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.

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