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The Living Shaman Museum is a nonprofit project of the Spirited Medicine Alliance, in collaboration with Inquiring Systems, Inc. (ISI) as its fiscal sponsor. Founded in 1978, ISI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that has provided services to 3,650 nonprofit and NGO organizations in 32 countries. Ninety percent of donations go directly to benefit projects.

Tell me a story…


“Story is for a human as water is for a fish – all encompassing and not quite palpable.”
– Jonathan Gottschall

Creation stories.
Teaching stories.
Bedtime stories.
Fairy tales.
Ghost stories.
Heroic Journeys.

Theater. Books. Radio. Television. Internet. We are constantly creating and consuming stories. Human beings are storytelling animals. It is in our nature to create meaning, or stories from what we see and experience.

Neuroscientist, Michael Gazzaniga pioneered a series of experiments that made use of the isolated hemispheres in patients who due to serious health issues, had the connection between the hemispheres of their brains cut. The body is wired so that the majority of the right side of the body is controlled by the left brain and vice versa. A picture that is seen by the right eye goes into the left side of the brain and can be interpreted as well as articulated. An image that is seen by the left eye goes into the right brain and is recognized but cannot be interpreted or spoken of until it crosses over into the left brain.

In these experiments, split-brain subjects were shown images so that they were only visible to one or the other eye. They were then asked to choose from a series of pictures and explain why they had chosen each one. The right hand chose a picture and the subject was able to clearly state that they had seen it. The left hand chose a picture that was related to the scene that the right eye had been shown. As the two hemispheres of the brain could not transmit information to each other, the left side, which was responsible for communicating with the researchers, had no way of knowing what the right side had seen. When asked for an explanation, the left brain readily and confidently created one.

This storytelling mind is constantly at work in all people but the split-brain surgery allowed researchers to isolate the phenomena. This tendency to impose the structure of a story can also be seen in the results of Heider and Simmel’s (1944) experiment. 114 people viewed a simple film consisting of geometric shapes moving around the screen. They were then asked: “Describe what you saw.” Only three of them reported seeing geometric shapes. The other one hundred and eleven, created stories that interpreted the movements of the shapes.

Our bodies are also telling us stories, if we are still and have the patience to listen, we can benefit from their wisdom. Breath-work, guided imagery, shamanic journeys and meditation can facilitate our receiving the messages. Each cell tells its story to the cells close to it. When the stories flow freely from cell to cell and across systems, then the body has the capacity to maintain an ebb and flow within a range of balance.

When I was studying shamanic wisdom in Seattle, often my classmates received teachings from the natural world. The eagle as well as the oak would speak to them, bringing insight into their current questions. I sometimes felt a bit broken as this had never happened for me.

While reading David Abram’s – The Spell of the Sensuous, this flashed into my mind:

If the planet is a living being, then it stands to reason that the cells in its body communicate with each other just as they do in our bodies. And if the Earth is alive, then we are all cells within her body. It stands to reason then that each of us has the capacity to communicate with every other being, especially those near to us. The cell that is the hawk has told me a story. I am certain of it. The cell that is “me” has heard it. Now to allow my brain to catch up….

What stories are you telling yourself?
What stories are you listening to?

*All science information was found in this great book:
Gottschall, J. (2013). The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. New York, NY: First Mariner Books

3 Responses to “Tell me a story…”

  1. Barbara says : Reply

    How interesting. A dear friend is one to made up stories in just the way the research suggests. I always thought it was a personality quirk, a need for an answer. To learn that it is the left brain doing creative work is fascinating. Thank you!

  2. Michelle says : Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring posting. What a wonderful reminder to deeply listen to all that surrounds us, especially the healing qualities of nature, which we are so affected by – even on the cellular level. After reading this post a few days ago, I have been tuning into the stories that surround me: those that I tell myself, and those that are told to me – by humans, animals, and nature. It’s been a lovely experience of deciding which stories I want to keep and which stories I want to let go of. I have decided to listen more to the flowers, birds, and trees, and less to my inner critic. What freedom!

  3. Connie says : Reply

    Forget-Me-Not Speaks (listening to the stories of the plants)

    “My delicate nature could be passed over as just another cute little forest flower. But pay attention for within my being there exists a light and a love beyond compare. Least you pass over me in judgment or contempt pay heed. I am here to remind you of the delicate and tender nature of your own heart. Yet we all long to be remembered, to be held in high esteem in another’s heart. Behold that I show you your own true nature, your poetry. I expose that shy vulnerable part within each of us that longs to be looked at, to be pondered, to be beholden, yet as you do to me today. Behold the sweetness that you are. Behold the sweet and tender nature of my being—your being. So I am, that you are also.

    Baby blue as a newborn baby boy’s swaddle, I am the child within. You have heard these words before: “There was a time oh tender elf, when you were poetry itself.”

    Forget not me, but forget not yourself, your true nature. Let me speak for you as you are often unable to speak of this place within yourself. This place is home. This place reminds you of your life past. This place reminds you of the print on your grandmother’s dress, the wallpaper in your old Aunt Bessie’s room, of the county fairs of your youth, of walks by the water’s edge, of innocence and purity itself. Honor yourself as you do me. Honor your past. Honor that part within your heart that is at times too tender to touch. I honor you, too, for you are my beloved self in reflection. Behold with honor and respect the delicate nature of your own being.”

    “We the plants have stories and we have poetry, as well as specific medicines that is ours to share with you. THIS is the medicine for the soul-searching weary. We will bring you home to yourself, reminding you of your true nature, of all those nooks and crannies of your heart and soul. We are the manifestation of YOU, we are not separate. We are here for you to reflect and contemplate upon showing you who you really are. Each part within you is beautiful and whole, just as we are. You do not know that yet. You think you are deficient. Let me ask you, are WE deficient? Do we need “fixing”” THAT is the medicine, for I bring you to yourself.

    Lay down, oh sweet children, in our fields and dream on—dream of us dream of you.

    Just as you see yourself in the reflections and relationships with your fellowman, so you are in those same reflections and relationships with us the plants. Embracing my perfection is embracing your perfection, just as you are. If you and I are poison ivy, then be poison. If you and I are weeping willow, then let us weep together.

    We are a community of personalities, of beings just as you, each in some state or other. Look at the plantain, the columbine, the oak, and others you have visited before. You come to ask us for medicine for others, what about you? Pause to reflect for a moment that you love me as I love you. I have medicine for you who have come to visit, for I shine light upon facets of YOU.”

    …conversation with Connie Grauds, Tennessee Valley, Mill Valley, CA author of “Jungle Medicine…from medicine to magic”

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