hero’s journey

A Mythical Perspective

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Modern consciousness has mostly lost it’s mythical perspective on life.  We think myth emerges out of superstition and the irrational pre-scientific mind.  We live in a world of numbers, reason and scientific validation, which leaves little room for mythic thinking – at least we suppose.  The modern mind concludes that myths may entertain us but they no longer inform us – that power was swept away by the tidal wave of thought historians label the scientific revolution.

But what if the ultimate purpose of myth was something we aren’t used to today and have a hard time wrapping our minds around?   What if the purpose of myth was (and is) to provide the symbols that move the spirit of man forward (not hold man back as many today might suggest)?   The great myth stories are more than entertainment.  They are more than a form of moral instruction.  They reveal something more profound about what it means to “participate” in creation and understand the context of our existence.  The proper myth takes us beyond words, beyond pictures and even beyond our imagination.  The myth doesn’t come in opposition of rational thinking or scientific knowledge.  It operates in a totally different hemisphere seeking to show us the world inside of us – the world that can’t be analyzed with a telescope or magnifying glass.

The mythic is all around us if we can turn down all of the constraints of our modern consciousness.  And when we allow ourselves to be moved by the mythic – the stories that turn our heart strings, bring a sense of awe and draw out the deepest yearnings in our soul – we learn more about what we were created for:   To be part of the mythic – to tell a great tale with our own lives.


When you find yourself on a path you didn’t want

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Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

This is one of my favorite exchanges from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Frodo has been thrust into a quest he had not sought. He is a most unlikely character, a young Hobbit with a sweet disposition, to find himself as Middle-Earth’s best chance of saving itself from the evil Sauron.

He turns to his mentor and Super-Natural guide, Gandalf, in discouragement. Frodo is almost ready to surrender and go home to the peaceful Shire. And that is when Gandalf provides a new perspective on the journey at hand.

Sometimes we don’t get to pick the mission or the adventure that is laid out in front of us. Often the mission picks us. Some adventures start out of our own inspiration but some begin out of disappointment, loss or pure necessity.

And every Adventure worth pursuing will challenge us – leaving us with moments of doubt and even regret just as Frodo experienced throughout his journey to Mordor.

There are forces at work in each of our lives – forces we can’t fully comprehend. When we find ourself on a journey we hadn’t intended and we feel like it is unraveling us and we wonder what the point is anyways, it would be helpful to remember that his is what every great Hero faces. There is a point and if the mission has chosen you, then you do have the resources you need to make it through. You won’t be able to see it all clearly in the midst of those dark moments of doubt. You may cry out, “Why me Lord?” So until you can look backward on the journey with clarity from experience, take comfort that you aren’t alone. This is part of the process of every Hero’s Journey. It wouldn’t be a great Story without it.

Wired for Stories

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Humans are hardwired for stories. It’s in our DNA to interpret the world through the lens of storytelling. In fact, we need stories to even begin to make sense of all the information and data confronting us each day. Storytelling is so ingrained in us that we spend our entire life narrating events without conscious awareness we are doing so.

Stories are like the operating system for our life. We make judgements (about ourselves and others) based on the narratives running through our heads. We choose spouses, careers and where we want to live base on the stories we create about those things. It’s something we have been doing since the beginning of mankind.

We don’t have a choice about whether we will filter life through stories. But we do have a choice on the direction of the stories we tell ourselves. In my book the Truest Story Ever Told, I contend that if we don’t like the way things are going in life or we simply would like to find more meaning in our day-to-day existence – considering the stories we are telling ourselves each day could really help us to create a better filter for our life.

As we head into 2019 and you begin to consider your goals and resolutions for the New Year, it might be more helpful to consider the story you want to tell about 2019. Instead of just writing down I want to lose 15 pounds or eat healthier, consider the narrative you want to live out for the coming year. You already know what makes for a great story – adventure, conflict, challenges and persistence. This time next year, what do you want your story to be about? Instead of just chasing discrete goals – chase a story. A story will keep you far more inspired and help you to see more clearly when you stumble – because the Hero rarely goes without some setbacks along the way.

Defeat the Threshold Guardians

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In my book, The Truest Story Ever Told, I talk about how to write your own true tale with your life, you have to be willing to engage risk and adventure.

Often before you can even set out on the adventure that is calling to you, there is a “threshold guardian” standing in your way – barring your departure. They are the voices (real people or in your inner-monologue) who say “No.” You can’t or shouldn’t do this because: it’s not safe, you’re not qualified, it’s too risky, you might fail, you might get hurt, you might wish you hadn’t.

Sometimes the Threshold Guardian comes in the form of friends and family members or a teacher or a boss or some gatekeeper in an industry, group or profession in which we would like to contribute. Sometimes the Threshold Guardian is our own psychological baggage we haven’t defeated.

The challenge is being able to see clearly enough to distinguish between a Threshold Guardian and a person who is not trying to block you but is indeed trying to help you make the right journey (the one that is meant for you and not the journey meant for someone else).

Two questions might help resolve whether you are dealing with a Threshold Guardian or an Ally for your pending journey.

  1. What is the motive of this person’s input? To help me, protect me and help me write my authentic story or is their input disguised and really about their own doubts, insecurities and need for control?
  2. Is this person someone who has wisdom in general and/or knowledge specific to the domain of your adventure?

We all need help and wise counsel along our way. It would be foolish to ignore it, even if it seems to be slowing us down in pursuing the Calls to Adventure laid down for us.

On the other hand, it would also be foolish to never get started because someone disagrees with us or challenges us or says, “they just want to make sure we are safe.” We need to identify those that are Threshold Guardians and deal with them swiftly. But we don’t need to be so rash that we dismiss every warning, signal or sage advice that comes our way as being some obstacle being thrown in our path. Some are just that and other’s are blessings that will truly help us advert disaster. Knowing the difference can sometimes be the challenge. Our paths will be best alighted through maturity, humility and asking the right questions.