Your Journey

27 November, 2021

Joseph Campbell spoke about a journey that we all take in life, a hero’s journey. It starts when a hero is called to adventure. Although, initially the hero may resist the calling, eventually s/he leaves the zone of comfort and steps into the unknown. There are many challenges the hero must face. Somewhere along the way after overcoming all the trials and tribulations the hero is transformed. The journey always ends with homecoming of some sorts.

This journey is reflected in mythology, folklore, fairy tales and even movies. In the story The Ugly Duckling, the tiny ugly creature is abused by other ducks and rejected by his own mother. He wanders into the unknown in search for belonging, but one challenge follows another. Bruised and battered he finds himself spending the winter in a cave next to a frozen lake. When the spring arrives, the flock of swans descends to the lake. The ugly duckling finds these white birds so beautiful, yet he is afraid. Despite his fear, he decides to take a risk of being killed by the beautiful birds as he can’t stand the life of solitude and ugliness any longer. To the ugly duckling’s surprise, the swans accept him. Furthermore, when he sees his own reflection in the water, he realises that he was a swan all along. The ugly duckling found his flock. Homecoming.

We go through the hero’s journey in order to get purified, to remove the layers and layers of conditioning, the disempowering stories that we told ourselves enough times to think they depict who we really are, the beliefs that aren’t even our own, the attachments to people, to things, to our identities, all the ‘shoulds’, ‘could haves’ and ‘if onlies’. We venture into the unknown in order to undo all that doing, so we can discover who we truly are. And then…be that, because it is the only way to attain the freedom. Furthermore, it gives the permission to other people to be themselves too.

“The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the eternal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know. The hero’s journey is a symbol that binds, in the original sense of the word, two distant ideas, the spiritual quest of the ancients with the modern search for identity, “always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story that we find.” – Joseph Campbell

All the grief and suffering in our life seen in this manner instantly has grace. It is no longer purposeless. It takes a shift in perception and a shift in identity from a victim to a hero for us to be able to experience the journey in all its beauty and richness, to accept what is, whether it is joyful or incredibly sad. Suddenly all the armour drops and something very fragile yet incredibly powerful emerges – the open heart. Living with the open heart gives us a glimpse of that grandeur that we truly are, it changes the way we relate to others and to ourselves. This is a true homecoming.

I believe it is so important to understand where we are on our journey. This makes us more peaceful, acceptant and effective in life.

Call to adventure. It can be anything that leads us to venture out, to explore, to open ourselves to new possibilities. It may start as a nagging voice inside telling us go into the wild, it may be a personal tragedy: loss of a loved one, a job, a status or a scary diagnose. It might come in a form of inspiration, an idea, a desire to do things differently. Anything that pushes us out of the familiar. We know when we are called because it seems like something out of this world is sending us help in the form of serendipities, coincidences, etc.

Crossing the threshold. This is where life usually tests our commitment. We receive the temptation of sorts that invites us to behave in the ways we always did, to make another loop of the ‘same old same old’ in our life story, a temptation to go blind to our own inner depths and treasures. Our only chance to cross the threshold is by saying “No, I am not stepping on the same rake over again, however tempting it may be”. It is committing to something that carries no promise. The ultimate trust.

Challenges and temptations. When we enter into the unknown, there will be challenges to overcome. We will be presented with situations and feelings we haven’t experienced before. In every instant when the discomfort arises, we will be given a choice whether to fall for another temptation and go blind again or to commit even stronger to our growth.

Death and rebirth. At the point where we would have been tested enough times and overcome the old ways of being and thinking, the shift occurs. Something that is no longer serving dies in us and makes room for a new depth and more wisdom. At that point we stop relating to the person that we were before embarking on the journey. We are reborn.

Transformation. This can be very visible or very discrete. We may suddenly become more observant, stop talking as much, need more silence and solitude. With every transformation the focus shifts from the outside a little bit more inward.

Atonement. It is owning our part of the story, clearly seeing the part we played in the unfoldment of our own lives and taking responsibility for it. It is about saying to ourselves “I know, I wasn’t forgiving there/ I lacked understanding/ I didn’t appreciate enough what I had/ I was selfish/ I lacked compassion/I failed to see their point of view/ who do I own an apology to?”. This isn’t about beating ourselves up or trying to correct the wrong that we’ve done, so we can then have back what he had before. It is about taking responsibility for our part of the story. Atoning means genuinely feeling the healthy remorse. It teaches us to do better next time.

Return. We come back home carrying the gift – a deeper insight, a piece of wisdom, new outlook, new perception, stronger connection to who we truly are. That intangible something that most often can’t be seen by others but can be strongly felt.

Where are you on your hero’s journey?

Are you resisting the calling?

Are you facing the dark night of the soul (going through challenges) at the moment?

Or perhaps you are on your way back home bruised and battered yet victorious?