Today, we continue the conversation with author Bonnie Gray that began yesterday with Part 1. In our second installment, Bonnie continues to discuss her latest work, Finding Spiritual Whitespace. She explains Spiritual Whitespace for the workaholic and addresses the barriers to telling our stories.
Frequency: What would you tell a workaholic who can’t imagine making time for Spiritual Whitespace?
Bonnie: You may think you can go on forever being busy and enjoying the adrenaline of winning, but do you ever want something more out of life? When’s the last time you felt really, deeply happy? Do you ever feel tired, exhausted or lonely? What did you like to do as a kid? I’d ask whether they wish things were different with their friends, their romantic life, or their kids. I’d ask them what their dreams were and once upon a time, what did you really want in life.
I’d want them to tell me some stories and I’d listen. And very naturally from there, I think we’d both find the conversation moving towards the hunger and longing for spiritual whitespace and what’s happened in their lives that caused him/her to forget about what his soul once wanted or needed.
Frequency: How can people who don’t consider themselves good storytellers develop confidence to tell their stories?
Bonnie: The key thing about storytelling is to stay away from what I call “spectating” – telling me about your experience as an observer. It gets very stressful trying to figure out how to tell a story if you’re worrying about what someone will think about what you have to say.
In storytelling, it’s most important to be authentic to your experience, what you say, felt, heard, believe and think.
To get into that pocket of speaking in your own voice, I’ve found it helpful to visualize what happened to you as a movie – and you are inviting the listener into the scene that you’re in. That way you stay present with your story. You’re right in it.
Writing is also an important way to access your soul’s voice. Write your story in first person, in the present tense. It will have a more journaling feel, but you will by-pass the part of your brain that wants to “teach” and give information, rather than the part of you that feels and wants to invite another person into your world.
Third, it is so important to hear other people’s stories. When you hear other people tell their stories, it’s a powerful prompt when you hear echoes/themes of your own story. Ask questions of your friends or find writing that is focused on storytelling rather than teaching for illustration.
Our culture has moved away from ascribing authority to the analytic, thinking person to the emotionally connected, empathetic compassionate speaker, so it’s really the perfect timing to share God’s story in our lives in community. You will be giving others permission to be human and find God in community through your story.
Frequency: Who should we tell our stories to?
Bonnie: First and foremost, we must tell our stories to ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.
Second, we ought to confide in those stories with God. Talk to him as friend to friend.
We can also share our stories with “safe” confidantes. Sometimes, this step comes before we open our hearts to share with God. I think of John the Baptist, how he prepared people’s hearts to connect with Jesus before he came.
Safe friends – soulful confidantes – do that for us. By safe, I mean compassionate and grace-filled, who are not afraid to be vulnerable to share their stories with us, instead of being critical or judgmental. These may be our mentors or pastors, but they are often trusted friends who have journeyed with us at different seasons of our lives or even new friends we seek out who have lived through similar challenges. I call them kindreds or sojourners.
When we see that we are accepted by those who love God or close to him, we realize God loves us and accepts us too. God loves us through each other, since he can’t be here in the skin.
We also should give ourselves permission to share our stories with our children, albeit with age appropriate amount of information or detail. One of the things that cause anxiety in children is confusion. If there are dynamics in the family that a child doesn’t understand, rather than sugar coating things or negating their feelings, we can offer than age-appropriate truth. So, we can journey together with our children rather than trying to shield them by withholding the truth.
Sometimes, we need an expert at helping us uncovering our stories. Although I have always been the one to counsel others, I finally found a PTSD expert who specialized in anxiety who practiced EMDR, and he was able to help me uncover deeper stories that I didn’t even know affected me. Like a safari guide leading me through the Amazon jungles, he knew where to look.
From there, I could then confide my stories to a small circle of safe people. As I gained confidence that I was loved and accepted, I started taking risks to share with people who were in different areas of my life that I had compartmentalized (my mommy friends, my work colleagues, acquaintances… world’s were colliding!) – which moved into small groups.
I was able to share with my readers on my blog and then, ultimately in print as an author! And then, from there, here I am now, doing interviews with media and leading Spiritual Whitespace Retreats! But, I was only able to share with a bigger audience because I felt known and supported in 1-1, in person relationships, with people who know me in my everyday real life.
My husband was definitely there from the very beginning, before I told anyone. He’s been my north star. I knew if no one accepted me, my husband was my one safe place. For others, it might be someone else.
Quick Links for Bonnie Gray:
- Website for Bonnie’s blog: http://www.faithbarista.com/
- Bonnie on Facebook: http://facebook.com/thebonniegray
- Bonnie on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheBonnieGray