From The InnkeepersNovember 2022
November 2022 Blog
The Importance of Telling Stories
It was brought to my attention recently by one of our retreat guests that one of the things that makes their experience in coming here so meaningful is that we make a conscious effort to listen to stories. Much of the time that we spend with people here is spent listening to their stories and sharing our stories with them. We cover everything from what is important to them, the goings on with their families, soul searching moments they have when they are here, or how the beauty of this land quiets, open, and transforms them. Over the years we have concluded that in the wider culture people do not feel listened to. Stories are pivotal to our ability to connect with each other. It is not merely the recitation of a sequence of events, it is how we can more deeply engage with one another on an emotional level. It is how we come to understand and appreciate one another, because very often we see ourselves in each other’s stories.
Sometimes the stories we share follow along with the progression of the seasons of the year. This month with the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday when many of us will be sitting around the dinner table with family and friends, numerous stories will probably be exchanged. It is incumbent upon us to listen with an open heart. Some of the stories we tell will of course be centered around the theme of gratitude. Many who gather on that day share reasons of why they are grateful, or tell of events in their lives that brought them to a moment of gratitude.
Angeles Arrien, a favorite teacher of mine was fond of saying that gratitude is what keeps the heart open because to know what we are grateful for is to know what we are learning from life.
However, in her work Angeles taught that giving gratitude was more than a laundry list of “counting our blessings”. She called her teaching “Grateful Seeing”, and it went far beyond mere list making. She broke down this practice into four segments of giving gratitude every day in four different ways.
1) First of course, was that we can give thanks for our Blessings. These are the people and the aspects of our life that bring us joy each day.
2) Secondly, she spoke of being grateful for our “Learnings”. These are the things that are the seeds of wisdom that we acquired by living that day. To acknowledge and be grateful in this manner shows that we are open to learn from our life’s experiences.
3) Third was the concept of “Mercies”. There are kindnesses that often get extended to us by other people. This is the acknowledgement that others have treated us with compassion, calmed our worries, of extended forgiveness.
4) Lastly, are the “Protections”. These are the people and things that keep us safe, and it is very often that these things can very easily be taken for granted. When we are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, to have adequate food, clothing, and medicine, it is easy to be lulled into complacency. The protections are also the services provided by numerous members of a community whose job it is to keep us safe: the police and fire departments, ambulance drivers, hospital workers, garbage haulers, snow removal service people, and environmental quality workers to name a few. All of these protections need acknowledgement if they are not to be taken for granted.
As you can tell, Angeles Arrien’s practice of “Grateful Seeing” goes beyond just saying a few things for which you are grateful. So, as you gather around this holiday season, perhaps you can extend your gratitude stories to take in aspects of the practice of ‘Grateful Seeing”. This enhancement has the potential to lead to a deeper level of sharing.
This month, we at the Inn are especially grateful for all those who come and share their life’s stories with us. We are grateful for those who open to one another and create a world that recognizes the good, the true, and the beautiful. This helps us to see “What’s right with the world”, as photographer DeWitt Jones if fond of saying in his monthly column.
Many blessings to you as you journey on the path of grateful seeing.
Marcia, Pat, and Sharon
Keepers of the Rustic Gate