Once upon a time, I was invited to speak to a group of powerful business women about the benefits of play in helping one to relax, be healthier, stronger in saying NO to distractions, and better at dealing with difficulty at work. At Attuning we invite storytelling and play into daily routine, opening one to creativity and to ease in face of life’s unrelenting pressure.
Looking around the room, I saw beautiful faces straining to listen intently, trying to grasp how to relax so that they can be even more efficient. A few minutes into my speech, I decided to change direction. I invited these powerful women to spend a minute pondering the meaning of “I am perfect just as I am at this very moment.”
This practice is not about pretending that life is easy and that one has it easy. This is not about burying the head in the sand. This is about choosing to cherish one’s gifts and vital energy, about choosing beauty rather than ugliness in every day interactions, and about learning to be in flow with what arises every minute.
I asked them to imagine that they knew how to express each unique gift they had; to realize that they had friends who loved them; I asked them to imagine that their body was fit, and their smile radiant; that they had enough money for all their needs, and that there was no need to compare with others; that they were loved. They took the time to ponder, as directed.
And then, I asked them to consider what they would do if they were perfect just as they were. What would they do if they did not spend so much time trying to change everything about themselves, and others?
People started to look at each other. One voice said quietly “I would go to Africa and fight for people to get clean water;” another jumped in and said ”I would make sure that people all over the world got good education,” and then others added their voice louder and louder, inspiring each other with braver and braver acts of saving others.
I listened. And then, I asked again—”what if you did not have to fight for others, or for yourself? How would you direct that tremendous energy you have? Can you imagine a harmonious state of getting things done with less effort, a way of being at ease without the constant struggle to improve looks, finances, work, a partner or children?
“No, I can’t stop fighting!” one woman said. “I can’t even remember what I want for myself. I am always busy with my work, with my patients, with my children, with supporting others. When could I find time to do something for myself? Besides, it seems so indulgent to take time for myself.”
When they have a choice of stories and archetypes to consider, a lot of powerful women intuitively pick Sleeping Beauty as the vehicle to explore deep desires buried in “the sleeping woods.” We explore issues such as “Who is sleeping? Who and What is she waiting for? What is she willing to give up so that she awakens?” There are a lot of tears of release, of epiphany, of letting go, and of renewed desire.
In exploring narrative techniques in coaching, we are discovering that one can find creativity, resilience, courage and inspiration in the space of letting go, of play, and even during a short moment of asking quietly “what do I need today?” or “how do I feel today”? This personal space, even a few minutes a day, has to be planned, and protected. We do go through changes and transitions all the time, and in the process, we lose or acquire aspects of the self. The work we do with storytelling (narrative archetypes) supports and grounds this transition.
Every time we play an archetypal game, it surprises people how much they learn about themselves. When they make time to play, to inquire into what is hidden in the “sleeping woods,” to nourish the heart, they replenish their vital energy. The insights uncovered during storytelling or during play time, once integrated into one’s life, transform those who choose to embody awakened beauty.