Scripture (Y)our Story: Storytelling & Writing Retreat for Changemakers

By SEN, 8th November 2017

Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. 

Unfold your own myth." Rumi ~

Between 3 – 7 November a group of 16 changemakers came together for the Scripture (Y)our Story: Storytelling for Changemakers writing retreat, which was an initiative by Seren Dalkiran (Initiator & Co-founder Synergized Earth Network (SEN) in collaboration with Marta Micháns (Founder Appasioname), Julie Murat (Head of Operations Bridge for Billions) and Ingi Mehus (Founder Pocket Stories) with the support of Pierre Chevelle (Founder Changer le Monde) and Khalaf ben Abdallah (Co-founder Al Montada) with the support of Ashoka’s ChangemakersxChange and Robert Bosch Stiftung.

The aim of the writing and storytelling retreat was to bring together the next generation of writers, poets, artists and storytellers and invite them to think about what it means to become the author over our own lives by exploring our individual and collective narratives.

To this end, we used the power of writing and free creative expression as catalysts to drive meaningful and lasting change. We were a diverse group participants and in the pre-program we had other changemakers joining us as well.

We spent five days together in the picturesque and imaginary Château de Rocheplatte in the beautiful nature in Aulnay la Rivière outside Paris. Together we created a profound learning space that infused awe, wonder, inspiration, imagination, creativity and free expression.

Testimonial Seren Dalkiran 

'You and your story are not alone. Your story belongs in a larger story. Our collective story’. ~

Our Scripture (Y)our Story writing retreat between 3-7 November 2017 started at the historical second hand bookstore Shakespeare & Company next to the catholic church the Notre-Dame, a place encircled with old books, typewriters and cats.

Together we travelogued across the history and stories of this place of wonder and planted our individual intentions for the writing retreat ahead. It was an invitation to receive this experience as a gift to pause, to reflect and to cultivate our own wellbeing by making space for the things that truly matter for us in our intensive lives as change agents in our generation.

We also thought about the authors that influenced our thinking and work and gave ourselves time to wander the bookshelves and seep ourselves in the wisdom of writers through the ages.

When we arrived at the medieval castle Château de Rocheplatte in Aulnay la Rivière outside Paris we walked the ground where the legacy of Napoléon Bonaparte resides.

This warm and welcoming imaginary place made us travel back in time, breathed history and it felt as if we found ourselves in a story.

It expanded our imagination and instilled our sense of wonder to start unlocking our own stories and imagine the possibilities that our own stories hone.

This was a prologue to the story we were invited to live together and it made us realize that it was certain that the coming days awaiting were going to be magical...!

Each day we discovered something new about this place, the childhoods, family lives, grievance and joy that passed through those gates, gardens, doors, chambers, chapel, crypt throughout decades...which inspired us to further consider our own lives in a wider historical context.

In the morning we breathed in the scent of the falling autumn leaves and greeted the sunlight entering through our windows. We got our freshly produced vegetables and fruits from the local farm and cooked whole meals together full of love and nourishment that we shared at the round table while we exchanged our stories, and stepped into a sense of belonging and community, forming a circle and entered a space of deep learning together. 

Some of the main theme for our discussions were:

What does it mean to take ownership and become the protagonists of our own stories?
How could we unlock our own stories?
How aware are we of the stories we have lived so far?
And what is the world of possibilities that our own stories carry?

We explored the twelve stages of the hero’s (and the heroine’s journey) of Joseph Campbell’s framework in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ and tried to understand whether this proclaimed universal pattern responds to our own stories.

We looked into the necessary shift from the hero’s journey (‘heropreneurship’) to the collective journey to address the pressing challenges in the 21st century that we are facing. We also studied different versions of the ‘hero’s journey’ including ‘the heroine’s journey’ the ‘healing journey’ and started to map out our own life and storylines.

The next day we embarked on a journey to take us back in time again, through the Deep Time Walk, a guided walk narrated by a deeply passionate scientist and microbiologist among us. This walk took us on a 4.6 billion years old legacy through a walk in nature in order to help us understand how our individual stories are located in a larger evolutionary perspective.

What does it mean “to measure our own bodies against the Earth and put the unfathomable number of Earth's roughly 4,543,000,000 year history into perspective’ as the author and activist Rebecca Solnit describes? And how can we drive meaningful and lasting change with this base understanding? 

In the evening we had a poetry and literary night in which we shared and supported our writings and celebrated life together.

The last day we returned back to the circle, we all brought an object—a journal, a piece of horse hair, a magnifying glass, a wooden key, a music box or a quill pen—that carried an important piece of our stories and guided us to be in touch with the heart of the truest depths of our own stories.

Which stories have we lived so far, what are the patterns and do they truly belong to us?

 

We realized that in our fast-paced lives we are so absorbed by the speed in which our stories are lived that we take little time to acknowledge the journeys we have already walked so far, the journeys that shaped us, and the journeys that hold a promise in which our treasures yearn to unfold through us.

As a closing activity, we wrote each other letters and sugarcubes reflecting on our learning journey that we shared and planted the seeds for the future.

As such, we set the basis to create a 'Storytelling Toolkit for Changemakers' to use storytelling as a tool to drive meaningful and lasting impact for changemakers worldwide and worked on a format to organize our storytelling and writing retreats on an annual basis.







Testimonials from other participants and co-creators of the writing & storytelling retreat

"Our writers retreat in La Rocheplatte was not only amazing, it also had an empowering impact on me personally, in the sense of something more lasting that I took home with me. If I try to make it as concrete and practical as I can, I would say the retreat served me in a number of ways."

"In the first place, I experienced a sense of empowerment, connection, and trust in my own story and the contribution I’m attempting to make to the complex and demanding transformation our world is in.

This was mainly due to the wonderful people and the deep connections that emerged in such a short time, as well as the beautiful environment we were being held by. There was a space of deep sharing, deep listening, and authentic connecting that felt magical, highly enjoyable, and at times even sacred. It left me feeling affirmed in who I am and what I’m trying to do in my life and work, as well as with a new group of friends, writers, and potential collaborators in the projects I am working on."

"The Deep Time Walk was a wonderful experience that left our group almost a little ‘high’, uplifted and grounded at the same time. From the Deep Time Walk website: the “Deep Time Walk is a 4.6 km walking audio book for smartphones telling a history of the living Earth.

This unfolding takes you from 4,6 billion years ago to the present day, with each metre walked representing 1 million years. During the dramatised walk between a fool and a scientist you learn from the latest scientific evidence about how our planet evolved over this vast stretch of geological time, including the accretion of the Earth from a disc of rocky debris, the formation of the oceans and atmosphere, the appearance of first life - bacteria, then the first nucleated cells and multicellular organisms.”

"The time spent outside in beautiful nature, the exercise, the walking together in silence while taking in such a mind-expanding perspective left all of us with big smiles on our faces and healthy, rosy cheeks.

It seemed like we collectively tapped into a natural or innate state of well-being and connection. The walk had created a palpable shift, a transformation, in the group field. As one person in our group reflected, “there was the time before the walk, and there was the time after the walk. I remember my own experience upon returning to the castle after the walk, suddenly seeing that same castle with new eyes - with a magic, thrill, and aliveness that I hadn’t quite as vividly recognized before. So the walk really managed to ‘open’ us - open us in our connections with ourselves, with each other, and with the larger story we are living. It opened our minds, our hearts, and our senses.

Afterwards, while we as a group reflected on what we had learned during the walk, some profound conversations emerged, which further activated this larger, evolutionary perspective of who we are, were we come from, and where we are going.

It’s a perspective that, in my eyes, can only leave one feeling in awe of what surrounds you and what is given to you, and with a humility and care in how you relate to that.

It’s a perspective that gives you a renewed appreciation of our beautiful earth and the long and amazing journey it has gone through before we humans even emerged - which in the context of this larger story is only an incomprehensibly small sliver of time ago.

I think this kind of perspective is extremely relevant in the context of the planetary, systemic issues our world is currently struggling with, and could therefore serve powerful transformational purposes.

Sensing that potential, a few of us started exploring the idea of organizing our own Deep Time Walks back home, to use this walk as a transformational tool that can support people to find their ground and purpose in life, and start understanding our human struggle and predicament from a much larger, evolutionary perspective.

We started developing some ideas around how we could extend and perhaps further amplify the impact of this walk through designing follow-up sessions that engage with human, cultural, psychological and spiritual evolution, as this is not addressed in the walk, yet it lays the perfect ground for having that conversation.

It also became clear to us that the Deep Time Walk has a great contribution to make to the Storytelling Toolkit for Change-makers, as it helps one understand one’s own story as well as our the story of our cultural moment in this vast, mind-expanding perspective of the Earth or Universe Story." 

“ Our position in the larger whole helps us understand how we belong— moving from alienation to belonging. I feel I want to carry this piece of the puzzle so people can start to find their own knowing and belonging.” ~

“ Here we created a space where I was able to really be myself, without putting a label on it.” ~

 

“ The castle Rocheplatte were the writing and storytelling retreat took place is an enchanting place. I remember that the first time I went there, couple of years ago, everything seemed more vibrant. I remember that the colors, the smells, the sounds and all the subtle joys of life were somehow enhanced.

This weekend magnified this feeling. It was not just the infinite beauty of the castle, the peaceful warmth of nature, the grace of having so many like-minded individuals reunited, the depth of the conversations, the smiles, the transcendence, the care, the vision. It was the perfection of having all these rare ingredients combined.

As I reflect on the "takeaways" of this weekend, I can humbly declare that it has changed my life. Very practically speaking, I travel back to the castle almost every day as I incorporated a "Rocheplatte moment" into my daily morning routine: after having meditated for a bit, I now take a pen and write.

Write about life, about the intention for the day, about what I believe the world needs, and about how I'd like to contribute.

It's something that I would have never dared venturing into before these two magical days. Probably because I was convinced that I was not really gifted and that nothing good would come out from my feather and ink. And because I used to believe that a fulfilled life had to include more actions than words.

But the experience at the writing and storytelling retreat proved me wrong, or at least helped me balance this statement.

The exercise of looking back at my life made it crystal clear to me: I had just started my hero's journey, and I was slowly moving from being an active conformist to becoming a contemplative rebel.

So that's about my story. But being at the castle Rocheplatte has also paved a clear path for our collective story, which was something I had been looking for for quite a long time.

At Sparknews where I work in positive journalism, my mission is to find the most inspiring initiatives to be shared with the world, based on the idea that changing the world starts by changing the way we talk about it. Highlighting determined individuals that put up a fight for what they love and picturing an alternative future filled with empathy, resilience and hope is what I'm spending most of my time doing.

However, I often felt some disconnection between this posture -- that could seem naïve to many -- and the complexity of the world we live in. The Deep Time Walk and our discussions about what our generation can bring to put humanity back on a sound track has definitely helped me fill this gap.

More than ever, I am convinced that we are incredibly lucky to live on such a perfect planet, and that it's more essential than ever to protect it.

I want to thank the organizers of this retreat for making all this possible, and I know that they'll be here when I'm ready to blossom.

Thanks to these extraordinary friends, I'm feeling empowered, I'm feeling grateful, I'm feeling part of a movement, I'm feeling full of love for any expression of life, and most importantly, I'm feeling deeply alive.” ~

“ This was perfect timing for me, and I knew that I would find a little bit of this.

I am totally happy and grateful — beautiful human beings and meaningful conversations. Some kind of deep thinking process I have started … whether from the Deep Time Walk, or to reflect on the three most important moments of my life.” ~

 

“ The retreat offered me a big shift in my thinking and being.  It was the combination of all the different elements that made it work. The place made magic and imagination possible.

The shared responsibility to have food, to clean etc. offered the possibility to get to know each other and yourself on different levels. Noticing while being together that all the different talents create the magic. And of course the well-organized and wonderful flexible coaching and assistance to the writing and storytelling.

For me these conditions and being together with  people you admire because of their ideas and actions, and noticing how our stories fit into each other, gave me the trust and power to live and stick to my own story, also when I feel alone in my ideas (and lose confidence in my story).

I deeply felt that we can change the world around us together through sharing our stories. 

“ When you are part of such an experience, you know there is a before and after the experience in your life.

You know you are not the same person anymore and, in fact, you feel different. That is what happened at the storytelling retreat, with just one difference: I felt the person I encountered was someone I had deep inside of myself, a me that had such a true essence inside.

It is a magical experience to live in a castle, to be surrounded with books, paintings, old trunks and tapestries. To walk through the very same halls so many different people must have walked through before you, and to feel the stories they might have shared in secret.

It is such an inspiring place to have the best conversations, the best poetry sharing night, the best company, the best actual version of yourself.

It is a place of wonder, and so it’s not something to be overlooked: the castle has been an important part of this.

Among all activities we did, I particularly enjoyed the Deep Time Walk and all the reflections that came after it. But if there is something that made our retreat so magical, it was the sharing and the sense of community that we all created. Somehow, I felt at home more than ever.

I felt I belonged with all those amazing human beings and their stories. I believe we all experienced how powerful it is to share our story and listen to the stories of others.

After this retreat, I have been writing more and more. I am now confident enough to follow my writing spirit. I have my goals and I am pursuing them. Without this community, without this experience, I wouldn’t feel like this now. All I can say is thank you.” ~

“The magic of the retreat verified once again to me the urgency and need to bring people together to validate that everyone genuinely has stories worth sharing with their community.

As the saying goes, there is no greater pain than an untold story. Beautiful Rocheplatte castle, the dynamic group and our wonderful host was the perfect recipe left me crave more! ” ~

“This experience was the kind of life-changing one. It's not about something radical, but more about something deep inside each other. It's not a big switch, but more a beautiful step forward.

The retreat was out of time, we have been really deep into our personal and global story, we had discussions about a lot of different subjects and we had time to really meet and exchange. Time went very fast, but we also felt like we knew each other for a long time and this is one of the key success factors of these few days.

I feel like I met all these people in a totally different way and that I know them better than everyone else I ever met in only one weekend. Indeed, we didn't spend so much time speaking about what we do, but we spent the time to go deeper into who we truly are.

Going deeper this way in each other stories was amazing because what they express resonates much more and what they share enables you to find a lot of connections with your own story. Moreover, the listening was always attentive and caring and it helped to go deeper into yourself, sometimes in a way that you never did before.

Finally, spending time sharing who we are, what we believe rather than what we do, opens a lot of perspectives. At the end of the weekend, I felt like a lot of things are possible and that there is no limit to one’s imagination.I believe that it is a great base to start building our global future story.

We removed a lot of details about what we do, and we discovered a lot about what is very important for each one of us, which convictions drive us and what kind of world we would like to see in the future. We now have a link all together, the energy we shared is still present and it will undoubtedly create beautiful sparks in the future!” ~

“On the last day, wrapping up the “sugar cubes” activity (leaving loving notes to fellow participants), I was very touched from one of the proposals of writing sugar cubes to the castle where we stayed too, since the castle had played such an important role in setting up the atmosphere of the writing and storytelling retreat.

I’ve lived so many meaningful life moments in this place that it’s easy to forget the special energy it brings to any group. It was a real joy to welcome here such a diverse group of brilliant and socially-conscious minds. 

We left a lot of the agenda to the unknown, and now I can say how much of a lucky decision this turned out to be: the retreat naturally unfolded as an exploration of our individual stories in a very authentic manner, and a discovery of how we fit in the collective story, that of our Earth with the Deep Time Walk activity. 

I feel that I really bonded with each participant, even while being the host, and I am confident that we created a highly-replicable format that can bring a lot of self-discovery and inner-exploration to many more changemakers around the world.” ~

“Living and working in Palestine is an intense and sometimes isolating experience. We are very focused on our human rights struggle locally and in the region. It is rare that we get to connect with people internationally and to consider the story of our generation and of the entire earth.

This is really important thinking for our present historical moment and meeting these different people from around the world to consider how we are all connected, and how we can create a transformative curriculum for changemakers worldwide, was a very welcome opportunity in my life. 

Even now, two months later, I can see the impact that it has had on me in recognizing my own leadership, voice and story, and sharing it with others.

I have been inspired to continue with this group and to start my own local scripture your story retreat in Palestine so that I can help other changemakers here to connect to the larger story of our generation and go beyond the walls and struggle that seems to weigh us down and blind us so often. ” ~