Your Life-Changing Story: The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella

We all have a story. Sometimes it is the story of being knocked to the ground – perhaps because of a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one. And if we aren’t careful a story like this can get buried within us. We can deny it ever happened and this might lead to physical or psychological problems. Let’s explore how we can find and begin to navigate a story we need to tell.

Ten years ago, at the beginning of his senior year, Ben sat in the back of my high school writing classroom. Against the wall. Over his head was an imaginary sign that read “Leave me alone.” But my job as a teacher was to knock down that sign. And while it took a few weeks, I did. On my third attempt at a conversation with Ben, there was a breakthrough.

Although he had few words for what had happened, he had a story stuck inside. It had shattered his life. He had scrawled bits of it in his classroom journal, but now he would tell me. “Last summer . . . my uncle . . . my best friend . . . died.” Ben had broken his silence.

While he continued to struggle with his words, Ben began to inch forward. In coming weeks he embarked on writing a personal narrative on this tragic death.   Still, it would be several more weeks before he would share it openly in class. Even then his story bobbed up unexpectedly. On the day narratives were due I asked if any students wanted to read their work aloud. Ben’s hand shot up — probably as much to his surprise as to his classmates’.

For a few seconds he sat staring at his essay, stunned that he had volunteered, but he found his voice. At first he read haltingly about “his lost friend.” But then Ben found his rhythm and read about the good times with his uncle — reading Rolling Stone, riding bikes, listening to U2, especially “Beautiful Day.” He described a visit to a memorial in Washington, DC, where he watched his uncle cry as he rubbed his fingers across a name. And he noted that Uncle Mark could neither forget this war nor talk about it. Then his voice softened, and Ben ended by describing a not-so-beautiful day when he opened the garage door to find his uncle shot to death. “Self-inflicted wound,” he read. “A suicide.” As students left my class that day, some paused to thank Ben for reading his story. Others paused to pat him on the back, and two girls hugged him. While this story would never be okay, on that day, Ben began accepting his uncle’s death and integrating it into his life story. In coming months Ben began to volunteer and work with local veterans. He was moving forward and trying to make something positive come from his loss.

Over two hundred studies show us that our personal writing can help us heal physically, psychologically, and even socially. In my work with writers, veterans and cancer patients, I have discovered there are stages that can help us find our way to healing and personal story transformation:

  • Experiencing pain and grief. When you experience a trauma from a loss, illness, or any serious setback, you will experience painful emotions. While there is no set order for what transpires, initially you might want to ignore or deny what has happened because this helps to endure the shock.
  • Breaking the silence. At this time, you find your voice and begin to express your emotions and share openly what has happened.
  • Accepting and piecing together a shattered story. In this stage you begin to move your emotions into a logical framework and make sense of what has happened to you and what you plan to do about it.  Writing is especially helpful in this stage.
  • Finding meaning. Here you make sense of your broken story and integrate it into your life. The story is complete.
  • Rewriting or transforming your story. With the pain of this experience behind you, you can move forward with renewed energy to live more fully.

The Story You Need to Tell is a guide to help you find, share, write, edit, and grow from your stories. Here is a sample prompt  to help you find a story you may need to tell. If  at any point your writing seems too painful, you should put it on hold.

Writing Prompt: Finding a Story You Need to Tell

If you have not written about a difficult experience or trauma, you may want to approach it first by doing a structured writing. By answering simple questions, you can explore your experience and decide if you are ready to move forward with an in-depth exploration. Begin by completing each sentence starter, and follow it with a short paragraph of a few sentences. It should take about ten to twenty minutes.

  • The story I would like to explore is…
  • What comes to mind is…
  • What bothers me about this experience is…
  • What I would like to understand is…
  • I am hopeful that…
  • Perhaps it would help if…

Later come back and review this writing. At this time ask yourself: What have I learned? Is this a story I need to explore in more depth? Decide on your next step.

Based on the book The Story You Need to Tell. Copyright © 2017 by Sandra Marinella. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.

Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd, is an award-winning writing teacher and the author of The Story You Need to Tell. She has taught thousands of students and fellow educators and presented hundreds of workshops to veterans, teachers, writers, and cancer patients about the power of our personal stories and writing to heal, grow, and transform our lives. Sandra founded the Story You Need to Tell Project which provides workshops on the power of transformational storytelling and personal writing to increase well-being. Profits from her book support cancer research and provide educational scholarships to veterans and writers. She lives in Chandler, Arizona. Discover more at www.storyyoutell.com.


Expect the Unexpected by Bill Philipps: a Q&A with the Author

As a psychic medium who helps the deceased Bill Philipps had the kind of childhood that seems too tragic to be true — drug-addicted parents, parental kidnapping, homelessness. At age fourteen, he watched his mother die. Two days later she appeared to him, letting him know she was spiritually alive. It was the first time someone from the other side had communicated with Bill. It wouldn’t be the last. His book Expect the Unexpected: Bringing Peace, Healing, and Hope from the Other Side (New World Library, June 15, 2017), shares Bill’s amazing journey of going from a horrid childhood to becoming one of the most beloved, respected, and renowned psychic mediums in the world. He offers a firsthand account of how spirits communicate with him and how he works with them to convey their messages to their living loved ones.

Read More.
Filed Under:

Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma & Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom

While the English language frequently refers to what our bodies know — “gut feelings,” hearts “reaching out” to others, etc. — many of us have learned to ignore, deny, or even mistrust our body’s inherent wisdom. Even worse, a lot of people don’t like their bodies very much at all. As a result, we often cut ourselves off from one of our greatest allies. In Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma and Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom, author Suzanne Scurlock-Durana provides the tools and guidance necessary to reconnect with our body’s inner guidance system of sensation, imagery, and inner knowing. Her book includes chapters for each main “wisdom area” of the body — the heart, gut, pelvis, legs and feet, bones, and brain — and explores each area’s unique roles in the process of developing full-body presence.

Read More.
Filed Under: ·

Peace and Where to Find It

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Peace and Where to Find It is a slim gem, packed with insight and wisdom. For fans of Eckhart Tolle, Peace takes up where Tolle’s The Power of Now leaves off, (and, in fact, Eckhart Tolle wrote the introduction for this book), but it’s not necessary to have read one to enjoy the other. The author, Christopher Papadopoulos, has clearly walked the walk, done the work, and come back to share his transformative experience with us.

Read More.
Filed Under: ·

Back to the Mother: The Life of Sacred Music by Kalidas

Rooted in the Bhakti yoga tradition, my music became a way to honor the lives of some of the great beings that has made my life rich and meaningful. Bhakti yoga consists of channeling all of one’s energy to the Divine. The theory is simple: by thinking of the Divine, by contemplating the Divine, we can become Divine. Bhakti yoga sees the different religions as various paths to God. There are infinite paths actually because there are an infinite amount of beings in the universe. In this tradition, all are embraced. Every one of us has the seed of divinity, no matter how deeply it may be buried.

Read More.
Filed Under: · ·

Robert Waggoner on Lucid Dreaming

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

For the past seven years, Robert Waggoner has co-edited the quarterly journal, Lucid Dreaming Experience , and most recently has written a wonderful book titled Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self . He explains: “Through experimentation, I realized lucid dreaming could be used to get ‘unknown’ information; apparently from the deeper part of yourself or some kind of collective unconscious. Moreover, lucid dreaming could be used to explore deep spiritual concepts, focus healing intent on your body, seek out telepathic and precognitive information and learn about the nature of reality (from the unique perspective of being aware in the dream state). In my book, I take lucid dreamers to these deeper aspects of lucid dreaming…”

Read More.
Filed Under: ·

Deep Awake by Tim Freke

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Deep Awake is a wonderful addition to the fields of consciousness and spirituality. The author, Tim Freke, has put together a deceptively simple guide for “waking up” and living consciously. Unlike most of the genre, the ego, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is not vilified, but embraced. For those who have failed at prior efforts to meditate and reflect, this unique approach may help them to succeed.

Read More.
Filed Under: · ·

Mindfulness for Parents by Amber Hatch

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Much like the benefits of meditation, the quiet wisdom of Mindfulness for Parents sneaks up on you. Amber Hatch has captured perfectly the pitfalls of parenting and the remarkable equanimity that can be achieved by practicing compassion, loving kindness and mindfulness. Whether you are new to parenting, new to meditation, or both – you will reap the benefits of Hatch’s insights and practical advice.

Read More.
Filed Under: · ·

The Man Who Knew Infinity: Srinivasa Ramanujan, Intuitive Mathematician

The Man Who Knew Infinity is the remarkable story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a brilliant Indian mathematician whose revolutionary ideas took Europe by storm during the years around World War I. The film, released in 2015, stars Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, and is based on the book of the same name by Robert Kanigel. What made Ramanujan so amazing, were his deeply spiritual and intuitive leaps in fields for which he had no prior background. What made Ramanujan so amazing, were his deep spiritualty and intuitive leaps in fields for which he had no prior background. Ramanujan said that his insights came to him in dreams, which he quickly wrote down upon awakening.

Read More.

Qigong Meets Quantum Physics by Imke Bock-Mobius

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Qigong Meets Quantum Physics – Experiencing Cosmic Oneness by Imke Bock-Mobius Review by Cheryl Shainmark Qigong meets Quantum Physics is a wonderful integration of the various principles of qigong, mysticism, and the natural sciences. In the best Daoist tradition, Bock-Mobius has surmounted the duality of any discussion of religion (or philosophy) and science, and outlined her compelling vision of how it all comes together.

Read More.
Filed Under: ·