History is entirely created by the person who tells the story.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

What’s your story? How do you tell it? Why is storytelling so important?

If there’s one thing that sets humanity apart from the other creatures of the earth it’s our ability to build narratives and tell stories. Our power to live ‘not just in this moment’ is a double-edged sword. We strive to stay present, yet with an awareness of past and future.

Life as you know it is a temporal balancing act. You’ve always got the present moment to deal with, and yet that present moment is often consumed by telling some story about the past or forecasting of the future in one way or another.

Look, stories must be important, otherwise, why would we keep inventing new ways to tell them? Once-upon-a-time it was all verbal — you had to summon the bard in you and sing the refrains of ancient poems to pass the tales of your elders on down to your progeny.

Then along came the written word and for many generations, the manuscript was the main way to immortalize your words. At first, books were laboriously written by hand and were only owned by royals and clergy. Then Gutenberg got clever and we started building bookshelves.

Ways to tell your story multiply with every forward lurch of technology. Imagine how excited the first filmmakers were when they had the tools in hand to tell tales on the screen! Then along came audio recordings, records and tapes, and soon after our old friend the T.V.

Prior to the PC, all publishing was centralized. Any output for public consumption had to go through the gatekeepers of editors, publishers, and program directors. Personal Computing changed all that and has been accelerating the opportunities ever since.

And wow, what a head-spinner! In one generation we’ve gone from email and the basic blog to social media, podcasts, and viral videos. My old pal Timothy Leary who was still kicking as the PC revolution began raved about our newfound ability to ‘push back’ on the screen.

Have we become better at storytelling as ways to do it proliferate? Each iteration allows for more shorthand, case in point, any teen’s texts. Mom: “Will you be home for lunch?” Son: “No, C U 2nyt” Emojis have shortened the distance between question and answer even further.

But for all this brevity and impermanence and convenience that technology has bestowed upon us, the question remains: Why is it so important to tell your stories at all? Besides the obvious benefits of the cautionary tale, the reasons for narrative are many.

One that is easy to overlook until you’ve actually done it is to just get that junk out of your head! Even if it’s just a journal there’s a certain comfort to putting something to rest. You free up space inside once something is put down on paper or posted up in pixels.

What might seem trivial to you may be endlessly fascinating to your heirs. Everything from old recipes to glimpses inside your creative process will prove valuable to those who want to understand you and their connection to you later. Stories strengthen the chain.

What about making a living, seeking success, or building a business? As a wise person once said, “At the end of the day, all marketing is storytelling.” The simplest story is that someone has a need, they can see the solution, and that you are the bridge to get there.

Storytellers loom large in our culture. How many movies have you seen where the protagonist was a writer of some sort? From Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets to Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, writers are interesting people.

And then there’s Hamilton. Recently brought to the online stream, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic achievement raises the bar for storytelling. I saw the stage production in San Francisco a couple of years ago, but the close-up view from the camera revealed so much more.

From the nosebleed seats at The Orpheum, it was more about the overall texture and spectacle of the production. Seeing it on screen with a stage-eye view brought the story into focus in an entirely new way. Rarely has history been brought to life in the present so dynamically.

Egged on by my daughter, we sat down to the Hamilton stream last night and went to bed inspired. That Miranda could conceive such an epic production after reading Ron Chernow’s biography, writing the script, music, and lyrics as well as playing the lead is phenomenal.

Aside from the boon for youth culture, history teachers, and aspiring playwrights everywhere, seeing Hamilton puts into perspective the concept of storytelling writ large. The idea of a newsletter or personal memoir is a piece-of-cake next to such an achievement.

Whether you’re working on The Great American Novel, telling your story on TikTok, or simply keeping a private journal, know that your narrative counts. When you set your stories free from the confines of your mind you’re bringing balance to the presence within.

With love and light till next week!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Member Insight: Alexis Mulhauser & Breema!

This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight is brought to you by Alexis Mulhauser, faculty member and facilitator at The Breema Center in Oakland, California

Dear Dancers, 

I once read a quote from a book about Breema that said, “Ideas are exciting, but this moment is real.” When I first took the quote in, I remember feeling something inside me open up to know more. Not more about something that would necessarily make me wealthier or wiser, but more about deepening a connection with myself — and with life.

2020 has been life-changing. But why? What’s unique about this year compared to any others I’ve lived? When and how did this change in perspective set in? And why does it seem that our whole planet is spinning in such chaos, with looming questions about what is really true and how we can help ourselves and others?

I’ve been looking at that a lot lately. I’ve also been listening to what people all over the world have to say about that. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the things that give me real purpose don’t stem from merely waking up in the morning, checking off my to-do lists, engaging in endless emails, or staring in bewildered awe at the sea of social media comments and critiques. While the stimulation of these activities is meaningful in its own way, I have found that what holds real meaning for me each day is a real connection. That connection starts with me.

When I was in high school, I saw that I really had an interest in studying the body. I took my first meditation class and began to study dance, yoga, and the culinary arts. Exploring these three fields was life-changing for me at this young age. It provided me with a strong foundation to increase my understanding of my body, mind, and feelings. Dance gave my physical body a movement language to speak through, using form and freedom. It also gave me a way to examine my relationship with my body on and off the dance floor. Yoga gave me a way of using my mind as a tool to support me, rather than having it continually running my daily life. And the culinary arts have nourished my vitality and well-being by highlighting how food can affect my emotional state and feelings.

In many ways, these three paths of study all brought me to the same conclusion: When my body, mind, and emotions are connected, I experience being present and receptive to life. I need this receptivity to live from my full potential. I’m able to experience the world in me, and not just myself in the world. I see how I’m not separate from the chaos, but instead a microcosm of the world outside of me.

Fast-forwarding twenty-plus years to sitting here now, I see that another life-changing experience has been learning about and instructing Self-Breema and Breema. This practice found me much later in life, but, undoubtedly, at the perfect time. Having already had some connection to my body, mind, and emotions, I learned about Breema as a practice to experience greater balance within myself and with life around me. The Nine Principles of Harmony have been profound in their support, helping me live in more conscious energy. Gradually, by practicing Self-Breema exercises and giving and receiving Breema bodywork, I’ve come to see that these principles weren’t made up long ago by someone. They exist in me, and in fact, as me! Here are some of how the Nine Principles of Harmony have meaning for me and give me direction for leading a more conscious life:

Body Comfortable: The body includes the mind and feelings. When they are working together, I am truly comfortable.

No Extra: If there is something that I can let go of that isn’t needed in the moment, that is extra. Seeing this helps me to let go and be more available to life.

Firmness and Gentleness: Like the sun and moon, these two qualities exist in relation to each other. When I can experience both within myself or in any activity, I know I’m going in the direction of a greater balance.

Full Participation: Every cell of the body, including my mind and feelings, can participate in any activity.

Mutual Support: When I give support, I’m also receiving support.

No Judgment: When I can accept how I am at any given moment, I am more available within myself and with others.

Single Moment/Single Activity: Like the breath, each inhale and exhale can bring me to a brand new moment, fresh with possibility and free from past and future.

No Hurry/No Pause: In all life activity, there is a natural movement and rhythm we can experience, free from worry, hurry, or pause.

No Force: When I’m truly connected to life, there is no sense of separation.

What if the healing that so many seem to be searching for right now really does exist through experiencing mutual support in our daily lives? What if bringing more conscious energy to our lives really is as simple as knowing that the body is breathing right now? How might life be different for all of us if we fully participated?

This Fall’s upcoming workshop series gives me hope and direction. I see it as an opportunity to dive in and come home and into harmony with myself and the world. I see it as support that I can give and receive in a setting with others who share a wish to be present and bring more conscious energy to our lives. Self-Breema is a practice that I can bring into my daily life when I need support. I don’t need to change or achieve anything. I simply need to open up to my own being and let go of whatever stands in the way of real connection.

Living with more conscious energy is what continues to be life-changing for me! 

Thank you,

Alexis

TO LEARN MORE & REGISTER:

https://www.breema.com/events/2020-09-11/breema-center-fall-workshop-series

Alexis’ website: https://www.nourishtheessence.com

(Would you like to write an Insight Column for Monday Love and be featured on the Conscious Dancer website? Send us an email today!)