berlin, often only staying a couple of months in each place. It's been an insightful experience: every move affected my mind state, often increasing anxiety and bringing with it some resistance to the new environment.

Most recently, I got to experience this when moving into the Zen center I currently live at: whenever I visited, it was easy for me to single things out that I disliked:

  • "Couldn't anyone else see how annoying that one person was?!"
  • "Why did they meditate this way and not another way?"
  • "Why didn't they use a bell, but instead a Moktak?" (a Moktak is a wooden Korean bell, also known as "wooden fish")

It was easy for my mind and my reality to buy into these stories. I resisted and tensed up.
By the way, the power of stories is also one of the things therapist and couple counsellor Esther Perel points out.

Letting go of stories

These stories and narratives influence how we experience the world. They're shadows, following us around and coloring the world around us. It's easy to listen to them and difficult to let go of them - even when we're aware they might be at work!

In meditation, one of the things we practice is letting go. It's letting go of our stories and narratives. Over and over again, we let go of what our mind tells us and return to our immediate experience. That way, we train that "muscle".

Over the past couple of weeks, my stay at the center became more and more harmonious: rather than judging and criticizing, I let go of the stories I told myself about the other residents. I also made a conscious effort to see the good in them. To see in them what's likeable about them. To open up about the differences in meditation style. Like a river that over time softens the rocks that lie within, I became less edgy and softer. I started liking the place more!

I have a story that...

It's easy to believe that the world "is the way it is". It's also a fundamentally disempowering position!

So, I invite you to conjure up a different story, one that allows you to believe that change is possible. That the way you see the world is dependent on you: Change yourself, change the world!

There's a variety of ways this can be done. One is to work with the shadow we all have by learning tools for emotional integration and connection. Being more aware of our emotions and having integrated more of them into our being makes our shadows paler and paler. That's why the Samaṇa Program for Individual Transformation includes emotional competence as one of its core pillars. Another way to weaken the grip these stories have on us is to meditate. Again, the Program includes meditation for exactly this reason!

Engaging systematically with our inner world allows us to increase the range of experiences in which we are free. That's equal to being less "subject to" things and making them more and more "objects" to engage with. If you're interested in becoming better at this, how about you consider joining the next cohort? Simply head over to our website and register your interest there.

What are some of the stories you tell yourself? Which ones would you like to let go of?
The information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult a professional for guidance about a specific condition.