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Story and the Art of Agility

[Newsletter Series (#12)]

I hosted a workshop last weekend at Metta Yoga in Corte Madera, and it was fabulous. The group was engaged and vibrant, the studio - with its safe and grounding energy - supported us beautifully, and our storytelling theme was the connective tissue throughout.

Why? Because story is foundational to almost everything we do. Wait, scratch the word, “almost” As human beings, we are born with the gift of storytelling. It’s how we connect, learn, retain, pass on legacy. And that’s awesome, right?

Yes, and…story can be tricky, too. Because, for all the time we may put into building one -- whether it be a business presentation, a conference keynote, the graduation speech we’ve written and rehearsed -- we have to be ready to shift and pivot, and sometimes..we need to let the whole thing go.

In last week’s workshop, we spent a good hunk of time playing with story craft, focusing on two (of many!) elements to create a captivating story: structure and specificity. We used Ken Adams’ Story Spine to share make believe tales with one another in pairs (structure) and a game called Advance, Color, Emotion (ACE) to encourage curiosity, questioning and detail, in telling simple true stories about ourselves (specificity). The room buzzed with animated exchanges throughout the room, and a good deal of laughter too!

Then, once everyone was alive with their well-crafted stories, my plan was to take a hard left-hand turn to play with agility and practice the art of throwing it all away. Because, just as in an improv scene, everything can change in an instant. And WHAM! we need to accept the offer, pivot and adapt. Graciously.

Huh? But I wrote this.

It took me so much time to do!

No, you don’t understand - I made this and my work needs to see the light of day!

Umm, sorry to say, but not always.

You see, just as storytelling is a honed skill, so to is having the trust a

nd courage to stay agile when we’re called to do so. It’s a practice of holding onto our work lightly. Yes, we’ve put time and energy and love into creating it - but if it falls on deaf ears (client changes the meeting focus, turns out the conference falls on the day major layoffs are announced and our content is all about stability), we need to think on our feet and accept the change. Often, quickly!

The Buddhist’s call it Upādāna, or “grasping” and “attachment” - an unwillingness to let go, due to our “craving” (taṇhā) to cling to -- in this case -- our stories.

The good news is: we don’t need to achieve enlightenment to overcome our suffering here. We don’t need years of practice and meditation and a strive for consciousness (although, kudos if that is you!) We just need to weave a little playful learning into our lives, improv-inspired or otherwise. And loosen our grip in the name of curiosity.

Think you could toss aside your own story? How tightly are you prone to grasp?

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