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What New Stories are We Creating for Our Children?

On the eve of Australia day I attended Ngarrama, a truth-telling and reconciliation event on Awabakal and Worimi Country, to acknowledge and celebrate traditional life before the arrival of the Europeans. Ngarrama means “to sit, listen and know”. An Elder from the fabulous Torres Strait Islander dance group Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam shared with us how they pass their stories on to their children through song and dance and talked about the importance of sharing not only old stories but also of creating new stories for their younger generations. So there is no gap between the past and the future. He was talking about the pain he felt during the confinement, being separated from family members like many of us, and how this was an important story to put into words and rhythms for their children and grandchildren to know.

Creating a new story… This left me wondering, what is the new story we are creating for our children? In the wake of our ancestors epic journey, we are taken into a flow of information that shapes us and makes us who we are. A remembrance of what happened to our grandparents and great-grandparents lies in every one of our cells, their stories of survival and joy, their abilities and challenges. And so we repeat who they were, what they did, or we reject it and become the opposite, creating an identity around it. We say “I come from a family of well respected, angry, spiritual or conservative people, of hard workers, travelers, losers, intellectuals, high achievers, entrepreneurs”. Then we stick to those labels and we identify ourselves through them: I am a lawyer, an agnostic, an Australian, a mother. I am that. And the label entraps us.

However life is not about labels or nouns, it is a process, a verb. Tyson Yunkaporta says that people are processes that cannot be imprisoned in a curriculum vitae. Instead of being or doing, we are becoming who we really are. Our society measures nouns, it doesn’t measure verbs. It doesn’t know how to measure actions, relations, love, gratitude or compassion. Someone said that “what we cannot measure, doesn’t exist”. This leaves behind all what life is really about.

To be fully alive, we need to let go of our labels, of our nouns, and to open ourselves to the constant stream of new information pouring onto us. Staying in motion, stepping into unknown territories, becoming every day, creating a brand new story for ourselves, for our family and for all humanity.

To create our new story, we sometimes need to take a decision, to make a difficult choice. The poet David Whyte reckons that in the most crucial moments in our life, when we have been enforced to make a choice between left and right, it’s exactly the time we are not supposed to choose, we are supposed to go between things, we need to pay tremendous attention to both until something opens up between the both. Like the middle way indicated in the Buddhist way, the radical opening up of the center, life between two false choices. The way forward, the way between things, the way before us, already walked before us, the path opening and disappearing. He says that we need to pay fierce attention to both options, until they start to disappear in the form of the question that was first presented to us, and then we let it open up.

The mind tends to restrict our possibilities in order to protect us. When we find ourselves in a crossroad, we may only see option A and option B. Either I keep working or I start studying. I stay at my parents place or I leave. We often forget that our body can access a different type of information and open new opportunities for us. In constellation work we use a tool called tetralemma that helps us make more conscious choices, that sometimes lead to that space between left and right. It consists of placing on the floor 4 markers, one for option “A”, one for option “B”, one for “Both A and B”, and one for “Neither A nor B, something else”. When we step on those markers our body responds to them giving us certain clues: feeling lighter, more grounded, distracted, sad or exhausted. We get new guidance on how our body feels with each option. Even in the cases where our mind knows that there are only two options, this exercise has proven to be very insightful and useful for people to make a decision.

In a module on the topic of work last year, we were showing different applications of this tool. Someone who had been training in family constellations for a while volunteered to look at a minor conflict: he wanted to know whether to attend my next fc module or to go to a community event that was taking place on the same weekend in another city. We set up the constellation, in this case with people representing the 4 possibilities: “A”, “B”, “Both A and B”, “Neither A nor B, something else”. After checking all places, the person felt most grounded when next to the person representing “Both A and B”. The representative for “Both A and B” was also feeling very energized and joyful. Everyone’s first reaction was “this is not possible”. He cannot be in two places at the same time. I encouraged them to wait and let the information that was coming through their body sink in. Then the message arose: Of course, it is time for me to start offering family constellations in the community. I will go to that event and hold my first constellation group there. That was the way to do “both” at the same time.

This is why I love this work so much. It allows us to inhabit our body and create new possibilities that we could never imagine before. Our mind tries to control who we are and the world around us, naming and labeling, fitting everything into static categories. Repeating old stories out of habits. But life is much larger than that, and gets into the cracks of our old stories infusing new energy, creativity and innovation. We only need to reclaim our capacity to be surprised.


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