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Stories as Medicine

Image credit: Nina Hamilton

Lately I’ve been exploring the idea of 'story as medicine'. The recent offering I did at the Wild Wellness Retreat on Bruny Island was part of this exploration.

I believe stories have the power to move us in all kinds of ways and shake us up but I’m curious to know whether stories have the power to heal, and if so, how and what might this healing look like. Might the healing come from telling our own stories or hearing stories of others or both. Might we think of stories as therapy or the telling and hearing of stories as therapeutic. And if we are willing to put our thinking here, how do we gauge whether a story has had a healing effect on us.

If a story makes us feel better, or has a positive effect on our wellbeing, does this mean it’s worked just as a throat soothing tincture might for a sore throat? And can we then turn to certain stories for different kinds of situations, for example, a broken heart, grieving, mid-life crisis, loneliness, or indecision. Just as we go to a doctor and they give us a prescription for an ailment, could we go to a 'story doctor' to be given just the right story for the loss of a loved one, so that that narrative might softly, gently caress our broken heart and help us piece it back together?

I am keen to continue this exploration but what I am sure about in the meantime is that stories connect us, and it is through this connecting that we feel better about ourselves, life, each other, and surely, that alone is a good reason to tell our stories and to listen to the stories of others.

My offering at the Wild Wellness Retreat was a deeply immersive sound experience where participants wear an eye mask and headphones as they lie down and listen to a curated soundtrack of sound design, music, spoken word and story. The idea behind the experience is to develop a more intentional focus towards sounds and listen more attentively and deeply to the story that is unfolding. The soundtrack is designed in such a way as to make it easier for participants to free their mind of distractive thoughts and be fully present as they listen.

Photos by Lewa Pertl

I had nine people opt into the experience and what I noticed during the sessions was that those who were able to fully let go and go deep, their experience was enriched tenfold. They came out of the listening session as though they’d been on a beautiful and wondrous journey. Their faces luminous as the eye mask came off. There was an ease in their sharing when we discussed the experience and the journey it took them on. It took us directly into an intimate communicative space.

There is a deeper level of intimacy that arises when we are fully present and deeply listen. That intimacy is what binds us together, it’s what connects us and makes us whole. We feel less alone in the world and in our thoughts. We feel a part of something bigger. We become one.

This is what presence does. It is a gift.

Simone Weil says, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

I’m going to continue to explore the idea of story as medicine but I’ll leave my meanderings for now with another quote that I came across. I don’t have hard evidence to support the claim but I feel it in my bones that it’s true; intuitively I feel it to be true. What about you?

“When two people meet on a level, and another person feels physically understood without the words, there’s a healing process that goes on.”

Photos by Nina Hamilton and Lewa Pertl

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