9 Ingredients for Building New Narratives by Eline Kieft

There have been a few intriguing posts recently on creating new narratives (by Carolyn Lee Boyd, whose ‘dollops of mud’ inspired the title of this post), and reinterpreting existing ones that are deeply embedded in the fabric of our cultures (such as Moses and Rambo by Janet Rudolph). I distinguish re-creating personal and collective narratives as two aspects of this fascinating task.

The first aspect addresses our capacity to rewrite our personal narrative. What story do we tell about our lives? One of my teachers, Ya’Acov Darling Khan, says ‘we humans are story tellers by nature, so we better tell a good one!’ This doesn’t mean ‘making up’ a story, embellishing the facts, or putting sugar over shit, but exploring our own hero/ine’s journey, overcoming obstacles with courage, seeking help from allies, daring to go into the darkness and emerging with new insights, and most of all, what I call the skill to ‘harvest the wisdom gifts’ of life’s experiences. I look forward to writing more about this another time.

For today’s post I focus on the second aspect, our collective stories and cultural narratives. Carolyn retraces inspiration from the earth goddess to find relational and regenerative language that redirects us away from conflict and violence. She asks how we can create and tell stories in which we are change-makers with positive effect on the world around us, with a toolkit ‘as big as our imagination’, and the recognition that big change can ‘start with small dollops of mud’.

Having just published a book called Dancing in the Muddy Temple, I propose the following nine ‘dollops’ as ingredients for narratives that encourage diversity, health, empowerment, and diversity, and living in awareness of the great mystery of life:

  1. A narrative that exploreswhere we come from (origins), where we are going (future direction) and how we can live as best we can in the present moment (here and now). These Existential Questions provide nourishment, stability, and visionary direction – in contrast to narratives that deny the past, overemphasise the present, and fear or embellish the future.
  • A narrative that embraces an awareness of Natural Cycles recognises the exchange between action and relaxation, doing and resting. This can replace an untenable linear ideal that encourages burnout and overwhelm with its denial of recuperation and lying fallow before a new phase rekindles. What would life be like if we would change from ‘the sky is the limit’ to ‘earth and sky each bring their own wisdom’?
  • A narrative that emphasises Circular Inclusivity creates a relational dynamic and embodies a fluid and diverse continuum of opposites: mind and body, cognition and emotions, individual and community, tangible and intangible. It also encompasses multiple gender and sexual identities. Rather than polarising, which usually ends in superiority and power of one of the values over the other, a circle unifies and connects by design and includes inspiration from different points of view.
  • A narrative that embraces Sacred Sensuality recognises the creative life force within us as essential part of our vitality. It luxuriates in a celebration of the body and the possibility of pleasure, whether it be through conscious circulation of energy, food preparation, creative expression, joyous self-pleasure, or love making with a partner. Such sensuality is not the same as a sex drive that needs (or is entitled to) an outward release. By re-examining our sensual landscape instead of repressing or exaggerating this vital aspect of our being, we encourage respect, appreciation, joy, and wonder for self and other.
  • A narrative that re-examines our Relationship with Death empowers the way we live. Renegotiating the taboo that surrounds death opens meaningful reflections and conversations. Rather than a preoccupation with youth, beauty, money, or power, we realise the exquisite preciousness of being alive, and can shift perspective to what we truly value – usually more quality time with our loved ones. This helps to contemplate the legacy we might leave and attend to any unfinished business as it arises.
  • A narrative that Honours our Elders which their lived experience and wisdom can provide a long-range perspective, teach us about the quality of slowing down and the power of stories and mythical knowing. Rather than side-lining them because they can no longer participate in the onwards and upwards rat-race (see #2), they can help us embrace this later life stage with as much humour and dignity as possible.
  • A narrative that appreciates Different Ways of Knowing with the body, heart, mind, and spirit enables more all-round personal development, as well as a more balanced encounter between people, practices, and paradigms. Shifting from an overemphasis on cognition and the spoken word to other ways of learning and sharing information creates more inclusive forms of connection and expression.
  • Of course, I propose Dancing with the Numinous as another important dollop for new narratives, to awaken a sense of participatory consciousness, intuition and attunement with life all around us (see also my previous post on Dance as Spiritual Practice). Dance can provide a ceremonial space to connect with the sacred, open a flow of inspiration and resourcing, offer a cauldron for healing, affirm our place within the mystery, and be an important site for community building.
  • Finally, a narrative that creates a Fluid Community in which people consciously connect around a specific interest enables a sense of belonging. This asks for a community that encourages exploration and change, dares to formulate new orientations, and adapt course again if needed. I believe that the FAR community is one such fluid invitation and I am very grateful to be part of this inspiring tribe!

As Carolyn said, let’s fire up our imagination and re-write the story. I’d love to hear what you think!

>>> Rewriting (y)our narrative will be part of my upcoming Embodied Spirituality Masterclasses, which I’d like to offer to you with a 30% discount. You only pay €210 (or 10 payments of €21) if you enter this code at check out: FAR-READER-DISCOUNT. Look forward to seeing you there!

Image by David Taitt, Coventry

Eline Kieft danced from a young age, including rigorous classical and contemporary training to become a professional dancer. She then studied anthropology, deepening her fascination with worldwide similarities between indigenous traditions regarding intangible aspects of reality and other ways of knowing, including embodied epistemologies and shamanic techniques. 

She completed her PhD in dance anthropology at Roehampton University, trained in depth with the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies and the School of Movement Medicine. Eline worked at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University for five years, where she created a Somatics Toolkit for Ethnographers, and pioneered soulful academic pedagogy. Her recent book Dancing in the Muddy Temple: A Moving Spirituality of Land and Body was well received as a unique blend of theory and practice and a medicine for our times.

She is now a full-time change-maker and facilitates deep transformation through coaching and courses both online and in person. Her approach The Way of the Wild Soul offers a set of embodied, creative, and spiritual tools to re-connect with inner strength and navigate life’s challenges with confidence.

Website: https://www.elinekieft.com

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Categories: General, story-telling

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4 replies

  1. Scientist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer ( Braiding Sweetgrass) addresses all the issues you bring up – most effectively, I believe, and she is realistic, not privileging the positive as we are want to do in this culture. What she says is that we must change the narrative of domination over and that we already have it – Indigenous folks continue to live by a different story – one we need to adopt – developing a relationship with nature can re attach us to the whole.


  2. Thank you for this enlightening essay! I think each of your “dollops” is really valuable and each could be a whole post. At the same time, they all really interrelate in our ways of thinking about ourselves, our relationship to other living beings, and the Earth, making a wholistic perspective that values caring, renewal, and seeing reality rather than what we have been taught to see. To me it’s a little like that old advice to people just learning to draw to draw what you see, not what you think you see. When you do that so much more depth and beauty emerges. When we use your “dollops” to experience ourselves and our lives in all our fullness, how much richer and connected to other living beings and the Earth our lives become.


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