If you've been reading here for a while then you'll know that I believe in the world-changing power of a story. I believe that listening, with an unbiased heart, to someone's story may be the most important thing we ever do for them. This much I learned in two years in Afghanistan. I also believe that telling our own stories can change our own lives and can open space for wider change in the world. This much I am learning as I find the courage to write my own book this year.
One of the kindred spirits I have met along my own journey to uncover the simple, profound power of story is Laura Simms. I've never actually met Laura in person but we have spoken on the phone and emailed each other at different times over the past three years.
Laura is a storyteller, writer and meditation teacher. She is also the adoptive mother of Ishmael Beah, a storyteller in his own right. If you haven't heard of Ishmael and his story then I highly recommend his memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.
Next month Laura and Ishmael will be leading a workshop at Esalen. I went to a workshop at Esalen for the first time this past summer and I was very impressed. The site, in Big Sur, is stunning. From my cabin I had views out across the beautiful organic vegetable gardens to the ocean. I soaked in the mineral hot pools and walked through the beautiful grounds. Even if the workshop I attended hadn't been amazing (it was!) it would have been worth it just to enjoy the rare luxury of peace and simplicity and community that I found at Esalen.
Here is the overview of Laura and Ishmael's workshop:
At the heart of peacemaking is the art of unbiased presence, genuine listening, and the ability to discern meaning. How we communicate can plant the seed of compassionate change or it can be the source of misunderstanding and conflict — in our own hearts and in the world.
This workshop will unfold as a deepening process of working with embodied presence, mindful awareness, and sharing the age-old wisdom of storytelling and visualization to uncover our inherent capacities for accessing tools for peacemaking in ourselves and among family and community, including humanitarian and educational endeavors.
Each day will begin with guided Chi Kung and meditation practice, and continue with storytelling and writing activities that promote unbiased listening and show how genuine presence and story can nurture nonaggression and peace. Each participant will leave with skills and practical information, and a personal story that uses mythic image and experience.
I highly recommend this workshop. I would be there if it were a little closer. If you go, will you promise to report back here about it. A guest post maybe?