Imagine being at a “Jeffersonian Dinner” salon, with 13 people around a cozy table. This elegant salon design ensures everyone has a single conversation, centered for the first half of the dinner around a single question of purpose. This evening’s question is: “Where are you on your Hero’s Journey, and how may we help you in your next great leap?”
Some in the salon are deeply practiced in the Hero’s Journey; others are hearing this expression for the first time. The host asks us all to engage with a “beginners mind,” open to wonder, awe and all possibility. She also invites us to step into our own courageous vulnerability – where we marshal courage to simultaneously allow the vulnerability of stepping into the unknown of exploring our next Call to Great Adventure. She quotes Joseph Campbell, Maya Angelou and Paulo Coehlo, and then pulls out a one-liner from a Brené Brown TED talk reminding us, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
We decide to give it a go. Our host then shares the “why” behind the salon, and an initiation into our evening’s journey: “We as humanity stand at a precipice that may be our most beautiful, and is certainly our most dangerous. The choices at this crossroads will determine history. The path we choose now, individually and collectively will be remembered by generations to come; and will incite our daughters, grandsons and great grandchildren to thank or curse us based on the courage and rightness of our actions in this lifetime, and in the next pivotal decade. Many of the stabilities and prior mileposts in our communities and cities, and in our nations and our world are disintegrating; many are being actively disrupted – for reason, and will soon vanish entirely.
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again. – Joseph Campbell
What is the role of the Hero’s Journey at the crossroads that you and our world must face? It serves as a living, internal map for those among us who answer the call to serve something greater than ourselves. The Journey is of overcoming our fears and self-doubt in order to bring our service and unique gifts to the world. We are faced with our own internal demons and are provided gifts and mentors along the way. When we are in alignment with the path that is ours alone to walk, serendipities increase, and doorways open. “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,” says Goethe.
The Hero’s Journey is not a prescription. It’s a universal human frame that has existed throughout all time. It enables us to see and experience the immutable truth that only through our own transformation will we re-find our own True North and bring change and healing to a broken world.
In its simplified form, there are three major stages to the Hero’s Journey. The Call to Great Adventure is where the universally represented Hero, Heroine – ie, the human, is living their ordinary life and something happens to knock them off their path: a stranger enters, a major challenge or tragedy befalls, or a beautiful opportunity emerges that invites, or even forces a change in life direction.
The Call, once received – does not go away, even if we resist (vigorously!). For Star Wars fans, think about Luke and Rey being asked to step up to their Jedi heritage; and their burned down villages after multiple, humble refusals of the Call.
Our host pauses, with a touch of a mischievous smile to add: “We can resist all we like, but the Universe, and if we are so lucky to understand it, our true Jedi Calling – are not forces to be denied.”
She continues in her initiation into what we are increasingly seeing may be a salon that is itself a Call to (our next) Great Adventure: “Stage two is Crossing the Threshold, or Entering the Abyss, where “enemies” (our own shadows) and mentors arrive to challenge, and help us on our journey. This stage is often called the Journey of the Dark Night of the Soul, as it can be a harrowing experience to face our own demons, self-doubts and feelings of unworthiness that when we are honest, we all harbor. Through both courage and vulnerability we rise to not only face our fears, but embrace our dragons.
You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. – Joseph Campbell
At last we cross the threshold, we find our bliss, which is our unique purpose; the universal holy grail. To complete this third and final stage of Coming Home, we must then put our gift into action to transform ourselves and the lives of those around us, whether our family, community – or a galaxy, not too far away. Our host ends our salon introduction, with a quotation from the “Power of Myth,” by Hero’s Journey god-father, Joseph Campbell: “‘And where we had thought to slay one another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.’”
As the dinner waned, we found ourselves asking questions with a fresh infusion of collective light. What are the aspects of my life of which I am most proud? What are the moments, decisions and actions I feel reflect the best of who I really am, personally and professionally? When I recall my greatest joys and curiosities as a child, what do I see? Am I choosing a path where I feel that when my time on Earth is done my decisions and life have brought me peace? “It is my hope,” our host added to cap the several hour salon, “that this evening we together have recognized where we thought we had been alone, now we are all with each other.”