“We are the stories we tell. A bad story can sink us and a good one, save us.” (Source)
Storytelling is one of the most effective teaching methods I use. I love stories, I love myths, and I enjoy sharing them with my students. This is a story about the Balinese carang sari and segehan offerings that I heard from my student Gabi.
Organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser found that learning which stems from a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived from facts and figures.
Think, what story inspired you to move forward when you were anguished, run-down or in low spirits? What story motivated you when you had your heart broken or during the Covid pandemic? What story did I tell myself and my students so we could swiftly and smoothly change our classes into their online doppelgangers? And this is when narrative intelligence comes into play.
Narrative Intelligence and Storytelling
“The concept of narrative intelligence puts the power of the story at the center of what it means to be effective in all areas of our existence, extending beyond the concepts of intellectual and emotional intelligence.” (Source)
Stories can transport us to another time and another reality, we can communicate our pain and hopes in them, and last but not least, we can learn naturally and effectively by subconsciously absorbing information. Yes, like kids, you’re right! Remember all those “crazy teachers” on science programs for kids? They always tell a story and while making faces and talking funny they teach kids otherwise boring concepts.
A very long introduction to a beautiful story about Gabi and the Balinese offerings.
Teachers Love to Listen
I started this article by saying that I love sharing stories. But do you know what I enjoy even more? I love listening in awe to stories told by my excited students who forget they are having an English class and vividly recount stories of their childhood, travels, dreams, plans or even tell jokes. Those precious moments make me feel like a blessed teacher and cheer my soul. The whole point of my teaching is to create a state in which my students feel free, comfortable, like fish in a pond or cats on top of furniture.
Back to the story – third time’s a charm. On December 10, 2021, while having a beautiful conversation about world travels, my student Gabi shared a story that I feel compelled to also share with all of you.
The Balinese Carang Sari and Segehan Offerings
He started by narrating his experiences in Bali, a place I also hope to visit soon. His memories were colorful, he remembered the ever smiling Balinese people, their hospitality and lack of pretense. They are genuinely happy, and they enjoy life in a simple yet highly spiritual way. As part of their spiritual life rituals, they make offerings to their gods every morning. The name of these offerings is carang sari. They are baskets with flowers, sweet food and sometimes incense sticks. You can see them everywhere on temples.
Wait for It…
The next part of Gabi’s story left me bouche bée (my jaw dropped), as the French say. Not only do the Balinese make offerings to honor the gods, but they also satisfy the demons; they place similar baskets on the ground (named segehans), the only difference being that they may contain rotten food and…cigarettes! Apparently, the demons are less demanding and discerning, and the locals acknowledge that there is a dark side of the world that needs honoring, feeding and, why not, pleasing as well.
Another fantastic side of the story is that the locals are not offended if you accidentally step on a segehan. As long as the offering has been made, it is not important what happens afterwards. The Balinese people know that the intention is what matters, as well as the energy they put in the morning or evening offering, not the basket or cigarettes per se! We Romanians have a saying: ”Intenția contează” – intention is what matters. It is not important how expensive or fancy a present is, what matters is that you are thoughtful, and you go out of your way to buy something for another human being.
Stay tuned for my next story. I plan to talk about parenting, teaching, using “the zone”, meditation (or lack of it, to be honest), yoga, Sam Harris, Alan Watts, success and failure, daily planners, gifts, inner peace, the most important things in life and sleep. Have a good one, wherever you are!
Vivi has been writing about the process of self-realization through mindfulness and compassion since the age of six. She helps people know themselves and live their best life. Vivi has been teaching English and Romanian to 10,000 + students since 1990, and she has been blogging about the role of cooking at the intersection of food and self-mastery using simple recipes and copyright food photos.