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Storytelling: Bread for the Soul

Written on March 21, 2011

After speaking on ABC Radio recently, I was invited by Catherine Marciniak, the Producer of ABC Open for the North Coast NSW to write about the value of storytelling.  Here is what I wrote:

I am a professional storyteller. People sometimes look at me blankly when I tell them what I do. “A storyteller?” A confused silence ensues. “Does that mean you read books to children?”

Children are usually not as confused. They just hear the word ‘story’ and get excited. Yes, even this generation of digital natives,  will usually sit excitedly, waiting for me to begin. Adults who find themselves being told a story sink into a deep calm. They are often amazed at just how much they enjoyed being told a story- something they thought was just for children.

Before I experienced my first storytelling concert, I may well have asked a similar question. It was a concert in Brisbane in the late eighties. I was attracted by his name: ‘Floating Eagle Feather’. He told us tales from his American Indian tradition from the heart, with dignity and grace. I was deeply moved. As we left, he warmly shook our hands as a Minister would at the church door.

Stories tap into a very ancient experience, one we have been engaging in since we first began communicating. Research has shown that the human brain is hard-wired to receive information in the form of stories. A listener’s retention of information jumps dramatically if it is given within an anecdote or story. It is an ideal way to get a message across and an especially powerful tool for teachers. It can help us tap into a deeper wisdom. Storytelling can also be used therapeutically, to model problem solving, foster emotional resilience or help people debrief from traumatic experiences. In this Age of Information, we are constantly overloaded with vast amounts of contradictory and confusing information. This makes us hungry for soulful communication. Good stories are food for the soul.

The wonderful poet, David Whyte says it best in his poem, “Loaves and Fishes”: Loaves and Fishes

This is not
 the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, 
and the radio, 
and the blurred screen.

This is the time 
of loaves 
and fishes.

People are hungry 
and one good word

is bread for a thousand.

from The House of Belonging ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Bread image sourced from Paleoglot blogspot

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