Defying the Ordeal ~ For Your Journey, Post 17 of 24

The French town of Calais was under siege by King Edward III of England (1348 AD).

Edward offers to spare the starving French village if six of their leaders, the Burghers of Calais, will surrender themselves for execution.

French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, immortalizes the scene …

The Burghers must walk out from Calais bringing the keys to the city and wearing nooses around their necks. This is an Ordeal.
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An Ordeal alters the course of our lives. We aren’t sure we will ever live, laugh, or love again.
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An Ordeal can last months not minutes.
Ask the patient who has suffered with a long term illness.

An Ordeal doesn’t just shake us to the core. It rips the core from us.
Ask the teenager who saw his friend die.

An Ordeal punches Justice in the face and cracks her jaw.
Ask the mother who must allow the abusive father his visiting rights.

It doesn’t matter we were playing by the rules of the game.
It doesn’t matter we were humble and never taunted the gods.
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We drop to our knees realizing our greatest efforts, prayers and plans were not enough to thwart an event that devastates our life.

Deep in this Cave of the Ordeal, Anguish wrenches from us the cry, “That’s not fair.” We hear our words repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is not an echo.
“That’s not fair.” is the howl of previous heroes during their dark night of the soul.

The Ordeal kills our expectations of what life ‘should’ be and takes us to a defining moment in the quest for living.

Being stripped of expectations clears the way for what we are capable of becoming.

This is not the mentality of ‘bad things need to happen to us so we will learn.’ Instead it is recognizing that ‘bad’ things happen regardless of our goodness.

Those of us on the quest of living must decide that we will not surrender our Self, even to circumstances beyond our control.

Walt Whitman explains:
“Either define the moment or the moment will define you.”

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P.S. The wife of King Edward III, Philippa of Hainault, intervened and spared the lives of The Burghers of Calais.

Facing the Enemy ~ For Your Journey, Post 16 of 24

This enemy …
darthvader
Or this …
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An enemy can trap us. Walls rise, doors lock shut and shackles chain us.

Are any of us facing an enemy with these black arts?

No.

Ex-spouse, family member or coworker can make life miserable but they don’t have evil super powers. (It just feels like it sometimes.)

Other hardships in life are caused by circumstances: economic ruin, home destroyed by fire, disease strikes our family.

Where is the enemy?

Someone tells us, “You are your own worst enemy.”

We close a door when we pour ourselves a drink rather than pour out the truth in our heart. Walls go up when we ‘work’ rather than attend a celebration. Windows shut when we ignore the gift of nature. Steel barriers slam down when we deny our pain with the reply, “I’m fine.”

Our Distrust raises walls
Our Doubt locks doors
Our Dread becomes leg irons.
We seal our Self in a living cell.
It’s safe.

Mystics throughout the ages remind us that we alone hold the key that will unlock our prison door.

Turning the key is determined by our answer to “Who am I?”

lock

A real enemy is as likely as the Tooth Fairy coming tonight.

Approaching the Cave – For Your Journey, Post 15 of 24

This is not the time for a bowl of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

Deep inside us, the cave, is the desire to experience our fullest potential.

We know we must enter.

Storytellers throughout time keep the tension of the story by employing the tactic of fear that our life will crash.

For Odysseus to not crash, he instructed his crew to tie him to the mast as they passed by the Sirens.

In a movie, the scene of ‘approach the inmost cave’ is when the hero takes one last look up at the sky before the final showdown.

Why is this meaningful?

His life could crash and he may not see the sky again.

But we aren’t actors in a movie. This is real life.

We have spent time analyzing all the worst case scenarios (fears) and we used up all the excuses for why we should avoid the decision in front of us. The journey will halt and it’s not because we are dead. Either we enter the cave or we are just an actor in our own life. We are posing.

When we press forward into this new cave, we are answering the eternal purpose of our life. We want to enlarge our experience of living, to be a part of the continual river of life.

In previous chapters of our life, we have already entered inner caves of our journey and clearly it didn’t kill us. So now, maybe we can relax and realize this doesn’t need to be scary.

Maybe Odysseus and us can be an older, wiser and mightier ‘hero’ and not need to be tied to the mast next time. Maybe dance on the ship deck instead?

Approaching a new inner cave, an unknown, can be an experience of curiosity and joy.

Swept into a new unknown, mythologist Joseph Campbell writes:
“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

So now we come to an hilarious irony of life …
Following your bliss, the your inner dream we keep in a cave, might be the hardest lesson of all to live.

Tricksters You Can Trust, For Your Journey Post 14 of 24

“What do you bring to a knife fight?”
“A gun.”

A trickster, like Robin Hood, wins by wits not brawn.
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If you don’t have a bow and arrow or a cool cloak, it’s OK.

Eleanor Roosevelt, in her grandma guise of sturdy shoes and patent leather purse is a also a Trickster.
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A state department advisor comments on Eleanor, “Never have I seen naivete and cunning so gracefully blended.”

Eleanor, the Trickster, knew the American public was ignoring the elephant in the room, racism.


Eleanor visited the Tuskegee Airmen and insisted on going up for a ride with a black pilot. She knew this photo would be on the front page of every morning paper. The ‘elephant’ of racism was sitting on the kitchen table in houses across the country.

Trickster tricks:
Cut down an oversized ego ~~~~~~~~ Point out hypocrisy ~~~~~~~~~~~ Win with cunning
Exploit a shortcut ~~~~~~~ Tug on a mask ~~~~~~~~~~ Provoke authority figures
Stir up mental stagnation ~~~~~~~ Unapologetic for tactics
Disregard the opinions of the establishment

Traditionally we think of the Trickster as a form of enemy. We can read this list and know of times we were on the receiving end and it’s not fun. Tricksters (at work, worship, neighborhood or family gatherings) expose our idiosyncrasies.

When we move beyond our character tics, a trickster has no leverage.
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Do we dare to use the bag of tricks for the good of our communities? Can we thumb our nose at superficial social mores designed to keep people in their place? Point out hypocrisy? Exploit a short cut?

For those of us raised with a strong work ethic, unless we fight “fair and square” it feels like cheating.

Get over it.

We need to be a Trickster.

Shadows – For Your Journey, Post 13 of 24

The series is called “For Your Journey” not “For Your Relaxing.”

A journey includes effort. So let’s talk about the effort of living with …

Shadows

Peter Pan, who never wants to grow up, is determined to keep his shadow.

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Like Peter Pan, we hang on to our shadows. We keep our darling delusions and tell ourselves, “That’s just the way I am.” Like Peter Pan, we don’t want to grow up.

Shadows, left unchecked, will hamper, prevent or roadblock our ability to live fully.

Shadows are not our sins.

Shadows are our fears lurking from past episodes of grief, regret, anger or betrayal.

To block this pain from ourselves and others, we expend tremendous effort to hold these shadows in check.

How long will we keep these phantoms that haunt us? Another minute? A month? Maybe take it with us beyond the grave? It’s up to us.

However, the only sin is to not live our fullest potential.

Detaching a tormenting shadow can be as simple as go to a river. Pick up a rock and spit on it. Now throw the rock in the river.

When fear, an emotion of impending danger, is gone, what will take its place?

Desire.

Desire was a shadow in our childhood, always tempting us to feel exuberant. Desire dares us to experience our Creativity, Imagination, Individuality, Beauty, Ingenuity, Expression, Inspiration.

Keeping Desire as our shadow, we never have to grow up.
peterpan

Spotting the Con Artist – For Your Journey – Post 12 of 24

Snowwhite
Along our journey we have probably been conned, deceived or bamboozled. In the Hero’s Journey the con artist is called a “Shapeshifter.”

What’s clear about a Shapeshifter is they create confusion. They can appear to be one shape (good guy) and then change to another (bad guy). And we didn’t see it coming.

How does that happen?

It’s not magic.

Look at the above photo. It’s understandable that Snow White trusts the old woman and takes the apple. Aside from the Hollywood enhancements to make the old woman extra ugly (so little kids will know she is a bad guy) how is Snow White suppose to know not to take the apple?

But then this happens …
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Look at picture #2. The shapeshifting has happened. See it?

The old lady is no longer making an offer. She’s pushing her ‘gift’ on Snow White.

The tip-off is Snow White is pulling away.

It’s that simple.

The first lesson in a Shapeshifting 101 class is for students to use an act of kindness as a ruse to get what they want. The ‘apple’ can be a gift, food, flattery, drink or an offer to help. The Shapeshifter uses the fog of guilt or a ray of hope to keep attention away from the truth so the ‘con’ can happen and the ‘artist’ gets what they want. This works really well on nice people.

If Snow White had responded, “I don’t want the apple.” the con of the Shapeshifter would have been foiled. (We would have never met Grumpy, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Dopey, Sneezy and Sleepy.)

And before we get angry with Shapeshifters and say, “How could they do this to me?” Let’s look at the ‘me.’
shapeshifter
We don’t see reality. We see what we want. If we were really that lion – a Shapeshifter wouldn’t come near us.

Because we long for someone to fit what we want, we ignore telltale signs of their true ‘shape.’

What we end up learning are lessons like this: We grab on to some person to give us what we want in our life. They don’t live up to our expectations. We are hurt and say, “How could you do this?”

They could ‘do this’ because that is who they are and we just didn’t want to see it.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

The projection is in us and we must learn to see things as they truly are. Shapeshifters help clear away the false hope of what we want to be true, making way for what is true.

We should thank them.

We stay entangled with a Shapeshifter’s game as we try to forgive or change them. Accept who they are.

Now we are free.

Allies Along the Way – For Your Journey Post 11 of 24

Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man – A classic portrayal of Allies for the Hero
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We are not a ‘lone wolf’ in this world. Allies are here to help us and they aren’t perfect. Their flaws are the sandpaper for our rough edges.

This is when Shakespeare says, “Therein lies the rub.”

Here’s ‘the rub.’

We see the journey ahead and we know how to get there. And if we know that, then there is no point of the journey. There is nothing to learn, no ‘rub.’ We are just doing.

A rub in our journey is our avoidance in seeing a blind spot. (Hence the name ‘blind’ spot.) Seeing how we treat people is often ‘the rub.’

So, how do we treat our allies? Especially when …

Tin Man needs oil again. Scarecrow is on fire. Lion is having another emotional meltdown.

Options: Tell Tin Man, you’ll help him when you return. Scarecrow should be more prepared and carry his own damn bucket of water. And for tearful Lion, you just shouted at him, “Get over it!”

Defending our churlish behavior (the ‘ends justify the means’ ) is an excuse to avoid the rub.
The Holy Grail of any journey is the refining of our character every step of the way. Anything else is a mirage.

About Allies:
1. Some Allies insist on reruns of old adventures.
This means you have come to a fork in the road. Their path is in a different direction and your journey must diverge from them.

2. Even good Allies can only go so far in the journey with us. We face our fears alone.
Dorothy is alone when she confronts the Wicked Witch in the castle.

Allies will meet us after our ordeal. Really good allies will bring dark chocolate.

P.S. In fairy tales or Walt Disney movies the ‘good mother’ character is symbolic of an ally for the hero. Because a hero has to ‘go it alone’ that is why the mother in the story is dead or is going to die (ex. Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Snow White). It is not a subversive plot to kill mothers.

Meet the Mentor – For Your Journey Post 10 of 24

Jiminy Cricket, with his moral platitudes, might work for children but he holds no credibility with us, unless we know, “What’s his story?”
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To be a viable mentor for us, you better have a pretty amazing journey.

So who are the mentors?

The obvious choice are people who made valiant stands to make our world a better place. The scope of their effect makes them famous and we recognize their pictures.

A second choice are the people making the same valiant stands but remain behind the scenes. Their efforts are obscured by the person or events they supported.

These three examples are certainly worthy of mentor status.
vladislav-sklodowski
This father lost his teaching job and a home for his family. Standing up to Russian officials, he refused to berate a student. He supports his daughter to study science which is unheard of in the 1800s.
You don’t know his name, Vladislav Sklodowski, but you know his daughter, awarded 2 Nobel Prizes, Marie Curie.
She doesn’t patent her discovery of radium or the extraction process. This generosity allows medical sciences to quickly put in place radium therapy for cancer patients.

sarah-lincoln
This is a stepmother who stood up to her husband. His son, her stepson, loved books and time to read. The father, harsh and demanding, said ‘no.’ Lucky for us, the stepmother stood her ground to let her stepson read and learn. We know her stepson … Abraham Lincoln

madamoiselle-souvestre
This teacher encouraged an insecure teenage girl to reach beyond her comfort zone and to challenge the status quo of society. The teacher, Mademoiselle Souvestre, is not a name anyone recognizes. But the world will know her student, Eleanor Roosevelt.

These are each mentor stories of supporting someone’s life. They simply did what was right, without knowing the historic outcome yet to unfold.

Here is the third category for your “Meet the Mentor.” No need to look far. In fact, no need to even look around.

It’s you.

We aren’t children needing a Jiminy Cricket pep talk. We know injustice when we see it in others or ourselves. And to shed our masks, excuses and facades – it just takes courage.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi

It’s that simple.

Tests in the New World – For Your Journey – Post 9 of 24

Remember the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy is almost to the Emerald City, where she will get help. While crossing the Field of Poppies she succumbs to a spell and falls asleep.

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We aren’t Dorothy crossing a field of poppies. Instead we ‘fall asleep’ watching reruns on TV or surfing the web. The surrounding comforts of our life lull us into complacency.

You must stay conscious for your journey. The tests in the new world are training to be alert.

Tests are not meant to support who we are but to remove the masks we are wearing.

The challenges ahead touch on areas we have protected and resisted changing. (Which is what makes it a ‘challenge’ to change.)

So if you catch yourself in a grouchy mood and grousing, “I don’t have to deal with this.” … ahhh you are in the right place.

An example of a test for me in the New World of being a widow: I wanted to learn how to play cello as a means of settling into this world with new rules. Here’s a description of the beginning lessons:

The muscles in my arms and hands are taxed holding the bow and cello, elbows pointed outward, the concentration of balancing and holding a bow against the strings, all the notes are in the bass clef (which I don’t read as easily as the treble clef), and fingering down the neck of the cello is going up in sound not down like on a piano (which I am accustomed to) and where to put your left hand fingers on the neck, there are no fret marks (like my guitar) and a fraction off either way is the wrong note … drawing the bow across the string with just the right pressure, keep the bow at the proper angle in both relation to the the strings AND the bow hairs on the string need to be at a certain angle … by the time I have done all this, my right hand that is holding the bow is cramping and I am being told by my teacher to hold the bow loosely, don’t grip AND to relax my shoulders.

I haven’t even played a note yet.

This doesn’t include carrying my music books and cello into the music shop. I sit with 6 kids waiting for their lesson.

I am 58 and I feel like an 8 year old.

Yes, this is an outer experience and the outer growth would be me playing beautiful music on my cello. For inner growth, I thought it would be ‘learning cello filled new gaps in my life.’

But the inner growth was ouchingly more. I had to recognize that I am set in my ways. I protect who I have become and I really don’t like not knowing how to do something – especially in front of someone. I struggle with the critical voice in me that is telling me I look and sound – clumsy and stupid.

Being conscious of the struggle, I can shed old preconceptions (mask) of who or what I should be at ‘my age’ and to dismiss a kind of confidence that cuts me off from learning. This is where I pass the ‘test.’ It’s not about playing cello.

My example, or whatever example you might have, is merely a test. An ordeal is coming that makes the test look like a warmup exercise.

But first in the New World there are classic characters to recognize; Mentors, Allies, Shapeshifters, Enemies, Shadows and of course, a Trickster.

To the Readers: As I write these posts, I must be engaged in my own internal journey or the blog becomes flat rhetoric. Writing another biography or having a teenager in the house again would be so much easier.

Crossing the Threshold – For Your Journey – Post 8 of 24

Propelled by various reasons, you have already crossed previous bridges in your life journey.
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We ventured forward because poverty nipped at our heels and pushed us across. We crossed because the needs of a loved one were deeper than the abyss of our insecurities. Maybe it was the drive to dispel a false family narrative that determined our decision to leave a world behind.

This crossing is different.

Look at your old maps. See the pattern? Old crossings were a reaction to circumstances.

A five year old, protecting his mother from an abusive father, is crossing the line of standing up to a parent. Brave for a child but will he ever know he can make a crossing without the impetus of fear?

It is a powerful choice to make your next crossing as a conscious decision without drama pushing you.

“You are being selfish.” “Don’t rock the boat.” “Just be happy with what you have.”

These are the excuses others use for why they aren’t crossing that threshold. They will cross only when ‘the shit hits the fan.’ And the crossing looks like this:
flooded-bridge

People who step out from the status quo and dare to continue their journey, in fiction they are called wizards:

dumbledore

Living an authentic life, being true to yourself is not magic. It is the hero’s journey we have been describing. Here are examples in real life:

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Prime Minister of Israel, President of the United States or “First Lady of the World” The scale of their influence – is different than ours but the point remains.

Crossing thresholds is a hero’s decision that results in a hero’s life.