April 9, 2011
Story Meditation is a meditative practice I discovered whereby one picks a theme, and creates a story in the solitude of the mind. This is very similar to my practice of picking themes for my science fiction short stories. The difference is that I am now picking themes that apply directly to my well-being and difficulties, and I no longer restrict myself to the landscape of Science Fiction. The stories that come out of this are often fantastical and dream-like. They lift from culture and recent experience. Story Meditation is a way of mediating my experience of my own unconscious.
For instance, I was having a really hard time writing this post. Part of it is I want you to want the practice of Story Meditation, so that you don’t pass over it as trivial, and that you try it. I kept writing sentences that were not resonating with me, so I decided to apply some Story Meditation. I sat on this exercise ball that I use while meditating and presented myself with the theme of, “This post I’m trying to write and am having difficulty with.”
I sat and constructed a story: I thought about some dude, and he happened to be on the Moon. And from there, he went to Earth, flew over the face of it and saw much suffering. The people of the Earth were in agony. Finally he saw Buddha on the Earth, he landed next to him and said, “I’m from the Moon. I have many powers. Is there anything I can do for you and the people of the Earth?” Buddha said, “No, the people are suffering from illusions, but it is in their minds. And in their minds is also everything they need to free themselves from suffering.” The Moon Man said, “But what if I alleviate their pain?” And Buddha said, “No, it is not necessary.” But the Moon Man was unconvinced, and he picked up a suffering man, shook him with a slight jostle, and the Man was cured and would suffer no more. The Buddha was quite surprised and he said to the Moon Man, “On second that, just do that for all of the people of the Earth.”
What the hell does that story mean? After writing it, I initially did not know. Sometimes it takes me hours to figure out my stories, with some obvious connection arising quickly, and subtler understandings coming later. In this case the story was kind of obvious. I have a super-power that alleviates my suffering. It may help others. Go tell people about it so they can see if it works for them too. Just do it man! Don’t worry about getting them to discover the mechanisms inside them. Just go and shake the sick man. Buddha will see the obvious value.
Examining the story for it’s meaning, I see I am all three characters. And when I construct new characters for other stories I am always them as well. For instance, in this Buddha-Moon story, I thought the audience (of readers) was Buddha, since I was trying to get my message across. And so it is, but I am also Buddha, who is saying, “No need to use your powers.” And I am the Moon Man with his special gifts, and the sick man who suffers under his illusion/delusion, but can also be cured.
The concept for this practice came to me when I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces.” It is a work describing the patterns between all mythologies. He talked about how myth can be a medium for communicating with the unconscious, which makes a lot of sense when you see how myths confront sexuality, power, destruction, and creation. Sadness and happiness. Enlightenment. It’s a group of people constructing tales to communicate the essence of their internal struggles. The difficulty is that in the age of modern science, where we can illuminate through analysis, myths become absurd historical artifacts.
Seeing myth as a communication medium for the tumult and peace inside me, I thought to create a personal neo-mythology. Which, if this practice ever becomes popular with others, I would suggest the genre name of the stories to be, “Personal Neo-Mythology.” And that’s the idea, you are creating your own non-super-natural mythology to address your problems. Whether it’s a breakup with your partner, the death of a loved one, or any other of the common and unique human discontents.
I have already generated what might be about one hundred of these meditation stories. Initially, I was loathe to share them because I was worried about what others would think. And that they are very fantastic, and sometimes have a child-like simplicity. What changed my point of view was actually a story I generated that made it clear I should began to share these stories. In the near future, I hope to extract my stories and publish them as a series of short books for the Kindle. I’m not sure if there’s an audience, but what I’ll do for each story, is to describe the theme, tell the story, and also show the impact on my life and the events surrounding the story.
So if you’re going to attempt this type of meditation:
- Sit in a quiet place as free from interruption as possible.
- Pick a theme, the more emotionally relevant, often the more powerful the story.
- Trust that you will stick to that theme as you construct it. Let it guide you back if you get lost in your assembly of the story.
- If you get stuck, imagine that a child asked you what happens next in the story.
- Then sit back and create it.
You may surprise yourself. I know I have.