Storytelling as inner-led cultural change

What if... telling a story were medicine that cures the dis-ease of disconnection that lies at the heart of the power-over culture?

What if... telling a story offers a path of connection; of heart; of community building; of giveaway to our people and the other-than-human world? 

Can you feel how some old stories ask us to become a bigger or more soulful version of ourselves in the world? They weave us into connection with human community and the-other-than human community, awakening us to the embodied consciousness of Earth. 

Stories are born of our ancestral nature-connected cultures - and - the imaginal dreaming into the never-before-seen that is possible if we know how to listen to their seeds of memory and visioning held within. This means stories hold both wisdom of the past and of the future. They change us from the inside out, re-membering us into the consciousness and culture of connection with each other and the other-than-human world. Stories are born of a specific earth-place. The landscapes through which the characters move are the ancestral homelands of the peoples who told them. The Earth body of the hollows, mountains and forest through which the humans and other-than-human creatures in the story journey, is the place where your people, my people, lived and died. Therefore, our bodies and the bodies of the other-than-humans are living memories of these places and the ways of being in reciprocal relationship with them. You might here take a breath and let that arrive in your heart and body for a moment. 

"There is a genetic memory that lives within our DNA. And so the telling and retelling of those stories actually sends out a vibrational frequency that connects with that genetic memory that we hold in our dna, activates it, opens it and encodes us with this ancient way of being and understanding about who we are in relation to life."

Sherri Mitchell, Sacred Instructions

Can you sense how that would change something in the collective in these times? It may not change the dire predicament we are in right now, but it would surely help us to create a different kind of consciousness within it, a way of, as Donna Haraway says, staying with the trouble. 

Perhaps you are wondering how stories from long ago are relevant in these times of biodiversity collapse and climate change. In our experience, stories offer maps through landscapes of our deepest longing and grief that can guide us towards ways to respond that are rooted not in modernity’s mindset of human centric quick fixes but, instead are creative deep time responses through us from Earth herself. As Bayo Akomolafe asks, "What if the way we respond to the crisis is the crisis?"

The first step is to not do anything, but be within the discomfort and let it shape us, transform us. The stories we most love offer us templates to follow that teach us how to die well and as a heart-felt offering to the whole, how to descend into the place where we can hear our original instructions and so, return initiated into a deeper knowing of how to live a life of beauty amidst the dying world.

A story might be the exact bitter medicine we need in order to be fully alive in these times of death, metabolising the grief and anger we feel into the capacity to take refuge in the unknown unfolding future.

“There is no failure that we have been indoctrinated into this system, it is by design. The gift of this moment right now, is that we have been born into a time, unlike any time before, in which we have the tools and mechanisms at a massive scale, to dispel the lie.”
Sonya Renee Taylor

Storytelling is consciousness shifting

By transforming our listening and thinking into a mythic consciousness, woven into deep time, future time, and the web of now, stories allows us to stretch ourselves into the fertile unknown and the deeply magical. This is essential to create a consciousness that can dismantle power-over culture and some day co-create the new.

Stories are maps of transformation

A story well told captures our imagination and our emotions, both of which are necessary to be with both the collapse and the possible futures of Earth’s dreaming, staying present in beauty and the discomfort of the present moment.

These other ways of knowing have been marginalized in a culture that privileges strategic thinking and empirical science over sensing, feeling and imagining - and stories help us to build our capacity to use them. 

Storytelling is decolonisation work

We are invited to re-member and tend the stories from our own ancestral cultures. Our work with them is to scrape away and compost the overlays of modern paradigm/ power-over culture to reveal the ancient earth-based heart still beating within them. By doing this work with stories from our own cultures, we are re-membering the cultural ways of our own peoples and honoring our ancestors and their forgotten ways. As we re-member our belonging to people who are in reciprocal relationship with the earth and their ways of being in conversation with Earth Community, we heal our own wounded ways of perceiving, based on the separation trauma of civilisation. If we are blessed to come from a people that are still connected with place and the living Earth Community, then of course this work will look very different, as the stories themselves are probably more intact. However, there is sadly often much work to be done to re-member and reclaim those stories from the forced forgetting through occupation and colonization. 

Next, if we are not living on the homelands of our own people, we are encouraged to discover the stories of the peoples on whose land we are currently living, colonization of the human and other than humans has touched every continent on this beautiful Earth. Who are the indigenous humans and other than humans who lived where you now live? What are their stories, both historical and mythic? Which is to say, how did they know and express themselves and their relationship with the land they belonged to, where you now live?

In addition, we are encouraged to make our inner world more diverse by reading and listening to the stories of many different cultures, to widen and expand our way of thinking and perceiving the world beyond the white supremacy/colonial/capitalist structures of the modern paradigm we all are raised in. For example, the European stories are internationally well known in the current Disney version of fairytales (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), and as a result, little children all over the world are wanting to be princesses. Inspired by the ancient knowing within stories, revealing many different and traditional ways of being in relationship with the world, we modern humans are invited to engage with our home place and the other than human world differently. As well, through reading the stories of others cultures, we are cultivating empathic resonance and breaking down any assumptions or stereotypical beliefs we may have about cultures other than our own. 

Lastly, we are invited to decenter the human narrative and listen for and to the stories and voices of the other han humans as they fly, flock, run, romp, swim, hunt and dream in the ecosystems we share.

Stories at the Edge of Collapse

With Sara McFarland 

This isn’t just another Storytelling event! At the crossroads of inner-led change, meet: the collapse that is upon us, the ancestral archetypal world and the other-than-human world. This meeting place isthe portal at which we gather for Starter Culture’s; Stories at the edge of Collapse. The transformation invited through this story-journeying seeks to directly affect who and how we are in the world and our way of showing up for cultural renewal as change agents and soulfully alive humans. 

As we journey together through story, we metabolize and compost our power-over culture as it is embedded within our ways of thinking and relating with the world (human and other-than-human). When we actively listen, journeying along the storylines, we ourselves are transformed. Listener beware!  It is psycho-spiritually risky business to unhook oneself from the story of power-over culture and the modern paradigm of consumerism and control. We cannot change a system we are dependent upon, says Andre Henry. How then do we become in-dependent of the power-over culture and inter-dependent with the Earth community? Perhaps the ancient ones who innately knew how to listen to Earth’s dreaming might point the way through their stories that somehow have managed to stay alongside us humans to this modern age. Come and listen to the stories and after, stay to engage in lively conversation and soulful grappling at the crossroads of change.

Wednesdays from 10:30-12:30 PST / 18.30 - 20.30 GMT / 19.30-21.30 CET

Next gathering: August 16th, 2023 6:30pm BST

The Handless Maiden: Growing beyond Learned Helplessness

These times are hard, but times have always been hard, haven’t they? Famine, drought, desertification, floods… they have always been part of the dance of life and death, of Earth’s repair and rupture as well as growth, evolution, collaboration. The big stories and myths have told of upheaval and great events of destruction and renewal since before humans existed. There have always been both destruction and creation, chaos and order in the universe. Out of the one is born the other. Into one, the other returns. We told these stories generation after generation so that we might remember. Our prayers, rituals and beauty making were the ways we humans have kept balance, danced with the great powers that uphold the universe. Until science killed our ancestors, oppression and colonisation invaded our inter-being with the Holy in the Wild and the great forgetting was necessary to survive the industrial growth society of humans. We have cut off our capacity to respond in beauty and creativity in these times of destruction. We have lost ourselves in the separation that forgetting has caused. 

And now, now we must remember, in order to again discover how to respond to these times with healing, balance, grace but also not-knowing, grief, joy, love. How do we each and collectively leave the learned helplessness of the forgetting behind us and move towards action? What is an activism that is grounded in a deeper conversation with the other than human world? How do we need to humble ourselves, returning to Humus, to grow the necessary capacity to act on Earth’s behalf? 

The Handless Maiden is a story of healing and becoming whole, learning how to care for oneself through radical responsibility, as well as learning to be cared for by Earth after the severing of old way of being in the world. And out of this, growing a way that is our own to act with fierce love and offer beauty to these times of collapse.

Previous events:

June 14th 2023

Slip into your Bearskin and remember yourself home to Earth Community

How might we slip out of our human skin and into the skin of  bear, or tree, or falcon and return to the creatureliness of ourselves more alive and more wild?  Some might say that at the heart of the ache and trauma that afflicts our world today is the misunderstanding that we are separate from life. The belief that all of life is either dead or dumb and that we are the only intelligent life on the planet and are therefore ordained to have dominion, is rooted in our modern culture. However, there is an older way, a way that the ancestors of each of us once knew, before the great forgetting, of recognising our being Earth, Water, Fire, Air and having breathed in particles of all the creatures that have ever lived and offer our breath to that great river. In this intimate relational experience of sentient agential interbeing, we rewild ourselves and awaken into a world that is interwoven with consciousness.

Bayo Akomolafe writes in his book These Wilds beyond our Fences, "Look how things sprout from other things. How nothing is itself all by itself - or without the contributions of other things. When you happen upon a flower, especially one whose otherworldly beauty and feminine fragility contrast sharply with its less endearing environment, you might treat it as this localised “thing”,  as an object - one deserving of admiration - but an “object” nonetheless: removed, unique, separate and even audacious. What our linguistic conveniences blind us to is how that very flower is no more distinguishable from the dirt, the erratic weather, the traffic of pollen bearers that come from far off, the blazing sun, and even the occasional imprint from a boot worn by an uncharitable tourist, than a wave is distinguishable from the sea….

Perhaps we could say [] that the environment “flowers”.  And all we would be hinting at is a “new” paradigm of thought- one that inaudibly recognises how everything is connected [] and how what we “really” are define notions of size, hues, grades of quality, origin and destiny.”

In this intimate relational experience of sentient agential interbeing, we rewild ourselves and awaken into a world that is interwoven with consciousness. This is the story of the journey of Eco-belonging, re-membering ourselves as part of Earth’s Community.  This is paradigm shift from the inside out. Will you dare to slip out of your human skin and into the skin of Bear? The reimagined story of Bearskin awaits to help us do just that.

About Sara

Sara is a storyteller, ritual theater performer and singer as well as a soul initation guide. For more information, visit her website here.

Questions that may arise about our Storytelling Events...

  • What can I imagine will happen during the gatherings?
    • Sara will welcome everyone into the gathering and each person will be invited to introduce themselves and where they come from and an other-than-human that they relate to in their home-place. 
    • Then, there will be a story spoken with drum and rattle, chosen to honor and resonate with the time of year, the seasonal energies and the opportunities for transformation - both inner and outer. There will be a time of reflection, movement and journaling to allow  the story to arrive in your own heart more fully.
    • We will regather for a conversation that is led by the heart and soul - and full of imagination, mythos, passion, longing, dreams and connection.
  • What do I need to bring with me?
    • Dress in comfortable clothes so that you can sit, lay down, move as you wish
    • Bring water or something to drink, but please refrain from eating during our gathering
    • Please come to the gathering free from mind-altering substances
    • Bring journals, pens, colored pencils, but please leave your other devices turned off
    • You may want to light a candle or have a subject (rather than an object) with you from an earth-place you love
  • If I sign up and can’t make it, will there be a recording?
    • Yes! There will be a recording of the story only (not the conversation) available on Youtube and on our website a week after the event
    • However, you will miss the juicy conversation and the opportunity to bring your voice and heart to the gathering and weave yourself into the community of inner-led change practitioners