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The Unintended Consequences of Storying Ourselves

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Have you ever read something, say a novel, a poem, or even a quote, and to your surprise you discovered a completely different meaning? It’s a strange experience, and one I’ve been having daily. For example, I once thought I understood the American filmmaker George Lucas when he said:

“We are all living in cages with the door wide open.”

And I was sure I knew what the British author John le Carré meant by this:

“‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not a story. ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is a story.”

And then there’s this from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, which I could never fully wrap my head around until recently:

“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.”

So what changed? How did those phrases take on new meaning for me? Simply put, it came from a shift in consciousness. What many refer to as “an awakening.” But it didn’t happen as you’re probably imagining, like during a silent retreat or triggered by some dramatic life event.

Instead, it happened when I heard myself utter five simple words:

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