Spirit Journeying Meets the Hero’s Journey

by Laura Lee
I say, “Life is best lived as an adventure!” Little wonder then that my husband Paul and I are teaching ways to deepen and expand the journeying life offers. We are often asked where these two modes of journeying intersect. My short answer is that both work in mythic ways, with symbol and narrative. One works experientially, the other intellectually to frame our experience. One sweeps us away — whoosh! — handing us a new set of inner senses, to immerse us in a waking dream unfolding on the interior movie screen of the soul. The other weaves each spiraling story arc of our inner and outer life into the collective mythic whole. At the upcoming workshop May 31- June 3rd, 2012 that Paul and I will be conducting at the Cuyamungue Institute we will delve further into this intersection of two universal, time-honored modes of journeying.

I was introduced to both the Hero Journey and Spirit Journeying in the early 1990’s in a series of interviews on the radio show I hosted.  Paul has shared our introduction to Spirit Journeying with Dr. Felicitas Goodman in his article in this newsletter, so I’ll share our introduction to the Hero Journey here. Another favorite guest, Gwynne Spencer, was using the Hero’s Journey in her journal writing workshops as an outline to get a handle on writing the story of one’s life. “You are the hero or heroine of your own journey,” she told us, “and you are walking a path that countless others and walked before you, and lived to tell the tale. Learn from them! And know you are co-writing your story with a larger, unseen hand that becomes more readily apparent when we look back on our life and only then see synchronicities and layers of meaning and seemingly miraculous events line up.”
There was a lot in this to intrigue me. Self-actualization, for starters. And the realization that I am part of a long continuum on a well-trod path I find particularly reassuring. I am not alone, and I can draw upon the collective wisdom and inspiration of all those who have gone before. each of us expressing our own variations on the one story we all share. When my path gets a little rocky, I  need not question if I’ve taken a wrong turn; its just part of the shifting landscape.

I went back to Bill Moyers ground-breaking, televised interviews with Joseph Campbell and read all Campbell’s books. And with Gwynne’s tutelage, I wrote my life story, recasting myself as the heroine with fresh insight on my mentors, my threshold guardians, my challenges and victories, my quest. My destiny. My gifts. But even more important than coming to terms with my past was a new sense of empowerment to write — and then live — the present and future of my dreams. This was not the belabored task it might have been. Gwynne was all for “cooking it down to its essence” and “cracking the code” of one’s dreams and synchronicities; with every conversation, she was impatient to get to that vital core, the point on which it all turned. “Just give me the cook-down” was code for reach deep inside, find your authentic voice, and listen!

And it was Gwynne who introduced me to  Chris Vogler, who wrote what became the textbook on the Hero Journey for Hollywood screen writers. He recounted for us how George Lucas wove Star Wars around the tenets of the HJ; how Dorothy’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road is a classic hero journey as well. Since then, every new hero or heroine I see on the big or small screen — most recently, that was Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” — I know in a more complete way, because I see how they heard the call to adventure, how they were thrust upon the journey, willingly or not; what mentors and threshold guardians they met, how they broke through, completed their quest, and solved the riddle of what it all means. All good practice for applying same to better understand the story of my life, Paul’s and my life together, and what part of our friends and acquaintances lives’ we are privy to. I am less bewildered by life, more accepting of it; more respectful, humbled, and awed by it all, when viewed through this lens.

I particularly appreciate how the HJ gives nod to that larger and wiser “co-writer”, whatever it may be. I’m not seeking definitions, for I am content for the mysteries to remain The Mysteries. I think they serve us best that way, and this applies too to the Spirits we meet in the AR via the posture work. Access to this sacred realm is enough for me, I feel no need to “peek behind the curtain”.  Perhaps our destiny is not to know that, but to know ourselves — a tall enough order. What I do know is that both are benevolent, healing forces, with whom we can develop relationship, which knows us in many ways better than we know ourselves, and which seems to know just what we need to grow.

My mission behind all those interviews was to seek answers to those age-old questions: who are we? where did we come from? where are we going? and what’s it all about, anyway?

That quest continues for me, gaining focus through these two avenues that have served humankind for many, many millennia. Talk about tried and true! That is an aspect I truly appreciate about both The Hero’s Journey, and Spirit Journeying, as Dr. Goodman made so readily accessible with what the Cuyamungue Institute now calls The Cuyamungue Method.

If life is best lived as an adventure, then surely the more we can illuminate it, the more ecstatic we can make it, the more friends (in all realms) that we make along the way and share notes with, the more meaningful and memorable the journey.
Laura Lee, May 2012

“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away” Pablo Picasso

Come join us! Though our May 31 workshop is almost full, we are thinking of adding a second at CI during the month of June, so let us know if you are interested. And if you’d like to explore the possibility of arranging for Paul and I, or other certified teachers to come to your home town to conduct a workshop for you and a group of friends, contact us. email us at [email protected]