Words. Spoken in many languages, exchanged in coffee shops, parliaments, battlefields, hospitals, in remote villages, places of prayer, on the radio, at home, in the street. Words whispered, shouted, cried. Spoken to comfort, to advise, to hurt, to manipulate, to question, to forgive and to heal. So many words, around us, all the time.
Studying old stories, we learn that there were times on this earth when people related differently to words and were more aware of the true power of speaking. These stories remind us that words, once spoken, are active pow- ers in the outer world and, that blessings and curses cannot be easily altered. To realize this as true, just think how easy it is for us to ruin someone’s day by saying an unkind word. Remember what it takes to ask for and receive forgiveness and how much we can encourage someone with a kind, loving word.
‘The words we speak become the house we live in’, writes the Sufi master Hafiz (13th century). Magicians still today speak the ancient formula ABRA KADABRA which originated in Hebrew as EVRA KAADABERA meaning ‘I shall create as I speak’. Words are powers, available to all and used by both the Goodies and the Baddies. As a human being you are gifted with a voice. But what are you a voice for?
The prophet Bob Dylan sings:
You may be an ambassador to England or France You may like to gamble, you might like to dance You may be the heavyweight champion of the world You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody (From the album Slow Train Coming 1979)
Have you ever asked yourself what and whom do you serve as you speak?
Whenever we tell stories we create wor(l)ds, taking our listeners on a journey to other realities, feeding their im- aginations with pictures, at times opening for them new possibilities. As a storyteller, I try to never forget what a privilege it is to have willing listeners and aspire to tell from a place of service, to speak words which will unite, encourage and heal. I know storytellers can inspire their listeners to speak and act. We can ‘speak into action’ the changes we wish to see in the world. But you need to choose who you are serving and what you wish to be a voice for!
Once, the famous wise Socrates was stopped in the street by a man who ran up to him: “Socrates, you will not believe what I have to tell you about your friend whom you...” “Stop!” Socrates interrupted him, “Before you speak any further, did you put your story through the three sieves?” “Three sieves?” the man asked confused “What three sieves?”
“The first one is the sieve of truth. Are you sure that what you want to tell me is true?” Socrates asked.
“I am not sure, no, I just overheard it” the man said. “
Well, the second sieve, is the sieve of good” Socrates said “Is it something good you’re about to tell me about my friend?”
“Ehm no, on the contrary, it is disgraceful” said the man.
“Hmmm” said Socrates “Let’s try the third sieve then, is it necessary to tell me this disgraceful story which may not be true about my friend?”
“Well, of course it is not necessary but he... “.
“Stop!” Socrates interrupted him again with a smile “If the story you’re about to tell me isn’t true, good or necessary, please shut up!”
The Buddha advised: “Speak with kindly motivation. Speak what is true and helpful. Speak in due season and to the benefit of all.”
This world will be different if we practise pausing to examine the motivation behind our words. In moments of conflict or argument if we pause and connect with our higher intentions, with our wisdom, courage and compassion, we can break free from habitual responses. We can speak truly, freely and responsibly. Speak as co-creators - words that serve.
During World War II, a group of American soldiers came into a village after a bomb destroyed many of its houses and a part of the church. A beautiful statue of Jesus which stood outside of the church was broken into pieces and the soldiers saw the priest, together with local villagers, collecting the broken pieces and joining them together. Unfortunately, the hands of Jesus were not found. The soldiers, aware of the grief of the villagers, suggested sending the statue to be repaired in America, but the priest insisted on leaving the statue as it was without the hands. On the pedestal below the statue the priest wrote: “Lend me your hands” to remind the people that it is through earthly human hands that divine help can be given and damage can be repaired, and in human hearts celestial compassion and forgiveness be experienced and through earthly human mouths God’s comforting, encouraging and healing words can be spoken.
All of me: bringing all of myself to what I do
by Clare Coburn
Often in my life—and sometimes that feels like weekly—I’ve bumped up against the part of myself that has no idea of where I’m meant to go or what I am meant to do. A friend was writing to me about exactly this kind of crisis—‘I’m at a standstill,’she wrote in her email. It happens in wonder tales when the heroine has been wandering frantically through the forest and knows that she is lost but must just stop and listen.
In my own life, I have skipped from story to story, trying on different kinds of work—everything from speech therapist, technical writer, Qantas flight attendant, Steiner teacher to lecturer in a law school—and many of those jobs have served me well. Inside though something often stirred, my heart tugged at my apron like a neglected child. Then I had to stop and listen to my own story, to sense from the pulsing of my heart where its yearnings were nudging me. Sometimes it meant that I had to let go of the things that mattered—the job title, the secure income, the sensible option, the home. That’s how I became a storyteller and found myself coming from Australia to help Ashley and Roi on the Now of Storytelling in 2011 with 16 other storytellers from around the world. Every time I receive an invitation to get involved in the story world, it’s like a magic being has given me a golden key, a key that I hardly dare to use, yet when I do, I enter a realm which feels like home.
I have started to honour this in all kinds of ways, but I most love the power of story to help us reach into the heart and listen to its promptings. As part of my work with this, I am offering a workshop ‘All of me: bringing all of myself to what I do’. In this workshop, we will use stories, poetry and creative activities to help us explore the ways we can serve the world with the fullness of our spirits.
If you’d like to join me on 25-27 November, please see the details on our website.
Sue Hollingsworth’s South African Update
Whilst Ashley and Roi are busy running The Now of Storytelling, together with Clare Coburn from Australia I’m in South Africa, partly on holiday and partly working.
The holiday part was an incredible wilderness walk in September called the Eden to Addo Great Corridor Hike - 400 kms through the mountains from Knysna to Addo Elephant Park to promote bio-diversity and eco-system functioning (see www. edentoaddo.co.za or Facebook for more details and all the photos!) Without Borders” at a project called Woza Moya (see more at www.wozamoya.org.za) in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, run by a wonderful woman called Sue Hedden, which works with HIV and AIDS sufferers, children who have been left orphaned by the disease and the grandmothers who now have to look after them. Jamie McLaren Lachman, the Director of Clowns Without Borders and an old friend of the School of Storytelling, helped organise this for me and I had the great pleasure of working with Sibongilie
For those of you who have heard the “Along the Way” performance of stories I created from walking the Camino, there will be another performance called “Out of Eden” from this adventure, featuring traditional African stories interwoven with my actual experiences.
I’m hoping to premier this in February actually in South Africa before bringing it back to Europe. The work part has been very varied. To give you a taste of one of the things I have been doing, I have been working with an organisation called “Clowns
Tsoanyane, who trained with Ashley and me on the 2009 Storytelling in the Community course in Cape Town and Annabel Morgan who attended the 2010 Storytelling at Play course with Ashley and Roi.
It was a wonderful experience to be driving around the dirt roads of KZN, arriving at a community centre or school as the children or grandmothers would walk to meet us and then spending a joyful couple of hours singing songs, playing games and telling stories together. I could go on but maybe the photos can say it better!
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Jo Parsons joyfully trained with the SOS in 2009 and 2010. As a Storyteller she leads workshops and courses for the general public, in schools, in the Care system, and with spiritual groups, helping them to bring about transformation and healing through the power of storytelling. She finds that working with stories transforms the listener, learner, teller and teacher alike and like alchemy, turns the base metal of experience into the gold of insight and understanding. The following poems arose from her experience as a co-facilitator of “Jiser el Adam”, a month long storytelling for peace project for young adults in Israel earlier this year.
Instead of blood, liquid light runs in my veins like a secret river, in a hidden world just beneath the surface of this one, a covert counterpart of me coursing beneath my skin. I would never have known if You hadn’t beaten my skin so thin with Your savage love that light began to leak from between my shoulderblades in two streams which flowed down my back in wings and hung there to dry in the morning in the rays of the rising sun.
The adventures of Mari and Lesley on the Somerset library trail from 8th to 12th August 2011
by Mari and Lesley
Wendy Miller-Williams, a Team Librarian with Somerset County Council, organised the sessions and was delighted with the outcome. ‘It was wonderful to see such young children so completely engaged with the sessions,’Wendy said. ‘They listened intently and were very keen to take part in the activities as well.’ Once, in another time and another place... (in February 2011 at the International School of Storytelling) Lesley and Mari met on the course “Storytelling for Children: The Right Story at the Right Time” run by Roi Gal-Or and Marianna deCroes. After 5 weeks of intense and inspiring education, practice and inspiration, and the weekly performances for local families, they felt inspired to dream up a project for children in Somerset during their summer holidays.
And so they got to work, with the idea of telling stories in public libraries ... Lesley, a retired librarian living in Frome, used her contacts to set up an opportunity to tell stories to children in connection with the national Summer Reading Challenge, themed ‘Circus Stars’. Together Lesley and Mari created a programme of stories, songs and activities lasting 45 - 50 minutes and threaded them together with the Circus Stars characters.
They practised and they practised...
And so the Tales from the Big Top tour began in Frome on 9th August, continuing throughout that week to Yeovil, Wincanton, Glastonbury, Cheddar and Shepton Mallet. Soon, all of the libraries were attracting a full audience of children aged 2 - 9 and their parents and relatives ... and our storytellers were feeling nervous but excited!
This was a wonderful adventure for Mari and Lesley, who were learning so much as storytellers for children! Using the approach to preparation of a storytelling programme which they had been taught at Emerson, they had planned to have something for different ages. But they had not been told how old the children would be in each group – and the groups were all wonderfully different in their engagement with the stories and songs! So our intrepid storytellers did some re-jigging as they went along, shortened the session slightly, tried different stories, and by the third session, it was apparent from the connection with the audience, that the right stories and songs were being shared at the right time! The children loved the participation in songs and stories, and so did the accompanying adults!
As the final telling of Tales from the Big Top came to a close, Mari and Lesley were feeling exhausted but elated, and eager to make more plans for stories at some point in the future! Watch this space!
If you would like to share your pictures or experience, email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We recommend this wonderful new book by one of our former students...
Coming Home to Story: Storytelling Beyond Happily Ever After by Geoff Mead
Master Storyteller Geoff Mead takes the reader inside the experience of telling and listening to stories. He shows how stories and storytelling engage our imaginations, heal communities and bring adventure and passion into our lives. The narrative is interspersed with consummate retellings of traditional tales from all over the world.
For more information see www.valapublishers.coop/ coming-home-to-story
After 10 months work, we have regained the charitable status we lost when Emerson College changed its way of operating in April 2010 and the School of Storytelling had to become independent. This is an enormous step forward for us: it means that our work is recognised again as having charitable value in the world, that we no longer have to pay high taxes which means that prices for our courses will not have to go up in the near future, it gives us the freedom to apply for grants and ask for donations for particular projects that we want to be involved in without having to pay tax and probably a lot more that we’re too excited to even think of at the moment! Watch this space for new developments as we start to get to grips with all the possibilities.
Roi was awarded the 2011 “Wilson Hinkes Peace Award” for the “Healing Words” work. This Award is given each year to an organisation which has shown a proven record of working towards peace, in any sphere. “We have been very impressed with the work that you have done and are continuing to do. The Peace Award of £500 is to be used by the International School of Storytelling to further this work.” CONGRATULATIONS dear Roi!!!!!