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By M a r i e - R o s e P h a n - L ê

{The Gift of Talking Story{ A Return to Intimate Connection

We need to know each other beyond social-media posts, to look each other in the eye, to extend a hand or offer a shoulder, and to be willing to not only give each other the time of day but the space of heart.

I

n Hawaii, when an invitation is extended, the host will say, “Come over and let’s talk story.” Talking story is about taking the time to linger over the details of the mundane, to ponder the realms of the profound, and to surrender any structure of time or agenda. It is practicing the art of listening and of being present.

As I began production of the Talking Story documentary project, traveling from Hawaii to the Himalayas, it wasn’t long before I realized that in order for me to access healing traditions and healers in remote areas of the world, I would have to practice talking story. There would be no hit-and-run interviews, no rigid film production schedules, no way to remain an anonymous gleaner of other people’s wisdom and experiences. In the years since I returned from traveling the world and spending hours talking story with spiritual teachers and healers, there have been many advances in technology that make some aspects of our lives easier, with

instant connectivity to information and individuals, while eroding our ability to connect deeply and intimately with the person next to us. I’ve sat in cafés, observing young men not speaking a word but, rather, showing each other the screens of their devices and responding with a nod, a chuckle, or a frown. I’ve witnessed women in public bathroom stalls doing their business while engaged (and I use this term loosely) in a conversation with someone on their cell phones. And I’ve had close friends start a compelling tale of their latest adventure, only to stop midsentence to respond to a text and then never return to our conversation to tell me how the story ended. We’ve been given greater access yet have become less accessible. Since my mission has been to preserve endangered traditions and practices, I’m here to raise the red flag and tell the world we are in danger of losing the tradition of talking story and the gifts that come with its practice. Sharing our narratives and feeling seen is one of the most powerful tools to help

LEFT PHOTO: KATE BALDWIN, RIGHT PHOTO: THOMAS L. KELLY

us heal from disease, engage in transformation, and move through challenges. We are given courage when we feel supported by those around us—our sangha. We need to know each other beyond social-media posts, to look each other in the eye, to extend a hand or offer a shoulder, and to be willing to not only give each other the time of day but the space of heart. Let this call to action be to talk story until our bellies hurt from sharing laughs, our hearts break from sharing grief, and our spirits grow from sharing precious moments with the gift of our presence.

Marie-Rose Phan-Lê is the author of Talking Story: One Woman’s Quest to Preserve Ancient Spiritual and Healing Traditions, which chronicles the making of her award-winning film, Talking Story. A resident of Hawaii, she is the founder of Healing Planet Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is the preservation and presentation of spiritual and healing traditions.

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Mantra Yoga + Health: Issue 7  

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