As with most people this time of year, I’m finding myself reminiscing on what a year this has been…and realizing once again the creative power of the stories we carry with us. This has been a year focused on healing and resetting a foundation of health and wholeness in every area of my life. An important part of my healing journey has been to go even deeper in understanding what my story is…what have I been carrying with me (consciously and unconsciously)? We each have a deep desire to be the hero of our own story—yet I began the year with part of me feeling more like the villain who was bent on sabotaging my unfolding life story.
If you’ve read previous posts in this blog, you know that I began the year with an overwhelming amount of medical bills and a medical diagnosis from Mayo Clinic of Erdheim Chester Disease—and the story the world tells about that disease is that it is a very rare disorder whose difficulty to diagnosis makes it so that the life expectancy of those diagnosed is limited. That isn’t my story. I just returned from another week at Mayo Clinic and all signs point to a long and healthy journey ahead.
I began this blog as a venue to share my process on this journey of transforming my life—calling for my own Myrtle Fillmore experience. After all, I am an ordained Unity Minister and this amazing movement began when Myrtle so wonderfully demonstrated the healing power of affirmative prayer (http://www.unity.org/resources/articles/words-myrtle-fillmore). I haven’t been posting here as much as I expected in the beginning, as I haven’t been ready to share…hopefully you’ll be hearing from me more often.
In my previous life experiences as an event coordinator and marketing director, I was very aware of the powerful impact stories have at so many levels of marketing. As a Licensed Unity Teacher and Religious Studies major in college, I have been fascinated by the power of our collective myth-making and storytelling. As a Manager, I’ve understood Appreciative Inquiry as an affirmative means for building upon the power of storytelling. Throughout my life I’ve been passionate about telling story through creative and performing arts. In ministry I’ve understood that our sacred stories are the foundation upon which lives are built (and destroyed).
“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?” ― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Today I’m fascinated by the concept of storytelling as the act of living life—and realizing how unconscious most of us are about the story we embody. True joy in life comes from being more conscious of choosing our story.
On Thanksgiving I enjoyed the gift of going to see the movie “Life of Pi” in 3D with family. I found it to be an extraordinary storytelling experience—one that touched my heart on many levels. I’ve intended to go back to experience it again, though I think I’d like to read the book first. Not sure if it will happen in that order…we’ll see how the story unfolds.
Throughout the entire movie I kept hearing one of my professors in seminary, Rev. Dr. Thomas Shepherd, saying over and over “there are no tiger gods where there are no tigers.” Humans have always created our understanding of God out of our own experiences. It’s what we do as the meaning making machines we are. We have a myriad of understandings we call God—yet God is One—and we are each an expression of that Oneness (not the totality). Our experience of the world informs how we perceive Life—thereby informing our story about God. This is not new information, yet I absolutely loved the metaphysical experience of this throughout the movie.
Let’s talk about a few things in the movie—starting with the lead character. He is named after a swimming pool in Paris. We could have quite a conversation about the metaphysics of water prevalent in this movie—though right now I’m more interested in the name he chose for himself and what it says about our ability to change our lives—to change the story unfolding in the world around us. His classmates do as children do—they created a very unpleasant nickname for him. His name is Piscine Molitor Patel— and they begin to call him “Pissing Patel.” He doesn’t accept it and chooses a new nickname for himself. It’s a powerful choice that speaks volumes. He also claims his new name with the same affirmative power that Myrtle Fillmore claimed her new awareness—“I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness.”
He boldly claims the name “Pi” for himself—even while being ridiculed and mocked—he knows his Truth and claims it. He embodies his new story. Proving the existence of pi is something that has fascinated mathematicians and philosophers for several millennia. Mathematically it is defined as the ratio between the circumference and the diameter of a circle. Pi is referred to as a transcendental number—a number with infinite non-repetitive digits to the right of the decimal point—and no matter the size of the circle the number will never change. There is no experience too large or too small for the new story he has chosen for himself. He is also staking his claim as an expression of the Infinite One.
This is a foundational understanding that allows Pi to see God in places that others question—though it is interesting that his family is fine when Pi’s experience of God is informed through religious teachings and not so fine when they feel it is uninformed about the world at large. I appreciated Pi’s vision—his ability to take it all in and make it his own. He told his own story, and let others choose to find God in his story…or not. It was their choice, their life, their story.
The transformative power of story embodied by Pi is infused in the affirmative prayer taught by Unity (and demonstrated by Myrtle). When I was first introduced to affirmative prayer I experienced a great resistance to incorporating it in my life—somewhat like the children who made fun of Pi’s name. Affirmative Prayer requires we walk in the footsteps that Pi walked in. That we claim and embody our Infinite Oneness. This transcendental Truth is the center of our Beingness. The author interviewing Pi in the movie claims that he was told Pi’s story would show him God. Many have understood him to be referring to the bengal tiger. Richard Parker (the tiger) is not the totally of God. He represents the collective story we have told about God and Pi’s struggle with that collective story in coming to live his own Truth.
The moment when Richard Parker stepped on dry land and walked away without looking back was heartbreaking on the surface—and very beautiful. When we are no longer invested in the story as others have told it we can truly embrace our story. Live our own lives. Claim who we are here to be. We can truly live as the expression of the Infinite desiring to express through and as us. Richard Parker did not disappear from Pi’s life, he entered into Pi’s heart.
As we mature spiritually we integrate our stories, we did deep into our being and embrace the struggle to embody the understanding that all things are working together for our highest good. Does that make my disease good? No. It does mean that the Infinite Oneness that I call God is expressing through and as me in the midst of this experience. I have a valuable opportunity to embrace this Truth and go forth joyfully into this New Year with an open heart. I know that the power of Divine Faith is guiding me every step of the way.
God bless and Happy New Year!