Set a goal and walk toward it one step at a time. Remind yourself often that each step itself is part of the process to wholeness. Small though it may seem it carries in it the whole journey, the beginning, the middle, and the end, the way a drop of water contains the whole ocean. One small step opens the door and off you go. When you look back in wonder at how far you have come remember that one small step and know its power, that it’s in you and that you can do it again and again. You can take many journeys in this small way, aware that they are already inside you, waiting for you to take the first step to their unfolding. One small step, it’s just the beginning of the whole adventure. Ready to begin a new journey? One step is all it takes.
I was energetically drawn to read Scott Stossel’s article, My Anxious, Twitchy, Phobic (Somehow Successful) Life, in the January/February issue of The Atlantic. Though totally appreciative of his full personal disclosure, I was disappointed in the outcome of his lifelong journey to lift this pervasive, crippling symptom from his life; his seemingly best cure—a combination of Xanax, Inderal, and either scotch or vodka—necessary prior to a speaking engagement in order to pull it off. It’s pretty clear that the subject of anxiety needs revisioning beyond the failed rational therapies of our time if we are to truly tackle this mythic giant.
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spent much of their lives demonstrating the relevance of myths to modern life. Carl Jung insisted that analsands discover the myth that governed their own lives that they might effectively find the path to their individuation. I propose that we treat anxiety as the curtain call to our personal myths, that is, that when anxiety calls, we treat ourselves to a mythic encounter, a mere mortal summoned to interact with the gods.
When anxiety calls we become helpless children, shuddering before a world of giants—adults—who have total power over our life and death. How will we fare in the encounter? Will we survive, be cared for, tossed aside, punished, welcomed, accepted? These are the fears and hopes we harbor in our smallness when we enter into our mythic encounters.
What will his/her mood be when he/she enters the room? I shudder.
Will my work be acceptable? I shudder.
Will I get promoted? I shudder.
Will I be expected to have sex? I shudder.
Will I be capable of having sex? I shudder.
Will the plane fall from the sky? I shudder.
Will I be able to perform? I shudder.
Will I lose it? I shudder.
Will I be attacked? I shudder.
Behind each of these anxious anticipations lies a mythic encounter, whether it be with a goddess, a good witch, a bad witch, an ogre, a wise god, or some other permutation of power that we feel inadequate in the face of. Our challenge, in this life, is to become the hero that takes the journey to secure our rightful place and find fulfillment. That journey, like all heros’ journeys, is filled with adventures into mythical realms; encounters with dragons, tricksters, witches and helpers that challenge and support our growing ability to hold our own as we follow the yellow brick road.
Anxiety is the necessary alarm that summons us to our challenge and ultimately asks us to turn off its shrill call. The tasks are formidable; all myths are epic and lifetime adventures. Sometimes the challenge is to unmask the larger-than-life wizard, like in Oz, to subdue a projection that generates anxiety. Sometimes the challenge is to marry into the gods, to experience the numinous and ecstatic without disintegration. Sometimes the challenge is to wrestle the giant to the ground, overcoming our fear that we are not enough, that we have no power. Turning off the anxiety alarm might also mean challenging ourselves to consciously learn to deeply relax and regulate the nervous system; the mythic encounter here being with the body itself.
In revisioning our lives in this world as, ultimately, anxious encounters with the mythic realm, we offer ourselves the opportunity to hone our beings to continue as mythical, magical beings in infinity beyond the human form. Thank you anxiety for waking us to our magical selves! May we all be heroes that accept where we are, our starting points of fear and trembling pointing out our immediate challenges.
Heroes come in all forms and each must face their own unique challenges. If we are here in this world, we are already heroes, even if reluctantly so. We all made it through the dark canal, cut the cord, and became adventurers in a new world. Don’t stop now!
We must all take the hero’s journey. At some point in our lives it becomes imperative. When we stand on the threshold, about to take the first step into the unknown, we feel totally alone. No one has ever done what we are about to do. Our journey is our own to have, to experience, and to return from.
Perhaps our first journey is to leave our parents at the age of five and go off to school, to get on the school bus and return at the end of the day having had an experience that no one else has ever had. We must all do this at some point in our lives if we are to become mature, independent beings.
“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss,” writes Joseph Campbell. And it’s true, we all have to leave the known, the easy comforts of a provided life and experience the discomforts of life on our own.
There are many stages of the hero’s journey. There is that first stage of leaving home, of going off to college or moving far from where we grew up, to begin anew, as youth chomping at the bit for our own experiences beyond the world of our parents. Many never take another hero’s journey after that. We settle into our lives, become complacent, disillusioned, perhaps angry at the world for not meeting us in the way we expected. Our spirit, however, never gives up. It comes knocking, constantly asking us to please get up and do something to change ourselves!
Sometimes the call of the spirit is finally answered later in life. The journey is taken up again, when other duties have been met, when our maturity allows us to shed some of what has held us back in the past, when we are finally ready. Others continue the hero’s journey unabated, letting something else besides the dictates of society and family tradition guide them on their way, those free-spirited ones who never seem to settle in one place for very long. Others constantly refuse the call, even late into life; even upon their death beds they do not heed the proddings of their spirit to experience the bliss of life.
Besides the hero’s journey in the world, there is another kind of hero’s journey, the inner journey, the call of the spirit to encounter and experience the Deeper Within, as I like to call it. The journey into the Deeper Within is as frightening as taking that first step on the young hero’s journey, when leaving home for the first time and finding out what it means to be a fully responsible adult.
The Deeper Within calls to us throughout our lives. Calling and calling, it asks us to come closer, to hear what it has to tell us of the treasures and mysteries of the deeper self, like a deep well, the bottom of which is endless. The Deeper Within is where our true bliss lies, where our real transformation awaits. Once we heed this call, we are offered the opportunity to go on a journey that never ends.
To be ready to encounter and experience this Deeper Within we must allow ourselves to take the first part of the hero’s journey in the real world. We must leave home, grow up, create a life for ourselves on our own terms, as fully independent beings. We must gather experiences, learn what it means to face our fears and test our merits, to have gains and losses, to have love and to lose love, to build our egos and strengthen our spirits in a world that is often ignorant, disharmonious, and could care less.
Once we have had experiences in the real world, we might be ready to have experiences in the Deeper Within, where everything that we have learned from being in the outer world will be utilized and tested, proven to be useful or useless in our inner world. In the Deeper Within we will finally meet our spirit face to face, all that it encompasses, our light side and our dark side. We must be prepared for such encounters.
Our ego, strengthened by our life experiences, will prove its worth, showing us what we are really made of as we dive into the Deeper Within. The shamanic process of recapitulation is taking the hero’s journey into the Deeper Within. It entails facing what has controlled us and what has guided us, what has supplied us with our energy and what has drained us of our energy. Recapitulation is the hero’s journey to reconnecting with the spirit self. During recapitulation we surrender our ego to this spirit self, so that it may guide us to full transformation.
As we return to the real world from our hero’s journey through the Deeper Within, we must ease slowly back into society, quietly and humbly take our place again, transformed yet fully present. We return to life like a newborn, full of a new kind of knowledge that others cannot totally grasp. We return from taking the journey into the Deeper Within speaking a strange new language, having had visions and mystical encounters. We return with a new way of perceiving the world, with a new kind of awareness.
Everything is now so clear to us, life explained on so many levels, death faced and found to be nothing more than this life extended, experienced in another state. We return with a new kind of sober fearlessness, with a new kind of detachment, and yet we feel and experience life with far greater love and compassion than previously possible. We emerge fully aware of our universal interconnectedness and our energetic connection to all living beings. Yes, we return with blissfulness coursing through us, having experienced bliss, having fully known what bliss really is.
Our new self wants everyone else to experience the bliss of life in this manner, to take the hero’s journey to the Deeper Within and transform too! But we learn soon enough that not everyone is ready. “I can’t read all that spiritual crap!” someone said to me the other day. I was not offended, nor did I feel sorry for the person. I simply acknowledged the journey that was being taken.
There are millions of kinds of journeys being taken simultaneously. Some people are here, others there. But the thing to remember is that we all had to start somewhere. We all had to take that first step into the unknown at some point, whether in a past life or in this life. At one time we all had to, and have to, take the first step on the hero’s journey to the Deeper Within too.
Wishing you all well, wherever you are on your hero’s journey. Keep going!
A tragedy of unfathomable proportions has seized our nation, if not the world, as we arrive at the threshold of a new era on this Solstice day. We are all charged to take this journey with lost, sacrificed innocence and correct the course of human affairs.
What could it mean that a psychotic young man kills his mother and then so many young children? I suggest that this young man concretized and acted out, in a delusional way, an archetypal motif of individuation. I further suggest that this misapplied motif must be addressed on a mass human level, as well as on an individual level, in each and every one of us.
Every human is challenged to transition from childhood to adulthood, from the egocentric entitled stage of immaturity to adult responsibility. This is the Hero’s Journey, filled with many challenges.
One of the greatest challenges of the Hero’s Journey is to defeat childish dependence on the mother. Though many myths depict this as slaying the dragon or defeating the wicked witch, the core of this battle lies within the individual. At some point in our lives we must all ask the same question: Can I take adult responsibility for my life or am I caught in my childish dependency and entitlement demands to be taken care of?
The hero’s task is to slay his own childish dependency—NOT HIS MOTHER, NOT THE CHILD! The hero’s task is to become the adult parent to himself, and set firm but loving boundaries around the child within who is taken forward into adult life—NOT KILLED OFF!
The Newtown tragedy has mobilized tremendous energy to address the gun laws in our country. Too long has a greedy industry been allowed to fill its entitled pockets under the guise of protection and the Second Amendment. The truth is, these policies have been dictated by immature adults, who refuse adult responsibility. It’s time for adult boundaries to be set around the demands of an industry allowed to function with no limitations, like out-of-control children playing with guns.
We approach a fiscal cliff with similar concerns. The greed of undisciplined children not wanting to part with their toys—some of their wealth—can no longer rule. We need adult leadership, adult responsibility in all paying their fair share.
New York and California are poised to approve fracking. Even these bluest of blue states are willing to cave to the greed of the energy industry. Would adults allow toxic poisons to be poured into their bodies? Are we really going to allow our precious Earth to be poisoned this way, for the sake of insatiable greed for more money, cheaper energy? We need adult control. Children’s entitlement in control cannot sustain our environment.
The Holocaust had to be answered in a firm commitment: the rebirth of the State of Israel. However, this resolution, despite its many transformations, is frozen in structures impervious to a necessary two state solution. Once again, we find a child’s entitlement in control of policy as construction plans for new settlements are being made on disputed lands, in the midst of peace negotiations no less! Where is the adult in the house?
Moslem insistence on ancient practice, guarded in warlike fierceness, must soften to allow for change and evolution. How can the feminine, the source of renewal and rebirth, be so restricted in the modern world? Nonetheless, when we see the outcome of casualness toward our instinctive animal selves in our modern world, even in such institutions as Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and most recently in the Jewish Orthodoxy, we have to question humanity’s management of its instinctive nature and appreciate the intensity of restriction in the Moslem religion to regulate it. Violence, however, begets violence. We must find a new path of reconciliation.
Humankind must face the power of the forces that inhabit the darkness of our souls. Each individual must take the journey through the underground of their own deep unconscious. The instinctive forces that tragically erupt daily around the world are active in each and every one of us. Newtown must be answered by a commitment to take the inward journey, to recapitulate the hidden truths of our souls and revamp our instinctive energies to flow safely and responsibly into this new era now upon us.
Innocence has been sacrificed on the altar of this Solstice. Our nation is plunged into the abyss of mourning, soulfully seeking its lost innocence. We must journey now into the darkness and face the truths that have stolen away our innocence. May those innocent ones be the beacons, the light bearers that show us the way as we journey into our darkness, lighting the way into a new era for all of us.
Wishing for Peace on Earth and extending good will to all,
When father appears in dreams or active imagination, look beyond personal father; look to the rules, judgments, beliefs, and attitudes that inwardly dominate your personality. Though he may bear the image of personal father, we all have an inner father that is our own, separate and distinct from the father of our conception.
Ego self is the child of the father. It remains for the maturing ego to confront the father’s rule. This takes the form of discovering the beliefs, attitudes, and judgments that govern perceptions and rule behaviors. This process can be quite challenging as the edicts of the father may be quite contrary to how the ego views itself and wants to be in the world. The energy and sternness of the inner father may be quite a formidable force and young ego might feel itself quite incapable of taking charge.
Sometimes ego self elects to blindly be ruled by the constraints of the father. Sometimes ego self identifies and emboldens itself with the opinions of father, never daring to discover its own true nature. Sometimes ego self, like a young Nero, assumes the emperor’s throne, assuming power with childlike exuberance and entitlement, becoming a little self-indulgent tyrant. This immature grab for power refuses to encounter and discriminate the wisdom of the fathers before assuming control, an obvious recipe for disaster, like the burning of Rome that ended Nero’s reign. Ultimately, ego self must assume the journey of true self-discovery, the Hero’s Journey, or remain forever a child, governed by the commandments of the almighty father.
Kronos, King of the Titans, ruled the heavens without challenge, as he forced his wife Rhea, to deliver each of their children directly to him upon their births for his consumption. Finally, Rhea, fed up with him—no pun intended—cleverly substituted a stone which she gave to Kronos instead of her next baby who upon birth was named Zeus. Ultimately, Zeus defeated his father and a new era was allowed to be born. Here is the obvious lesson of ego self taking control and ousting the father so that new life may flourish unencumbered.
As the Mayan calendar comes to a close, we too find ourselves on the brink of a new era, where old judgments, attitudes, beliefs, and rules are giving way to a new order. The signs are everywhere. The demise of the old Republican party protecting unbridled greed is one sure sign, as is the truth of global warming coming to the fore, as we face what we humans have done to our planet. In addition, gay marriage is now the law in many states; a Black president has been reelected, his rule no longer an impulsive fluke of the electorate. A woman president is undoubtedly next. These are all outward changes to appropriately wresting power from the domineering father of old and establishing new guidelines for a healthy and fulfilling life.
The Hero’s Journey requires that we venture beyond the father’s reach, that is, go beyond the conventional wisdom we’ve internalized that dictates the conclusions of our mind. We must be ready to accept full responsibility for discovering and taking charge of the truth, inner and outer, becoming like Zeus and defeating Kronos within us. We must also be prepared to accept the shattering that catapults us from the comfortable confines of socialization and the known; the shattering that is inevitable if we are to disengage father from our beings. We are not who we think we are; our minds are not our own until we make them so.
We must take ownership of our inner father, and become like Zeus defeating his father’s vicious entitlement. Ultimately, what that means is that we must confront all the beliefs and attitudes that have comfortably ruled us and protected us from our deeper truths and the greater unknown, both within and without. We must face our own destinies as individuals on our own journeys to fulfillment.
Only through taking the Hero’s journey now, at this most energetic juncture in our lifetimes, can we participate in the world renewal and transformation that is indeed imbued in the energy of 2012. It’s a personal thing as well as a global thing—one massive interdependent whole delivering itself from the anachronistic father, into a new era.