Mindfulness is about grounding our attention in the present moment. It intensifies the experience of self-awareness.
Mindfulness is about grounding our attention in the present moment. It intensifies the experience of self-awareness.
Sometimes we have to let the old us die to make way for the new.
The most fundamental property of our mind is its potential for growth. Unless we have the capacity to change our ideas and adjust our thinking and grow, our minds will wither and ossify.
We have to become greater than we are: this is what the universe is based on. We must aim for expansion…for increasing change…like a fractal which changes and becomes ever more detailed the longer and further we move into it.
The scientist who no longer questions, who rests on the dogma of his specialty, is no longer a scientist, he has become a preacher. There is always another level. Whatever we are good at we can get better.
Casting our skins because we have outgrown them: is there anything more natural than this? Yet we can see the results of this not happening all around us. We must be open to change if we want to improve our lives.
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own most innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.
The hero’s journey contains 17 interconnected stages. They mirror three main phases of departure, initiation, and return. When people see themselves confronted with unbridgeable problems, they often have the feeling they are the only ones who have to deal with these special problems. However, in various contexts, other people have experienced similar problems and challenges. People can identify with the hero’s journey since it shows them that overcoming challenges is an important part of life. And, while performing the hero’s journey, change and transformation happen.
Campbell believed that a good life is one hero journey after another. “Over and over again you are called to the realm of adventure; you are called to new horizons.”
The human search for the ultimate spiritual meaning in life parallels all legends of heroes “who must travel to an unknown world and do battle with the powers of darkness in order to return with the gift of knowledge.” (Joseph Campbell). The hero’s journey isn’t just for classical heroes, but for all of us. It is, essentially, a path of maturation that all evolving humans follow. The journey is a 17-step path that recurs in the mythology of the world and guided many cultures throughout human history.
According to Campbell’s definition, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Anyone can become a hero, on purpose, or even accidentally. But it involves a painful transition that is a prerequisite to greatness.
The hero’s journey is ultimately about transformation, and we can all be the heroes of our own story, no matter where we find ourselves today.
The 17 steps of the hero’s journey are:
The hero starts in the ordinary world and gets a call, sometimes from another person, sometimes of the person’s own volition. Sometimes we can stumble upon the adventure as a result of a blunder like Dorothy did when she was swept up in a tornado in the Wizard of Oz. The call to adventure is about getting the hero out of their comfort zone and confronting them with a challenge or problem they can’t ignore.
Throughout our own lives, we feel that necessity to answer the call and improve ourselves.
The hero may refuse to pay attention to the call because of fear, indifference, insecurity, or a sense of inadequacy. To follow the call of adventure it would mean to step out of our comfort zone and to meet our own weaknesses and uncertainties. In many cases, this leads to a denial of the call. The initial enthusiasm fades. For me, it took years to muster up the courage.
The hero has decided to go on an adventure but they’re not quite ready. Enter the mentor – someone who will help the hero and provide practical advice and training. Cinderella had her fairy Godmother. Dorothy had Glenda, the good witch of the North. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a storybook character. It can be a parent or friend giving support. Surrounding yourself with people who have the mindset you seek can be life-transforming as well. I was fortunate to have good friends.
The hero is ready – and committed – to the journey. You overcome yourself and cross the threshold to the new world. This is the point where you actually cross into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of your world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where there aren’t any rules and limits. From this point on there’s no turning back. The day I drove away from my old life was terrifying but wonderful at the same time.
The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows a willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. This is the biggest test of all – when the hero hits rock bottom. They must confront their biggest fear. If they survive they will emerge transformed. It wasn't easy and I didn't know where I was going beyond the first two days.
Once the hero accepts the call, they must face tasks and trial after trial, facing them alone, or with others. The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Dragons have now to be slain, and bad witches overcome. Challenges have to be overcome over and over again.
Each person experiences this stage differently. Our trials and fears and challenges present themselves in different forms depending on our individual traumas, perceptions, experiences, and emotional triggers. Whatever your ‘dark hour’ is, as the hero, if you endure it, you emerge a changed person. Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, you’ll find yourself transformed and with new capabilities. I found that I could do far more than I imagined possible.
You meet allies, which complement you and make you whole. You complement each other in your strengths and weaknesses. In classical myths, it’s mostly someone from the opposite sex (a goddess or a god), which makes one whole.
This step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. 'Woman' is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life.
This offers the hero short-term relief or gratification but giving in to this urge would cause the mission to fail and prove the hero unworthy.
We are waiting for external approval while wanting to make our own way. It’s the point at which we experience atonement and learn to trust ourselves. As a result, we acknowledge our own role and take responsibility for our life.
Apotheosis is the highest point of a person’s personal development. It really means “to make divine” or is the recognition of the divinity of one’s Self. While achieving our goals we become aware that we carry divine potential in us. Nothing seems impossible.
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step.
In the Wizard of Oz the scarecrow wanted intelligence, the lion wanted courage, and the tin woodman wanted compassion.
I wanted freedom.
Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to share his knowledge with his fellow man.
Even though we’ve discovered something new we may still have doubts that we have to deal with. Our minds keep telling us there are other obstacles to be overcome.
This is the point in the Hero’s Journey where they must get out alive, often requiring the help of individuals they met along the way. Glenda, the good witch of the North gave Dorothy magic slippers; Obi Wan Kenobi gave Luke Skywalker the lightsaber; Dumbo had a feather. External circumstances or internal motives force us to return to our daily lives.
The hero is rescued from a final plight from an unexpected source. The rescuer may be someone who had previously abandoned the hero or even someone the hero does not know. In mythic stories, this intervention may come from a god.
The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into our lives, and to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.
For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. If the hero has had to reach inside to discover his inner resources he must still realize that there is an outer world to be lived. But you can live in both worlds more fully now.
Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of failure, which in turn is the freedom to live. Freedom to live is the stage of the hero’s journey in which the hero has found a balance between his internal and external worlds and he no longer fears death. I feel invincible.
It is now time to give back and be of value and service to others. The Quest has changed the hero, and he/she has outgrown their old self. Things will never be the same again. This is the end but also the beginning. This last part is available to all of us. You can be that new you looking back at the journey you’ve been on, and going back to your “old life” with the lessons, changes, and wisdom you’ve gained. I hope that my story will inspire others to take their own journey.
When you accept the challenge, you’ll come back as a new person. A greater version of your self awaits you.
The forest represents the darkness, the unknown, the edge of your world. It takes a hero to go into the forest. The people in your community don’t know why you want to go; in fact, they try to pull you back, and ask you: “Why can’t you be happy with what you have here? But there’s this urge that exists within the brave-hearted to go and explore.
The noble thing to do in the collective is for each member to go into the forest at their own point. It’s dark and there is no path. If you go into the forest and there’s already a trail, it’s the one sure sign that you’re not on your path. That’s not going into the forest. That’s not initiation. You need to find your own path and that comes from the impulse within to go out and really discover who you are - beyond the narrow confines of how you’ve been conditioned and what you’ve been told to do. Go out and explore for yourself what your truth is, and how to master it, then share it with the world.
The Knights of the Round Table saw a vision of the Holy Grail and decide to go forward on a quest. They knew that the noblest thing to do as individuals seeking their own in the collective was to each go into the forest at their own point. Each knight entered the forest where it was darkest and there was no path. They could not follow other people. They had to go in by their own dark entry to the forest.
The Holy Grail is a metaphor for self-actualisation. You have to find the way to becoming the best, most powerful, version of yourself. You can’t do it as a group. The work is done by you and you alone, by going inside, going deep into your psyche. You have to enter the forest at its darkest point, meaning you have to look at the parts of yourself that might reveal things about you that you won’t like.
If you are having problems with the sermon you are being taught or are living by you can either surrender to victimhood or you can give your responsibility to someone else and say: “tell me what to do and I’ll do it,” or you can say: “I have a choice here and I’m responsible. “ What will you do?
What does it mean to be the hero of your own life? It means being responsible for your own adventure.
We see suffering as something we have to bear. We do our best to avoid it, but at times it is inevitable. You suffer, I suffer, and for an endless list of reasons. Then society rushes in with all its fixes, all its sanitising cures.
But what kind of ‘fix’ is possible in a world which is itself suffering and out of balance?
We tend to accept without questioning concepts that seem innocent and self-evident. We attach ourselves to beliefs we picked up as a child from our parents. And when we seek ‘therapy’ we don’t really know what we are seeking. Just the word ‘therapy’ conjures up ideas of psychotherapy, physiotherapy, ecotherapy – all different ways that we can be helped to get better.
In his wonderful book Catafalque, Peter Kingsley says that this is not how things used to be. “Originally, therapeia in ancient Greek meant caring. And when you go back in time as far as you can, you come to one very specific and constant expression: therapeia theôn, caring for the gods and serving them, doing what humans ought to do to make sure the gods are all right.”
But then, Kingsley says, something interesting happens. Plato comes along and focuses his thoughts on therapeia theôn, caring for the gods, and he basically argues “Care for the gods? Why on earth should we care for the gods when they are so much more powerful than us?” Once he had said this there was no going back. The unconscious attitude then developed of “Let’s make sure the divine takes good care of us. But, as for finding what, in reality, the divine might possibly need: Let it look after itself.” This attitude continues today as we treat the earth as if we think it is there just for our benefit, and in our absent-mindedness and self-absorption, we fail to recognise that we should be taking some responsibility for caring in return. It never for a moment occurs to us that the divine/nature/earth might be suffering, aching from our neglect.
Rationality, spirituality, therapy of every kind – the truth nowadays is very simple: They are all about me, me, and me.
It’s time for us to move away from being a society that shops for nice clothes and lives for acquiring expensive things, yet rarely invests in creating a better Self. Nature has had enough of this superficial behaviour and expects us to start taking better care of the earth and other living beings.
As Kingsley says, “The one tiny technicality we forget is this: that whenever we take everything for ourselves we end up with absolutely nothing. First, we have to know how to care for the gods [Nature] if the gods are going to care for us.”
In ancient Greek, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target. So we sin because we miss the point of human existence. We live unskilfully, blindly, and thus we suffer and cause suffering. Stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations the term ‘to sin’ points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition. Over the years humans have suffered more at the hands of each other than through natural disasters.
Most ancient religions and spiritual traditions share the common insight that the ‘normal’ human mind is marred by a fundamental defect. But, as more people become aware of this, there comes the possibility of a radical transformation in human consciousness or enlightenment.
The greatest achievement of humanity is not its works of art or its technological and scientific advances, but the recognition of its own dysfunction, its own madness.
There exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else. We are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.
What we choose to think, say, and do today, at this moment, creates our tomorrow. The power is in the present moment. This is the moment when we begin to make changes. We can start to let old beliefs and feelings go.
Think about what you were like as a tiny baby. You knew how important you were, you felt like you were the centre of the universe. You weren’t afraid to ask for what you wanted and you openly expressed your feelings. You loved yourself and that is the truth of your being. All the negativity you took on as you grew up was learned and can be unlearned.
How often have we said or thought, “That’s just the way I am.” What we are really saying is that it is what we believe to be true for us. And these beliefs are often passed down in families, from generation to generation.
Usually what we believe is just someone else’s opinion that we’ve accepted and incorporated into our own belief system.
If we are taught as a child that we are not worthy of money, we grow up thinking we are not worthy of receiving money, and everything we see and hear that reinforces that belief we will accept as true for us. If we are taught that it is dangerous to go in the woods alone, that we can’t trust people, or that we are no good at maths, all those things become part of our belief system. However, if we were taught that the world is a safe and happy place then we would believe that and we would see things that reinforce that belief. Life experiences mirror our beliefs. Whatever we send out mentally and verbally will come back to us in like form.
The way to control your life is to control your thoughts and to drop limiting beliefs.
Be willing to change your beliefs and thoughts and watch your life change.
No one thinks in your mind but you.
Many of us are so identified with the voice in our head (our ego) and the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and emotions, that the voice of our Self is almost completely drowned out.
You think that you are the thinker, but the thinking is your ego which is conditioned by your past, your upbringing, your culture, and your family background. The ego gives you repetitive and persistent thoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns that you identify with as “me and my story”. It gives you habitual roles that you perform without knowing it, and collective identities such as nationality, religion, race, social class, job, or political allegiance. It also carries beliefs about appearance, concepts of success and failure, and what you are good or bad at.
When you live day-to-day through the mind-made ego comprised of thought and emotion, your identity base is precarious because thoughts and emotions are so fleeting. Every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself. The ego “I”
survive without the conceptual “other”.
People who live in their ego-mind struggle to be alone.
One egoic pattern is the compulsive habit of fault-finding and complaining about others. The ego thinks that when it criticises another it will feel bigger and superior. It is one of the ego’s favourite strategies for strengthening itself. Every complaint is a little story your mind makes up that you completely believe in. It is habitual and unconscious. This is not the sort of complaining, say, in a restaurant when your soup is cold. The ego, though, is the one who loves to feel personally offended by the cold soup and is going to make the most of it. The ego enjoys making someone wrong. The ego often doesn’t want change so that it can go on complaining.
So how do you become more conscious? See if you can notice the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment, it complains about something or someone, and recognise it for what it is: the voice of the ego, a conditioned mind-pattern, a thought. And whenever you notice that voice, you will realise that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it: the Self.
We have created an inert, packaged, world that we think we can control and live in like a bubble. As I sit and read the news about humans herding to beaches, damaging the environment, and each other, I realise how a large proportion of the population doesn’t see Nature as a ‘living other’ but as a resource to be used. I call these humans ‘low potential’ because they are the ones that Nature wants to eliminate. The natural world is suffering and I believe the coronavirus is Nature’s way of bringing the earth back into balance.
The low-potential type of human lives in a world of entities devoid of life, consciousness, and interiority. Their relationship with Nature is that of resources to be used, of exploitation, of humans using entities that have the status of inanimate objects. Our whole culture is rooted in this self-evident truth, with humans acting on an inert environment that is essentially silent. There is no point asking Nature what it wants – Nature does not speak or have intelligence or interiority or consciousness when addressed by a self-willed human. This is reflected in our cultural practices and in the way we conduct our lives on a daily basis.
Sometimes humans are in between high and low-potential, perhaps in a period of metamorphosing to the higher level, often after a glimpse of true consciousness. During this in-between stage they might believe, personally and passionately that nature is alive, a living other etc. they might go camping, spend time in nature, or practice mindfulness, but when they go shopping for food that belief may play no part in their practices or conduct: animals now are conveniently packaged food items, trees are packaging and labels – all disassociated with the sense of a living ‘other’. Compare this modern-day food gathering behaviour with former times when food gathering was clustered around a core meaning of living Nature who made a claim on us and the way we lived. There were practices such as ritual preparations, addressing the animal with respect, and atonement rituals after killing the animal, in order to make sure a delicate balance between life and death was maintained. They grew their own crops, made their own food. They took from Nature only what they needed.
The predicament we are in today is that for many people their day-to-day lives only involve a connection to dead resources and there is nothing to remind them of the essential human beings they are at their core. Low-potential humans unconsciously live their lives on auto-pilot, identifying with their thought processes and emotions, reactions, desires, and emotions. This is most people’s normal state. They are run by the egoic mind, and not consciously aware. It’s not a state of acute pain or unhappiness, but of an underlying unease, discontent, boredom, or nervousness.
Low-potential humans are the product of the environment they live in – dead. It’s impossible to stick to positive habits in a negative environment. We constantly fill our lives with highly engineered versions of reality that are more attractive to unconscious minds than the natural world our ancestors lived in. They are self-willed but they are only one kind of human being and the world appears as it does only to this kind of human. But, as long as they dominate our cultural practices, belief systems, and understanding of ourselves, then the world will correspondingly only appear how it does, i.e. as comprising entities that are ‘dead’, silent, and have no voice, unable to make any claim on our existence. When the low-potential human seeks, for example, to ‘save the world’, they can only conceive of right action in terms, once again, of imposing their will upon an unresponsive, disenchanted, object-filled world.
So, how do you become a high-potential human? To start with stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects – start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of the way you interact with the spaces around you. Eat fresh food (grown locally or grown and/or harvested yourself, if possible), think about where things have come from, and feel gratitude for what you have. Only take what you need. If you look at, say, a houseplant, ask it what it needs and wait for the answer (this might sound silly but if you start to look at the houseplant in this way you will remember to water it and you will notice when it needs extra feed). Touch a tree and feel its life and energy. Practice mindfulness and gratitude. Open your eyes and your consciousness to the beauty around you. Who needs television when you have birds to watch?
The High-Potential Human is a new breed of human that is emerging in response to Nature’s need for balance. They are in a minority at the moment but as their influence grows and these spiritual and mindful humans, who respect Nature, culture, and creativity, will start to dominate our culture. The truth is we can all be high-potential humans if we learn to become more consciously aware, quieten our minds, and stop negative beliefs from holding us back.
We are moving toward a new way of living on an earth full of life and goodness. And, as you continue your journey, remember, that beneath all those shadows and weight, you are a radiant, beautiful soul, and the earth awaits what you will bring.
Feel the world around you, sense it, with your whole body, without words. No talking. No thinking. Just see. Just feel and connect. What happens at such times goes beyond words. When these good moments come to you they will fill you with a swelling tide of higher life as if it were a vessel. The object of your focus could be as simple as this spider's web covered in water droplets catching the rays of the early morning sun, a watering can, an animal basking in the sun, or an old building. Such simple things past which the eye ordinarily glides with natural indifference can at any moment suddenly take on a sublime and moving aura which words seem too weak to describe.
Mindfulness does not react to what it sees. It simply sees, and understands without words.
The Flower Sermon was held near a pond during Buddha’s later years. When he held up the freshly-picked lotus flower the assembled crowd was silent, not understanding its significance. But after a moment or two, Buddha’s disciple Mahakasyapa smiled. He was the only attendee to receive the Buddha’s message that day.
If you are a seeker wanting to understand yourself better, improve your life, deepen your spiritual side, and listen to your soul to uncover your inner self, you can learn a lot from taking up your pen and journaling.
With your words, you can give life to what you see, what you hear, what you touch. You can transform what is on the outside to something inside.
As your daily life pulls you in a multitude of directions, journal writing centres you. It makes you slow down. It makes you look anew at the world around you. Imagine you are by a river and you spot an unusual rock at the water’s edge. From afar it looks just like all the other rocks on the river bed. But, if you pick it up, and hold it in your hand, feel its roughness, consider its age (1 million or billion years old?), how amazing that you can hold something so incredible in your hand. And in studying it… it becomes closer to you. You wonder about its age, what it has been through to get here. You sense its mystery.
When you write about it you can consider your own journey, the rough parts, and the good times, your own mystery. You bring the two worlds together, the visible (the rock), and the invisible (your inner world).
If you were to just stand by the riverside, in the sunshine, maybe pick the rock up and drop it back into the river, if you didn’t pay closer attention – to the rock and the sparkling water – you would allow them to retreat into forgetfulness. Anyone can see such details then forget them straight away. To journal is to look for meaning in your experiences and let them lead you to your soul.
So what is the best way to journal? There is only one way and that is your way. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to a quality book that feels good to touch, or maybe you’ll type on your phone. Only you know the best way to start. I like to use a softback red Moleskine book with plain pages, and a fountain or calligraphy pen. I also keep a smaller book in my bag when I go out walking. I write about what I see, what I feel, how the early morning sun sparkles on the river, a conversation, a dream, my hopes, and plans.
Each reflection deepens as I write it down. Each journal entry is a step closer to my soul, toward self-discovery. Sometimes I paint pictures and write, sometimes I just write. You don’t need to be an artist to draw simple sketches, Sometimes I might attach a flower or a leaf too.
When you write in a journal think of it as being like going for a walk without any purpose or direction. You might walk a while, then you stop, find a fragment, something that caught your awareness. Eventually, you will have many fragments, of your soul, of your awareness, of your place in this world. Writing in a journal gives you insights into who you are, who you were, and who you can become.