My wife Hollie and I have recently been re-watching the Power of Myth series. It gets better with each viewing! We’ve just arranged a dinner next week with our friend Liz Trubridge, producer of the Downton Abbey TV series, to watch another documentary on Joseph Campbell’s life. Liz is a big fan too. Who isn’t? Joseph Campbell’s epic work has inspired a generation of artists, psychologists, writers and teachers.
The Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell described a hero as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” He said, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won.” Who exactly is the hero in the hero’s journey? It’s you. It’s me. All of us are on our own hero’s journey.
Your hero’s journey may take you across time and space. It may last months or years. You may have to leave home to travel. That said, the journey is primarily an inner adventure. “The hero is inside of you; tear off the veils and open the mystery of your self,” wrote Campbell. A Course in Miracles describes your life journey as a “journey without a distance.” The ultimate goal isn’t about “getting there” it’s about “being here” each and every step of the way.
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: “One way I can live my hero’s journey today is . . . “
Thou Art That
The hero’s journey is a journey for everyone. It’s a path of evolution to become more of who you really are. On my leadership programs (I’m in Vietnam this week lecturing on Inner Leadership) I share my definition of leadership, which is, “Leadership is a journey. You start out being who you think you are and along the way you become more of who you really are.” At Coach Camp, in Las Vegas, I’ll share a similar teaching from Authentic Success: “The next level of success is a dare to be more of who you really are.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,” wrote Campbell. This profound truth is easily lost in a world that wants you to re-invent yourself, improve yourself and “be somebody.” The greatest dare is to be more fully who you are. “To be the Self that God made is the great adventure,” says Tom Carpenter, my mentor. The journey is to connect again with your Original Face, a Buddhist term. It is to discover the Original Blessing, a Catholic term. It is to be less of the conditioned self and more of the Original You.
Your hero’s journey is a call from your soul. It’s your soul’s journey. You can take your ego (your self-image) with you part of the way, but eventually you have to be willing to leave it behind. Your ego will not complete the hero’s journey; but your soul will. The hero’s journey is a journey from ego to soul, from Jesus to Christ, from Siddhartha to Buddha, and from Arjuna to Krishna. Each step of the way, you are becoming more who you really are.
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: “One small way I can be more authentic today is ….”
Follow Your Bliss
I first came across Joseph Campbell’s work when I was teaching my 8-week happiness program on The Happiness Project back in 1994. I gave a lecture called Follow Your Joy, and afterwards one of my students handed me a fridge magnet with the words “Follow your bliss – Joseph Campbell.” “Here, you can keep it,” he said, putting it into my hands. Well, that started an inquiry that has brought me all the way up to now and to writing this newsletter! I’ve still got the magnet. It’s on the radiator next to my desk in my office.
The purpose of my work with The Happiness Project is to help people stop searching for happiness and to follow their joy. The search for happiness is the biggest cause of unhappiness on the planet. Why? Because it places happiness outside of you, where it is not. Following your joy is the key to happiness. Why? Because joy is a compass, and following it helps you to be inner-directed, authentic, and alive! One way to know if you are following your joy (or bliss) is gauging how alive you feel!
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: Create a JOY Compass today. Take a blank piece of paper and complete the following sentence 10 times: “I am following my joy when . . .”
Refusal of Call
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure,” said Campbell. Louise Hay and I quoted his words in our book Life Loves You in the chapter Affirming Your Life. Much of my work as a coach is helping people to say “yes” to their adventure. We intend to say “yes” soon, if, maybe, and when we are ready, but we are not saying “yes” now. Thereby, many of us resist our calling and, if we are not honest with ourselves, we may end up running out of time (at least in this lifetime).
When you refuse your calling, you try to press on with your life but you don’t feel inspired. You can’t find your mojo. There’s no flow. You can’t find your pulse. You feel stuck. Your life is okay, sort of, but you’re feeling more and more like the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day. If you really want to feel alive, and to get your life moving again, you have to get unstuck. How do you do this? The key is in this principle “You are never stuck; just afraid.” This principle is the title of a module I teach on Coach Camp. In other words, you have to face your fear.
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: What’s the most important conversation you need to have about your hero’s journey? Who can you talk to about this, and when?
Road of Trials
Last year, I started to write a book of poetry. Writing this book has been a hero’s journey for me. My aim was to write poetry every Monday morning. I thought writing poetry would be the same as writing prose. Not for me, it isn’t! I have encountered many trials along the way, including some fears (like “I’m not ready”), some dragons (beliefs like “I’m not creative enough”), some temptations (to get busy with other stuff), etc. I missed a lot of Monday mornings. I gave up lots of times, and I’ve also started over lots of times.
St. Francis met many trials on his epic hero’s journey. As a young man, Francis had an ambitious plan for success that didn’t fulfill him. “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us,” taught Campbell. St. Francis then went to war to be a hero. He was imprisoned in a dungeon in Perugia for two years. “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold,” taught Campbell. St. Francis is my patron saint of Purpose. On the St. Francis: Living Your Purpose pilgrimage, in April-May year, we will explore St Francis’s hero’s journey and glean some important lessons and inspiration for our own journey.
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: What is the one block you know you have to face if you are to live your hero’s journey? Who can help you with this?
The Hero’s Return
When I reflect on my life, I see that I have said “yes” to many hero’s journeys, e.g. writing books, taking pilgrimages, getting married, starting companies, becoming a dad, building a new home in Findhorn, to name a few. Joseph Campbell said, “What I think is a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, and you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”
We take our hero’s journey for ourselves, but we do not take the journey by ourselves. There is supernatural aid at every turn. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” said Campbell. Hidden hands will help you on your way. By undertaking your hero’s journey you evolve as a person and you help the world evolve in the direction of love. Your hero’s journey is your service and your gift to us all.
Hero’s Journey Inquiry: Make a list of your previous hero’s journeys. What hero’s journey is calling for your immediate attention?