What myth do you live by?

“A real myth has nothing to do with religion. It is an explanation of something in nature; how for instance, any and everything in the universe came to existence: men, animals, this or that tree or flower, the sun, moon, stars, storms, eruptions, earthquakes & all that happens.” — Edith Hamilton-

Living and existing deep in the tropical rainforests of Peru, my senses and understanding of time were completely extended. I felt an amazing comfort in my own skin which eventually transformed into a sense of oneness and belonging within the community there. Immersed within the Andes mountains, the feeling of individuality so often stressed in the West began to subside as I was placed within a group of individuals from all around the world and we were forced to work through what would be the first of many experiences that brought us all together. Beginning with a bike ride at an altitude of 3700m, gazing upon the plateau of Maras and the Vilcanota Mountain range, we began the ascent down winding our way along the path one by one.

Throughout the ride, I would pass by a group speaking an obvious and thick Portuguese dialect, sending warm regards as we fell back into our single file lines voraciously trying to avoid the Peruvian drivers flying by. In the last stretch, an overwhelming feeling surfaced as what would be the first challenge to our four-day adventure had finished. The rest of the trip consisted of eating all meals together, mainly rice and beans, and three more days of winding trails and hikes sometimes lasting from 6 AM in the morning until 8 PM at night.

At the end of it all, I was exhausted yet enlightened as I felt as though it all was a dream. So connected to the bonds I had shared with my new friends from over 10 different countries, and having to branch out to actually use the 4 years of Spanish classes I had taken in college. Once I got back to the states and received internet connection, my news feed was taken over by chaos from the inauguration that was hard to understand or face after such an enlightening trip. In fact, the day I had returned I witnessed a group of young men in my city protesting out of a place of deep anger in an attempt to force their beliefs on crowds passing by.

Gaining perspective and clarity throughout my trip, I found it upsetting that America, a land so fortunate with value and opportunity, was struggling throughout this time of miscommunication and division. I thought if strangers from all over the world, not even able to speak the same language could come together to survive, benefit and learn to love one another despite their differences, what will it take to encourage our own communities to come together peacefully?

The society which cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.” — Joseph Campbell-

In Peru, they depended on myths that they shared and passed down with one another about why the world was the way it was. Still, to this day, Peru maintains its indigenous values, and the natives continually strived to pass along these ancient stories to their visitors. There was nothing dividing us while we were there; no email, the internet, or text messaging. We actually had to sit down and communicate our needs throughout the day. In order to learn about each other, we sat around a table and told our stories individually and we actually enjoyed listening.

How can American society embrace these same values to create more compassion and empathy within our communities?

Listening with compassion and having an open mind allows us to create a space to take in information from others to more deeply understand the path they are on. Each individual experience is so completely unique and affected by many different factors; as well the views and beliefs that are created along the way. The part of our brain which creates meaning is the same part which forms our personal and emotional identities, which is why when our views are challenged by another, we may feel threatened on a deeply personal level. It is important to recognize this and move past those feelings of discomfort because in that space is freedom and has the potential for individual healing and ultimately growth.

In America, we have so many things separating us from one another; Geography, Race, Education, Socio-Economic Status, Career Path, Political views, and so forth. How do we move past these differences and continue to bond through the things we do have in common? Through our interests, passions, and hobbies we are able to connect in a different light and all of these other labels will fall to the side. So get out there, do what you enjoy and forget about being scared of meeting someone different, they may not be as different from you as you thought.

Do something you’ve never done before but you’ve always wanted to do. Why? Because it’s healthy for you, and gets you out of any fearful state of mind. When we exist in fear, we are stuck within the ego and we experience separation, self-absorption, and disillusion. When we are afraid of discomfort in one area of our lives, this translates throughout everything else we do or experience and we remain stagnant.

What is the myth that you live by? Each one of us has something to offer the world each day. What is it that you do special to show love to your town or community? Are you creating the personal myth that is unique to you and the way you want to live, or are you following the demands of something external? It is so important to learn to listen to ourselves and follow our own internal guidance. We are writing our own personal myth each day, so continue writing the story you wish to lead.