“The Cave You Fear To Enter Holds The Treasure You Seek” – Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell was an American scholar, mythologist, writer and lecturer. In his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” first published in 1949, Campbell uses mythology to illustrate the ‘call to adventure’ bestowed upon all of us.
‘A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.’
The Hero’s Journey, while unique to every individual, the theme of overcoming adversity is universal and occurs in every culture since the beginning of time. As humans, we are all faced with challenges at some point in life. Campbell terms this the ‘call to adventure’. Initially, fear of the unknown may prevent us from crossing the threshold. Once the hero courageously accepts the challenge for growth and healing, they encounter trials, enemies and allies. At the height of their journey they face their greatest tribulation. Once they ‘slay their dragon’ and survive, they are rewarded with the gift of important self knowledge (boons). On the journey back they will encounter further challenges. But if the hero is successful in their journey of self discovery, the gifts (boons) they now possess can be shared with the world for the betterment of all.
While our life experiences may play a part in shaping who we are, it is up to us to take control of our lives and determine where we are going and how gracefully we wish to get there.
It is all about not letting moments in life define you.
As Campbell so brilliantly puts it:
“Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”― Joseph Campbell
Begin with the reconstruction of your destiny. Build the life you want and stop making excuses. Take with you the knowledge gained from the painful experiences in life you took the time to work through and overcome. Don’t hang on to that which doesn’t serve. Why would you? It’s like dragging a dead horse around town. I mean, it can be done, but what on earth for?? Someone once told me we don’t hold onto anything that isn’t serving us in some way. I remember feeling really offended my that comment. But after walking away and thinking about it, I believe it is true. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
We cannot change our past experiences so why spend so much energy getting upset over something that no longer exists? Why do we let negative moments in the past define and limit us when the only time that matters is now? People get so worked up and stressed by things that have already happened and things that may never occur. And in doing so they miss out on the only time that actually exists…NOW. Yesterday and tomorrow are an illusion – neither exist in the moment and the only way we have access to them is in our mind – through our thoughts. Eckhart Tolle
What to do when you are feeling overwhelmed:
- Focus on your blessings – what you have rather than what you are lacking. Things you can’t control don’t waste your time worrying about them. Let it go.
- Practice gratitude.
- Find joy in the little things.
- Live in the now.
- Surround yourself with those who love you and build you up – not tear u down.
- Have a look at the 5 people you spend the most time with. What do they add to your life?What do you learn from them? Seek out those who share your outlook. Your passions. Consciously seek out in life that which brings you joy. Also having the understanding that thoughts are powerful. So be mindful of where your mind tends to dwell.
- Work on being that silent observer.
I was doing work with a friend once and he asked me a simple question. I can’t even remember what it was but it triggered a strong response from me as a memory of my childhood came up. I immediately fought back tears and anxiety. Too proud to cry, he knew I was struggling and told me to get up out of the chair and stand by the window.
‘Look at that girl in the chair.’ he said. ‘Remember what she was thinking and how she was responding to the thought.’
He gave me enough time to recall but wasn’t expecting me to tell him what the thought was. Within an instant I could feel the tears well up again. He noticed the shift in my energy and quickly told me to stand over by the wall.
‘Now look at that girl in the chair.’ he said. ‘Now notice the girl by the window. They are both experiencing sadness, yes?’
Finally I had my ah ha moment delivered via the gift of perspective.
I was upset in the chair and then again by the window, but for different reasons. The girl in the chair was experiencing deep grief for a trauma she had endured as a child. The girl observing this happening standing in front of the window was experiencing empathy for what was happening for the girl in the chair. It wasn’t until I had the distance between myself and what was going on that I was able to articulate what was happening for me. I was able to become the silent observer of my thoughts and not get sucked into the emotion of it. I let it be, knowing I would be fine, and the emotion passed.
I remind myself daily what is important to me. Being courageous, kind and authentic always appear at the top of my list. I don’t always achieve this but if I can get to the end of the day and say in all honesty I did my best, I’m good with that. We are not going to play anyone in life better than we can play the role of ourselves. I believe we are all blessed with unique gifts that will benefit the world in some way. I also believe it is our experiences that make us able to do so. In our darkest hour our greatest insight is gained.
For me, going through the hell I endured as a child, I know that I am incapable of breaking. There is a knowing in me that exists not because of what I have endured, but rather what I have overcome. Hitting rock bottom doesn’t have to destroy us. If that was the case, I would have been dead a hundred times over. I’m ok with failing. Because I know if I fall, I dust myself off and get back up – and am always stronger for it.
I want to illuminate the way for others who have suffered what many consider to be insurmountable traumas and speak to the possibility of overcoming and rising above anything. And it is working!!! Every time I speak to people, whether it be large groups or individually, I am simply planting a seed. Showing another way to go about our lives. Changing our thoughts and the way we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. We don’t have to be victims, limited by past experiences. It is up to us to decide how we spend our life on this planet. Why stay stuck on the past and have the present moment pass you by?
I came across a comment the other day I would like to leave you with. It resonates such truth and wisdom. It really is the simplest of changes that can make the most dramatic shifts possible.
“The potency of your highest thought, the strength of your strongest belief, the balm of your softest word and the truth of your most honorable action can shift everyone’s experience of life on this planet. – Change your words. Change your world.” – Andrea Gardner