ON STORYTELLING

“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

It was on a special Monday morning for me. The sun had not yet risen. The willingness of getting was not quite present. The lack of sleep was heavily discernable. And most of all, the fear and anxiety of attending yet another new yoga class, alongside strangers again, seemed almost irrepressible. Oddly enough, some force took me back to reality and brought me closer to my beliefs. Being able to overcome my fears had constantly been my strength. As I succeeded in facing this latest challenge, we all ended up bonding over breakfast afterward.

What seemed very near to be a daunting idea to me led up to become yet another grand opportunity to share stories with like-minded people. For minutes I had felt ill-at-ease, barely speaking up, as if I were indrawn. Suddenly, as a flower blooms through watering and sunbeams, I had opened up. I, too, was sharing my own story with my companions. Again, I felt the empowering impact of storytelling.

What is all the meaning behind storytelling? Is it merely a way to express our craving for being heard? Does it only reflect the means for us to categorically display our imprint in the world, and to make it so indelible? What is the significance of telling stories?

Paris, Nov. 2019, GC

In the words of Joan Didion, ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’. I utterly believe, indeed, that we need stories. We need them to connect. We need them to feel like we belong. We need them to feel human, as simple as it sounds.

We often suppose that storytelling is the mere fact of conveying our own story with our peers, be it through a written piece, a song or a movie. But I believe it is much more than that. It is sharing a part of ourselves and seeking someone to relate to our discourse. Storytelling is feeling free to share the uncanny, the eerie, the joyful bits of our experiences, whether it is through fiction or not. It means accepting the reactions. Storytelling is being open to receive, to learn from another perspective.

All in all, storytelling is sharing. It is creating a bond — between author and reader, conversationalist and listener. It is exchanging experience. It stands both for narrating and listening, for there is no story without an audience. Of course, this applies deeply to the practice of writing, as well as all forms of art. We do write to connect, with the intention of creating a bond that will hold meaning. But as human nature is, all of our communication revolves around that principle. As listeners, we are endowed with the ability to see and sense the world through someone else’s lens and thus acquire knowledge, clarity, and awareness. Whilst as storytellers, we give a part of us, magnanimously and freely. Indeed, after any worthwhile conversation, we are provided with the opportunity to regain a sense of self, or even somehow reconnect to our higher self.

Stories build bridges. When the story ends and the teller’s voice is silenced, the bridge between teller and listener remains.”

Elaine Blanchard

As the discussion with my instructor drew to a close, having opened up about my journey and heard about hers, I felt a new energy. It was as though as I was anew, feeling refreshed. The meaning of a meaningful, deep conversation sprung to my mind. More than learning from someone else’s experience, I recalled my own story. It kindled in me more confidence. And thus, I knew…

Storytelling shall prompt in each and every one of us inspiration. Conversations shall set up a spark in us. They are an opportunity to light up our minds with great ideas and insights. Storytelling, as a matter of fact, a path for us to uplift one another.

Ecris l’histoire. Grégory Lemarchal.

do you feel the compelling power of both fictional and true stories?

ON STILLNESS

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat any time.”

Herman Hesse

Whether it is on a cold wintery day or during a heatwave, after wandering through some streets or inside a park, I delight in stopping and observing the world around me. Both children and dogs take part in merry amusements.  Buskers are seeking a new audience and some random benefactors. Photographers are out to catch a glimpse of today’s sky while I sit on bench. I put my book or my earphones back in my purse. I am just by myself. I am simply doing nothing. I am still. And I rejoice in it.

 

At times, I can deeply feel the stares on me. I do not bother focusing my attention on them in worry and disturbance. I let it go as I watch them withdrawing. I let it go as each and every passerby that walks by, as each thought that enters my mind and departs from it. Similarly to the introvert who in a group interaction may become dull, I step back from my own thoughts and remain still. 

Bristol, June 2019, GC

For many people, this idea of doing nothing is considered meaningless. To partake in such an activity appears to be a synonym for idleness in our western culture and for the aspiring over-achiever whose time seems to be limited. In fact, in our world in constant motion, one is discouraged from having the luxury of time-wasting.  

And yet, remaining in stillness for a few instants embodies the whole idea of time control. Furthermore, it represents utter freedom. As I lean on the bench, I am free. Free from the judgmental looks I sometimes receive. Free from movement. Free from society. I am free and I can feel in my every thought and through each cell of my body.  I am free from the responsibility that was somehow, anyhow, given to me by societal standards to achieve something — anything, from the meaningful to the most trivial — at every breath I take. 

“When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”

Eckart Tolle

Truthfully, one is not able to reach this state time and again overnight. It takes patience and practice and may need to come out of another experience. To me, this state of stillness had much to do with the experience of contemplative or meditative walking that I have undergone for years now. 

Stillness is refreshing, it is discerning life unfolding before your very eyes from a new perspective. It is taking the time to step back from a never-ending flow of movement. It is pausing to reflect upon the things we are most accustomed to. It is questioning ourselves and our frame of mind. Stillness means letting go in its purest form. It signifies breaking the pattern in order to expand ourselves. In stillness, we find again and anew our authenticity. 

Cease everything. Take a deep breath in and out. Watch the world around you and see yourself again. Your soul is still. You are born again. Anew. As pure as ever. Authentic living.

Illusion. Ben Mazué.

do you ever practice stillness?

ON POSITIVITY

“That’s the way life works: gratitude and appreciation just bring more goodness. Remember: Everything we give out comes back. Gratitude has all sorts of little, surprising rewards.”

Louise Hay

It was around 2003, I was five years old when my mother got diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. Did I know it at the time? How did my parents break the news to me and my sisters? I cannot recall. But as the disease came round again a few times during my childhood and teenage years, I grew to be more aware of it and all that it entailed. Along with additional tough experiences that my family and I had to go through, as well as my own struggle to fit in at school, I shall admit that these were not serene circumstances to grow up in. 

For a long time, because I had endured several hardships through the years, I believed that positivity was a character trait that had never left me. Certainly, the many struggles I have known have strengthened me and did make me evolve on a personal level faster than the average. Yet, the fact that I always held on to hope and looked forward to a brighter future does not mean that I had a positive mindset, although I did have a positive outlook on life. I prided myself on being optimistic whilst I was carrying anger. I believed in something better, however I was bitter, at times easily irritable and even jealous. I was wondering how many more battles I would have to fight. 

***

The epiphany came up as I realized that I was indeed strong, surviving and always persevering no matter how hard life hit me but positive didn’t seem to be an accurate label anymore. I began questioning myself. I had always thought that I was a very generous person, but could I be more kind to people? Yes, of course. One is never too kind. 

With a brand-new lifestyle, I took some drastic changes of mindset recently. I chose to welcome each new day with open arms. I chose to believe, more intensely than ever, that something good was about to occur, that each day was going to be filled with opportunities. That each day brings an opportunity to fulfill me, my being and my soul. I chose to start again with my gratitude jar, urging myself to write one note per day, however tiny it is. This is how I started noticing it. 

BCN, Jan. 2020, GC

It is the power of attraction. The more open one is, the more signs the Universe sends your way. It is about shifting the focus. It is questioning whether or not you were actually in the right mindset before. And in fact, it is not an easy task to admit that you were wrong, that you were not exactly the person you proclaimed to be. 

***

Positivity is a more tricky subject to dwell on that one might think. For it is not burying all the troubles we face in our daily life and pretending like everything is alright, which is something I used to believe when I was younger, but that is defined as denial. It is not either accepting it as a normal occurrence as if everyone else endures it too, for even though we can relate to each other’s stories, we haven’t undergone these similarities in the same way and our story is evermore unique. 

“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

On the other hand, being positive about our battles signifies not being ashamed at all, either of it or of expressing it. Throughout middle and high school, I came to find it very difficult to bottle up all of my worries and insecurities because I had no one to confide in. Afterwards, I started writing everything down and shared it in the open space. I needed to share what I was going through. I needed someone to hear and know my story, for I am only human after all, seeking affection and support too. To a certain extent, I believed that I was going too far and it occurred to me that I may have been oversharing. I felt guilty. Guilty to make it a little too much about me and about trying to share a lesson I felt not entitled to share because of my young age. And yet, this is all what defines negativity. I still firmly believe that one is free of doing and being anything they want. Thus, I came up to the conclusion that I was merely being fully authentic with myself and others. And therefore I kept on writing, for honesty is being oneself.

All in all, positivity is being mindful. It means acknowledging the tough times and being aware that we will make it through. Flawless and perfect do not define positivity, for one has to agree that nothing in life ever truly is. Positivity is recognizing any wrongdoings you might have and knowing that it is alright. Positivity is believing still.  

Toujours debout. Renaud.

what does being positive mean to you?

ON CONNECTING

Sometimes, people come into your life by surprise, and without the making of any efforts, you lingeringly find yourself bonding instantly with them. The click seems so natural. It’s the giving and receiving of anything more meaningful than the shallow pieces we tend to share with everyone else. The connection of similar energies, opposite stories, and intermingled mysteries. This kind of people makes you find yourself in the most magical, vulnerable and mind-blowing of ways. — Jan. 2019

***

Connecting in such a way has long been a battle for me. Perhaps the struggle was due to my lack of socialization or excruciating shyness. Perhaps now it is merely a result of my absolute lack of effort in attempting to bond with people around me. Something so desirable that I felt I desperately needed to attain. I was seeking connection so hard, which is the reason why I turned to art. For in art, there shall be authenticity and the complete giving of oneself, which ultimately leads to conveying emotions and thus bring connection. Indeed, art is all about making connections. Therefore, we talk about the books we have read with one another to build friendships and we use songs to feel like we belong. One acutely needs to relate to something, someone.

***

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”

Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, 1897

***

But what does connecting truly mean? Is it getting to know someone on a deeper level, being able to understand and feel empathy towards them? In that instance, it requires trust and the demand for meaning. For connection, above all, signals meaning. How easy is it to rise above the plain discussions and feel comfortable and confident while conversing about life’s deepest questions? Is it about being too selective and picky? An outsider even?

Connecting is thus showing your soul, shamelessly and proud. It is getting naked about who you truly are. Connecting is being fully honest. There is no restriction permitted. No veil accepted.

Then, if connecting is a core human need, why does it seem so difficult to reach, on a daily basis, for some people? Are we aiming too high, solely seeking meaningful interactions? Or are we merely bound to carry with us the burden of solitariness?

BCN, Nov. 2019, GC

Loneliness is a topic I used to dwell upon in my writing oftentimes, which mainly served as a way not to bottle up all the gloomy feelings I kept inside. To put into words the pain that this daunting word brought me almost signified for me trying to cleanse myself from it. And to this day, in spite of some soul-crushing states, whether it is a rather pessimist response or not to simply accept it as it is, there is no answer I could find to the great questions: ‘why do I always feel it so strongly?’ and ‘why I strive for connection so hard?’.

What I know for sure, as Oprah would say, is that life is not meant to be lived alone. There is no purpose to a life endured companionless. This is the reason why we try to connect in every possible way. We sing, we dance, we write, we talk in order to feel or to be heard, seen, visible. We create in order to make the memories matters and we do so to escape the non-sense that life embodies. We want to bond with our peers to purely feel human again, not alone and not invisible ; and sometimes merely sane.

La Rose et l’armure. Antoine Elie.

how do you know when you connect with others?