Tag Archives: storytelling

Foundational Stones Toward Mythtelling

by Martin Shaw 

via Earthlines Magazine

martin-shaw-photoMythologist and wilderness rites-of-passage guide Martin Shaw has been described by Robert Bly as “a true master” and as “one of the very greatest storytellers we have.” Author of the award-winning ‘A Branch From The Lightning Tree: ecstatic myth and the grace in wildness’, he leads the Oral Tradition: Myth, Folktale, and Fairy Tale programme at Stanford University in the U.S., and is visiting lecturer on Desmond Tutu’s leadership programme at Oxford University. Director of the Westcountry School of Myth on Dartmoor, he lived under canvas for four years to get a deeper sense of the pockets of the wild still contained in Great Britain. Martin Shaw presents Mythteller at Hollyhock May 22 – 27, 2015.

Foundational Stones Towards Mythtelling

1. The Wild Crucible of the Psyche

Continue reading Foundational Stones Toward Mythtelling

Wholeness as Capacity, Not Perfection

by LISL DENNIS – Visual Artist – StoryShards Guide



STORYSHARDS are the sacred guiding memories and motivating themes of your life, integral to the whole vessel.


What are STORYSHARDS? For me, they are the real keepers – the succinct anecdotes and short-story-bytes scattered throughout the fields of memory. Not the whole drawn-out drama, they are the useful fractal flashbacks from your extended narrative. Like shards turned up on an archaeological dig, STORYSHARDS are often left in the dust of fast-forward lives. With personal spadework, I have discovered that keeper shards are sighted in memory; unearthed to awareness; and sifted and collected from your stories untold – revealed from the layerings of a life consciously lived.


Memory Shards abide in your mental pockets – in all colors, shapes and sizes. They are formative, wise, inspiring, devastating, comforting, sad, funny – and much more. Shards can also be sharp – tucked into the back pocket of memory. Often edgy shards become softened by the touch of time and special attention. Today, willing to hold all your shards in hand, I think this is the current question: What are the relevant STORYSHARDS still working you in formative ways that support your resiliency, creativity and engaged service within the world.


The upcoming Hollyhock STORYSHARDS retreat is a personal archaeological dig. It invites creative spadework to sort through the shards of your life and gently brush off the relevant real keepers. What has become important to me over the years is the work of sifting and curating the valued shards that promise to re-form continuously into new vessels of hopefulness, resiliency, creativity and capacity. Not the same old cracked pot dreaming of Gorilla Glue, how can you re-form the vessel to hold water in service within a shattered world? This is the relevant archaeological field work for your Story Forward.

View a new video on the STORYSHARDS YouTube Channel from my recent program at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.


With my progressive sequencing of high-production video vignettes, STORYSHARDS is a distinctive creative format with vibrant imagery and evocative music garnered from my travels and experiences in a diversity of contexts and cultures – often on global editorial assignments with my travel writer husband Landt Dennis. The naturally beautiful Hollyhock on Cortez Island, BC is a conducive environment and creative atmosphere in which to do your personal STORYSHARDS spadework.


How on earth did I, Lisl Dennis, dig up STORYSHARDS?
For years, having been digging around as a participant in numerous and various spiritual contexts, workshops, retreats and pilgrimages around the world, I came to a point forever ago where multi-step woo-woo and outmoded programs, with top-down teaching styles, no longer suited me. I continue to seek out grounded programs that unfold creatively and engender mutuality within the group.


Sponsored by Canon and Kodak, I taught Creativity in Culture workshops about the creative process in travel photography. Today, I host STORYSHARDS in various contexts. I have learned to trust the beauty, and the layering and patterning of visual metaphors and musical atmospheres as they invite relevant questions and conversations within the group in StoryCircles.

It’s not all about me! Inviting spontaneity and creativity, the STORYSHARDS experience emerges naturally from participants’ reflections and interactions. In recent years, the program has evolved into a dynamic womens’ retreat. The outcomes and take-aways from STORYSHARDS are not mine: They are your own!


A very stimulating and inspiring experience.
As life ALWAYS proves to me, I get more
when I leave expectations at the door.
My word is ‘layering.’ As the days pass,
I continue to unearth the impact of how
Lisl’s unique program has blessed me.
Director, Life Coach
Sanctuary On The River
Ruidoso, NM

STORYSHARDS is such a beautifully informed sensibility and inspiration. Lisl sparks inspiration in each participant, an endeavor made even more rewarding by her warm and acknowledging style, and ability to speak in such a precise and poetic way. Pictures, music, words, wisdoms, questions–much fun!
KELLEY FLETCHER – Artist, Santa Fe, NM

A special treat to participate in STORYSHARDS – Kismet & Karma
with such a wonderful group of women. Thank you for your vision
in creating an environment for sharing at this level.


Lisl Dennis




Here Be Dragons

…Non Plus Ultra

Check out a snippet of Henry Daniel’s “Here Be Dragons Non Plus Ultra” a piece from Research and Creation Project, Project Barca

daniel_henryHenry Daniel is currently an Associate Professor of Dance and Performance Studies at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts in Vancouver, Canada, and lead researcher for Transnet (Transdisciplinary Research Network for Performance and Technology). His impressive track record on the international scene has led and continues to lead to advances in cultural knowledge by bringing to bear the perspectives and skills of the artist/scholar. Henry is the Principal Investigator for Project Barca.

Mutiny In Mali

by Lisl Dennis


In recent months, BBC World News and New York Times coverage has triggered dark memories of a challenging place I’m not likely to return to. West African Mali, with its ongoing fundamentalist factions and frictions, was the exotic context for my own personal leadership meltdown. This experience, in which I was a most venerable, yet vulnerable, international photo-tour leader, instigated a seismic shift in my intentionality around my worldwide cultural and decorative arts photography career.

In fact, it was my mis-adventure in Mali that gave rise to STORYSHARDS: Archaeology for Your Life. My meltdown in Mali cut a swath through my ego, and refined my leadership skills on and off location. The experience transformed my photography into broader more useful realms of Engaged Creativity. Which is to say, I have transcended the need for every little picture I take to be images all about me, myself and I. (This theme will be developed soon in Engaged Creativity: Tea & Empathy.)


Actually, I loved Mali, mostly: the mud Mosque at Djenne; the majestic gold-bedecked women in divine damask boubous and poofy headgear; the palpable ubiquitous spirits; the buzzy markets with their jolly printed textiles and Mudcloth; the muezzins sounding off far and wide; the Niger River at dawn and dusk; the vastness of the Sahel. But the dark side of adventure travel in deep Africa cast a spell on the photo-tour I was leading. Blindsided by the fears and vulnerabilities collective within the group, spooks and inefficiencies sabotaged our trip. Putting in to the Niger at the now now desecrated Timbuktu, with its renown Arab Library empty and a shambles, we embarked on the two-week trip – all hell and high water.


My amulet of self-protective gris-gris was not potent enough to protect me from my own hubris and naiveté. The group, I assumed, should be just hunky-dory roughing it, night after night, on the Niger River. Thrilled to be open to adventure – to the unexpected in this most discomfiting context and culture. The itinerary went way-off and group dynamics sadly awry due to miscalculations of times and tides on the Niger, resulting in a poison dart throwing amidst mutinous group members. As the creative panjandrum of the trip, I became the principle target. The whole saga Heartbreak Hotel can be read in on my StoryLines blog page

STORYSHARDS is a visually contextualized retreat that honors your personal story and the creative re-purposing of your life. The program is carried uniquely by a sequencing of multimedia vignettes that follow a narrative-arc familiar to many. Akin to an archaeological dig, with its creatively constructive imagery drawn from diverse cultures and contexts, the program’s visual segments include evocative transporting music. The program’s unique structure opens to mutuality in group conversation around the various ups and downs of our lives. They are the ground for your Story Forward.


Most of us have been fired in life, somewhere along the way. Perhaps we still carry a sense of vulnerability around this. An engaging well-received segment in STORYSHARDS retreats is my Malian meltdown with its exotic archetypal characterizations, bizarre details, and humor I can now bring to the episode. Most important, it’s a creative and imaginal context in which to honor lessons learned, and to consider the role of honest vulnerability increasingly thought to be foundational to modern day leadership.

Women, especially, are speaking of their ability to acknowledge and take ownership of past leadership goof-ups. Re-imagining our disposition to the global whole is integral to the new systems awareness and evolving in to shared leadership models.

Considering leadership anew, in her book IRON BUTTERFLIES – Women Transforming Themselves and the World (Prometheus Books, 2010) Executive and Life Coach Birute Regine, EdD writes of vulnerability as a dynamic and requisite aspect of leadership’s new frontier: “When we can accept vulnerability in ourselves and others, we level the playing field. We are all vulnerable; it is our shared humanity. If you’re not connected to your vulnerability, you believe you don’t need anyone, and that you can just give orders. But when people are connected to their vulnerability, they are more willing to cooperate and collaborate. In this way, vulnerability actually helps create conditions for a more cooperative society.”


With not much of a cooperative society in the midst of my Malian mis-adventure, I felt like the Scottish explorer Mungo Park as fictitiously depicted in T. Coraghessan Boyle’s wondrous historical adventure Water Music (Penguin Books, 1981). In 1806, coming to hell and high water, the Scottish explorer, sponsored by the Royal Geographic Society, discovered the source of the Niger River, and met his dreary demise. As Boyle portrays it, towards the close of his second expedition, he was a near-goner on the banks of the Niger – definitely cooked. Over a bush-meal of flash-fried jackal paw-pads, his stupefied guide queries him:
“So tell me, Mr. Park, if I ain’t gettin’ too personal, Just what is it you see in this explorin’ business anyhow? I mean you have been starved and abused; sick with the ague and the fever; your clothes is in rags; half your goods is gone; and your horse is layin’ over there…”


I was unseated, as well, fried and a near-goner as I waved-off my dazed and disaffected group. At the Bamako airport, a supportive member of the group stated to me point blank: The Vessel is Broken. Picking up the pieces over time, and by taking responsibility for the shards scattered in Malian sands, my creative intentions re-formed resiliently with unexpected new directions and capacities, giving rise to STORYSHARDS: Archaeology for Your Life.

The news media these days makes me wonder whether the Animist Dogon are still dancing the night away. When we were there, my mutinous group sat in wonky plastic chairs on the sidelines. I jumped in with the Dogon dancing with abandon around a humongous bonfire sparking high into a whirling African galaxy. Today, though remote in the Bandiagara Escarpment, tucked in to in their stone aged thatched hatted villages, the Dogon are not immune to the current troubles. As if adventure tourism hasn’t had an impact over the years, now the Tuaregs and other groups are seeking refuge and attracting attention to the remote region, compromising the Dogon’s lifestyle and creative minority culture.

Here’s a video of a Dogon Mask Dance I filmed when I was there. I’ve just interwoven strong graphic images of Mudcloth throughout the video ceremony, which can be viewed on the StoryShards Youtube Channel


In the last year or so, dreadful abuses by Al Qaeda look-a-likes have been afflicted upon the generally peaceful and culturally inclusive Malians. Striving to protect the Malians from growing factions without and within, French troops have been policing the country’s porous desert borders, striving to quell sand-grown cells. French President Francois Hollande visited the troops last February. Their boots were ripping and melting in the hot rugged terrain.

Reminding me of my own Malian meltdown, is the sorry tale of a camel gifted to President Hollande. He could not get the beautiful animal back to France in a timely fashion, presumably to enjoy Parisian life in the gorgeous Menagerie Jardin des Plantes. I really empathize with the camel’s demise: Left behind as a prime beast, culinary Malians ceremonially cooked it up for dinner. A newly chosen camel is alleged to be on its way to Paris.

For more of Lisl’s Story Lines, see the liberally illustrated StoryShards.info

LislDennis-2Lisl Dennis’ career as a worldwide travel and decorative arts photographer, travel writer, television host and international tour leader has garnered a rich spectrum of images, impressions and experiences from a diversity of cultures. storyshards.info




Slipstreaming Into Spring

by Lisl Dennis

Always loved weather! It’s nigh-mid-April and winter just won’t quit down here in the Southern Rockies. Another blizzard just whooshed through the San Juan Mountains. Daffs are up; forsythia and fruit trees are laden with heavy snow in downtown Santa Fe, NM. With most ski resorts closed, this weather girl is left to post-holing with her camera along Coloradan and New Mexican riverbeds pursuing the slipstream. Drawn to abstract images of ice melt, I’m photographing frozen shards and slurpy sludge to be confected in Lightroom, and set afloat to Philip Glass’ watery Metamorphosis. View Slipstream on StoryShards Youtube:

Driving from Santa Fe, NM to Salida, CO and the Monarch Mountain Ski Area, still open for weather girls like me, the road trip is a springtime picture book tour of the American Southwest. Desert dust-ups veil snowy mountain ranges; backlit buttes and big skies waving wispy Mares’ Tails; greening farmlands fresh with newborn calves; claret-colored wads of willow and chartreuse cottonwoods are just leafing out. Awakening rivers wiggle through receding snowy banks – waters flow faster beneath icy veneers – slipstreaming through memory.
In STORYSHARDS, we creatively engage with multimedia visual metaphors from diverse contexts and cultures to explore our personal stories and intentions for our Story Forward. The Slipstreaming segment is a favorite flowing with Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis. I often consider that music is the basis of STORYSHARDS – sometimes more important than my own metaphoric photographs and video. Slipstreaming is a good example of imagery subserving a musical score, and resulting in a seamless piece that opens to shared conversation around shifts in the weather and seasons of our lives.
Lisl_Dennis_slipstream_portraitLisl Dennis‘ career as a worldwide travel and decorative arts photographer, travel writer, television host and international tour leader has garnered a rich spectrum of images, impressions and experiences from a diversity of cultures. storyshards.info