Mimi Barthelemy is a Haitian story teller, the most amazing I have ever encountered. She passed away a week ago from a heart attack but her stories, songs and unique voice are still alive. Mimi is still very much alive! Click here to learn more and listen to Mimi
I have met quite a number of story tellers during the years I spent in Haiti but also in many other countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. I have always been fascinated by the role story telling was playing in communities. As a political scientist, I got first interested in understanding how societal issues, public events and politics were discussed and re-written through poetry, carnival songs, drawings on the walls, play of words and comic stories that people would pass on and on… often finding the courage to make fun and laugh at things that were truly terrible. But I also quickly understood that those different forms of story telling were at the same time deeply transformative, and healing…
A few nights ago, as I had just learnt about Mimi’s transition towards the Peyi san chapó (a country that doesn’t require a hat to enter, as they say in Haitian Creole), I was playing with small word magnets on my refrigerator in the kitchen, letting the words come together and creating spontaneous poems, looking at the way they would constantly get transformed, thinking of Mimi and how the words would just move and play out of her mouth, like little bubbles who would shape-shift constantly, so full of life and laughter, even when she was evoking terrible things such as slavery and other tragedies Haitian history is so full of…
Writing poems was almost an obsession when I was a child, mostly at night, holding a small lamp that I was hiding under my pillow so I would not wake up anybody else in the room. To tell the truth, more often than not, in the morning, I would find out that what I had written in the dark was absolutely indecipherable, but it did not really matter. Those words were not meant to survive, just to help me cope with things, trying to make sense of a story that did not seem to have any sense and did not seem mine either. Without knowing it at the time, I was trying to re-write my story over and over again.
Since then, I have encountered many ways one constantly re-write and choose one’s story. Shamanic journeys are ones of them. They generally offer a multitude of stories with so many layers that, at times, it takes months (or even years) to get their full resonance in one’s mind, body and spirit. Shamanic journeys not only offer an opportunity to re-write one’s story but to transform one’s life. This is where the healing comes from and clients express it in different ways, including (as one of them was writing to me today) “a lightness and calmness in [one’s] being that had always been there but that [one] had never felt before in such a physical way.” Another big lesson many of you keep sharing with me is the sense of being deeply cared for and of “no longer feeling alone.”
It is such a powerful process that it is impossible to capture it all in just a few words. Today, I would like to point to three of the lessons that I have learnt.
First, we all have stories that we tell about ourselves based on the way we perceive our lives. Some of those stories may be ones in which we make ourselves victims and some are ones in which we allow ourselves to be inspiring to ourselves and others. Which ones are you choosing? Imagine that you’re standing in front of a group telling about your life. How would your story sound? Would you feel empowered by it? If not, how could you change your story and choose a more positive one? Why not? It’s just a story! As James Bonnet put it, “at any given moment, we have a certain destiny. And, if we’re not content with that destiny, we can do something about it. We can transform our futures by transforming ourselves. If we change who we are, if we awaken our humanity, we can change our destiny.” (from Stealing Fire From The Gods). Yes, changing our stories for better ones may unlock more power and magic than we imagine! In most cases, it is not our entire story that is at stake, only part of it. So don’t hesitate to write down that piece that might still be problematic for you, and see how you could re-write it, line by line.
Second equally important lesson: we have to let go of what others think of us. Not that long ago, I had the unpleasant experience of discovering that somebody I considered as a friend was talking about me behind my back in ways that were not only simple lies but seemed in complete dissonance with what our relationship was as well as the way that person was behaving in my presence. I felt hurt, betrayed… and my first immediate reaction was to wonder if I should confront the person. But I quickly chose to let go, realizing that it had more to do with that person’s story, their need to appear a certain way in others’ eyes, and actually very little to do with mine. Was it that simple? Actually, it really was: if you stop giving any importance to a story, it really loses all its power.
Third lesson (that was repeated to me by Spirits just a few days ago): don’t fall into the story and don’t hold to it as a truth and even less a permanent one; it is just a story… It is easy to believe what our ego wants us to believe and start taking ourselves too seriously. I am sure that you won’t be surprised if I say that it never helps…
Which story are you choosing for yourself? How have you been transforming your life by changing your story? Share your experience and get in-spired (i.e. be “breathed through” by Spirits)!
Béatrice | Contemporary Shamanic Healer
Allowing The Light