The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Hero's Journal #8

The Leap of Faith.  One of th most crucial aspects of the Lifewriting process is Faith.  Simply put, life will throw challenges at you that are beyond your conscious reserves, beyond your concept of self.  What will get you through?  It is fascinating to note that a freakily high percentage of peak performers in business and sports do not take personal responsibility for their success.  They did not accomplish their goal just for themselves.  They thank "Mom", or "the Country", or, most often, "God."  Whether there is a divine being or not, it seems clear that BELIEF in one is and elegant and effective way to trigger latent abilities.  Remember: Campbell's model of the Hero's Journey was drawn from no single culture.  It was the aggregate of thousands of stories from hundreds of cultures across thousands of years.  It is, in other words, the sum total of wisdom for all mankind.  And the majority of these stories feature a moment when the hero has lost all hope.  And in the majoritty of cases, it is Faith that gets him through.  This is not always a supernatural faith: it is faith in one of THREE different things:
1) Faith in a higher power
2) Faith in one's companions
3) Faith in Self.
Faith in Self is faith in your DEEP self, your true self, not your shallow ego-identity. How can you find out who and what you really are? How can you pierce the veil of illusion?  Again, every culture in the world has methods designed to do just this.  Prayer, meditation, sacred movement, breath control, mindfulness exercises--all will get you closer.  What is useless (or at least entirely secondary) is intellectual speculation.  Trying to create an accurate map of reality using the intellect is like trying to hold the ocean in a teacup.  It is "waking your kundalini up backwards."  I would suggest that one of your most important quests in life is to find a spiritual discipline (not necessarily a religion, although it might be) that is in alignment with your heart.  A path with heart. 
Until you find your path, might I suggest an approach: The triangle/heartbeat meditation.  After you can focus your attention on your heartbeat for 15-20 minutes, visualize a triangle holding the heartbeat.  Allow the triangle's sides to beat in turn: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Visualize your goals for each side.  Visualize a role model chosen to represent success on each side.
The walls of the triangle represent the world, the outer manefestation of your spirit.  The heartbeat is your door to spirit itself.  "You can't see the forest for the trees" because the forest ISN'T the trees--the forest is the space in which the trees grow.  You are NOT your body, career, or relationships--but they are the very best external measure of the balance and clarity of your spirit.  You cannot see the spiritual realm directly, but you can measure your contact with it through the three worldly aspects.
1) Your self-respect, discipline, clarity, self-love and control of sensual pleasures is visible in your body.
2) Your love of self, willingness to provide goods and services for your community, access to creativity, clarity, intelligence, honesty, empathy, understanding of human nature  and energy is visible in your material success or career excellence (most teachers are never going to get rich: they can, however, be world-class in changing young lives)
3) Your love of self and love of others, the health of your emotions, your sexual energy, compassion, honesty, self-knowledge, balance, stability, clarity and overall life-force is visible in the integrity of your intimate romantic relationship.
Your spirit--your soul, as it were--is in the middle of the triangle.  It is the thing that cannot be seen.  Blades of grass that bend and twist are not the wind--but they reveal the wind.  So our actions in life are not our essence, but they do reveal it.  Deep down inside, we all know this, but it is painful, so painful to admit it.  "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  None of us are perfect, but when we stop striving, we lose something critical about ourselves.  We must keep faith that tomorrow can be better than today.  That we can be better, stronger, truer, bolder, smarter.  More loving.  Closer to the divine essence.  The day we start thinking that our best is behind us is the day we begin to die.  For some people that's High School graduation.  For others, it's their 109th birthday.  You make the choice.  As Morgan Freeman says in "Shawshank Redemption"--"Start living, or start dying."  The choice is up to you.

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