Allowance: The Fourth “A” of Intuitive Storytelling or the Art of Letting Go
Last week, I was asked to hold a workshop for middle school children and their parents. The agenda included a listening exercise, an improvisation game, and a quick bullet-point presentation on how intuitive storytelling helps us find the present moment. I was excited about it. I see the middle school years as those fraught with self doubt, self deception and self criticism ; middle-schoolers can only benefit from a practice that helps them center and find their authentic voice. I was prepared.
Then moments before the workshop was to begin, I learned that it had been advertised as a ‘family event’ and that small children would almost certainly be present. In fact, there might be lots of small children. If not all small children.
Small children are very different than middle school children. Very different. I looked at my agenda and immediately tried to calibrate the plan to accommodate small children. In the few minutes I had available I tried to edit, rearrange, translate and tweak each step of the way and then reached the moment in my notes that said, “Let it go.”
Oh, I said to myself, so that is what this is about. I dropped the agenda and in my remaining few minutes started over. Using the four pillars of intuitive storytelling (Attention, Affection, Approach and Allowance), I paid Attention to the room and my attention fell on a stack of notecards and pencils – they were going to be a part of a writing exercise I had planned. I immediately recalled an exercise I had planned for a high school class which involved picking names of objects and actions from a hat. I had tried it out on my boys (ages 5 and 8 at the time) and realized that a version of this game was perfect for this young age. I then tapped into my Affection for the experience and felt warm and excited about doing this exercise with the small children. Then I got to work: I Approached the preparation and started drawing pictures of objects and actions on small pieces of paper. In a few minutes time, I was ready. The workshop began and I Allowed it to go however it would go.
To allow something to happen is not to sit idly back with arms in the air. Allowance is a true act of courage and resolve. It is a testament to trust. And it is, I believe, the most difficult pillar of Intuitive story telling.
The challenge with letting go is that it is counter to our nature as modern adults. We live in a culture where hard work is the foundation to success, and harder work is the answer to even more success. We push and pull and try and try again and we are often rewarded – at least socially – with praise for our diligence and fortitude. This culture loves closers – those who get the job done – even better if it is done on time and under budget.
Wandering, however, is generally frowned upon. When stacked against closing, wandering is often considered irresponsible and silly. But keeping things open rather than closing things up is at the heart of intuitive storytelling – and, I dare say, the creative process.
Yes, at some point the story needs to end, the project completed, the question answered, the destination reached. But the art of letting go – of allowing things to move freely before you – will simply open another door and welcome you into the next story, project, investigation and journey. And thus, we continue the conversation and wander with enthusiasm onward.
So focusing on the art of intuitive storytelling: in previous weeks we have explored Attention – the moment we let our senses reach out and notice everything around us as a personal message. The tree, the ceramic pear, the vase of sunflowers, the half eaten sandwich all vie for our attention promising a delightful narrative stream. But we must choose one stream, so we employ Affection, so “try on” each of them and let our hearts highlight the “right” way to go. We trust that our heart knows what it is doing and then Approach the story by talking. We open our mouths and let “once upon a time there was a little girl who was so very hungry” and then we reach the final pillar, Allowance. We let the story be told. We do not push, we do not judge, we do not meddle as much as possible – we just let the story lead us forward.
It may take you to curious places. It may take you to bizarre places. It may take you to uncomfortable places. It may take you to boring places. But it will not let you down – so long as you TRUST that the story is in charge. Impasses will often come. A wall will be before you and you, for a moment will say – hmmm, now what?
Well, start with Attention again and look around, listen, smell, note your own thoughts and immediately Affection will tell you where to Approach and then Allow it to continue again.
When you can let go of your need to control the story, you will feel peace and freedom. You will be washed with a kind of gratitude usually reserved for spiritual experiences. You will feel like you are collaborating with the All That Is, because – well, you are. Whether you wish to see it as your deep subconscious, God, fairies or angels, the Great Storyteller knows what is going on and is thrilled to let you be the mouthpiece. Go for it. Let go and see where your story goes. Likely you will learn something about yourself and your child.
Endings are overrated but do need to happen. Likely you will feel intense pressure to tidily wrap this story up, but if you TRUST in the process, the right ending will show up right on time – but no earlier. The story likes to hold its cards close – even to the teller. You’ll have to respect that.
So tell stories – lots of them. Tell them in the car, in the airport, waiting for French fries and of course, sitting on your child’s bed. And when that story does, indeed, finish, both you and your child can lean back, sigh and agree “that was a good story.”
I am available to you all for questions and coaching. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be on the Sparkle Stories newsletter, email email@example.com. Tell us how your stories are going on our facebook page here and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/sparklestories
David Sewell McCann has been spinning stories all of his adult life. Out of his experience as a Waldorf class teacher and parent, he has developed a method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and in collaboration with his wife Lisabeth with their children’s story website www.sparklestories.com.