Stories are nowadays being recovered as a wonderful way of shedding a new light on old Christian wisdom and truth. Here is an example of a story and the way it can be used. Do the exercise slowly leaving space for pausing and silence.
This story is a re-telling of a legend about Lao Tzu, an ancient and revered Chinese teacher. After a period of centring down, read this story through slowly to yourself.
"Once in the village of Zhang which lay at the foot of a tall mountain, the people were terrorized by a rampaging and marauding lion. Having suffered the loss of sheep and goats and fearing for the safety of their children, the villagers organized a hunting party to search out and destroy the beast. However, when their hunting party was unsuccessful they decided to consult with their teacher Lao Tzu, who lived in the heavens and visited them in his bright chariot.
Lao Tzu listened carefully as they told their story and begged him to help them capture the lion. Lao Tzu replied, 'The real trouble is that you don't understand this mountain lion. I will help you, but I will need someone to go with me and we must take a small kid.' A youth and a young girl, Yung and Li Chi, stepped forward to accompany Lao Tzu, and a local goat farmer brought forth a small animal for them to use to trap the beast.
Lao Tzu and his companions approached the lion's cave and found the bones of dead animals scattered about. At the rear of the cave they saw a mound of soft sand and Lao Tzu indicated that the kid should be placed there. As he did so the young man felt sorry for the small creature who would be devoured by the beast and the girl felt quite angry, but the kid curled up and went to sleep. 'Let us hide behind the rocks and wait for the lion to return.'
After some time the beast did return carrying a dead deer in his jaws. But seeing the kid, he laid down the kill, approached the sleeping animal and began licking it with his tongue; the two animals rolled over each other, nestled in together and went back to sleep. And Lao Tzu and his two companions, wearied with the long wait, did so too!
When they awoke the lion and the kid were gone. 'We've lost the kill,' objected Yung and Li Chi. 'The kill!' exclaimed Lao Tzu, 'come and look.' And over the grassy knoll the lion could be seen lying in the sun seeming to watch as a mother over her child as the kid grazed. 'All is well,' said Lao Tzu, 'an innocent kid has tamed the ferocious lion; savage instincts have been replaced by love and gentleness. Let us return; I will come again in six months.'
Lao Tzu's companions were afraid the villagers would not believe their story but a few weeks later a woman washing in the stream was threatened by a poisonous serpent and at the last moment a creature half lion and half human came from the brush and saved her. Several other reports of this wondrous beast were given and Yung and Li Chi felt sure it was the transformed mountain lion.
Each story was repeated to Lao Tzu when he returned six months later. 'All is indeed well now. There is no need to fear the mountain lion who has been transformed by the power of love working in your midst.' As they were speaking a tall, attractive person came out of the woods and ALL felt certain it was the transformed mountain lion; the newcomer greeted Lao Tzu and the two went off in the bright chariot.
Surely we are all familiar with the many times when the small IS actually swallowed by the stronger but in our own lives there will have been times when God has placed something on the pile of sand in the back of our caves .... when in the middle of a beastly experience we have been aware of something, or someone, who distracted our thoughts or caught our attention .... and because of this intervention we have been eased or soothed or enabled to feel more human. I invite you to remember one such event now; to bring it to mind and retell yourself the story.
Now focus in turn on three elements from this story from your experience: each is a gift to you so hold one at a time in your thoughts long enough to draw from each all the sweetness it has to offer you.
Focus first on yourself ... where you were... what you were doing... how you felt...
Secondly, focus on the person or object which came to you... how it looked... what it did... how you felt about it...
Thirdly, recall the result.
Just before you release each element will you choose and remember one or two words. At the end of your reflection combine these words into a one line statement of gratitude which will hold the experience and enable you to return to it in the future. For example: ‘despair’, ‘depression’ and ‘the cowslip bloomed unexpectedly’ might become:
‘Thank you God for the cowslip which eased my despair and depression.’