April 10, 2018
STORYTELLING FOR THE REVOLUTION: The Introduction

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"Those who tell the story, rule the world." -- Hopi Indian saying

If you are wondering why I chose to call my book: Storytelling for the Revolution -- a title some people might think is incendiary, inflated, or overly dramatic, here's the reason: We need a revolution. We do. But the revolution I'm inviting you to join is not a political one. It has nothing to do with a change of government, laws, sanctions, or social structures. It has to do with a change of mind and a change of heart and a change in the way we communicate to each other.

It doesn't take a genius to recognize that the collective narrative occupying the airways these days is a dark one -- not all that surprising when you consider the sorry state of the world and the "if it bleeds, it leads" mindset of the media: Mitch Ditkoff5.jpgBad news sells. It's true. But bad news is not the only thing worth reporting on. Indeed, here is another kind of story that also needs to be heard -- one that rarely makes it to the evening news. And that story is revolutionary -- or could be -- the story of how each and every one of us is a broadcast station of insight, wisdom, and love, three phenomena that have the power to transform what is happening on planet Earth.

I am not suggesting you airbrush out the bad news to contemplate your navel. I'm not asking you to become apolitical. All I'm asking you to do is pay more attention to another kind of news -- one that can never be dominated by troll farms or spin doctors. And do you know what the reliable source of that story is? You. Yes, you!

Inside of you, there is another kind of story going on, another narrative, one that exists far beyond late breaking and this just in, one that too rarely gets told. I'm talking about the story of your life -- or, more specifically, the absolute Ground Zero of what you have learned and what you are learning, what you have felt and what you feeling, what you have seen and what you are seeing, even while the world burns down: Essence. Lessons learned. Insights. Moments of truth. Breakthroughs. Obstacles overcome. Personal tales of inspiration, kindness, resilience, love, meaning, vulnerability navigated, and the undeniable wisdom you have gleaned from your own life experiences. In other words, what makes you truly human, a homo sapien -- "the one who knows."

Sages, Masters, and Elders may be the most historically recognized "keepers of wisdom." but they are not the only ones. The rest of us are, too. The thing is -- we don't always know it. Our wisdom is often invisible to us. It is hiding. Unseen. Unacknowledged. And unexpressed. And where our wisdom is hiding, more often than not, is in our stories -- much like water is hiding in underground springs.

Everyone has wisdom inside them. Everyone. Everyone has learned something profound, soulful, and timeless in this life. Everyone has something meaningful to share and when they share it in the form of story, they have the potential to spark wisdom in others. Like, for example, the following story -- a brief retelling of an old Zen tale.

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Once upon a time, in feudal Japan, there was an old monk living in a monastery deep in the mountains. Ever since he was a small boy he had lived in this monastery and was considered by his fellow monks to be a most extraordinary soul. Every morning he would awake at 4:00 am and meditate for two hours. Then he practiced calligraphy and prepared breakfast for the other monks. Every afternoon, he read the sutras and, when he wasn't chanting mantras or writing haiku, he worked in the garden. Silently, of course.

Years passed. Seasons came and went. And so did his youth. But no matter how much effort he made, the enlightenment experience he was so diligently seeking never came. And so one day, in his 70th year, he decided to leave the monastery and return to the world. "Why should I continue with all these spiritual practices," he asked himself, "if they are not helping me reach my ultimate goal?

Needing to earn a living, he soon got a job as a sweeper in a local cemetery. Every day he went to work. And every day he swept.

And then, one sunny day, three years into his new, non-monastic life, a stone he had just swept off the path smashed into a tree and split in two. And when it did, something in him split in two, cracked wide open -- the kind of open that never closes again. Everything, suddenly, became totally clear to him. The enlightenment he had been seeking for 50 years had finally happened. Just like that.

The 40 stories in Storytelling for the Revolution are 40 stones splitting in two -- 40 examples of spontaneously occurring moments of truth -- awakenings, both large and small, none of which have ever made it to the evening news. Some of them are from my own life. Some are from the lives of others. They are, metaphorically speaking, a kind of DaVinci code that offers clues to the encrypted wisdom lurking just beneath the surface of our life -- the hard-to-communicate essence that ultimately defines what it means to be fully alive.

My book is not an autobiography. Nor is it a memoir. I share my stories not to call attention to me, but to call attention to you. All I'm doing is getting the party started -- your party -- a chance to take a look into the mirror of story and see, reflected back to you, parts of yourself that may have been hidden from view.

This is why I have written this book. Rather than give in to the despair, despondency, and disillusionment that has become the world's default position these days, I've decided to do everything within my power to reclaim the collective narrative for the greater good -- to revolve around a different sun -- the one that lights up our lives from the inside. And it all begins with story

You don't need to be an anthropologist to figure this out. Deconstruct any scripture, sermon, or TED talk and you will find story. That's how most meaningful messages are conveyed. Even the neuroscientists agree. When storytellers share their experiences, the same parts of the brain that light up in the storyteller upon telling their story, light up in the listener upon hearing it. "Mood contagion" it is called. "Somatic states". "Neural coupling"-- the phenomenon of one person transmitting not only information about X, Y, or Z, but also the experience.

The question isn't whether or not storytelling works. It does. The question is: "Are we going to step up and tell our stories?"

Every day, when a friend passes you on the street and asks "Whassup?" you have a choice to make. You can talk about your aching back, the weather, or the latest political catastrophe, or you can elevate the conversation by telling a story that matters. All you need to do is be yourself, choose wisely and seize the moment.

To help you make your way towards the front lines of storytelling, I've included, in PART ONE, 40 stories for your inspiration and delight -- 30 memorable "rock splitting moments" from my own life and ten classic teaching tales, many of which have been told for centuries. Each story is followed by a question to consider so you can apply its message to your own life. PART TWO is a Field Guide, complete with tips, tools, and techniques for how you can become a better, more confident storyteller. Or, if you really want to go for it, how you can become a storytelling revolutionary on the front lines of your own life -- a sacred activist of insight, wisdom and love.

Ready? I hope so. It's time to gather around the fire and begin...

PS: The book will be published in early June and will be available on Amazon then, both as a softcover and a downloadable, digital version.

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 10, 2018 04:02 PM

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