I recently finished two harrowing non-fictions, which have had me contemplating radical honesty as a path to self-realization.
Wild told a true to life tale of Cheryl Strayed's physical and spiritual journey of healing as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail through California's Sierra Nevada's to Oregon's Cascade Range, over the course of 3 months.... alone. Sharing her story with courageous vulnerability and self-reflective clarity, Cheryl frees herself of the shame, guilt, and pain of her past, while simultaneously offering her backbreakingly acquired wisdom to the benefit of readers.
Similarly, Eve Ensler's, In The Body of The World, is remorseless in its candour. Eve makes deeply intuitive connections between her recent traumatic physical illness, the impact of physical trauma towards women globally, and the traumatic impact of environmental degradation of our earth mother. This was not a light read. I found myself wincing more than once as Eve told stories of violence experienced by women in the Congo reaching new levels of atrocity. Eve's own tale of battling uterine cancer was relentless in its disclosure. And the earth! Our earth! A metaphoric representation of the body of the feminine unspeakably abused. I could hardly stand to look.
And yet freedom comes through truth.
To be honest about our stories is to give us a more accurate orientation from which to create from, choose again from, learn from, build from, release from, understand ourselves from, make sense from, regroup from, breathe from.
One of my favourite authors and creative mentors, Julia Cameron, suggests this very thing as she describes ‘morning pages’ in her Artist’s Way series. Morning pages are essentially three pages of hand-written, stream of consciousness, first-thing-in-the-morning, uncensored journaling. Its purpose and design are intended to help artists get clear about what thoughts, worries, judgments, distractions, and limitations are occupying the mind at the start of the day. In essence it is a practice of radical self-honesty. She likens this revealing and vulnerable process to giving the muse your current GPS coordinates… to be spiritually and creatively located in order to be guided forward.
When the truth of our stories remain unacknowledged. When we rationalize, deny and for those on a spiritual path, try to transcend our stories without first getting really honest with ourselves (this has been a popular teaching), we run the risk of remaining on a hamster wheel of self negation despite our continued attempts to release… release… release, never quite escaping the orbit of our past, never quite getting traction beyond, as our unresolved aspects continue to clamour for our honest attention. One of my teachers used to say; ‘We must graduate from kindergarten before we can go to university.’ This applies both personally and globally.
We are not here to transcend life… We are here to learn from it. Embracing our own narrative does not mean identifying with, or being determined by our past. It means becoming more powerful in the present moment by getting honest about how we got here…. the decisions…. the patterns… the addictions and ways we’ve learned to suffer. It means calling back the bits of ourselves still struggling and strewn across the landscape of our history. Eventually releasing ourselves from the constraints of the past by coming to terms with all of our preceding moments, allowing us to fully, and powerfully occupy the present one.
Thanks in part to Cheryl, Eve, and illuminating conversations with wise ones in my life, I have been reminded of the power of my own narrative. Still only a story, but it is my story. Which is what makes it important. My harrowing tale to here… the difficult bits… the growth…. the learning… the easeful places… the choices… the constraints… the opportunities… the soulful expressions of me.
It is through choosing to embrace my own narrative that I honour the path of my intentionally embodied soul, and step more wisely and powerfully into each present moment hereafter.