Monday, December 31, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 12: Return with the Elixir

Stage 12: Return with the Elixir

The 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 Gardener

In 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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 11: Resurrection

Stage 11: Resurrection 

As we stand at the edge of the Threshold back to the Ordinary World, we must remember the folx on the other side have no knowledge of our experiences here in the Special World. They do not know that we have identified the characters who walk with us, the folx who guide us and those who lead us astray. They do not know we faced our Inner Shadows. They have no idea that we faced our dragons and let our old selves die. Our ordeals, death, and rebirth have all been internal, and in order for these to take root, we must cross the Threshold once more and return to the Ordinary World as our new selves.

The Hero has been reborn and transformed with the attributes of who we once were plus the lessons and insights of the journey. The resurrection is the final showdown, and the hero must emerge in such a way that their Heroic Status is proven to the Ordinary World. Often, this involves one final act of valor. In Star Wars, this moment is the final destruction of the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin (or Death Star 2 at the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi). In The Hobbit, there are many such moments, depending on which character’s Hero’s Journey we are following. Allies may rise to assist in this final “battle” of sorts, but in the end, a sacrifice must be made by the Hero for the benefit of the Ordinary World.

In our journeys, this sacrifice is the key to the change taking root and becoming visible to others. It may be an external change in behavior, such as giving up alcohol or another controlled substance. It may be an internal change in behavior, such as a move toward open, honest accountability and more forthcoming communication with a loved one. Whatever the change is, it will feel far more significant to the Hero on a personal level than the Ordinary World at large, but those closest to the Hero will see these changes with a clarity that makes the journey relevant and accessible to them, as well.

As we think back on our journey this season, we recall our reward. The object one receives as they seize the prize is the key to the final test before the Restoration of the Ordinary can begin. As we light the eleventh flame, we begin the rebirthing process and return to the Ordinary World.

Guided Meditation: Breakthrough

In the light of the eleventh flame, breathe deeply and allow your body to relax.
Set aside your stresses and arrive, once more, in the garden,
The place where it all began.
The rising sun has crested into the fullness of late morning.
A light breeze plays through the leaves of all the plants in this beautiful, peaceful place.
You hear footsteps and turn to see your mentor approaching.
They sit next to you on the bench.
You are eager to show them your prize, the fruit of your internal labor,
But you find yourself hesitating.
As you peer into their eyes, you do not see yourself reflected there.
Instead, you see the swirling images you saw in the mirror in the cave
And the faint glimmer of firelight.
The face of your mentor begins to shift and change,
Revealing the face of someone you have thus far avoided: The Threshold Guardian.
He knows what lies in your pocket.
He is here to prevent you from leaving with it,
For his sole purpose is to guard the secrets of the Special World.
Both of you rise to standing. He is significantly taller than you.
Your mind begins to race, grasping at any idea to get you out of this.
Then, the spark of inspiration alights with you.
When he sat next to you, you saw the reflections of your Shadow within his eyes.
You saw the fire, the breath of the dragon, within those dark orbs, as well.
You stand taller at the sudden rush of the skills you have acquired to defeat this opponent
--Just as you have defeated the others.
You name your Shadows aloud, for naming them takes away their power.
At this, the Threshold Guardian seems to diminish.
You name your allies, those whose continued aid has contributed to your success,
And feel their power within you now.
He is definitely growing smaller.
You name your mentor and spirit allies.
He is shorter than you now, but his face is changing, growing angry and fuming.
Suddenly, his entire body begins to spin,
Raising a cloud of spiraling dirt and garden debris about him.
From within this maelstrom arises a new foe.
It looks like the lovechild of a dinosaur and a dragon,
Ancient, looming, and smoking at the nostrils.
Its breath comes in low growls as it grows taller still, casting the entire garden into shadow.
It takes a deep in-breath, and without hesitation, you pull your reward from your pocket and hold it up in front of you, facing the beast.
As the stream of fire reaches you, a dome of silvery protection surrounds you,
Like a shield wall of impenetrable energy emerging from your reward.
Twice, three times, the beast breathes their fiery breath at you,
But inside your protective shell, you remain safe and secure,
Even cool in spite of the apparent heat of the flames outside your dome.
You cup your prize in your hands and begin to focus your own energy through it,
Causing the dome around you to expand until it begins forcing the beast to retreat.
You concentrate harder. Nothing exists but you and your sacred prize.
The dome around you begins to glow and shimmer, as though generating light from within.
You feel the ground beneath you begin to shift,
and you realize a tunnel is opening beneath you, leading down and away from this place—
The Way Back.
Without looking up, you slip into the darkness of the tunnel,
feeling the warmth of the fire pass over the opening behind you
Before it closes and plunges you into darkness.
You have passed out of the Special World.
Your reward still in your hand. And you are safe.

As you open your eyes, meditate on the outward manifestation of your reward, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 10: The Road Back, Restoration of the Ordinary

Stage 10: The Road Back, Restoration of the Ordinary

It is time to return to the Ordinary World, for one cannot dwell in the Special World forever. In our myth cycles, some heroes are reluctant to return and must be chased out of the Special World, for the Special World has a way of restoring its balance. Some heroes find themselves facing the destruction or death of the Special World with the reward now removed from it, or worse—face the destruction of the Ordinary World if they do not return. And there are even tales where the Hero is faced with a choice: remain in the Special World and follow the desires of the now or return to the Ordinary World to serve a greater cause than themselves.

After seizing out prize, we have come to this place, where we are the master of two worlds, settled between the past and the future, but not a part of either. We see where we were with full clarity and the path where we are going with equal understanding. Much like the state of balance, this is a moment that we will pass through, and life will move on.

Recall the question resounding in your journey since Crossing the Threshold, and remember why you asked it in the first place. What ties lie in the Ordinary World that need this reward? Hold those anchors of the Ordinary in your mind as we light the tenth flame. Just as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz longs for her family back in Kansas, we must remember what draws us back to the Ordinary World.

Guided Meditation: The Call to the Ordinary

In the light of the tenth flame,
Feel yourself full of the knowledge and skill you have obtained on this journey.
Feel you mind expanding with each breath,
Feel your heart overflowing with love and success.
Feel your spirit filled with joy—and longing to share it.
Sink into the inner landscape, and feel the specialness begin to fade,
As though the light is being drained from this place.
The colors seem to be draining out of the world around you,
Odd in the dawning sun, usually so full of illuminating beauty in pink, orange, and red.
The world around you is definitely becoming more grey.
You notice streaks of smoke beginning to rise off everything around you—
The colors ARE draining, and the plants and rocks are disintegrating as their colors are depleted, as though the shades were keeping them together.
You notice the path beneath you beginning to smoke in the same way,
And you decide it is time.
You begin taking purposeful steps away from the disappearing clearing,
Picking up speed as you go, following the solid of the remaining path,
Hoping it leads to where you need to go.
The streams of the Special World are growing, pulling everything that once was
Into smoke and nothingness.
You break into a run, moving past the cave, now merely an outline of a hill,
On past the boulder where you sat and considered your allies and shapeshifters,
And finally, you arrive back at the garden where you first entered this world.
The fading of the Special World seems to have stopped at the gate of the garden.
Everything here is still bright and warm, and the early birds are singing in the trees.
Here, it feels like home, the same yet—different.
You rest next to the garden, catching your breath, and feeling the Call to return
Deep within your bones.
Your seat faces the blooming garden.
In your pocket, you have your talisman.
In your hand, you have your reward.
Next to your seat, you see a watering can and a small packet of seeds.

As you open your eyes, feel the detachment of the Special World fade away, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 9: Reward, Seizing the Prize

Stage 9: Reward: Seizing the Prize

After surviving death—or rather being reborn—our hero has a moment to rest and collect the rewards of the journey. We have overcome our greatest fears, made peace with our inner beast, and weathered our Crisis of Heart. On the other end of our Ordeal lies our prize.

In myth cycles, the prize is often tangible, like the Sword in the Stone  (Excalibur) or the Gem at the Heart of the Mountain (The Arkenstone). But, it can also be more abstract like reconciliation with a loved one or an insight into great wisdom. Either way, the hero knows the prize when they see it, as though the light of the Pole Star shines upon it, blotting out all else in their sight.

As we light the ninth flame, we consider the rewards of our work.

Guided Meditation: Seizing the Prize

In the light of the ninth flame, breathe easily.
Let your breath come in and out at a cool, easy pace.
For you have fought and won.
You have overcome and were born anew,
Clean and ready for a new set of experiences, of knowledge, of life.
Relax into yourself and sink deeper into your inner landscape.
You feel your talisman, heavy in your pocket, begin to grow warm.
You remove your talisman, glowing, pulsing with light in your palm.
It begins to lift out of your hand, and you watch it rise,
Up, and up, and up, glowing brighter and brighter,
Until it shines as though a star on its way to the heavens.
It begins to turn, slowly at first, and then more rapidly,
Sending light into the clearing where you stand and illuminating into the nearby trees.
It is so bright now that you have to shade your eyes, squint, and look next to it instead of at it.
The light from your talisman begins to shine downward, in a beam toward the ground.
Where the light strikes the earth, you see a dome of light begin to form.
It, too, grows larger and larger until a shock of energy pulses outward from the center,
Causing everything it touches to shake in its wake.
The talisman stops spinning and gently falls to the Earth, next to another object,
Both still shimmering faintly.
You approach the object and smile as you recognize it.
This is what you have been seeking.
This is your reason for undertaking this work.
This is your reward.
You place your talisman back into your pocket, and then slowly, gently,
You place your hand upon the object.
Look at it closely, marveling in its shape and size.
Understand fully what this object means.
Rest in your reward, let your joy rise from your heart to your lips,
And smile at the completion of such an important task.
You have done well, and this is the well-deserved fruit of your labor.

As you open your eyes, hold a vision of your reward, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 8: Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

Stage 8: Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

Life. Death. Rebirth. The imagery of this cycle lives in allegorical fame throughout the history of myth and legend. In the Buddhist Samsara, every birth is into pain, and every death leads to a new rebirth, carrying through the lessons of the previous lives, until the individual has reached enlightenment. Like the Odinnic practice of “wandering,” the life/death/rebirth cycle rolls us through time in an internal wheel of the year of our lives. In the Stoic practice, memento mori, one cannot live fully unless one contemplates their inevitable death.

For those of us who read Tarot, the Death card does not denote an actual loss of life, but a definitive change from which one cannot return. In short, Death is a Right of Passage. We face an ordeal, our old way of life as we knew it passes away, and we are reborn into the newest version of ourselves. We see this when someone becomes engaged, gets married, and is now husband or wife or life-partner. We see this when one become pregnant, gives birth, and is now a parent. We see this when one goes to college, graduates, and becomes a career professional in their chosen field. It is only after the death of who we were that we become who we are meant to be.

As we light the eighth flame, we consider our mortality and face the beast of staying the same.

Guided Meditation: Facing the Dragon

In the light of the eighth flame, breathe deeply.
Allow your body to sink into your inner landscape once more,
Recalling the talisman of power in your pocket,
Full of the knowledge of the characters in your story,
Ready to dispel the Shadows lurking along the way.
You are wholly ready to undertake this, the greatest challenge.
The Ordeal.
After this, you will never be the same. You already knew that in your head,
But now, you feel it in your bones. The changes have already begun to spread,
From your mind to your heart, from your body to your spirit.
Focus on what is around you in your inner dreamscape.
See the trees, the path, the cave behind you, less sinister now that what lies within is known.
You follow the path before you,
Moving off to the right away from the way you entered this space,
And on toward the lake you see shining ahead of you.
As you walk, you notice a sign, made of wood and hand-painted, nailed to a tree:
Here There Be Dragons.
One more step, and you will enter the realm of the beast.
One more step, and you will have no choice but to engage.
You take the step and enter into the Realm of the Dragons.
You hear it before you see it, the long, laborious breathing of a beast in slumber.
You continue to creep forward, your inner coward rising into your throat.
All of your assumptions rise into your mind in rapid succession:
Dragons are large and breathe fire when provoked.
Dragons are provoked easily.
Dragons want to eat you.
Dragons are evil.
With a deep breath, you remember the Shadows you have within yourself.
You name them.
These parts of yourself are under control, but still within you—
And that does not make you evil.
Perhaps, then, this dragon is misunderstood.
Just as knowing your own flaws does not mean you are sentenced to death,
Though death is inevitable,
A Dragon is not meant for death for being a Dragon.
As you continue to walk, a twig snaps beneath your foot,
And all around you goes stone-cold silent.
You hear scraping and a low growl
As the serpent uncoils at the base of the spine of the mountain.
You stand tall, as the dragon raises itself to its full height.
You notice it is bound at the ankle by a chain bolted into a giant boulder.
The Dragon looks around and sees you standing before them.
Look deeply into the Dragon’s eyes.
Feel your thoughts disappear and your instinct to flee rise within you.
Place your instincts aside.
Feel your feelings of emotional connection arise.
Place your emotions aside as well.
Finally, feel your thoughts returning as you contemplate right action under these circumstances.
Your eyes lock with those of the dragon, and you begin to speak.
The Dragon replies.
You continue to speak with the Dragon.
At the end of your conversation, you are in agreement.
You walk over and unhinge the Dragon.
The Dragon smiles down upon you, opens their mouth, and engulfs you in flames.
You feel the coward within shriek and die, melting away before you.
You feel your anxiety burn away, leaving behind a sense of calm.
You feel yourself float out of your body, rising high into the sky where you look down at your burning self.
As the Dragon completes their outbreath, you begin to descend.
Slowly, light as a feather, you gently touch down on the Earth once more.
The Dragon raises their wings and gently flaps them, once, twice, three times,
Lifting themself up onto the boulder,
And the ashes of your former self are blown away.
You make eye contact with the Dragon, you both nod to one another,
And the Dragon lifts off, flying up over the mountain and away.
You are born anew, like a phoenix out of the ashes.

As you open your eyes, recall the conversation you had with the Dragon, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

Stage 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

The Shadow. In Jungian psychology, the Shadow represents the parts of our inner selves of which we are not fully conscious, the parts suppressed or undeveloped. Often, these are “dark” aspects of our personalities. From a Freudian perspective, the Shadow is neither positive nor negative, and those of us who suffer from low self-esteem or anxiety are often harboring Shadows that are confident and secure in whom we are. Kaufman further expands that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness, the Shadow is the seat of creativity”….the dark side of our being, our sinister shadows, represent the true spirit of life (society) against us, repressing our collective opposition to the status quo.

At this stage of the journey, we confront the Shadow within the deep of our minds, the unnamed fears, the self-destructive habits and cycles we harbor in the furthest corners of our minds. Without naming these, we cannot hope to complete our work for once we know their names, they can no longer control or hinder us.

In the light of the seventh flame, we confront The Shadow.

Guided Meditation: The Mirror of Truth (Confronting The Shadow)

In the light of the seventh flame, breathe deeply, and rest in yourself.
Turn your thoughts onward, for here is where our journey becomes more earnest.
Let the tangible space around you blur and fade.
Sink into the darkness behind your eyes and enter the landscape of your mind.
This trial you must face alone.
You find yourself, in your mind’s eye, deep within your dreamscape.
As your eyes adjust, you notice you are standing in a dark wooded area.
There is a path before you, leading on and to the right.
Follow this path.
Note the way the moonlight glimmers off the wet stones along the path,
Seemingly guiding you toward your destination.
The path takes you to the mouth of a cave.
Inside, it looks dark and uninviting, but there is no going back now.
With a deep breath, you plunge yourself into the mouth of the cave
And walk head-on into the darkness.
Keeping your hand along the side of the cave as you walk for support and direction,
You continue to move forward. Slowly yet decisively.
After you round a bend, you see a dim glow,
As though firelight burns in the distance.
As you approach, you notice there are two distinct flames,
Sconces hanging on either side of another doorway? No, a mirror.
A mirror at the end of the tunnel, embedded into the rock-face.
With a small amount of trepidation, quickly dispelled by your curiosity,
You approach the mirror and look up to meet your own eyes.
You see yourself, at first, then, it changes.
Your face shifts, and you can see images behind your reflection.
This is your inner self, surrounded by your instinctive and primal desires,
The traits that arise when your adrenaline surges.
Make note of what you see with honesty and acceptance.
Look into your eyes reflected here. Look into your face.
Look over your shoulder. Remember what you see.
Now, find your cultivated inner strength, the You of your higher Self.
Find it and overlay all you see with what you want to be in the full glory of your potential.
See this You shining, growing brighter and brighter until
The Shadow is defeated and dissolves into the darkness of the cave.
The shadows may return, but now that we know their names, their power is diminished.
Close your mind’s eye, and when you open it,
Find yourself standing once more at the mouth of the cave,
Your talisman strangely in your hand.
Feel it pulsing with a new power.
This power is your ability to overcome your shadows.
Place your talisman in your pocket, and remember once more the names of your Shadows.
They no longer have dominion over you.

As you open your eyes, remember the names you gave to the Shadows within, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 6: The Characters of the Journey

Stage 6: The Characters of the Journey

Now that we are firmly grounded in the Special World, the quest for the answer unfolds in detail. We move from theoretical assumptions about what our trials and issues will be to the cold-hard facts of reality—and we do not move alone.

There are several types of characters we may meet along the way:

  • Threshold Guardian. This is the force that protects the secrets of the Special World and keeps them from the Hero. In order to move forward on our journey, we must overcome the guardian of The Way.
  • Allies. These are the folks whose purpose aligns with ours, who believe in our cause, and provide encouragement and aid as we move forward.
  • Shapeshifters. These are the folks whose purposes are cross to ours; those who desire the maintaining of the status quo and do not wish to see us succeed. 
  • Herald. This is the force that announces each new obstacle or success along the way. They may appear simply as the voice of the Call to Adventure, or they may accompany us and seemingly narrate our journey. They often bring us news from the Ordinary World or other parts of the Special World that play an important part as our path unfolds.
  • The Shadow. These are the innermost pieces of ourselves that serve to undermine our movements. They are the deep-seated fears, the patterns of behavior, the cycles we are here to break. The do not always see them until evidence of their presence is visible in our wake. Once we arrive at the Inner Cave, we will have to face The Shadow of our Inner Selves.
  • The Trickster. These are those whose role is making light. The Trickster holds no alliance to us or against us. They bring humor and lift, often using sarcasm to guide us toward or away from an idea or step. Every once in a while, their antics shift our perspective just enough for us to see something we may have missed without them. They often arrive after the presence of the Shadow has departed. 
  • The Talisman. Finally, there may be a special object that serves to guide and protect us along our journey. It may be a tangible item or a mantra. It may be clothing or jewelry or even a belief in what we know to be possible. 
Along our paths, we will discover who we can trust—and who we cannot. Allies arise in unexpected places. Shapeshifters surface wearing the faces of those we thought were our friends. The perspective of the Special World casts new light into the corners and brings clarity where once there was shadow and speculation.  Challenges arise, some anticipated, and some surprising us. Our deepest fears try to pull us off course, and our sense of humor reminds us to return to The Way. All of these encounters hone us for the Ordeal to come. Now is the time to gather our allies, sharpen our skills, and defend our quests as we continue to pursue our quest to answer our questions.

As we light the sixth flame, we consider our traveling companions along The Way.

Guided Meditation: The Way and The Talisman

In the light of the sixth flame, we find ourselves walking along our path,
Taking step after step toward our goal.
Putting one foot in front of the other, even if slowly and methodically.
This is the way of The Way. Each step echoes in our lives.
Each movement brings us closer to who we are meant to be.
Each thought guiding us toward (or away from) our best selves—
So we must consider them carefully, decisively.
In this quiet place on our road, we stop to sit on an inviting boulder in the shade of a tree.
We sip from our water and sigh in relief at the weight taken off our feet.
Our mood is contemplative, thoughtful, considering.
As we rest, we reflect on our journey and those we’ve encountered along the way.
Consider those faces appearing before you.
Are they an ally? A shapeshifter? Have they been feeding your fears or dispelling them?
Do they cast your path in light or shadow?
Many questions float through your mind, and answers seem to be forming.
You are not attached to any of them, simply allowing them to pass through you.
As you witness these tidbits of insight, you place your hand in your pocket,
And find something there that was not there before.
You pull out the object, turning it over in your hand,
Trying to remember when you had placed it there and deciding that you did not.
This gift, small enough for your pocket, feels heavy and significant in your hand.
You feel it pulling you to standing, urging you onward in your travels.
This is your talisman, your unseen gift of guidance and surety,
Right in your pocket.
You may not yet have all the answers, but the path to obtaining them feels clear.
With a nod toward the heavens, and sending love into the earth,
You move forward once more, resting in the strength of the knowledge you have obtained on such a short pause on the side of the road.
Inspiration and certainty showing up just when you needed them in a place unexpected.

As you open your eyes, consider the following questions: How has your path unfolded thus far? Who is accompanying you, and what roles are they playing? What is your talisman, and what does this mean to you? Consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 5: Crossing the Threshold into the Unknown

Stage 5: Crossing the Threshold into the Unknown

The Crossing of the Threshold is the first significant action of the hero. Once we have overcome our fears and accepted the fated call, the crossing of the threshold is the point of no return. There is no going back once we step over that line. We often confront an event and after undergoing some trial or implementing some change, we find our eyes opening on what Campbell calls the “Special World”—the world on the other side of our Ordinary World as we know it.  This event solidifies the central question the journey is asking: Where will I find the new job? With whom will I spend the next romantic period of my life? When will we become pregnant? After the BIG question is asked into the Special World, the remaining events unfold in answer.

There are often Outside Forces that either push us forward (like our mentors and allies) or attempt to hold us back (obstacles or unforeseen circumstances that must be addressed). All of these become part of our saga. Picture Belle in Beauty and the Beast when she decides to take her father’s place in captivity. Picture Jon Snow turning off the King’s Road to take the road North to the Wall. See any one of our favorite mythological heroes making their first move, from departing the shore in a ship to waking at dawn and marching or riding into the rising sun. All of these are entry points into the Special World.

As we light the fifth flame, we Cross the Threshold and enter the Unknown.

Guided Meditation: Crossing the Threshold

Deep within your seed, you breathe in and out,
Watching the ebb and flow of the flame within you.
You ache to stretch your arms and legs.
You yearn to breathe in the clean air and bask in the light of the sun.
You crave the freedom promised on the other side.
Your shell is pliable, damp, and beginning to give way, and you are ready.
You begin, slowly at first, pushing the shell in front of you,
Watching it mold around your fingers, stretching and pulling.
You straighten one of your legs and feel the tension catch and then give, just a little.
Finally, you take a deep breath and push all four of your limbs outward,
Pressing harder and harder until finally the shell splits apart, rent asunder and destroyed.
Suddenly, the dirt from above spills over you,
filling the safe place where just moments before you were held apart.
It covers your hair, fills your mouth, and you find your breathing obscured.
You cup your hand over your mouth to keep the dirt away
and gasp in as much air as you can in a panic.
Then, you remember, somewhere in the back of your mind,
the cool, clean water that washed over you from above.
You pray silently to your allies that you are pointed in the right direction
and begin to claw your way through,
toward the source of your encouragement and seemingly divine aid.
Slowly, you move upwards, past the rocks and dirt, past the roots of others,
pushing everything aside,
until you feel the dirt beginning to thin and give way.
You reach up, feeling the shock of fresh air across your hands,
And with one final push, your head breaks the surface and you are free!
You stretch and breathe raising your face to the welcoming sun,
Standing tall in the breeze,
And waiting until the shock subsides.
Your eyes are at first unable to see in the bright light of the Special World.
After you catch your breath and feel your body relaxing into your new surroundings, you slowly open your eyes and see this world from your new vantage.
The worries and fears you felt inside your shell and all but memories
left behind for the Earth Mother to absorb,
leaving you open and ready for the quest to find the answer to your burning question.
In this space, the question comes to you in its full gravity.
Ask yourself and hold it. Remember this feeling.
And now it begins in earnest: the journey of the hero.

As you open your eyes, remember your question, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 4: Meeting the Mentor

Stage 4: Meeting the Mentor

We all receive help from time-to-time, whether from a family member, coworker, friend, or partner. Even our children provide lessons for those of us who have them.  In everyone’s life, someone emerges who far surpasses the basic role of trusted advisor and truly guides us through our fears, helping us to achieve our potential. These folx are the masters of our desired crafts and talents. They are the champions of our causes who advocate for our well-being and success. They show up with auspicious timing, right when we need them and often disappear just as abruptly.

On this journey, we look at who is with us, right now, walking this path alongside us as we contemplate the road before us. After facing our fear, the appearance of the mentor is welcome like the dawn after the dark of night. 

In the light of the fourth flame, we quest to meet our Spirit Mentor and guide on this adventure.

Guided Meditation: Meeting your Spirit Mentor

Rest in the light of the fourth Flame, and breathe deeply.
Allow your eyes to blur and drift closed, recalling your confinement within the seed.
You have seen your strength and embraced your courage.
You are ready to break the seed, cross the threshold, and begin, in earnest,
The next stage of your journey.
The world beyond your ordinary world is unknown.
What lies in wait? Who will I meet? What will I have to do? What, if anything, will I lose?
Turn your sight to the flame, ebbing and flowing in your chest, and breathe through these questions, setting them aside as the worries we set aside yesterday.
Continue to breathe and find peace within yourself at the prospect of moving forward.
From above you, cool, clean water washes over your shell,
Softening and bringing provisions for your journey to you inside.
Feel your shell becoming pliable.
Feel your mind fill with the knowledge you need.
Feel your hands fill with the ability to do the work before you.
As you bask in these welcome gifts, turn your mind’s eye up and ask the aether:
Who is watering my garden?
Who stands poised above your flowerbed with the watering can and fertilizer in hand, ensuring the world around you is full of everything you need to succeed?
This is your mentor for this journey. They may not be here for long, maybe just long enough to aid you as you cross this Threshold. But they are here.
Sit now with the knowledge that someone on the other side of this shell is waiting for you,
Ready to assist you, wanting you to succeed.
Feel this knowledge invigorating your spirit, motivating you to action.
You are not alone.

As you open your eyes, reflect for a moment on the mentor character(s) in your life. Are they in our world or one of the others? From which Kindred: humanity, noble kin, ancestors, or deity?  Consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 3: Refusal of the Call

Stage 3: Refusal of the Call

Change. It’s a scary word. It invites us to explore the unknown and accept the outcome of our risks. Reluctance to accept our roles or the steps we must take in our first barrier. We doubt our ability to be the change we want to see in our worlds. We minimize our own skills and importance. We hide our strengths and amplify our weaknesses. Past successes feel like minor accomplishments in a world of greater humans. Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head and we sink into Self-doubt, worried someone on the outside of our inner mind-world will see us for the frauds we are.

This is our fear talking. This is the Refusal of the Call.  How can we be worthy of such success as these changes will help us to reap? How can we presume we have the skillset to accomplish these goals? The second step on this journey is to recognize and validate the You are Here of our fears—and let them go.

In this light of the third flame, we acknowledge and allow our fears to fade away.

Guided Meditation: Facing your Fears

Rest for a moment in the light of the third Flame.
Breathe deeply, and allow your eyes to close.
Find yourself once more within your shell, your tiny seed beneath the Earth.
Rest in the comfort of the familiar, even though you know this is not enough life for you.
Feel the shell, hard and uncaring, holding you back, keeping you separate from life.
Isolating, alone, steeping in your innermost thoughts of fear and not-enough-ness.
This feeling, dark and desperate, makes the thought of finding your strength and breaking out of this container to small to hold you almost unbelievable, impossible.
And then you see it within your chest: a tiny pulsing light,
ebbing and flowing with your breath—no, with the beating of your heart.
The Flame of Transformation is inside the shell with you,
It is within you where it has always been, waiting to be seen and put into action.
As you breathe in, see this light expand and shimmer,
As you exhale feel it smolder and continue to burn, warming every part of your being.
Breathe in, and as you exhale, see this flame growing larger, consuming one-by-one
Your fears, your worries, your not-enough-ness.
See left behind the potential you know to be true:
See your skill. See your love. See your strength.
You have within you—and have had all along—the strength to break open your shell.
You only need to embrace the courage to use it.
You can do this. Be your own hero and believe in yourself. You are enough.

As you open your eyes, reflect for a moment on your fears and then set them all aside.  Consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 2: Call to Adventure

Stage 2: Call to Adventure

The first step on this journey is realizing that such an expedition is possible. It IS possible to truly hear the call to make a change, to explore places you’ve never been, to take a risk, to be bold in your decisions—and without the desire to act on these, they are nothing more than the din of our inner minds. If we are too steeped in our Ordinary World, we may not even hear them. The mundane world is a loud place, full of sights and sounds and smells and tastes—all of which can serve to pull you away from listening to the small echoes of the You inside and prevent you from being present with your desire to make a change. In order to accept the call, we have to be dissatisfied with our status quo. We have to grow restless. We need to NEED a change.

We’ve all been there, felt the agony of sameness monoton-izing our lives. We’ve found ourselves edgy at the thought of going to work. We’ve felt the air get close as we draw near to the place from which we need to move on. We’ve seen others around us experience this feeling, as though the place itself is pushing them out. This is the call to Adventure.

Adventure is a big word: and big words call for big actions.

In the light of the second flame, we sink into the potential for change.

Guided Meditation: Becoming the Seed

Rest for a moment in the light of the second Flame.
Allow your eyes to close and breathe deeply,
pulling in the air of potential and pushing out the air of stagnation.
Feel yourself sinking slowly into the earth,
Resting in warmth and safety in her bosom,
Feeling the slow, steady heart beat of the Ancient Mother, dark and mysterious.
Feel your skin hardened as you descend,
Curl up within yourself and become a seed,
Full of potential for new life.
Inside this shell is familiar.
Inside, you are whole.
Inside, you are safe.
Inside, nothing ever happens—not to you or to anyone else.
But inside, nothing extraordinary ever happens.
Inside, you cannot see what extraordinary things may be happening to those around you.
Inside, you are alone yet full of potential.
Breathe in and feel your body flexing and attempting to expand in your restricted space.
Breathe out and feel relief as you shrink back from your walls.
Breathe in and feel the discomfort.
Breathe out and realize you are too big for this cage, for this cave of unbecoming.
As you continue to breathe, consider where you have become dormant inside your seed:
Is there a step you need to take to move away from a situation that is harming you or holding you back?
Is there a decision to be made that will catalyze your journey forward, in your career, in your love life, in your divinity relationships?
Take a moment and feel the restriction and be dissatisfied.
Be ready for something different.
Let the pain of being the same grow larger than the inevitable pain of change
And decide, within your shell, to change.

As you open your eyes, reflect for a moment on where you are stuck. Think about the looming decision or call to action in your life, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hero's Journey Stage 1: Ordinary World

Stage 1: Ordinary World

The “You are here” point on your map is the status quo of your existence. It is the movement from day to day, week to week, year to year, that pushes us through time without a second thought. Before we can begin any journey, though, we must know our starting point. We must understand where we are beginning.  Much like with any good story, we begin as we would expect. For Bilbo Baggins, it was “in a hole in the ground. Not a nasty, dirty hole filled with worms and oozy smells, but a Hobbit hole, which meant good food, a warm hearth, and all the comforts of home.” (Also, I promise that not all of the stages contain Hobbit references!)

Most of us have a standard routine: work days all look alike, days off all look alike, and even our vacation time is pretty predictable. It is our routines that help us to feel comfortable. It is our routines that help us to feel safe.  These routines are what help us to find a sense of home, no matter what may be swirling around us. For some of us, the swirl may be light, like small leaves caught in a spiraling autumn gust. For others, the whirlwind may have us seeking the eye of the storm as a place of peace and refuge. No matter where it is that we find our comfort, our home within our hearts, let us begin there.

As we light this first candle on our hero’s journey, we light it in honor of where we are.

Guided Meditation: You Are Here

In the light of the first flame, rest into yourself.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Feel your body, strong and solid, beneath you.
Feel your breath, bringing in the fresh, clean air and sending out your worries and fears.
Feel your blood, your life force, flowing through you, invigorating and animating you.
You are whole, just as you are.
Breathe deeply and ask yourself, “Where am I?”
In your mind’s eye, take stock of where “here” is for you:
Where are you on the journey of your career?
Where are you in relation to your family relationships?
Where are you in your divine relationships?
Breathe deeply and answer these questions for yourself.
Knowing where we are brings us the strength of a foundation
And the gift of perspective so that we may begin moving forward.

As you open your eyes, reflect for a moment on where you are, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Twelve Stages of the Hero's Journey: Introduction

This year, we are going to do something a little different. Typically, for the twelve nights leading up to Twelfth Night (New Years Eve), we have offered a prayer and lit candles to a different Being of the Occasion, whether deity, Ancestor, or Noble Kin. This year, I want us to spend some time really looking at our own lives. This is why, for the next Twelve Nights of Solstice, we will be walking one step at a time through the Hero’s Journey. Tonight is our night of preparation. You will need twelve candles, a way to take notes for yourself, and about ten minutes per day. That’s all. There will be a short discussion about each stage after which we will light a candle and share in a guided meditation. In this quiet time of the year, may our stillness be blessed with productivity.

Introduction to the Hero’s Journey

Much has been written about the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth. The Hero’s Journey, in short, is the backbone of the great hero-tales of mythology. Tales like those of Herakles, Jason, and Gilgamesh. Of Beowulf and King Arthur.  It is also a common writing template for the great books and movies of our modern era: Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, and even Game of Thrones. Though each journey has some variation to the theme, there are twelve basic stages to the story of a hero:

Joseph Campbell, one of the most renowned analysts of mythology, describes a wide variety of examples for each stage of the journey in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, if you would like to learn more.

So, how does this work apply to an ordinary life? I might be likened to a Hobbit from time to time, but I assure you, there is no grand adventure ahead of me and certainly no handful of dwarves battling a dragon. So, how does this apply to a small life, like mine? From a Jungian perspective, the hero’s journey is more about confronting our own inner barriers, moving past our egos, and finding the means to integrate the previously hidden or unrealized potential we all hold inherent in our own humanity.

Today, we prepare to embark upon a journey of self-exploration during this, the dark time of the year, as the land sleeps and we find ourselves over and again alone with our thoughts. But, we have to make a few agreements before we begin:

  1. We agree to be honest with ourselves. Now is the time to take up a journal or a One Note and write our full reflections in their raw and shining beauty. We owe ourselves this gift of self-honesty.
  2. We agree to spend ten minutes a day for the next twelve days reflecting on each lesson. We will ask ourselves how this work applies to our lives right now, what it means for the future, where our journeys began, and where we hope to see them end. We need to spend time here, in this space, if we want this to truly unfold in our lives.
  3. We agree to be our own heroes. As much as television and society tells us we need to be inspired by others, I am asking you, for at least the next twelve nights, to be inspired by yourself. Too often being honest with ourselves involves forcing us to list off all the mistakes we have made and take emotional responsibility for them. If you find yourself making a list of mistakes, please stop. This journey is about what we CAN do moving forward, not about what we should have done in the past.

Guided Meditation: Be Your Own Hero

Rest for a moment as we settle into this space with twelve candles before us,
Unlit and full of potential,
To serve as our guides along the way.
Close your eyes if you’d like, and focus on your breath:
Breathe in and exhale, letting the cares of the day freely leave your body.
Breathe in and exhale, letting the cares of the day freely leave your mind.
Breathe in and exhale, letting the cares of the day freely leave your heart.

Focus now on the twelve candles before you.
See them as they are:
Ready to take flame on their wicks and to be a light in the world.
Feel their desire to achieve this goal.
Taste their yearning to find the spark that will set them upon their journey.
Hear the beating of your own heart as these desires are quickened within you.
You are like these candles, wicks at the ready,
Just waiting for the next spark of inspiration.

As you continue to breathe in and out,
Your mind searching within—
This is where you see it.
You see it and you know.
The Fire is within you, your own little spark of Divinity,
Resting in your own hand,
Prepared to light your way on whatever journey you wish to begin.
There is no need to seek elsewhere:
Here, in this space, in this time—
As it has always been whether you realized it or not:
You are your own Spark of Inspiration.
You are your own Hero.

Breathe in and exhale, relaxed and buoyed by the potential within you.
Your next journey is an unlit candle,
And you hold the Flame.

As you open your eyes, reflect for a moment on what this means, make these agreements with yourself, and consider a journal entry for your thoughts.