My Reflections on Fulfilling Introduction to Explore Memoir Writing program
By Jong Won, Lifewriting intern
January 25, 2019
Monsieur Marcel’s Fulfilling Introduction to Explore [6-week Memoir Writing & Coaching Program] held January 18, 2019 at Groundswell social business school in Vancouver consisted of five different speakers including M. Marcel. The workshop began with an icebreaker which asked the participants what kind of appliance they were. These icebreakers are typical of M. Marcel’s workshops and I feel they are always effective in easing me into more difficult topics to touch on later in the workshop. I referred to myself as an unstable overhead fan, because of my varying mood swings, impulsive behaviour, and the anxiety I feel when I imagine the fan spinning away out of control! When I typically consider life writing or memoir writing I definitely did not expect the excellent speakers that I heard and met at this workshop.
The first speaker was Evelyn, the Equine Coach, who coaches communications and leadership skills to clients with the help of horses, with a foundation in bodily presence. She took us along a mindfulness exercise where the participants closed their eyes and meandered around the room, taking in all of their senses and even neighing like a horse! The exercise seemed to bring ourselves into our body as opposed to in our minds where life always seems so malleable and jumbled. It teaches the individual that you do not have to know everything to be at peace, and sometimes a simple awareness of the present and where you are and what you are feeling can bring insights that you may not have come upon otherwise.
The next speaker was Andrea Woodhouse who told us of her practice in family constellations. Family constellations explores the hidden systemic energies underlying our lives that ripple out from our familial ties. Andrea explains that through gaining a better understanding of these systemic energies we can then gain a better understanding of ourselves, and apply that towards multiple avenues in our life. Her exercise involved the participants explaining the historical significance of their names, as well as linkages between a story from their life and the life of an ancestor. In analyzing the significance of our names—particularly with another individual—it felt as if a line had been drawn into our pasts, creating a connection that we are not often aware of.
After a short break, the workshop’s third speaker was Elisa Lee, a secondary school teacher, who presented on Rites of Passage. A Rite of Passage considers the different defining moments in our lives, for instance, birth, coming of age or marriage, but instead of glossing over them as if they were another aspect of life, Elisa asked us to look at them with a more careful eye. She led us through an exercise where participants were asked to write on posters with a certain rite of passage written on it, like birth or coming of age. Afterwards, half of the group stood in front of a poster and chose a story they wanted to share, and the other half partnered up with them to discuss why this rite of passage was significant for them, and vice versa. One answer that I found particularly insightful was the comment, “thinking they have arrived” on the coming of age board. As someone who is coming of age now, I deeply resonated with it as this past year has been a whirlwind of realizations of my self and reality, and constantly thinking that I have arrived somewhere. It is true that I did arrive somewhere new, but in a sense that made me stagnant and at times arrogant; refusing to grow. One can see the direct link of rites of passages and memoir writing as through discovering and considering our “defining” moments we also begin to consider the importance of discovering the self in a different light.
The last speaker Eva C. Manole, a certified executive coach, gave a short talk on Carl Jung’s 12 main archetypes. She asked the participants to consider these traits in relation to themselves and how the traits have influenced their course in life, but most importantly, to discover how complicated we are. Eva embraces human centred design, and this means that she emphasizes the importance of discovering and reflecting on our true selves in order to reach our peak potential. This exercise allowed us to consider both our strengths and weaknesses to understand how we can grow as individuals.
What I found so valuable about the broad range of speakers in relation to the memoir writing workshop is how each of them asked to look at the self in a different light. After all, we are all amalgamations of different, intertwining factors, and there is no reason to come to conclusions about the self, but rather understand that we are all constantly growing. The format of Monsieur Marcel’s workshop is based on the foundation of writing and reflecting on one’s own life experience, and this takes the individual away from writing the mere timeline of events in their life, but pushing the person to gain crucial understandings that will benefit multiple aspects of our lives, as well as others (family, friends, etc.) through telling of our story. I’ve always thought that for a story to be meaningful, it needs to be honest and authentic to its writer. Ultimately, story is a living thing on its own; a fragment of the human condition, and through discovering and writing one’s own story, we are not only in dialogue with ourselves, but others as well. I cannot think of a better workshop to discover these themes in our life.