Narrative Medicine

Hi Friends,

Neuroscience, mood, health, and the creation of meaning have all come together in a new field called narrative medicine. How you tell the story of your life can make the difference between bitterness and gratefulness; fear and trust; love and hate; and even sickness and health. One of my favorite neuroscientists and therapists, Dan Siegel, M.D. writes, "...narrative medicine is creating a larger context for your story that lets you find the nobility within yourself and share it." I love that.

The field of spiritual direction that I've been involved in practicing and teaching for the past decade is all about creating a large, more noble context for the stories that shape our lives and determine our happiness. To say that I'm fascinated by the process of storytelling doesn't begin to convey how important I believe it is. I was just googling a reference from the Talmud (a central Jewish text) that answers the question, Why did God create human beings? with the answer, Because He loves stories.

While googling I came across a blog in USA Today on Faith and Reason by Cathy Lee Grossman. She reprinted an old hasidic parable that the great Elie Wiesel--holocaust survivor, author, and magnificent soul--included in the preface to his novel, The Gates of the Forest. Here it is:

"When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer," and again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient.

God made man because he loves stories."

It's up to us to tell good stories because (as the Buddha said) "With our thoughts we create the world."

So... if you want to:

* develop your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that witnesses your stories and helps orchestrate a more enlightened emotional response to what you tell yourself)
* put down the burden of heavy stories that no longer need to be retold
* create enlightening stories
* immerse yourself in brain-changing, heart-opening spiritual practice
* enjoy a weekend in the presence of like minded others
* craft stories, poems, and perhaps even start a memoir
* enjoy a retreat center of astonishing beauty
* and last, but certainly not least, entertain God with better stories

C'mon and enjoy a writer's weekend. This will be the fifth time I've facilitated this kind of weekend retreat. The first four retreats were among my favorite experiences ever. I'm sure this one will be wonderful as well.

Two dear friends, Marilyn Loy and Valeria Vogt (Valeria is a graduate of the Claritas Institute InterSpiritual Mentor Training Program that I directed for several years) are sponsoring the retreat. The information is:

Writing Down the Light
: A Conscious Retelling of Your Life's Story
June 8-11, 2014
Harmony Hill Retreat Center, Union WA

Marilyn Loy Every or Valeria Vogt
Wisdom Walk Productions

Hope to see you in the glorious spring, overlooking the Hood Canal at the Harmony Hill Retreat Center in Union Washington. It's an intimate little jewel of a place, so there aren't many spaces. That means if you want to come it's better to register early to make sure you can get a room.

Much love to you my fellow story tellers,