The Stories That No Longer Serve You

This year, the theme of the Radical Faerie Beltane Gathering I attended at the beginning of May was declared to be "The Stories That No Longer Serve You."

What are some of these stories?

What parts of who you are and how you define yourself are really storylines you carry over from one chapter of your life to another? Are you accepting truth each and every day out of habit -- unconsciously? Has it become all too easy to perpetuate the summary of who you say you are, without really looking to see what has changed? Are you voluntarily re-creating a mythic version of yourself -- re-running, re-issuing, re-publishing, re-broadcasting tired old standards?

How many of your personal myths and histories deserve to be exhumed, autopsied, potentially edited, spun, or simply cut? No, seriously, think about it for a moment -- what's keeping you from reinventing your biography? Where do the details of your personal profiles come from? Are they labels slapped on you that you've simply become used to wearing and bearing?

I'm talking about the kind of shift in perspective that allows the same ingredients employed in personal tragedy to become a story of personal triumph. As you consider your own stories, pay attention to the ones you tell yourself, regardless of whether you share them with the world.

Who do you tell yourself you are each morning? You have an opportunity to rewrite that person staring back at you in the mirror -- over and over again -- how often are you taking full advantage of your chance to begin a new page?

Which of the stories could you potentially shed? How many of the blurbs you print across the cover of your life could afford to be reworked from tale of a Victim to one of a Survivor? Start there...

Identify the fragments you would trim away, reshelve, or recategorize if you could because I have good news for you -- I personally gathered them for you, on your behalf -- I've picked them out, woven them together, given them wings, and sent them on their way, as part of a powerful ritual that occurred almost two weeks ago.

They are already gone. It's up to you to take stock of what you're glad to lose, and what new little notes of possibility you've found slipped between the pages of the life you're writing. What about your story feels a little different, if you let it? Flip through and note what has changed, and then celebrate it. Sometimes it's easier to realize you've said goodbye to someone for the last time after the fact.

Of course, I found this year's Beltane Gathering theme of The Stories That No Longer Serve You to be a beautiful synchronicity, as I spent the last few months struggling to make difficult decisions about what my True Stories are, should be, and whether or not there were old chapters of my life that should be closed. I've always loved serial storytelling -- soap operas, television storylines, series fiction -- these formats mirror the Always in Progress narrative of the life you are creating -- there is an opportunity for continuity, history, but tempered with the promise of reinvention, new beginnings, living to tell another tale.

How is it that Stories remain so powerful, even in this age of data and pure information? Why do we still prefer to read the magic of novels and fiction? Why do films have an emotional power that reaches us in a way that newsreels never will? Why do reality shows emulate narrative, willfully grafting dramatic spin onto truth?

The bottom line is that Information is processed through the Mind; Stories are absorbed directly through the Heart.

We Are The Ribbons

The Elders shared with us in Circle the morning before the May Pole ritual that this year the ribbons represented the intersection -- the Web -- of the individual stories of our lives. Considering the post I'd written just prior to Beltane, Stars of The Apocalypse, the image resonated. The braiding of the ribbons around the pole were to be the tapestry of our gospels -- the individual stories, the sparks of god, the collective autobiography of the Creator expressed through the synergy of each one of us. Past explanations of the meaning behind the May Pole ritual have often been mired in various (too literal) hetero-mechanically-sexual interpretations -- a big hole, a big pole, and elaborate embellishment and decoration that represents fanfare and noise.

Given the ongoing message I share here about the connection between creativity and divinity, my very literal (virtual) perspective on the role of human language in the co-creation of reality, my whole-hearted passion that communication with spirit is closely bound to information technology, that blogging is spiritual -- not to mention, considering that I had just voluntarily set aside my personal power in this realm to go off the grid and into the woods and back in time to a primitive daily human experience... I wasn't sure I could even survive for eight days with no web access -- I was comforted to find the magic I practice every day, in words, alive and well -- pervasive -- no matter where I might wander.

I had a hard time bowing out of this storytelling space -- I've grown quite comfortable writing my life as the better part of living it -- but I forced the break in my work here to reboot my perspective. I am always surprised to find that no matter how deeply I dive into my own personal story, I find myself reading pages of you -- the tapestry of all humanity. Human history -- the web -- is a tapestry. We are here to read and write the gospels of spirit.

I imagined that, out of the hundreds and hundreds of people attending this Beltane, I was uniquely positioned to participate in this vision of the May Pole ritual. This Beltane felt like it was mine. I thought I wrote a new reality in 2006, but the stories I began on May 1, 2007 are like no other I've lived before.

Trust me when I tell you that this Gathering was different -- this year, I felt I was an emissary. I've glimpsed the Congress of Souls at this location in the past, but never as your representative. I was crowned by each one of you, although there were only two Shift Your Spirits readers in attendance, that I know of...

We convene at the morning Circle on May 1st to designate the Committees that are required to produce the ritual -- the Committee I immediately gravitated to was the group that would prepare the Ribbons. One of my camp neighbors had brought these fascinating rolls of color printer film to contribute to ribbon material -- miles of clear mylar with trace images etched in cyan, magenta, and blue panels -- like long streaming strands of storyboards -- like movie film fragments frozen in color blocks.

When I approached the Elder about helping to make the Ribbons, I was told they were already done. I was stunned at how quickly this happened -- it was like the stories, the ribbons had been brought forth of thin air -- they'd simply arrived, and required less preparation or labor than I've ever known them to.

I felt excluded -- how could I be cut out of participating in a way that has my name written all over it? How could I miss such an opportunity?

When the May Pole ritual began, the rush forward to grab a ribbon's tail was like an enormous game of musical chairs, with greater odds stacked against the individual participants. With hundreds of people attending, there would only be enough ribbons for a fraction of participants to weave the pole.

Again, I felt locked out of performing my part. In the moment, I seized on the only opportunity available to me -- I began gathering the fragments of the ribbon that were lying on the ground. Many of the ribbons break and are discarded, some tear, some are shaken loose. So I walked between the May Pole dancers, while everyone else's eyes and hands were trained on the stories being woven above our heads, and I picked up the pieces scattered at our feet. I wove them together, attached them to a make-shift wand, and made my own microcosmic model of the May Pole in miniature.

It was an instinctual act of magic. I have a history, a pattern to my spell paraphernalia and the physical material I use in conjunction with prayer, thoughtform, and manifestation. The most obvious are words -- sigils, logos, icons, poetry; I also work with candles; but perhaps my favorite vessels are the dolls I make spontaneously, from whatever material is on hand.

I usually create these voodoo doll talismans in one sitting. I often give them as gifts. I make them, name them, listen to their stories, and I always give them away, leave them, or set them free.

As I worked the discarded fragments into a form, others began to notice and contribute the unwanted ribbon pieces. There was one woman who was physically unable to dance the May Pole, but as I passed her chair each circuit, she always amazed me with yet another strand of beads, a piece of feather, a scrap of cloth to hold out for me. The children who could not reach the ribbons so high above everyone's heads immediately saw the opportunity I had identified; those who weren't fortunate enough to ride on an adult's shoulders began running about and collecting material and running up to me with handfuls.

My miniature golem of discarded story fragments attached to my wand began to look a bit too crucified, but then I passed a pile of curling bark, shaved from the tree that became the May Pole. I crafted the curls of wood into wings, and the doll metamorphosed into something more hopeful than the sum of her discarded parts.

When she was done, I stuck her in the ground and left her on the knoll. She was gone the next morning. The stories that no longer serve us flew away, I imagine.

What part of you did she carry?

I continue to wonder and contemplate the Stories of our lives -- particularly, the ones that no longer serve us.

My creative writing advisor in college, Coleman Barks, a bestselling translator of the poet Rumi, used to say that the goal of the novelist is "to lie the truth." He also offered me advice as a writer -- the greatest compliment I've ever received -- that all I required to become a writer was to grow older...

What if you chose to repossess your life? What might change if you proceed with your day as if a new soul has woken up in your body?

Imagine the scenario of starting over, spiritually, within the boundaries of your personal history -- yes, there are some aspects of your life that you can't entirely reboot: your physical body, your location, your job... Make a list of what you'd find.

How many of the conditions of your life are truly beyond your power to change? Are there facets of your experience that you're treating as permanent that are in fact mutable?

Here are some of my stories that no longer serve me:

  • I am no longer just an aspiring writer -- you've helped me become an author
  • I am no longer invisible, alone on my path
  • I am no longer a hermit, practicing in the silence of an ivory tower
  • I am no longer okay with the disappointment of celibacy, without someone to love
  • I am no longer undiscovered
  • I am no longer hiding behind brand identities and jobs and other people's projects
  • I am no longer in limbo, wondering where my next home might be, where the next chapter of my life will occur, and who will be co-starring in it with me
  • I am no longer an eccentric anonymous lone-practicing mystic

Thank you for this past year, for your participation, encouragement, love and attention -- you've sat and read with me, and turned the first pages of this big new beautiful story of my life. Thank you for listening and granting me the honor of making these pages your mirror.

What stories did I release for you? My guides always tell me "Write it down and share it." I encourage you to do the same by leaving a comment.

The angel of ribbons made from the stories that no longer serve you has already flown; I'm truly curious to hear how my magic worked for you -- what part of you did she carry away?

Seek Wisdom -- Practice Love