Heroines and Heroes
Becoming not Getting, a Disclaimer
“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience … The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir.”Joseph Campbell
A couple of months ago, when thinking about a title for the first article of the New Year, Resolution seemed an obvious choice. It made me realise that all of my ‘resolutions’ for 2014 had come to fruition.
I was instantly filled with gratitude. When we resolve to reach a goal, the achievement is not entirely up to us. Many factors have to come together, like pieces of a puzzle, if we are to fulfil our aim, and many of those pieces are beyond our influence.
According to some statistics only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions achieve their goals. Apparently some of the top ten goals are: ‘Lose Weight; Quit Smoking; Get Fit and Healthy; Fall in Love.’
These kinds of resolutions can be notoriously difficult to fulfil. All of them are more like vehicles towards an assumed destination. The actual aim is something we hope to get to as a result of the activity.
Any goal is like a destination we travel towards. Starting a new habit is more like a vehicle that is supposed to help us reach the destination. It is helpful to be clear about the destination as well as the choice of vehicle. If one mode of transport fails we can still move forward via a different route.
Such thoughts about destinations, routes, and means of transport made me think of the Heroic Journey. Every year and every goal in life is part of our journey.
If we understood the stages of the Heroic Journey better, perhaps we would have a more realistic idea of what is involved. Maybe we would all have a better chance to get to our destinations and the route itself would become more meaningful. That’s how the Heroic Journey became part of our Resolution for 2015.
Heroines and Heroes
“The feminine journey is about going down deep into soul, healing and reclaiming, while the masculine journey is up and out, to spirit.”Maureen Murdock
The Hero’s journey was popularised through Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Despite all the criticism of Campbell’s work it can be used as a starting point for anyone’s personal explorations.
Campbell thought of the hero’s journey as a gender specific human challenge. In his view men were born to be heroes, while women were ‘the place that everyone is trying to get to.’ Women would either play the part of the treasure (e.g. rescued princess), or they would stay home and wait for their hero to return. Maureen Murdock, a student of Campbell’s disagreed with this view.
In The Heroine’s Journey (published 1990) Maureen Murdock describes the female version of the human challenge. She writes, “The individual in a patriarchal culture is driven to seek control and power over themselves and others; still slaying the dragons, internally and externally, and finding the boon, more externally. But for women, this doesn’t feed our nature. We ask, ‘What happened to my desire to write, to paint, to dance?’”
Maureen Murdock sees the feminine journey more as a healing process. The awakening of the ‘heroine’ in our culture might be the reason why we now see so many women as practitioners of some kind of therapy. The masculine journey is more focused on the creative process, on material success and making it in the world.
From Campbell’s perspective the hero is a male individual with extraordinary skills and talents who goes out and fights and saves the whole world from some terrible danger. Often he also finds a treasure and brings it back under threat to his own life. The treasure usually turns out to be a great gift for everyone in his tribe. In other words, the hero does the brave deed on behalf of the collective.
In 2015 – twenty-five years after the publication of The Heroine’s Journey – the call for extraordinary action is louder than ever. Men and women alike are receiving the call.
Gender equality has come back on the agenda with renewed force. We are discovering that it’s not just about women being allowed to have male positions in a patriarchal structure. The relentless pressure of competition, control and patriarchal hierarchy is now supported by both women and men in powerful positions. All these qualities reflect the continued domination of masculine principles in our culture.
Too much of either the masculine or the feminine principle leads to disharmony and destruction. We need to find a new balance, in which masculine and feminine principles can make their contributions to a healthy and sustainable human civilisation. We can no longer wait for an external hero or heroine to sort it all out for us.
Humans, women and men from all walks of life, are yearning for cooperation, community, authentic connections and wellbeing… We want to awaken our dormant heroic potential within ourselves. We still need to ‘make it in the world’ – but we want to make it in a world we believe in, a world that supports life rather than stifling it, a world where we can also write, paint, dance and breathe freely.
Becoming not Getting, a Disclaimer
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”Dalai Lama
We all have feminine and masculine aspects. We are all called to face personal and global challenges. And we could all benefit from a deeper understanding of how life really works.
The Heroic Journey we are about to embark on is not a ‘get somewhere quick scheme.’ If you are hoping to learn about the ‘law of attraction’ and ‘manifestation techniques’ and ‘how to avoid all risks’ you are in the wrong place. We don’t give any guarantees that taking part in the Heroic Journey will get you what you want in your life!
The Heroic Journey is about engaging with your own life in real time in an authentic way. We will observe the principles of the classic sequence through the lens of our subjective experience. Our main goals are to recognise the principles of these stages in everyday life, to cultivate the heroic qualities within ourselves, and to learn from each other.
A heroine or hero is a human with extraordinary qualities and personality traits. The best stories are often those where an ordinary human rises to a challenge and does something extraordinary. We all have heroic traits within us. They are part of our dormant human potential, and we can choose to awaken them. Real everyday life offers plenty of opportunities to do so.
The budding heroine’s or hero’s first challenge is to recognise the opportunities. The second challenge is to face them willingly rather than to run back to safety. The rest is practice, learning, and cultivating qualities such as curiosity, patience, trust and courage.
“It is just as important to stress differences as similarities, to avoid creating a Campbell soup of myths that loses all local flavor.”Donald Cosentino
Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is described as a cycle with 17 stages, although the number can vary. Maureen Murdock’s Heroine’s Journey is a cycle of 9 stages. For our Heroic Journey we have tentatively settled on 12 stages, which seem to cover all the essential aspects.
We have divided the itinerary into 3 phases, each consisting of 4 steps. Here is a brief overview of what we’ll be exploring at each stage: The 1st phase can be seen as a preparation to activate the heroic potential, the 2nd phase is the training and strengthening of the heroic qualities, and the 3rd phase involves the acceptance of a mission and bringing that gift back to the world.
1st Phase – Preparation
1 – The Ordinary World
When thinking of journeys and adventures we tend to focus mainly on the destination and the trip itself. Why would we ‘waste our time’ on the topic of the ordinary world? – The Heroic Journey always begins in the place where you are right now. This is your point of departure. If you set off without knowing where you are starting from, it is easy to get confused and disoriented.
2 – The Call to Adventure
The call to adventure is something stirring inside and gives an impulse to leave the ordinary world behind. It can come in various ways. We will explore different forms of expression to help you recognise the call when it comes.
3 – Resistance to Leaving
Resistance to leaving is a normal part of the journey. The better you are prepared for the resistance the easier it is to handle and overcome it. If it meets you unprepared, the first resistance can easily end the journey before it even started.
4 – Preparing for the Journey
Preparing for the journey is only appropriate when you have decided to follow the call and move beyond the initial resistance. Part of this stage may involve meeting a personal mentor or preparing for such a meeting.
2nd Phase – Training
5 – Departure
The actual departure is obviously an important part of any journey. Here we will explore what it means to leave the familiar behind and step into the unknown in the context of the inner journey and our subjective experience in real life.
6 – Tests and Trials
No heroic journey would be truly heroic without tests and trials. Again, these can come in many forms. You won’t know what they look like until they happen. It is a bit like taking an exam and not knowing the questions beforehand. The point of this step is to cultivate inner strength and your dormant heroic qualities.
7 – Support and Guidance
Every test and trial also contains support and guidance; you are not on your own even though it may sometimes feel that way. The key to activating this support is to explore in what ways you can step up your own efforts to support yourself.
8 – Entering the Void
The void is probably the scariest and most uncomfortable part of the journey. We are very attached to planning everything beforehand and playing things safe. On the Heroic Journey this is simply not possible. There comes a time when you have to step into the unknown. It may even feel like dying because it involves letting go of an old identity.
But don’t worry about it, you won’t have to do anything that you are not ready for. We’ll take all steps very carefully. The better we understand them the easier they become.
3rd Phase – Mission
9 – Discovering Treasure
Having moved through the void, the heroic explorer is rewarded with a treasure. The nature of the gift is revealed only to those who have actually taken the appropriate steps. The treasure is always a surprise. This means that any popular ‘manifestation techniques’ will not work in this context.
10 – Refusal of the Gifts
Having been offered the treasure the refusal of the gifts is perhaps the biggest surprise on the Heroic Journey. Why would anyone in their right mind refuse the gift after having come this far?! – The answer is simple: The gift is associated with certain expectations and responsibilities, which relate to the further cultivation of your potential. Having only just activated the heroic potential the budding heroine or hero sees the mission s/he is presented with as too big and daunting and is therefore reluctant to accept it.
11 – Rise to the new Challenge
Now the heroine or hero has to rise to the new challenge. This is essentially a process of growing into the task that has been given as part and parcel of the treasure.
12 – The Extraordinary World
The extraordinary world is the new norm. Having completed the cycle of the Heroic Journey nothing will ever be the same again. The heroine or hero brings her/his newly discovered and developed gifts back into the mundane world, and in the process of doing so the ordinary world is transformed.
Since our Heroic Journey is going to be an adventure we have to remain open to surprises. You are encouraged to ask questions, make comments, and share your experiences along the way.
Over the coming 14 weeks we will offer one article per week on this blog. 12 of the articles will relate directly to the 12 stages of the Heroic Journey. After the 1st and the 2nd phases we will take a break and dedicate the article space to questions and other unforeseen events.
In the accompanying weekly newsletter all fellow travellers will have access to the audio version of the article. The newsletter will also contain an ‘Impulse’ – this is a suggested practical activity related to the topic of the week.
If you would like to join us for this unique adventure Sign Up Now by entering your name and email address in the field below!
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