We live in fast times. Our modern world is in a distressed state with people settling for the fast food of self-help, spirituality or transformation, reaching for it so they can fill their hunger, but not being deeply nourished. I have made it my life’s work to document traditional healing and spiritual practices that are fast disappearing in this age of globalization, because of their contemporary relevance. In my travels, I have learned that one of the most impactful ways to not only preserve, but to also perpetuate the evolution of these traditions is to do as indigenous people do—share through the art of storytelling.
One of the prescriptions to heal the ailments of our epoch time paucity—is to practice talking story. In Hawaii, we invite each other to hang out by saying, “Come over, let’s talk story.” The idea is simple. We make the space to spend time actually being present with people who make us feel seen, heard, and included, and who are willing to share of themselves with no talking points to cover, no need for an out time, or planned agenda. It’s actually the stuff that forges the bonds of healthy relationships—the shared experiences of joy, sorrow, and discovery. This, of course, is not unique to the Hawaiian culture. It is the equivalence of what was called visiting when I lived in the South and was beckoned to sit on a neighbor’s porch to sip lemonade and shoot the breeze, or having café time in Paris to people watch with a friend.
The Art of Talking Story—and the gift of it—is a return to authentic expression, slow movement, deep conversation, active listening, and intimate connection. In bringing attention to this practice, I hope to counter the fast food approach by bringing us back to the real medicine—the transformative power of narrative to connect, to heal, and to inspire. It’s the antithesis to drive-through Spirituality and offers a luscious sit-down meal.
In order to thrive and not just survive in modernity, we need to give ourselves time to savor, to be present, to change and to digest life so that we can be fueled and inspired, and able to process the massive volumes of information and experiences we have in our daily lives. The Art of Talking Story offers a pathway to help us through the maze of modern life. In my work with clients one-on-one and as a leader of a multi-million dollar media and technology company, I have found these tools to be simple and very effective in bringing more peace and joy to the lives of those who are willing to practice them.
1. Dessert First (especially helpful for workaholics!) - Allow yourself to do the joyful activities first versus only as a reward after the tasks are completed. Dessert first could be a meal, a meditation, a walk in the park, or playing in your garden. With your tank fueled by the sweetness of life, the work of life can be done with greater joy and presence.
2. Lollygagging Time - Learn to set aside open space with unscheduled time and no planned agenda. This is one of the toughest assignments, so start with 20 minutes a week, and then increase to additional 20-minute blocks during the week. Eventually, you may get up to an hour daily, and if that happens, you will see your resistance shift to selfishly defending this precious time for yourself. You can do whatever you like during this time, with the key being to have NO pre-planned activities for your lollygagging time! This is a return to spontaneity.
3. Mono-focusing - Doing one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking seems nearly impossible in this day and age, but is a necessary balance for our overdoing culture. You can simply start with seven minutes at a time and expand as you discover how to focus on one thing and complete it before moving on to another task.
4. Limiting Device Engagement - Technology tools can be a conduit to connection, but also an escape from true intimacy. Our devices are here to stay, but consider setting healthy boundaries around their use, so you can be present with your loved ones, your creative mind, or your tasks at hand.
One of the greatest challenges is being unplugged on vacation. If you must check emails, limit email time to a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening, or choose time periods that work best for you and your type of work, but try only checking in twice a day! Also, be sure to put an “out of office” message on your email, so that the expectation for your response is appropriately set.
In day-to-day life, try setting NPZs—No phone zones. These are sacred times in which you step away from all devices. Mealtime is an excellent time to try this. Be mindful of the inefficiency of long text conversations. If texting a conversation takes more than 5 minutes, when possible, use the telephone function to call the person on the other end and talk “liveline.”
5. Go Talk Story! - It’s tempting to think we can maintain healthy human relations merely through the Internet, phone, and social media, but the truth is there is nothing that can replace actually being in the presence of a loved one, sharing a meal, or receiving a hug. So, once a week, make a date with people in your community to spend some quality time together and to just have fun.
These are some simple, but not always easy tips that can allow us to be more present for our full lives. We need community, fun, and creative expression to thrive in our multi-faceted lives.
Originally puglished in OmTimes.