“Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” ~ Joseph Campbell
LIFEHONEY brings a sense of ritual, healing, and celebration to the many seasons of life. Be it a union, a birth, a separation, a death, a rebirth, or a new beginning – we all go through them, and the best way to go through them, is to fully feel and experience them, bringing boldness, vulnerability, and courage to our every step.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” -Goethe
Both Campbell and Goethe’s quotes inspire us to be active participants with life. Campbell entices us to ‘follow our bliss’ with the promise that the very act will open doors, while Goethe says the same thing in so many words; boldly begin following your dreams and magic will escort you along your path. The question is, “Will you?” Boldness is not for the faint of heart. It implies possible rejection and dragons at any turn. Are your dreams worth it? Is your bliss worth it? I ask you these questions because I know that if you are a breathing, heart-beating human, you care about being happy. The question that led me to become an Anthropologist was, “How can I do it better?” Meaning, how can I do this human life thing better than the Orange County, California, upbringing I was born into. While searching the World for my answer, I came across Joseph Campbell’s timeless book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Campbell, a professor of comparative mythology in the 1940’s, looked to numerous cultures around the world and throughout history, discovering that every myth and story he encountered followed the same format! Even today, it’s rare to encounter a movie that does not follow the storyline formula he uncovered (Think The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and every Pixar film.) Campbell called this repeating pattern, “The Hero’s Journey.”
I love patterns. Especially multi-cultural ones. Read on, for you are on your own Hero’s Journey right now. We all are- individually, as a family, a nation, a world.
The Hero’s Journey can be broken down into Three Acts: Separation. Initiation. Return. Knowing which act you are in can help you stay focused on your path. Whether you are in a challenging, growth-oriented moment or you’ve just crossed a finish line, viewing your life from the perspective of this repeating story arc can help you trust the genius of this very moment.
Researcher and Author, Brené Brown, defined these three acts in a very LifeHoneyesque way in her recent HBO series, Atlas of the Heart:
Act One: “Separation:” The stage is set. We see where in time the story is taking place, who the characters are, the lay of the land. At the end of Act One there is some very challenging event or hard circumstance that occurs. This challenging event separates them from the life they’ve known.
Act Two: “Initiation” We watch the protagonist trying to solve their situational problem without ever being vulnerable. They will try everything to avoid being vulnerable! Finally, at the very end of Act Two the protagonist becomes vulnerable. This vulnerability leads them to their treasure. By surviving the trials, they are initiated as a hero.
Act Three: “Return” The wisdom gained from being vulnerable (the treasure) is brought back to the village, the people, or community. People are saved, the treasure is shared, or whatever the story happens to be.
Which of those Acts describes you today? One of the best ways to identify where you are on your Hero’s Journey (there are many in a person’s life) is by looking at your current relationship with vulnerability. Here are four questions you might ask yourself:
- Do you currently feel exposed, vulnerable, scattered, and maybe even scared by a recent challenge or unexpected change in your life? (Act One)
- Do you find yourself upset that the challenge is there? Maybe you’re even running, fighting, or hiding from it? (First part of Act Two)
- Have you accepted life’s challenge, entered “the cave you fear” and been surprised by the “treasure” you found in there? (Second part of Act Two)
- Do you find yourself teaching or mentoring others, sharing the wisdom you gained from your journey? (Act Three)
Another one of my favorite authors and spiritual teachers, Michael A. Singer, reminds us of the power of surrender. He brilliantly summarizes how to receive the magic and open doors that Goethe and Campbell wrote about by simply asking us to surrender to the movements of life. Surrender? I, like you I imagine, have oft’ found myself feeling more like a bucking bronco, committedly trying to buck reality off my back. Alas, the only way to progress along the “golden brick road” is to surrender to the architecture of its circular path. This archetypal Journey will take you where you most need to go. Just keep walking…
There’s no place like Home.
There’s no place like Home.
There’s no place like Home.
SUMMARY: The Hero’s Journey is a story that’s in our DNA.
The found treasure is a metaphor for the gifts the Universe bestows upon us when we overcome the challenges it brings. But here’s the secret: If you get nothing else from this article, please get this: We can only move through challenges from a place of vulnerability. We need to let go of our maddening desire that things be any different than they are and instead let life ride us into the sunset.
Is there a challenge or change present for you right now?
Steer into it. Investigate it. See it. Explore it. Learn from it. Be moved into innovative ideas from it. All challenges remind us that there is more to be learned. They also remind us that the gold appears when we change our perspective from seeing the challenge as a “bad thing” to seeing it as an opportunity for growth. It takes courage to be vulnerable. A hero is defined as the courageous one for a reason.