This morning, as I was reading Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool by Dr. Lauren Artress, I came across a sentence that made me pause. I read it again, slowly, taking in the words along with a slow deep breath. Exhaling, I felt a sense of deep appreciation for the truth contained in just one short sentence. I read it again, more slowly this time, breathing in the words, and exhaling them as an intention and a prayer.
“The mind needs release from itself in order to find peace, and wisdom.”
There are times when I find myself completely stuck in my head, captivated by my stories. The ones I tell myself about how things are, have been, might be, will be, should be, could be. The trouble with our internal stories is that we tend to believe them, and they often lead to inner angst and outer actions that take us further away from ourselves and who we want to be in the world. I am finding that the sooner I catch myself caught up in an old story, the sooner I am able to release it, making space for peace and wisdom to find their way back in.
When I was in Nashville a couple of weeks ago for work, I was working with a room full of educators committed to advancing STEM Education for Girls. To a person they were intelligent, articulate, accomplished, and highly educated. I was there to facilitate a day that allowed them to connect and think well together. To create a safe space for courageous thinking. That’s what I do, and I am really, really good at it.
Each person was asked to come prepared to share their own story of how they came to their passion for, and commitment to STEM. Periodically throughout the day, we would pause and turn our attention to the front of the room, and listen generously to the next story teller. In order to create that safe space for courageous thinking it is important for me to quickly establish credibility and earn people’s trust, and to do that, I work to be authentic and vulnerable from the start. To that end, I chose to go first, sharing an especially personal story from my college days, when I was advised by my dad “not to appear too smart, so as not to intimidate the men in the class.” I went on to tell how that statement sent me on a long detour away from myself and my belief in my own intelligence and capabilities, and, how I eventually found my way back.
I’ve told that story many times over the years, and it can feel like those words are nothing but a distant memory, no longer holding sway over my mind. At the end of the day however, one of the educators came up to thank me. She shook my hand, holding onto it as she looked deeply into my eyes and expressed her gratitude, telling me that I was very, very good at what I do. Before I could even begin to appreciate her acknowledgement of my contribution to the day, I was gripped by the thought that she must have been trying to make me feel good about myself as a result of the story I had shared. And just like that, I was back in college, questioning my abilities and my intelligence.
Catch and release.
Thankfully, I saw the old story take over, and just as quickly, put it back in its rightful place. A piece of my history, that has no relevance to the person I am today, and the contribution I bring to the world.
We may never be completely free of our old stories, but we no longer have to believe them.
Catch and release.