FOR tens of thousands of years, humans have used stories as a way to pass on important teachings to the masses. From fairytales we heard as children, to fables to indigenous teaching stories such as Jumping Mouse, on some level we have recognised – and used – the power of  a good tale since times long forgotten.

In Neuro Linguistic Programming we learn about the power of building stories within stories, and in marketing we’re told over and over that our brands and products need a good story behind them. It’s clear that stories are not just for children!

Whether reading a powerful novel, or becoming engrossed in our favourite TV drama or movie, or even listening to a good yarn from one of our friends, stories have the potential to pack a real punch… yet few of us understand the science behind the effect.

ScienceOfStorytellingThe simple fact is that evolution has wired our grey matter for storytelling – and story listening. A well told tale actually affects – and lights up – parts of our brain! Our brains are not set up to retain hard, dry facts or logic for very long, but storytelling can turn things around.

So, if we sit through death by Powerpoint, with nothing but boring bullet points, science tells us the parts of the brain known as Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area become activated. The information hits the language processing parts of the brain, where we turn words into meaning, but that’s it. Nothing else happens. However, turn this information into a story and things change dramatically.

According to researchers, narratives activate other areas of the brain. Words and metaphors describing motion, odours, tastes, textures all stimulate other neurological regions, such as the sensory cortex, and the motor cortex. Put simply, a good story puts meaning to the words, and helps us to relate to the information on a deeper level, as well as retain the information for longer.  Furthermore, there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters. Storytelling creates a mirroring effect, where listeners experience similar brain activity to the storyteller, and a good story can even result in the brain releasing dopamine into our system – there’s the feelgood factor of storytelling in scientific terms!

It’s no wonder so many cultures, throughout time, used stories to convey teachings. One of my spiritual teachers, Chris Lüttichau, founder of the Northern Drum Shamanic Centre, described the old peoples ‘shooting people’ with stories; they’d tell the same story to the entire tribe and the teachings woven between the words would hit the people who needed to hear them – sometimes different people would all receive different teachings from the same story. Such is the power of a good tale!

WhispersFromTheEarthWhen I wrote my first book, Whispers From The Earth, it absolutely was not the book I expected to breach my authoring virginity with. Oh no. I was full steam ahead to publish the book that actually turned out to be my second tome – the one full of information on how to #UnleashYourAwesome in life and business. I was as surprised as anyone when these stories kept ‘downloading’ directly into my brain, during meditations, during walks in the woodland, during my dreamtime… all times of the day and night. I began documenting them and, with a few nudges from the universe, realised they contained rich teachings for the modern world. I started experimenting by setting some of my spiritual development students off on quests to source teaching stories too, and a whole world opened up.

Before long, I had a book deal, a publisher and a deadline date – and content ridiculously removed from that I’d planned to compile for my debut book! What’s amazing, though, is how powerful some of these stories have been already. The teachings tied into the texts are already having far-reaching effects… I’ve used them in workshops and seminars, in mentoring scenarios and, sometimes, just sent them to people I thought they might help. Despite all that modern-day spin about the power of metaphors in marketing, it seems there’s a great need for good, old fashioned storytelling to help people cope with life on a very human level.

Before sending my final Whispers From The Earth draft to my publisher, I sent excerpts to some of the most trusted people I knew of in the field of teaching and storytelling. I wanted to get a feel from them of whether this work was actually worthwhile and whether I was hitting the right notes. Suffice to say, I was pretty surprised by their responses, which provided all the encouragement I needed to go ahead and push the button.

Here are a few of their generous words:

“Teaching stories are a part of many traditions. Jesus used them. Native Americans passed their teaching stories from generation to generation. Sufi stories make us both think and smile. Taz Thornton’s delightful book Whispers From The Earth is a goldmine of stories for teachers, motivational speakers, healers and clergymen — regardless of who they are targeting. Thornton’s easy writing style also makes this marvelous resource a pleasure to read, just for its entertainment value. I very much enjoyed it.” ~ Tolly Burkan, founder of the international firewalking movement, teacher and best-selling author.

“Whispers From The Earth is filled with inspiring stories that help to light our way as we follow our soul’s journey and life adventure. Taz Thorton is a brilliant and gifted storyteller!” ~ Sandra Ingerman, MA, author of Walking in Light: the Everyday Empowerment of Shamanic Life.

“Throughout history stories have been a crucial means of learning and growing. They have been told around hearths all over the earth since ancient times, keeping the wisdom teachings alive, and passing on the knowledge of land and ancestors. Taz Thornton has written and collated new stories, based in these lands, that contribute to keeping an old tradition alive and well.” ~ Chris Lüttichau, founder of Northern Drum Shamanic Centre and author of Animal Spirit Guides: Discover your power animal and the shamanic path.

“It is always a pleasure and something of a revelation to a read new book by a great spiritual teacher like Taz Thornton. She has been gifted with two of the most important qualities a true teacher can possess – integrity and genuine insight. I discover something new about the material and the invisible world every time I am privileged to read something she has written and I can honestly say that I gain a new perspective on life from her work that few in the esoteric tradition can offer.” ~ Paul Roland author of I Remember Dying and Meditation Solutions.

So, there you have it. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed and hugely humbled by this work, and by the response so far. Despite all my plans to launch my authorship with a more business-orientated book, I’m learning it’s sometimes best to accept guidance when it appears, in whatever form – even if it’s in signs from the universe or even in dreams. It doesn’t always hurt to listen to the voices on the breeze – even if they don’t tick the boxes on a cerebral level!

  • Whispers From The Earth is published by Moon Books and launched officially on March 25, 2016. You can buy the book right here on my website, and from all the major online bookstores, or order direct from your local bookshop.
  • If you want to buy Whispers From The Earth online, you can order it from various outlets, including Amazon. Just click to order your copy.
  • Want to check out the reviews first? No worries… click here to have a read – I’m really pleased with them. Thank you.

Your Brain On Fiction – NY Times

What Listening To A Story Does To Our Brains – Buffer Social

The Science of Storytelling – Forbes

Infographic: The Science Of Storytelling – OneSpot

Leave a Reply