The Ordinary World

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(1/12 of the Heroic Journey)

The Paradox of Change
Sponsoring Yourself
Measuring Progress
Motivation is Fuel


“The special world is only special if we can see it in contrast to a mundane world of everyday affairs from which the hero issues forth.”Christopher Vogler

I have lived in various countries from an early age. What is regarded as ‘ordinary’ in one culture can be very strange or ‘extraordinary’ in another.

Ordinary is what seems mundane, what is common, and what happens on a regular basis. The Ordinary World is what we are used to.

Within each country there are sub-cultures, and each sub-culture is composed of individuals. All tribes and individuals have their own norms, which determine their Ordinary World.

The factors by which we distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary are not just external objective standards. Many internal subjective ideas and beliefs have a strong influence too. We take them with us wherever we go.

When we try to get away from external constraints of our Ordinary World, the internal experience may change temporarily. Then the mundane, common and normal catches up. The unusual becomes usual. The shift from extraordinary to ordinary can happen very quickly. It sneaks up on you unnoticed.

Does that mean we are stuck with our personal Ordinary World forever?

Here we are faced  with an apparent paradox. If we want to move on from our Ordinary World we have to embrace it as part of who we are. This is counterintuitive, but it’s the only way to change with integrity.


The Paradox of Change

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”Carl Rogers

In homoeopathy school I learned to take comprehensive notes of the complaints a patient would come with. After the patient reported everything related to their sickness I’d ask some more about generals and specifics, moods and dispositions, medical history and present life circumstances.

A good case history at the beginning of the treatment would not only serve as the basis for the right choice of remedies, it would also help me to assess the patient’s progress throughout the course of the treatment.

When patients came back for a follow-up session after a month or so they sometimes said ‘nothing has changed’. The written record of the initial list of complaints, however, often revealed that this was not true at all. Sometimes the difference between our subjective memory and objective facts can be very striking.

In our common interpretation the Ordinary World is a boring or even troubled place the heroine or hero leaves behind – and returns to. It is a place we expect to enhance with the special gift we hope to acquire.

In everyday reality, however, what we perceive as the Ordinary World changes continuously. It happens to be whatever we happen to experience. It is inseparably connected with our perception of ourselves.

On the Heroic Journey in real life you need to become aware of your Ordinary World. You are not only the main character in the story of your life, you also have to become your own personal sponsor, observer and supervisor. If you want to keep track of your progress, make more accurate assessments and support yourself along the way you need to learn to play both parts.


Sponsoring Yourself

“I said “Somebody should do something about that.” Then I realized I am somebody.”Lily Tomlin

When putting our time and effort into something we want to make sure it’s a good investment. We expect to have a better experience or some kind of payback.

If you don’t see results you might lose interest in the project you’ve set out to do, unless you already have a deep understanding or connection with it. Doubts will come. You forget why you bothered with it in the first place.

The Heroic Journey is an investment in ourselves. We put some quality time and effort into figuring out what’s going on inside our inner world. The payback is increased clarity, inner strength, maturity, authenticity and integrity.

Of course we expect external changes and benefits too, but they are not the primary goal. Our primary focus is on increasing internal clarity and strength. This is the only way to protect ourselves from being pulled off our own track.

When you become a more mature version of yourself, your Ordinary World changes according to who you are. Sometimes we make radical external and internal changes. Often external changes are barely noticeable despite significant internal shifts.

In any case your everyday environment is your Ordinary World. Even after a radical internal and external change it can feel ‘ordinary’ again surprisingly quickly. We keep adjusting to the new norm.


Measuring Progress

“Mastery is available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it.”George Leonard

When we are aware of our progress we are more likely to stay motivated for the duration of the journey. All good coaches of an exercise- , diet- or any learning-program know this very well.

We would love to see big external results fast, but we also want to keep up with the new challenges internally.

Having outer success without being able to handle the new responsibility is neither satisfying nor sustainable. It creates instability and insecurity; it can lead to all sorts of problems which could be avoided if we developed a better understanding of the process.

When results don’t come fast enough you might give up on yourself. You might dismiss the idea of having any heroic potential as ‘big headed’.

We live in a culture that promises and expects instant results. Allowing things to grow into maturity in their own time can be quite a challenge. Developing heroic qualities helps to withstand the external pressure and stay with your own inner truth.

In his book Mastery, author and aikido master George Leonard writes, “The modern world, in fact, can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery. We’re continually bombarded with promises of immediate gratification, instant success, and fast, temporary relief, all of which lead in exactly the wrong direction.”

Often progress means taking small continuous steps. “It starts with baby steps,” says Leonard, and many who have achieved mastery at anything agree with him. Patience and perseverance are as important qualities of the aspiring heroine and hero as strength and courage.

Sharpening our perception of our Ordinary World helps us to detect the smallest progress we make. Appreciation of your Ordinary World may help you discover new uses for talents you already have and take for granted.


Motivation is Fuel

“Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”Henry Miller

Awareness of movement increases motivation, which stimulates more movement. Nobody knows that better than the ‘motivational industry’.

In her book Bright-Sided, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us, “If you have the money, you might choose to go to a weekend session in an exotic locale with a heavy-hitting motivational speaker. Or you can consume motivation in its many inert, fetishized forms—posters and calendars, coffee mugs, and desk accessories, all emblazoned with inspirational messages.”

This is not the kind of motivation we need for the Heroic Journey. In fact, external and artificially whipped up motivation can be very counterproductive. It moves us away from our authentic innermost perceptions and feelings. It pulls us out of our own centre and therefore weakens us rather than giving us strength.

Through awareness you can generate the fuel you need to carry you through the Heroic Journey. It is an inner source of motivation, which you can nurture and stimulate. This kind of motivation is a subtle movement. It comes from the vibrations of resonance with your own truth.

Here are 3 ways to differentiate between external artificial motivation and internal authentic motivation:

1 – External artificial motivation is stirred up and maintained by excitement and promises of fast results.

Internal authentic motivation is set in motion and sustained by a deep inner knowing and understanding of the process.

2 – External artificial motivation is accompanied by hope and dependent on expectations of wealth and happiness.

Internal authentic motivation is accompanied by trust and a sense of inner peace independently of external circumstances or results.

3 – External artificial motivation costs money.

Internal authentic motivation is free.

Our subjective experience of the Ordinary World provides continuous fuel for the Heroic Journey. It is like a ‘renewable resource’, and we can learn to tap into it through our awareness.


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