I often discuss Dr. Weston Price, a dentist in the 1930’s who traveled the globe to discover the secrets of the world’s healthiest people. Dr. Price found that the traditional diets of cultures across the globe varied depending on geography, but shared striking parallels in nutrient content.
When tribes followed these ancient dietary laws, they experienced the maximum potential health of the human body. They enjoyed long lives, pristine oral health, optimal fertility, and easy childbirth.
Joseph Campbell is to mythology what Dr. Weston Price is to nutrition. Campbell studied ancient mythologies from all cultures and recognized profound parallels, indicating a universal wisdom. These ancient myths support the maximum potential health of the human psyche and soul.
Years ago, when I first studied Campbell’s description of the Hero’s Journey, I realized it was my experience healing from a chronic disease. I shared this in a previous blog post so others could see their health challenges as an initiation into their healing journey.
It’s time to revisit the Hero’s Journey as it pertains to the global pandemic of COVID-19. Every mystic in every spiritual tradition tells us, “As within, so without.” This means that the spiritual journey of the individual is mirrored by the spiritual journey of the whole community.
The Hero’s Journey can happen many times in an individual’s life, and many times in global events. Presently, we’re experiencing a global cycle of this journey with COVID-19.
Because I’m looking at these global events through the lens of the Hero’s Journey, I feel grounded and am asking the question, “What could go right?” Even if I may not know the specifics of what the future brings, I have a sense of where we are in the process. I want to support you in holding a similar mindset.
8 Steps of the Hero’s Journey
1. THE ORDINARY NORMAL
In this first phase, we live in the world we’ve always expected and we leave our future unquestioned. We accept the status quo without question, and fail to recognize underlying dysfunction, inequity, or illusion.
Consider the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, where the Ordinary Normal is black-and-white Kansas. Dorothy doesn’t even know the world can exist in color.
In this phase, we may feel a vague shadow of longing — an inexplicable hunch that we’re not fulfilling our purpose. We may also feel like we’re waiting for something… but exactly what, we don’t know.
When we reach the last step in the journey, we’ll look back on the Ordinary Normal and view it as confining, shallow, and bland.
2. THE CALL TO THE JOURNEY
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs away from home to save her pup Toto from being euthanized by her bitter aunt. She realizes that the status quo isn’t sustainable, because it threatens something she dearly loves.
This is the call to the journey — when we start to recognize the problems inherent in the Ordinary Normal. On an individual level, the call often comes in the form of health symptoms (digestive problems, anxiety, depression, eating problems). On a community level, the call may take the form of inequity, racial bias or extreme wealth disparity.
In this phase we, don’t realize our health symptoms are the wise voice of our body saying, “Hey! You and I are in this together. It would serve you to listen to me and make some new choices.”
In the same way, we don’t realize the social symptoms of pain, poverty, and inequity is the body of the human race saying, “Hey! We’re all in this together. It would serve you to open your eyes to your internalized beliefs and fear-based perceptions so you can make new choices.”
3. THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL
This is the phase of silencing the symptoms. For example, we don’t change our diet, lifestyle or beliefs to address chronic health and emotional issues. Instead, we take pills, consume caffeine, get busier, drink more wine or use weed to silence the symptoms instead of making dramatic change.
On a global level, silencing the symptoms means we shut our eyes to the levels of plastic in the ocean, close our ears to warnings of ecological collapse, and veer away from statistics of racial inequity and global poverty. We prefer to ignore what would call us to made radical change in the way we think and live.
It’s a profoundly narcissistic phase, as the hallmark of narcissism is shutting down feedback about how our behavior impacts our own health and other people.
I feel a stab of grief in my heart when I look back at the times I refused the call, but I understand it is part of the process. Typically, things need to escalate to a point where we can no longer ignore them.
In the Wizard of Oz, this phase occurs when Dorothy visits the fortune teller, who tricks her into returning home by saying Aunt Em has suffered a heart attack. Our culture, likewise, teaches us to return back to normal when we feel discomfort, instead of moving through it into new world.
4. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Accepting the call to healing means taking a step into the unknown. Dorothy symbolizes this when she steps onto the yellow brick road. She doesn’t know where it will lead, who she’ll meet along the way, or even if she’ll survive the journey.
Crossing the threshold comes when we realize, “There’s no going back to normal, there’s only moving forward into an unknown future.” Sounds like our current global situation, right?
The golden brick road stands for our unique life path, navigated by our intuition. Just like Dorothy, when we cross the threshold, we must take it one golden brick at a time without seeing where the path goes. As Joseph Campbell says, “If the path before you is clear you’re probably on someone else’s.”
As a community, we are at a threshold point. We can accept the global call to healing on an individual level. This requires tuning inward, using an intuitive and interconnected consciousness to navigate life choices.
Our old ways of uber-productivity, systemic inequity, and ecological ransacking has brought us to a halt.
I am clear that this quarantine experience is calling me to deep rest and creativity without an intended result. Interestingly, it was in a similar prolonged quarantine state (due to my health issues) and from that same mindset that I started this blog.
At the end of this post, I’ll give you an exercise you can use to help discover and accept the call presented by the pandemic.
5. SUPPORT AND TEMPTATIONS
Dorothy meets support on her journey, including Glinda the Good Witch, the Straw Man, the Tin Man, and the Lion. In the same way, one you’re on your Hero’s journey, you’ll cross paths with the guides, teachers, coaches, books, videos, therapies, and classes you need — typically, through synchronicities that tickle the hair on the back of your neck.
You’ll also face temptation to fall back into old ways of thinking and behaving. Watch out for victim mentality which says, “I need someone to save me,” “It’s not fair,” “Why me?” or “I have it worse.” These toxic ways of thinking veer you off the golden brick road.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy falls asleep in the poppy field and is saved by the Straw Man and Tin Man. This symbolizes the times when we need the divine gift of grace to get back on the path.
6. FACING THE GREATEST FEAR
This Dark Night of the Soul occurs when we lose the thing we thought we needed the most.
In my healing journey, this came when I had to drop out of my dream college. At the time, that felt equivalent to losing my career, my social life, and my potential to “seem normal.” I had counted on an academic reputation and accreditation to make me feel like enough, to give me an identify, and to fulfill longing for a life purpose.
This phase holds deep, intense grief as we mourn the loss of an illusion. We realized that the relationship, job, appearance, or reputation we counted on isn’t capable of saving us, just as Dorothy realizes the great Wizard was only a small man behind a curtain.
COVID-19 is leading many of us to this dark night, with the loss of future expectations, timelines, jobs, and loved ones. The nature of a Dark Night of a Soul is to feel so much pain we don’t know if we’ll live through it. For those of who’ve been through a few nights, it still hurts this much but we know we’ll get through it.
Dorothy realizes that the power to return home was with her all along, symbolized by her red shoes. In the Resurrection phase, we likewise realize there’s a gift within us that can save us.
If, as a global community, we accept the Call of the pandemic, we’ll uncover gifts within each of us needed to heal our world.
8. RETURNING HOME
In this phase, we have a new sense of purpose and have been initiated into one of our soul gifts. Now, we return to our metaphorical home.
Our perceptions have been so transformed that we see the world differently. Dorothy wakes up to find herself back home, and her eyes shine with the love she has for her family and friends.
They didn’t need to change to be worthy of love. By taking the Hero’s Journey, she was able to shine more love wherever she looked.
And that, my friends, is the healing.
ARE YOU WILLING TO ACCEPT THE CALL?
Last week, I offered a free online workshop on this topic and led participants through a series of journaling exercises. Through these exercises, they found how the pandemic is calling them to a healing journey, and we discussed our revelations.
Please listen to the audio below for these same exercises. It will take you about 20 minutes to do this exercise along with the audio.
Let me know in the comments what you discover through the above exercise!