Trials and Triumphs, Allies and Adversaries
You’ve finally arrived in the second act of your Hero’s Journey, having definitively and affirmatively answered the call. You’ve dug way down into your soul, endured the intense pressure of the birth canal process, and been reborn into an entirely new level of being. Soon, you’re staggering around like a drunken sailor/infant taking your first steps and struggling to get your bearings in this brave new world. You may have lost a lot of friends in the process of crossing over from your old life to your new one, and some who knew you before may not even recognize the person you’ve become. You may not even recognize yourself when you look in the mirror. Then again, you may actually recognize yourself for the first time.
This second act is typically a very long one, perhaps several decades in length, during which you will most likely experience many trials and triumphs, while encountering a colorful cast of allies and adversaries along the way. The most important lesson during this phase is that no matter how challenging and even heartbreaking the conditions and circumstances with which you are confronted, you always have a choice regarding how you respond to the moment. You can make choices that are empowering, ennobling and redemptive or abdicate responsibility for your soul’s journey through this life, making choices that are self-abandoning and disempowering. Most likely, you will do quite a bit of both, especially in the early stages of the journey.
Since this is the arena of free will, and “practice makes perfect,” you get to practice making choices over and over again. Be kind and compassionate with yourself throughout this process. Ask for help from your friends and allies, including, and perhaps most especially, those of the supernatural variety. Draw strength from the myriad empowering archetypes available to you. Learn to invoke and embody them.
Also, as much as possible, learn to see your adversaries as allies in disguise, admittedly sometimes very convincing disguise. You may be victimized, as I believe most of us are by our current monetary system, for example, but you can still choose not be become a victim. Everything depends on how you relate to the experiences before you. Make the choice to never, under any circumstances, disconnect from your soul and your deepest possible knowing and guidance. Make the choice to not become embittered and defeated, to never close your heart, even while maintaining healthy boundaries and holding yourself and others accountable.
Dark Night of the Soul
At some point, you will likely experience a dark night of the soul. It’s pretty much inevitable. In fact, it may have been a dark night of the soul that accompanied your wake up call to begin with, propelling you into the second act of your journey. Take heart. This means you are actually making progress and nearing the end of Act II, despite any and all appearances to the contrary. As your eyes adjust to the dark and you surrender more fully into the experience, you eventually discover that you are, in fact, resting in the Womb of the Great Mother. This is, ultimately, a very nurturing place, designed to provide maximum comfort during a time when yet more of your familiar reference points and attachments are being stripped away.
Whatever is happening in your outer life at this time, it’s your inner life that is of utmost importance. The dark night of the soul is a major crisis of faith, during which absolutely everything is called into question. Buddhism refers to this momentous occasion as “The Great Doubt,” which necessarily precedes “The Great Awakening.”
We live in a world of duality, the yin/yang binary code of life. There is no escaping this and we wouldn’t really want to. It’s what gives life its dynamic interplay and, ultimately, its blissful experiences of Oneness. Earlier in our journey, due to cultural imperatives and the very structure of the brain, we likely experienced duality in the form of polarized opposition and contradiction: Spirit vs. matter; good vs. evil; intellect vs. feeling; masculine vs. feminine, etc.
At this point, however, we break through into a direct experience of the paradoxical nature of reality. We find ourselves perfectly poised and balanced on the head of the proverbial pin, a profoundly peaceful place where difference is not problematic, neither hardening into dogma and objectification, nor sliding into an obliterating form of unity consciousness. This is especially poignant in the area of male/female relations. After years of struggling to embrace and own all the disparate parts of ourselves, including those designated as masculine and feminine, we finally achieve a reconciliation of that which was previously experienced as irreconcilable. This sacred marriage on the inner plane is the ultimate awakening, which is often, though not necessarily, reflected outwardly in the meeting and marrying of one’s soul mate, or twin flame.
Crossing the Threshold
Having met the many challenges of life with your heart wide open and fully engaged, you’ve managed to cultivate a great deal of courage, compassion and clarity over the years. This has resulted in an awakening to your true self along with a resolution of false dichotomies, both within and without: a true sacred marriage. It is now time to pass through another major threshold, only this time in the opposite direction: back into the world from whence you came, the place you left behind when you answered the call of your soul.
From the outside, to those with an undiscerning eye, this may look like regression, but it is nothing of the sort. Instead, it is a higher order of rebirth, one that both transcends and radically includes all that has gone before. This reverse journey into immanence is motivated by the awareness that none of us are truly free until all of us are free. The Bodhisattva vow to work ceaselessly for the liberation of all beings comes from such a place of ultimate compassion. And, just as there were guardian associated with the previous threshold, attempting to block one’s passage down the birth canal, there are guardians again, insisting that you will surely fail in your mission, that it is impossible to adequately convey the understanding you seek to impart. Might as well just give up and hoard the bliss for yourself! But, that is not the path of return.
Returning Home with the Treasure
The return passage is a dangerous one. The ego, which has surrendered itself in service to the soul, runs the risk of being inflated by the beauty of the gifts it has cultivated and now seeks to offer. The ongoing practice of humility and gratitude is, perhaps, the best antidote for this tendency. We are each meant to share our gifts fully with the world, and until this is accomplished our journey is not complete.
(In subsequent blogs, I will apply the Hero’s Journey template to my own life in order to clarify how this process may be empowering for you on your own journey.)