In the last post we left you, the Hero standing at the mouth of the “Innermost Cave” and you were about to enter into the darkness. Into the unknown.
It is at this point you will have to decide about how you should make the “Approach” and enter into what we call “The Ordeal”.
But before you do, you need to plan your training, both psychological and physical. Create the mindset and have that ability to change state whenever you need it.
Life throws many challenges in your direction and the Hero knows how to handle them, or they learn quickly. Plan your training timetable to ensure that training takes place and then do a reconnaissance of the land that lies ahead of you. This recce could be linked to an opponent you may have to fight or even something as simple as the outline of a training regime.
Some heroes march boldly up to challenge and face it head on, smashing into obstacles and taking injuries on the way. Some do this in an arrogant fashion and others take a more measured countenance into the battlefield. But whatever choice you make, you must simply get on with it.
The Hero never ‘tries’.
The Hero decides and then acts.
Do it, or don’t do it… Never try!
Whatever choice you make at this point, you have to prepare.
Remember the 7 P’s
“Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”
Have that as one of your maxims and you can’t go far wrong!
“The Approach” is a good time to calibrate the different aspects of your personality too. This is when you need to be honest with yourself about what drives you and what makes you afraid.
By facing these internal challenges, the authentic Hero just gets on with the task.
This is how “The Ordeal” starts.
It starts in the Heroes mind as a thought, and whatever you do at this point will dictate the outcome.
The Hero does not think in terms of failure or success.
They have gone beyond that duality to realise there is simply an outcome that is either desired or not.
In the mind of the Hero:
There is no failure… Simply feedback’
In his book, “The Hero with A Thousand Faces” Joseph Campbell talks about Death and Rebirth.
“That heroes must die so they can be reborn.”
Whenever you face a challenge or an ordeal of any magnitude, you change.
A part of you dies and a new part is born. I have seen this happen with fighters. Before the fight they were unsure, they were hesitant and were quite frankly, afraid. But with the help of the teacher and their allies, they were able to face the fear and get on with the fight.
When you do this, win or lose, something will change. Something in you will light up as if someone has flipped a switch. You will be reborn anew and with the right teacher your behaviours, attitudes and beliefs will change. You will have died and been reborn. For some it may even mean the death of the ego.
There will be a change in how you see yourself and no matter what happens, this is “The Reward”.
“The Reward” could also be the fact that you may have won the fight, or achieved a goal, but I believe there is so much more to gain than just this. You will have changed at a deeper level and a good teacher will capitalise on this and continue to take you further down the path of the “Heroes Journey”.
This is why it is important to find the right teacher. The best mentor is someone who communicates so effectively they take you to another level of competency.
Ultimately, Heroes sometimes experience profound self-realisation. They gain deep insights into who they are and this in turn adds clarity to the path ahead. Campbell talks about this when he discusses the “Road Back”. When the Hero returns with the “Elixir”.
Returning to training after “The Ordeal” is “The Road Back”. You return with insight and with secret knowledge about yourself.
Of course, others will see you differently too. The rebirth of the Hero will inspire them to train harder and more consistently. Inspiring them to take the journey further. To take the paths least travelled and face the unknown. This often coincides with having an epiphany of some kind. The Japanese call it Kensho, a mini enlightenment, and the Greeks call it Ataraxia (tranquillity, unperturbedness).
Incidentally, the term Ataraxia comes from the battlefield and is a state experienced by a soldier in the heat of battle. Very relevant to our journey!
Your epiphany will be palpable and will not only motivate you to improve, but have an effect on those around you.
James Joyce explains epiphany as a sudden perceiving of the essence of something. An awakening or a shift in how you perceive the world. Many fighters talk about this change in perception, where the world looks somehow different. Sharper and clearer in some way, as if a filter has been taken off the lens of a camera. The dust has been brushed away and things seem cleaner.
The road back can also be a time to reflect on what has happened and how it has changed you. It marks a time when you can rededicate yourself to continuing the adventure, to motivate yourself and others to train harder.
This is a time of “Resurrection”. You have been reborn. And as Campbell says, you “Return with the Elixir”.
And so, the Heroes journey ends, or at least pauses, for a short while, for the journey has no ending and challenges and ordeals will surely follow. There will be new challenges ahead that you will face, and you will enter many caves experiencing fear and joy, anxiety and catharsis.
It is for you to say what the Elixir is. It doesn’t have to be a world title. It could be the acquisition of a new skill, losing weight, gaining strength or speed. It is your journey and how you choose to walk the path is up to you.
As a recap:
1. The Hero comes in from the ORDINARY WORLD where
2. You receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE
3. You are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL but
4. Are encouraged by a MENTOR to
5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World where
6. You encounter TESTS & ALLIES AND ENEMIES.
7. You APPROACH THE INNERMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
8. Where you endure THE ORDEAL
9. You then take possession of the REWARD
10. And return on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World
11. Finally, being reborn as a RESURRECTION happens and you are transformed to
12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, the prize for your heroic efforts.
You have already put your foot on the path and set out on the journey and when you find your Elixir you will come back more aware, more alive and more human than ever before.
The “Ordinary World” where you started out on your journey will never be the same again.
The circle of the “Heroes Journey” is complete.
Thanks, must go to the inspiring work of Joseph Campbell and ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’.