"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

03 August 2018

Your Soul is Calling: Are You Listening?

Yesterday, a friend told me that she enjoyed my social media posts mostly because they were simply about "being" rather than "doing". It's true in as much as I don't feel I've "done" very much over the past year. Most of my time has been spent "being" -- sitting and watching the birds and squirrels on the front lawn in the mornings, listening to the wind in the trees, going for walks, reading, writing, and enjoying an occasional conversation with a friend. Most of the time I spend alone enjoying my own company.

Just over a year ago, I returned to Canada after living for 30 years in Scotland. My decision to leave my storytelling work and friends in Scotland behind was not particularly rational. "Why?" I asked myself, "should I leave? Everything I could ever want is here." But for months, that "inner voice" would not remain silent, piping up that it was time to leave. So I gave away most of material possessions, gave up my accommodation, my work, and said goodbye. Everything I now owned was on my back and in a small suitcase. (I'd also shipped on some boxes of books I just couldn't give up.)

I had a lot of "doing" plans for when I arrived but almost soon as I landed it seemed the Universe/the Divine/God had other ideas. An unexpected dental emergency led to several weeks of root canal treatment, which led to a major loss of energy followed by the return of depression, which sapped me of my "doing" energy. I fell exhausted into "being".

Looking back, I now recognise that much of what I was feeling was the consequence of grief at the loss of my "home" in Scotland, the loss of friends and colleagues, of familiar places and memories. Now here I was in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings without the sort of support I had previously enjoyed. I was living in a small room at my brother's who himself was in the shadow of grief at the unexpected death of his beloved wife. In addition to these losses, I was still dealing with the death of my mother several years earlier, the more recent untimely deaths of several close friends, and the sudden end of a significant relationship in my life.

In Canada, no one really knew my old story of thirty years in Scotland and while creating a new story can be exciting, I realised that grieving the end of a significant chapter in your life is necessary before you can write the next. Grief stops you in your tracks. It forces you to slow down and take stock. So, I gave up my plans and succumbed to it. Looking back, I'm grateful I was forced to do so.

"Doing nothing" for a year began a transition. It's hard to explain but by not trying to accomplish anything, by being still and quiet, a space began to open up, a space where I could more clearly hear my soul's voice.

I began journaling again, recording that voice, my thoughts and feelings. I started paying more attention to "signs" or "messages". A chance glance at a newspaper in a café, for example, led to me calling a First Nations school that shared my interest in Waldorf/Steiner education which led to my storytelling for the children there and then to meeting with one of its teachers who was interested in learning more about oral storytelling.

By chance, I discovered a local storytelling circle which meets once a month in a synagogue. I attended and met a woman who invited me to join a local storytelling guild to which I now belong and with whom I perform occasionally. That led to joining the Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada and to their recent national conference, which again led me to First Nations elders and other storytellers. One of those storytellers was a woman from Montreal who inspired me with her stories of how she started a theatre group more than thirty years ago without knowing anything about how to go about it. She was a living example of the power of saying "Yes" and following your intuition, your heart, your passion or whatever you want to call it. So, the following day, at the organisation's AGM, a call went out for a new Board member. I looked around the auditorium at the more than a hundred people sitting there. No volunteers. Again the call went out. Nothing. On the third call, I could clearly hear that voice within me. Say "Yes", say "Yes". I raised my hand and was duly elected. I've never been a Board member and had no idea what I was getting into, but my soul had spoken.

A chance invitation to check out a new play--with truth and illusion as its theme--made such an impact on me that I did something a shy person like me never does -- I followed my soul's direction to reach out to the play's director and ask her if she'd help me with the writing of a memoir that I'd longed for years to create yet had always put off to do other things. She said, "Yes!"

And last week, that same friend to whom I referred to at the beginning, introduced me to "someone you have to meet" via email. She had no idea what would come of the introduction but felt she had to make it. That "someone" managed a project for an agency that supports isolated seniors in the city. Being a senior and having experienced a sense of isolation and loneliness myself, I felt my soul urging me to follow through on this "hunch". A week later I was pitching an idea for a storytelling project to her team. I didn't plan it -- it came straight from the heart. And they accepted it with enthusiasm.

I know for certain that none of these things would have happened had I not spent a year just "being" rather than "doing". I didn't set out to "be" or "do nothing". I was forced to. Of course, there are ramifications for "doing nothing" -- loss of income, loss of home, loss of work, loss of the support of old friends and colleagues, loss of the familiar. But I am grateful to a brother who's own grief opened up a place for me within his home, and to my other brothers and sister whom I'm having a chance to get to know again after so long.

From the soul's place, I have begun to write a new story which I will integrate with the old. My new story will include new acquaintances, some of whom will, I hope, become good friends and wells of nourishment and intimacy. One day my story will include a place--a physical place--I can call home where I can rest and to which I can invite family and friends old and new. But in the meantime, my soul has created a place for me to rest and "be". My soul has called me to a place I can call "home".

Where is the place you can just "be"? What is your soul calling you to? Please leave your comments in the space below.


"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

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