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DIY: Personal mything
"I started with "Once upon a time..." And much to my surprise, within seconds a version of my personal myth flowed out on paper."

by Marcia Hyatt

"Once upon a time"... four words that invite you to relax into a story. Stories heal us. Stories reveal deeper truths. Stories remind us we are the authors of our own. Stories invite us to enter.

I began to learn about "mything" during a women's leadership workshop in the mid 1990s. The group was given a challenge. I didn't know if I could do it: write my story in myth form? We were to reconvene the workshop in two hours, supposedly with a myth in hand. I started by thinking about my "real" story. My parents had a bitter divorce when I was 2 years old. I grew up living with my mother, who worked two jobs to support her four children. Besides being a full-time math teacher and Howard Johnson's waitress, she went to night school and summer school to earn her master's degree. My father was a dreamer; very loving but not able to send much in child support. And while my mother resented him, I loved being with him.

How did I put this in myth form? And how did all of this inform my life story? I started with "Once upon a time..." And much to my surprise, within seconds a version of my personal myth flowed out on paper. I titled it "The Woman Who Holds up the World." It was a long time before I could share that story without crying. Playing in the realm of symbolism revealed a deep truth to me, one I had not fully understood. This first myth really helped me see my life as a story; one I could consciously author.

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As the years went by, I found that writing these stories helped me make sense of a situation or capture a current reality in a way that gave me new insight. The hardest part about this creative writing was quieting my left brain, which kept critiquing what I would write, or ask, "Shouldn't we be doing something more useful than playing with metaphors?" It took a lot of time to convince the logical half of myself that playing in the symbolic realm was helping me grow.

Writing your own myth can be done by anyone, even those of us "who don't write." It may sound intimidating, so remember, this is play! There is no wrong way to do it. It is an exploration into a realm of images and feelings.

To get started, find ways to center yourself whether it is a walk in the woods or meditation. Warm up by playing with images. Look for objects in the woods or in the house that attract you and write for five minutes about them. Collaging magazine images onto an index card is another good way to warm up. It may help to set a timer and just write starting with the four magical words, "Once upon a time."

What I love about this process is that I may write something that I love as soon as the words flow. And other times, I write junk. I like to think of it as clearing the pipes for the deeper work to flow. I remind my critical voices, this is just play.

It is worth trying it out. A myth born from your own images is the most powerful of all.

Marcia Hyatt is a leadership and life coach and the author of "What Have I Mythed?" www.marciahyatt.com

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