Stage 12: Return with the ElixirThe true end of the journey does not come until the Hero returns to the Ordinary World. There are three typical aspects to a full return: definitive change of the hero, success in the hero’s endeavors, and evidence of both. The hero has faced many trials and foes, even experienced a death of sorts, and one simply does not remain the same after these significant ordeals. The hero returns to where they started, but things will never be as they were before the journey began.
In most tales, new questions arise at the end of the hero’s journey, signifying the continued flow of life through time. Ultimately, the final outcome is the physical manifestation of the reward in the Ordinary World. One of my favorite returning with the elixir moments lies in Samwise Gamgee’s return to the Shire. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam return to Hobbiton to find life there has continued on without them. The other hobbits were completely unaware of their journey in the Special World, which, for a hobbit, is anywhere outside the Shire. However, Sam’s newfound confidence and courage allows him to take the first real steps toward Rosie, the woman he has long loved, and they eventually marry.
As we light the twelfth and final flame, we prepare to bring our reward to the folk in the Ordinary World.
Guided Meditation: Becoming the GardenerIn the light of the twelfth and final flame of our journey, take a deep breath,
And exhale your worries.
Sink into your seat and feel yourself slipping into the darkness of the tunnel.
We have escaped the Threshold Guardian, and at the end of this tunnel,
We are sure to find the entrance back into the Ordinary World.
The reward in your hand is still glowing, enough for you to see where you are going.
The path before you leads down and to the left.
Follow this path.
The walls of this space feel warm and inviting.
They almost seem to be expanding and contracting, as though they were breathing.
You become aware of a pulsing, deep and rhythmic. A heartbeat.
As you continue to walk, slowly and reverently,
You feel a gentle breeze wafting over you in time with the rhythm of the walls.
You stop for a moment, crouch down, and place your hand upon the floor of the tunnel.
You know this earth.
You have felt it between your fingers, tasted it on your lips in the food you eat,
Relished in the richness of it.
This is your Earth.
You rise and continue to walk,
Approaching what appears to be a door as the tunnel slopes upward.
As you open the door, the bright sunlight from beyond temporarily blinds you.
You step up and out of the tunnel, and when you close the door,
It vanishes into the grassy earth.
You look down at your hand, noticing your reward has gone cold,
And are surprised to find a stone in its place.
It still feels heavy, as though burdened with purpose.
As you study it, you feel the connection between you and this stone deep within your spirit.
You feel the power within your heart.
Your reward now lives inside of you.
You place the stone in your pocket and walk toward the Ordinary World’s garden,
To your cultivated patch of soil,
And consider the plants there.
Each one is special, unique, fragile, resilient, and strong.
Each has been chosen for a different reason,
Yet changing any one of them changes the entire face of the garden as a whole.
The same is true of your community of characters.
You think back on your journey,
Remembering each unique moment along your path,
Those distinctive traits that have made your journey such that it is,
And you smile. You wouldn’t change a thing.
Without hesitating, you reach down and pick up the watering can next to your garden plot,
Walk over to the spigot, and fill it with cool, clean water.
As you begin to water your garden, you recall the water that rained ever-so-gently upon you
When you were beneath the Earth, preparing to grow.
And you wonder, what seeds of potential lie beneath this soil?
Whose shell will soften and become pliable at the touch of your life-giving water?
Your lesson has led you to this place, and after learning so much,
It is time for you to water the garden
Until others are prepared to break free from their shells and begin their own Hero’s Journey.
As you open your eyes, feel the prize of this journey deep within your heart, rooted and ready to come forth when those around you are proven to be fertile soil. Consider a journal entry for your thoughts.