Thursday, May 13, 2010

Story Telling

The human mind is an amazing thing. It can weave the most beautiful stories out of nothing, and when that mind belongs to a William Shakespeare or a Katherine Doughtie, it can produce tales that can make us weep with simultaneous feelings of sadness and joy.

Most of us, however, are blessed with only average story telling ability. These stories usually take the form of runaway thoughts that may or (in many cases) may not be related to actual facts. We think we are able to peer into another person's mind, as though we were the omniscient narrator of a novel. Or we dream up fantastic scenarios about the future that would give H. G. Wells a run for his money.

Almost all the time, our stories are complete nonsense. We cannot read minds with any accuracy, just as we cannot predict how something will transpire in the future. Yet we continue to try. Even though we have experienced the incorrect outcomes of our predictions and prognostications thousands of times, we still insist on saying "I know what you're thinking" (an invitation to disaster in any conflict), and "I know what's going to happen" (a sure-fire way to make yourself look ridiculous when the actual events take place).

We really need to stop telling these kinds of stories. Inevitably, they all lead to further suffering because they all contain the dreaded "I, me, and mine" component. So how can we stop a mind that is used to thinking it is all-seeing? First, remember that thoughts are just thoughts, they are never facts. You may have a thought about a fact, but that's still just a thought. Secondly, whenever we think we can accurately predict the outcome of anything, we need to be able to step back and see that this, too, is simply a thought and not a fact. Third, we have to come back to a present-moment sensory reality, which can be any sensory experience that's is happening right now. This will let us disengage from the story telling mind, and bring us back to the fact of this moment, just as it is.

Or, you can try this... At one point in my relationship with Kathy, we were telling a lot of stories in our heads that had no basis in fact, and it was causing us a lot of trouble. We found an empty candy jar, and every time we found ourselves telling a story about each other, or anything else for that matter, the story teller had to put a dime in the jar. You would be amazed at how fast that kind of penalty can make you aware of how often you tell stories in your daily life.



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