Posts tagged #the hero's journey

Letters to a Young Dream Warrior - Letter #1

 

Dear X,

 

You want to know: how do I thrive in the world while also realizing the deep potentials of my being which seem to have nothing to do with money-making and being respectable out there in the fray?

 

These are deep questions whose answers take us into the heart of what it means to be a dream warrior, to be one who works to realize the truths of the heart and the beauty of the imaginal realm on this physical plane even in the face of onslaughts from materialism, mechanistic science, and the whole paradigm of separation (a conglomeration of devouring joylessness which I like to call the Nothing).

 

First, let's consider your dilemma.

 

Everywhere you turn you find there are gatekeepers: for employment, for education, for anything.  The main thing the gatekeepers seem to want from you is that you agree with them and the world they've created-- and not just a token agreement, but a permeated, soaked-through agreement.  They want you to be as saturated with their ideology as the balls of dough in gulab juman are saturated with sugar syrup. They want to see evidence that your whole life and soul is devoted to it, to them, to the Nothing.

 

At interviews, in applications, the gatekeepers come up close and breathe you in deep.  They are smelling out how much of you is theirs.  If they find an off-note, a fragrance of dissent or noncompliance in your being, you see yourself shut out from the shelter of their institutions and their money.  If you are a dream warrior, as you are, they certainly detect it and recoil in fear.

 

So they've sniffed you and you didn't pass the test.  They could sense the stirring of wakefulness in you, the aura of resistance and questioning that you've tried to repress.  They rejected you despite your best efforts to fit in. Now you don't have access to their credentials; their money; their approval.

 

Is this terrifying? Yes.  But less so if you remember that the institutions and the money are losing power anyway.  The gatekeepers can't even afford now to shelter the ones who have soaked themselves completely in compliance.  There are people being turned down for work and education who have denuded their lives and souls of everything but what the gatekeepers said they wanted-- and now these people, too, are turned out into the cold.

 

At least you have not done this great violence to yourself.  At least you kept the truth and beauty alive in you, you have fostered it and nurtured it-- so you are not the most unlucky.  You still have this wealth, and this -- though it may not appear so at the moment -- is very great wealth indeed.  Perhaps most valuable of all is your love.  Your love which is not sentiment or romance but rather a form of wise vision, the perception of your heart.

 

The intimations you have of magic and loveliness, of wonder and agonies, these are precious and these will fuel your life in the new world that you are about to help bring forth.

 

Right now this is hard to see.  Right now you are full of bitterness.  "I wanted a job," you think. "I wanted to support myself. To contribute.  Now what do I have? What can my perception of loveliness yield me but a handful of poems that no one will want to read? What will magic get me but more scorn and abuse?"

 

More than anything, though, it astounds you that the people of our world do this to themselves: that they demand of each other and of us only the boring, the utilitarian, the violent, or the prurient.  Not given to violence or extremes of lust, you sought to cooperate by offering the utilitarian.  But you could only go along with it for so long: leaping through the hoops they set up-- and now you find yourself unable to leap anymore.  Your leap failed.  It failed not because of your vice but because of your virtue: your soul is too thrilling, too rich, too deep and too broad to be limited to the prescribed tasks of business as usual.

 

Now you have a choice of what to do. It seems to you like you only have two choices: Try again to please the gatekeepers and win this time or just be a failure and a burden, someone who lives on the edges of society, someone who goes mad.

 

It seems like winning or losing are the only possibilities.  You either fool the gatekeepers and reap their rewards or you land flat on your face and get nothing.

 

But there's a third choice open to you.  You could choose neither to win nor to lose but to surrender completely.

 

What does surrender look like?  It looks like leaving the game altogether. And what does that mean? It primarily means to stop understanding yourself in the terms of the game.  This is internal work.  This is dream warrior work.  It is very far from being easy and it takes constant vigilance.  But it is work which from the first day you undertake it ignites an enormous shift in your experience of the external world, a shift which only snowballs more and more rapidly.

 

In order to stop understanding yourself in the terms of the game, you have to give up feeling the least bit of shame, self-pity, or resentment for your present condition.  You must learn to take your sense of self-worth not from success or loss within the game but from your own sense of the strength of your heart. You must become willing to offer love and celebration to everything that seems to oppose you or confound you.

 

Does this sound easy? Are you ready to say to me, "But I already am proud of who I am; I already know that I am right and that the system and the Nothing are wrong." Dear brother, I would reply that you have not truly let yourself know this if you are still suffering, if you ever feel low or conflicted.

 

When you are fully in your power, when you are replete with joy for the truth that you are, you will feel no trace of this doubt or reservation about yourself.  You will not worry that your inability to garner success in the external world up to this point reflects some secret defect of your own being.  Instead you will see with crystalline clarity the fact that any difficulty you've experienced up to this point has not been your fault at all but the fault of the nightmare that all the sleepers are projecting, the nightmare of separation and scarcity.

 

When next I write, I will tell you my own methods for reaching and maintaining this condition of repletion.  In the mean time, I ask you to begin by hurling a strong refusal against all the voices that tell you that you have failed and you are wrong.

 

Refuse to accept any judgment which would say to you that the gatekeepers' rejection of you signified that you did not try hard enough or did not do well enough.  You did exceedingly well. You preserved the fragrance of beauty and truth in your being.  You are our hope for a future that is truly, radically different from the present.  You are winning at a level that those who are still asleep in the nightmare cannot comprehend.  You, O Dreamer, are perfect.

 

Love, Carolyn

 

 

 

 

 

How to Desire

Dear Reader,

Let’s work on getting in touch with what we want. It’s our first step in the March Adventure. Write “Stuff I Really, Really Want” and list 25 items, everything from grand abstract achievements to the most paltry of household goods. Got it? Good, now if you have a mind whose automatic setting is anything like mine, you will now be thinking “I won’t do that, it’s pointless.”

The Depths of Disbelieving

My mind tells me it’s pointless to bring to the forefront of my mind all the things that I long for because, as it reports, “I won’t get them anyway.”  This automatic setting of pessimism is a strategy I learned in childhood to protect myself from the wrenching disappointment of missing out on things I really, really wanted. This was a great strategy when I was five and my acknowledgment of my impotence was actually spot on— back then I couldn’t read or write, I was 3 feet tall with limited motor skills, and I didn’t even have the right to vote! Yes, I was an illiterate, disenfranchised little person. Things were bleak back then. But look how far I’ve come!

I’m now (like you, if you’re reading this) in full possession of literacy, motor skills, and voting rights. You’re no longer limited by your parents’ arbitrary and tyrannical decisions regarding bedtime and dessert.

The Power of Innocent Longing

Frankly, you’re empowered and it’s time to start recognizing that. The “I won’t get them anyway” belief that your mind espouses is outdated. Since you’re big and literate now your odds of attaining most of your desires are pretty darn good.

Even if your life does indeed turn out to be one long dreary European film, if you go through it holding the belief all the while that you “won’t get them anyway” (your desires) your life will be a completely unwatchable long dreary European film.  Why? Because heroes and heroines desire stuff.  They go out and pursue their desires through various means. They learn stuff along the way.  Even if they completely fail to get what they set out to attain at the outset, the very act of valiantly, innocently, even somewhat stupidly, reaching to fulfill their desire puts forces in motion that show them valuable things and connect them to fascinating people.

Yes, that’s right. I’m getting all Joseph Campbell on your ass. This March Adventure is a hero / heroine’s journey.  I know, it’s terribly unoriginal of me. But that’s because it’s also just plain true.  I think Joseph Campbell may have missed some of the finer points regarding the heroine’s journey (I’ll be happy to discuss this at some point) but all in all, he was really right about the underlying mythic structures that span across time and culture, and which have things to tell us (Poetic Truths!) about the magic ways that life works.

The Call to Adventure

The first leg of the hero / heroine’s journey is the Call to Adventure.  Maybe you have not lately had a recurring prophetic dream calling you to travel to a strange land in search of hidden treasure.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have a Call to Adventure! Our longings and desires are our Call to Adventure.  They’re the stirrings that prompt us to undertake a course of action that will change us and our understanding of the world for the better. Some of them more so than others. And of course, it matters how we go about pursuing those desires. And also, there are certainly dragons to slay along the way. But we’ll worry about sorting all that out later. For now, get started with your list!

My List

To encourage you in coming up with your List of 25 Things you Desire, I figured I’d show you mine in all its random, jumbled glory:

1. A fireplace

2. A claw foot bath tub.

3. To publish an awesome self-help book.

4. To record a freak folk album.

5. To perform a stand-up act.

6. To be rich, having absolutely gazillions of gold coins to swim in.

7. To be struck enlightened like Byron KatieEckhart Tolle, and Jan Frazier.

8. To be very very glittery, like David Bowie circa the Ziggy Stardust era.

9. To finish my PhD.

10. To learn to play the guitar and write songs.

11. A super-flashy glam rock wedding.

12. New clothes for spring and summer.

13. Speaking engagements around town.

14. To make some videos for youtube, like my friend Kevin, who is super-cool.

15. The Nobel Prize in Literature

16. A lot of rainbow colored silk scarves.

17. An awesome house in the woods somewhere with giant fireplaces and clawfoot tubs.

18. A pug puppy.

19. My poetry books published.

20. A mind-blowing flower garden.

21. A gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it.

22. To make and sell incredibly awesome tote bags.

23. To write a didactic novel like The Alchemist.

24. To make meditation cds / podcasts.

25. A house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way.