About

About

 Joe  Legolvan

A major inspiration for writing this book came during the 10 years I spent as a spiritual counselor in the Denver County Jail. Walking through the cold steel computer-operated doors of the jail were all types of men, from murderers, gang members, and rapists, to the occasional businessman picked up the previous night after a few too many drinks at a corporate function. In the jail system, I saw many different faces every week, yet behind them there seemed to be a similar feeling that I had at times recalled in my own life. A feeling as deep and dark as a grave, where fear seemed to be my only ally. A place where the stories are filled with anger, disappointment, loss, and regret. A place where destructive highs are a temporary relief from painful experiences and dark memories. Yet, through the cracks of this grave I saw glimpses of the sun, which shone with a light that expressed love, joy, compassion, and purpose. It is these cracks where the light shines freely, even in the darkest stories, that inspired me to write this book.

The title of this book is called “The Storyteller,” as a reminder of the power we all have to tell a different story. In the jails I have seen firsthand the power that comes from learning a new story about who we are. A story of love and forgiveness in the face of regret and despair. A story of acceptance and love in the face of rejection and hate. A story of eternal life and knowledge in the face of uncertainty and death. I have seen many lives changed and directions shifted when these people were reminded of a different story about who they were and where they were going. These people who were able to overcome their own personal tragedies of neglect, abuse, and regret to become something profoundly beautiful and filled with purpose have been some of the greatest inspirations in my life.

Growing up in middle-class America, I did not see people without access to opportunities, adequate nutrition, or shelter. I did, however, see many people who suffered from a damaging internal dialogue that haunted their experience, hindered their potential, and kept them living in a cycle of depression, anxiety and pain. This was obvious when working with the inmates but also could be seen in my personal life and in the lives of many people I had met throughout my experiences. I saw beloved friends overdose on drugs in their struggle to numb pain. I saw a close family member who lived in a cycle of fear and depression take their own life when it became too hard to bear. I saw a society pathologized and become the mental patterns with which its people identified. Personally, I saw how at times, I had accepted many negative and harmful beliefs about myself, which took away my power, confidence, and peace of mind.

Brian LaBerge

Fortunately and gracefully, my life has been blessed with many great teachers who helped me see beyond these beliefs, stories, and experiences to the power I have to change my inner dialogue, which in turn changes my outlook and direction in life. The “blissful man” in the story you are about to read is based on many teachers in my life. One of those teachers is my co-author, Brian LaBerge, who is quite possibly one of the happiest people I have ever met. When I first met Brian, I asked him why he was so happy all the time? He told me simply, “I feel life is only as good as the story you are telling yourself, about your own life. If you know that you are the one with the power to tell your own story, why not create one that makes you happy?”

 

Along with Brian I have received abundant insight from many sages, teachers, and spiritual speakers from many walks of life. One of my favorite conversations with one of these teachers goes as follows: Q: Why am I so troubled by my mind and you seem to be free and happy and unaffected by yours? A: “The only difference between you and me is I know that what my mind is thinking is nonsense, while you believe deeply in yours. It is simply my unbelief in my mind’s chatter that gives me the freedom from it.”

In other words, freedom from our personal stories of fear, loss, inadequacy, and endless other dark paths available within our minds, is freedom from our self-created suffering. Freedom does not require a confidence in our mind, but conversely, it requires the confidence that we are greater than our mind’s creations. The understanding that we are something far greater than our stories and perceptions is essential for our personal freedom. This freedom is explained by the blissful man named Ananda in “The Storyteller” with the following words: “The reason people suffer so deeply in this life is they believe that ARE their state of mind, and not the eternal and free happiness, which is observing whatever story the mind is currently producing. You can allow your mind to tell you a sad, depressing, or guilty story about yourself, and if you do not know who you really are, you will become identified with this impermanent mindset and suffer greatly.”

I believe pain is inevitable in this life, but self-created suffering is always an option. The power to exercise a better option begins and ends with the knowledge that we are the author of our own personal stories in life. Most people have heard that they should think positive, yet with political turmoil, personal health and financial issues, and the many other problems that affect our everyday lives, this positive thinking can seem like delusional naivety. Positive thinking that has no basis in our eternal reality and nature may not be the greatest resource in overcoming the many issues that every temporary body will eventually face. For one to truly have a positive outlook, they must understand that in the midst of life’s many issues, traumas, and pains that they are something which is everlasting, blissful, and free.

Refugio

The character that this book is centered around is “Refugio,” named after an inmate I met in the Denver Jail. He was an older man who didn’t speak English, and I had to rely on a translator to tell me his story. His translator explained to me that he had an experience where he was in a car accident and temporarily died, before being brought back to life by emergency workers. During this incident, he claimed that he saw a “being of light” that welcomed him into a place full of love. He told me that his family and friends thought he was insane, and he wanted to know if I also thought he was crazy. With years of studying out of body experiences and being a co-founder of one of the largest Near Death Experience (NDE) groups in Denver, I definitely knew that what this man had was a classic Near Death Experience. (Side Note: An NDE refers to someone who temporarily dies and then comes back to tell their story of what they experienced in the afterlife. More than 15 million Americans have had NDE’s.  These experiencers vary by many cultures, religions, and countries yet they seem to recall a remarkably similar experience of the afterlife.) I, of course, told him that I didn’t think he was crazy and I believed what he saw was “life after death.” This man began crying with a deep joy from having someone acknowledge his story and validate his blissful experience.

I believe that knowing the eternal nature of life and the inevitable return to “Love” can change any story from a tale of darkness and fear into one of joy and security. A popular form of psychology, which has been shown to be very useful in helping people through mental issues, is called “narrative therapy.” In this method, a person tells his or her story from a different perspective, which helps them see their life and situation in another form. In the story about to unfold, Refugio, learns that he has the power to interpret his experiences regardless of how others may see his life. This boy is freed from fears and worries that previously afflicted his life and begins living his life from a place of satisfaction, security and eternity. My hope for this book is that it will do the same for all who read its words and apply their meaning to their personal lives and stories.

The teachings in this book can be found in most religions yet do not belong to any religion, as the book: focuses on the picture of these teachings and not the different styles of frames. My desire for this book is to remind us of our identity as the eternal storyteller, pleasantly inspire us to enjoy our life, and have the courage to follow our dreams, spreading the love and happiness that we truly are. As this story continues to develop, my wish is that it will enhance and strengthen our perceptions of self, others, and this wonderful gift called life.