You Are a Hero (Book Snippet 4)
The good news is even if a part of us firmly believes we are beyond rescue, disempowered, helpless, and emotionally crippled by our past, the findings of neuroscience over the last ten years have proven this is not actually true. Our brain has the unexpected ability to adapt, heal, rewire, and find different and creative solutions that doesn’t stop until we take our last breath. Therefore, the age-old argument of that’s just the way I am is simply not true. Transformation is our very nature and happens constantly — with and without our conscious participation.
Granted, from where we are sitting, it doesn’t necessarily feel as if progress, much less transformation, is taking place. Our process of self-discovery and self-transformation can be slow and tedious. We often feel more like Sisyphus, damned for eternity to push a rock up the hill only to watch it roll down again, than an evolving being. When we seemingly encounter the same drama for the umpteenth time, it is as if the only movement we see is backwards. I would like to offer a more rewarding angle through which to understand our lifelong expedition towards consciousness.
In the 1940’s, the American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell first coined the term hero’s journey in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell observed that most mythical narratives appear to be variations of the same story, irrespective of the culture or time in which they were created. According to him, humans have always used stories to connect us with the universal truth, a truth that simultaneously pre-empts and transcends language and speaks to the most sacred of human qualities and values. Through metaphors in stories, we give form to the intangible yet eternal universal wisdom, share it with others, and teach it to our children. Most cultures have a version of the hero’s journey, a story of one or more people who, due to a crisis, are forced to leave the known world and embark on a risky quest for a remedy. On their journey, they are confronted with risks and challenges that nearly result in their defeat. Only because of their endurance and bravery, they are finally rewarded with the potion or answer they were looking for. Our heroes return home and enlightened by the newfound wisdom they wield the power to not only change their own fate but that of many.
In essence, the hero’s journey describes the journey back to ourselves during which we face our inner demons and rediscover clarity by connecting to timeless wisdom. The journey ends where we began — yet, to put it in the words of Marcel Proust:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
I like the metaphor of the hero’s journey. For one, I much prefer to picture myself as the brave heroine slaying dragons than as the hapless Sisyphus pointlessly pushing a rock up the hill. But more importantly, I find the hero’s journey a charming reminder that I am both the narrator and the heroine of my own story. I simultaneously create and experience my own story. The more I am able to see this, the more humorous and less scary life appears to me. Like anyone else, I still receive “a call” at times and like most people, I tend to initially ignore or resist this call. I still struggle with my demons and experience dark nights of the soul. But because today I know that the dragon I face is a creation of my mind, cycling through the three acts of the hero’s journey, which used to take me years, now takes days and sometimes only a few hours.
This is what transformation means to me: to progressively wake up to my self-created mirage — to become conscious in areas in which I was previously unconscious and marvel at life appearing so differently through my new eyes.
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