Ever since we left the Garden, we’ve had to rely on stories—be they myth or fairy tale—to provide us with a description of reality to orient us on how to be and behave. Prior to the Fall, as unthinking beings, we had the surety of our animal instincts to guide us with direct knowledge of the way things were and how to act appropriately. After the Fall we became beings of 2 minds, split into the mind that knows without thinking and the mind that thinks incessantly, generating newer and newer myths and stories—descriptions of reality to live and act by. The dominating myths of our times are created by Science, with its descriptions of reality that are believed to be objective and true.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico went so far as to call the thinking mind a foreign installation, an actual entity that has taken up residence inside us for its own nourishment. Like all descriptions of reality, this description too is a story, the foreign installation a metaphor highlighting the impersonal nature of our chattering minds. That foreign installation has generated its picture of the world based on stories inherited and constantly generated by the internal dialogue within us.
We are a species addicted to our stories. We constantly crave stories—in books, movies, or oral traditions—to provide us with a sense of security, an identity, a framework, a world within which to grasp and live the totality of what we are. In turn, we are constantly catered to by a worldwide web of stories—news that frames and organizes our world—our dissociated instinctual selves finding outlets in the latest tales on the world stage or the latest thriller in the theatre. The spin doctors weave their tales, like salespeople catering to our need for a story to bring us peace and order, or an outlet for frustration, boredom, and depression.
In the healing field of psychology, clients are encouraged to build new narratives to find meaning in their lives. Unprocessed experience, like trauma, is fit into a narrative to make it more palatable, digestible, as if a new story can put the raw truth to rest. However, not all experience fits neatly into a story.
The fact is, our species is in peril because our stories simply aren’t true anymore. In fact, I believe we are at an evolutionary crossroads that demands that we step beyond the story and into full exposure and reconciliation with what is—without story, without metaphor. Look to the recent exposure of sexual abuse cases of children, and how we care not to know the full details. Instead, we hope they are not true; we hope that a different story will emerge. But healing will only come when we learn to accept what is.
President Obama steps into his second term largely freed of the need to uphold stories, dated myths of who we are and where we are. He can now point to the truth of global warming, the legitimacy of social programs, the real needs of woman and gay people, and the true inequality of our financial system. We need to be a world that can stand in and be with the truth now. We need to allow ourselves to reconnect with our ancient minds, the mind that speaks softly and dispassionately, with dead-on accuracy. This is the mind that can be in the presence of the full truth, that can guide us to healing, without story. In the groundlessness of direct experience, as we face our old stories and myths, the knowing that emerges is not just another story, but a documentary of the truth. In the groundlessness of no story we grasp the real truth and allow it to be fully experienced, fully known, and then finally filed away in the annals of life lived, tension fully released and resolved.
We have the opportunity to resolve our wounded psyches and bodies in the same groundless, storyless manner. In the case of trauma, we must allow ourselves to encounter what was, as it was, without framework, without the story we’ve always told ourselves. Our present self must be able to stand in the full presence of the traumatic event and breathe through it, without shutting down, allowing the full experience to be admitted, our personal docudrama acceptable for what it truly is. Our knowing mind leads us to full healing as the old myths fall away, no longer needed to hold us together. In the presence of this knowing mind, the adult present self merges in love with all its formerly splintered truths. We evolve into beings no longer needing two minds. We emerge as journeyers of one true mind, fully equipped for the adventure, without the weight of story.
Is that not Buddha beneath the bodhi tree at the moment of enlightenment—a being with full awareness without story—launched? Is that not the Shaman on the precipice of the definitive journey into infinity—a fully recapitulated being without attachment to story, a being with continuity and full awareness, perched for flight? Is that not like President Obama turning back to look out over the crowds at his inauguration, taking in the truth of a sight he will never experience again? Standing in his own truth, while others stream past him as if he were not even there, he releases that story and, having completed his backward glance of recapitulation, turns to face the future.
We all have the opportunity to face the truths of our two minds, to release our stories and stand in the truth of what is. Traumatized or not, it’s time to heal in a new way.
Recapitulating without story,