The Hero’s Journey is a great way to understand we need to tune in to our own knowing, challenge ourselves, learn to have a different relationship with fear, and seek out authentic lives. I’m for all of this. However where I get stuck is when this Hero’s journey is proposed as a onetime event. The concept makes the journey seem like a yoyo because the Hero goes out away from the self, adventures, finds answers and revelations, then brings them home and the story ends.
It’s like there is this loop, this anomaly in the straight line of life and after it’s done life just goes on from there. Yes, our life is altered. We perceive it in a new way and respond differently, but this hero’s journey is conceived as a onetime thing. We supposedly complete it and then move on. Why is this? When does learning and becoming stop? Why does the loop not then turn and go the other way, taking the journey inside to find new revelations within the self? People talk about the Hero’s journey as if it is both a going within and an external walk about, but how does one do both without failing at both or doing violence to both? Not to be dualistic, because life is not about either/or and duality, but in as much as the journey has a focus, shouldn’t we pay as much respect and attention to this focus as we would to someone we are having a conversation with? If the Hero’s Journey is a conversation with the Universe, with the divine, shouldn’t we be paying attention and not trying to have the conversation with ourselves at the same time?
Years ago when I studied Tarot intently it occurred to me the Major Arcana were describing not just the journey of the Fool through life, but an ongoing journey of discovery within themselves and then out in the world. The first half of the Arcana describes the internal Journey of the Fool or self-discovery. Like a child it goes through stages of life learning how to live in a certain role, learning techniques, leadership, scholarship, morality, empathy, self-esteem, consequences, and much more. Then, moving from the 10 or Wheel of Fortune, the Fool takes what he has learned and uses this knowledge and wisdom to interact with the world around him, becoming part of the bigger picture until he learns who he is in the scheme of things, which is to say not the center of the Universe, but one small part of it. And in the tradition of all wisdom keepers he learns what he knows is a drop in a large ocean and true happiness is to know what he doesn’t know and so his wisdom takes him inside himself again as the enlightened fool.
Thus the journey never ends, but turns upon itself like the symbol for infinity or like the spiral of DNA, constantly turning upon itself yet ever progressing. So it seems to my way of thinking that the Hero’s Journey is only half of the story. The first half is the outward journey on this spiral and that the other is taking all that has been experienced and bringing it inward to fully incorporate it into the self and through that process becoming someone new who moves out into the world again to start over again for the first time.
Being spiritual doesn’t mean being better than others. Spirituality doesn’t require you to live an ascetic life. You can’t lift yourself out of this world and still participate in it. Also, being spiritual doesn’t mean you have risen above everyone else. On the contrary. What this means is you look at yourself and see clearly who and what you are: a human being like everyone else. Then you are called to take this understanding one step farther, to take this clarity of understanding, the depth and breadth of self-knowledge and begin to put it into practice.
Fools Crow, I feel, captures the essence of what it is to be a spiritual being. He called it being a hollow bone. In the Native Tradition bird bones are used as whistles for sacred ceremonies. To make a whistle which will call Spirit and allow the ceremony to take place, the bone must be transformed. It must be removed from the bird with gratitude and thankfulness for its sacrifice and its gift. The bone must then be stripped of any feathers, flesh or other attachments, and then boiled to remove the natural oils which would cause it to become rancid and break down the bone structure. Once this is done it is carved to create the necessary structure for the whistle and is decorated to imbue it with the purpose for the carrier or the ceremony. When all this is done it is ready to be used in ceremony. It is spiritual. And yet, in the end, it is still a bone. A hollow bone ready to be the conduit for Spirit. It is both of earth and of Spirit. It is whole.
To be spiritual is to be a hollow bone. Not to rise above the world, but to be in it. To remove yourself from what you have been, with thanks and gratitude, not judgment and negativity. To cleanse the self of what is no longer necessary but still remains, then to construct the new form of self for a new life, a new function, while still being the essential you: a hollow bone.
Not all White Lighters are Created Equal
White Lighters is the generic term I use for those among us who recognize we are spiritual beings living an embodied life and who are either awakening to their path or working to embody it in their lives. There are as many types of white lighters and as many paths as there are beings, although there are general categories which most people recognize. Some are healers, some are artists, some work on social structures, and some work with animals, others with plants. The list goes on and on.
The one category which doesn’t get discussed much when it comes to the light are warriors. For better or worse the concept of being a warrior has come to mean anyone who stands up for something or someone in pop culture. There are spiritual warriors, political warriors, corporate warriors…you name it, and they’ve co-opted it. And I don’t necessarily disagree with this trend; however I personally feel it shows a lack of knowledge or regard for those who are truly, classically warriors. Those who put their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being on the line against those forces who would do us harm. Those who stand strong so the rest of us can do our work safely and with dedication.
There are white lighters who are warriors. Some would call them angels and they would not be far wrong. They are not fluffy, rarely gentle, and their energy is a radiation which is a power source unto itself but constantly controlled. Like martial artists, they use their strength gently. They not only stand a post, they are the post, the boundary which anchors white light into this existence so we may move freely working our wonders in this world. They hope never to have to use their abilities to defend and protect, but prepare in each moment to do so if we need the support. Like warrior priests they keep every muscle supple and strong, keep every sense keen, and watch over us. And their challenge during this change in the Universe to heart energy is not to change who they are, but to step forward. For in this time of change there will be many frightened souls who resist change and try to stop it in any way possible.
In the past our warriors have kept out of the spotlight, out of sight of all the rest of us and out of our way. Now it is time for them to be seen and for their light to shine directly upon us. They are being awakened to their true nature in challenging ways. Their blessings will guide our path and keep it clear so we can walk it in beauty.
How do you know if you are starting a Shamanic path or walking the Medicine Road? Well, it varies with the individual but there are general signs you might resonate with. As I told a client recently, “There’s the hard way to do this and the easy way. Happy and sad for you, you’ve taken the easy way. It’s not dramatic, rarely a good story to relate at parties, and doesn’t usually have a big X marking the start of the whole thing, but it also doesn’t tear you up, cause rifts in your financial and personal life and cause you to doubt your sanity.”
The hard way to start the Shamanic path usually occurs through a life threatening illness, deadly accident, or near death experience although this is far from an exhaustive list of possibilities. In this past decade I would say financial ruin is also an option which has catapulted people onto this path. During such a time you have an experience where you reconnect with Spirit/The Universe/Deity and remember who you are, make the choice to stay here and live the life you chose to live before you came into a body, then come back to your body retaining this knowledge and experience, which forever alters how you perceive yourself and everything else around you. You then start the uphill climb to heal yourself not only from the event which started it all, but also through the longer haul of healing everything damaged in this lifetime so far (emotions, perceptions, relationships, etc.).
Those who do it the easy way usually do it through what I call the “braking” method. Slowly or medium slowly or quicker than they would like so it’s noticeable, what they have been doing in most aspects of their life stop working. Basically the Universe puts the brakes on everything they are doing. Friends fall away, work becomes humdrum, promotions stop, finances start to dry up, relationships become stale or end, nothing seems to work and the person not only feels frustrated, full of lack, and decreasing self-esteem, but they also feel this nagging feeling there is something more they are supposed to be or do. They know there is something they are missing, some message they are supposed to get or some clue which is going to make this all make sense.
Part of the path is figuring it out. If this described you, whether easy or hard, the way forward includes reaching out to those who have gone before, asking for help, ask your guides for help, and trusting your instincts. If you haven’t already you might start cruising the library and amazon for spirituality books which peak your interest. If you’re at that spot, you know what you’ve been doing isn’t working so try something, or many somethings, new and see what happens. Think outside the box. Your true self probably doesn’t fit in a box anyway.