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.

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