Return With The Elixir ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 21

Returning with an elixir, a potion that transforms, is portrayed as magical.

Without a flying horse, a hero’s ‘Return With The Elixir’ looks like this:

Transformed by a tour of duty, the soldier carries the Elixir of Responsibility. The magic potion bottle is the war medal tucked in his top dresser drawer. This symbol of courage reminds him every day of integrity and sacrifice for his family, friends and colleagues.

When a hero embodies the sacred vows “I do,” the Elixir of Love is a gift of security. The potion bottle is the wedding ring, symbolic to everyone of devotion and commitment.

Transformed by grief, a hero brings an Elixir of Grace. This gift of guidance sweeps away bitterness and shows the village a path forward. Mementos of a lock of hair, old photo or worn tee shirt are powerful potions.

Charles Dickens makes classic the Elixir of Generosity in his story, “A Christmas Carol.”

Scrooge waking up (literally and figuratively), rises from the ashes of his cheap and churlish ways, on Christmas morning.

Buying the fat turkey for the family dinner, Scrooge demonstrates his transformation and brings The Elixir of Generosity home. If Scrooge tried to return with the elixir by telling everyone he was generous they would add ‘phony’ to their list of character flaws for him.

The transformation is from effort.

The timeless appeal of Scrooge is … his story relays a truth we know.
With no sprinkle of fairy dust, no twirling wand, no mysterious incantation, like Scrooge, we can transform.

Fictional portrayals of magic, summoning energy in order to transform, are attempts to reveal the greatest story of all time:

The real magic is our awakening to the realization that our transformation is based on summoning our own energy.

We don’t need a genie.

Yes. It’s amazing.

And there is still a couple more things:

So we return to our village feeling the duality of our quest. We are singular entities each on our own journey and yet, we are part of the village. And in any village in the world, we share with everyone the fact that we are each on a quest of living.
Recognizing this shared spiritual blood with all people, the duality is dropped.
Mightier magic than any Merlin is the impact of understanding what the prophets have been trying to tell us – we are one.

And finally –
We return to the village to encourage those with ears to hear truth not evasion, eyes to see courage not excuses, and hearts yearning to experience The Quest of Living. We tell them, “Go.”


Photo Credit: Julius Gwyer, http://www.thephotographic.com

Note to Readers: As we come to a close on this series, it has been more than a pleasure to have this means of bringing home ‘The Elixir of Courage’ to a village of readers.   

Before I write a final wrap up post, I invite you to email me (Ann@AnnAtkins.com) if there is a particular comment or question you would like for me to address.

Yes – I will be writing another series, so stay tuned. In the mean time you might enjoy the stories of noble courage in any of the three biographies I wrote: Eleanor Roosevelt ~ Unleashed, Golda Meir ~ True Grit, Marie Curie ~ A Nobel Life. (Available on Amazon or here on my website)

Resurrection ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 20 of 24

The Phoenix – destroyed by fire, rises up from the ashes.
A hero is reborn in the stage of Resurrection.

Moving beyond the Ordeal and Rewards, the Resurrection occurs on The Road Back. We must, once again, defy death.

Hollywood has the hero, looking sexy in spite of the sweat, using his new rewards to overcome this final assault.

Voila! The Resurrection occurs.

Stepping out of big screen glamour and into real life there is no “Voila!” The death scene on The Road Back looks like this:

A whistle-blower, with his reward of Integrity, survives the Ordeal of being fired. On The Road Back he finds divorce papers are on the kitchen table. His wife wants status and money more than their marriage. Will he rise up in a new self with his reward of Integrity?

A soldier, surviving the Ordeal of war, returns home with the reward of Courage to find the status quo has changed. A doting wife and adoring children have become independent. Will he rise with Courage to accept his family? Or was that just for his troops?

A parent survives the Ordeal of addiction. On The Road Back she is hit with the attitude of her child. “So what. Where were you the last 15 years of my life?” Will the parent use the reward of Self Reflection for this harsh reality?

When our thought, “The worst is over.” echoes back, “Think again,” The Road Back catches us unaware and shatters any remaining expectations of what life ‘should’ be.

When our posing persona turns to ashes, it won’t look cinema sexy. There is no inspiring theme song that ensures a happy ending. There is no applause.

I know a woman. This is one chapter in her epic journey:

Torn from her Ordinary World, to the sterile beeps and white walls of a hospital where she battled the enemy, breast cancer. She learned the characters of this new world; nurses, doctors, lab techs, with their shots, tests, and treatments, all while enduring hairloss chemotherapy. She survived the Ordeal and the rewards of fierce strength, wisdom, and perspective were hers. On the Road Back she faced a death blow. Her husband was having an affair.

Did she use her rewards and resurrect?

Yes.

The nobleness of her life will not be recorded on camera. Her story is not splashed on a big screen. Social media doesn’t know to make it viral. But she certainly earned this tee shirt:

Real life Resurrections are often behind closed doors. There isn’t an audience to bear witness.

It doesn’t matter if anyone else knows. The power is in the fact that we know our own story.

Once again we recognize that we can’t control events or the people around us. The only choice is to ask, “Who am I?”

When the answer is to use our rewards and rise up from the death blow, the imagery of a rising mystical Phoenix becomes real. It is here we become authentic.

We are the Phoenix.

A final thought:
If our recent Ordeal was self inflicted with poor decisions, then Threshold Guardians will be hawking their Guilt, Shame, and Reproach. Rising up with our Rewards will include the grace of our own forgiveness.

A final final thought:
Movies and fairy tales push the story forward by showing the effect of the resurrection as a singular moment.
It’s possible some people can integrate the Resurrection in one awesome ‘aha.’
I don’t.
Yes, there is the ‘aha’ but seeing the effect, the integration of weaving the thread of that decision into the fabric of my life … takes time.

Now we come to the final stage – “Return with the Elixir”

The Road Back ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 19 of 24

“And they lived happily ever after.”

Not yet.

Our response for the Call to Adventure brought us out of our Ordinary World. We crossed Thresholds and met Guardians, Tricksters and Mentors. Searching The Innermost Cave and surviving The Ordeal, we have claimed our Rewards.

And we know The Road Back will not be this smooth …


The Ordinary World did not become perfect while we were away. The neurosis, flaws, habits, desires or addictions (our own or others’) having abated for a time, now recur with a vengeance.

“The Road Back” could mean you choose to attend the family Christmas gathering, stay with your spouse, or return to your job. Maybe your road back is not drinking at the next party. These are the real episodes in our lives for The Road Back.

Family, friends and coworkers may not want the ‘new’ you.
Who will be the butt of their jokes if you are sober?
Who will shoulder their anger if you quit the role of appeaser?
Who will be their crutch if you follow your own dreams and ambitions?

The exhilaration of overcoming the ordeal must be used for refueling, without derailing, our momentum in our quest for living.

The mind, with its manic mental rehashing, finds distractions. We pause to chat with others along the way.

We ask: “How’s your journey going?”
They answer:
“We aren’t even home yet.”
“Why did we even bother?”
“Was it really worth it?
We ask: “What’s your names?”
They answer:
“Despair.”
“Cynicism.”
“Bitterness.”
We rush back to continue on our road.
(Yes, this is metaphor. The real answers come from Aunt Betty or your work colleague.)

Up ahead we see someone giving drinks to travelers. The sign says “Free Refills.”

We know nothing is free.

We see others drink from her bucket of self pity.

We hear her name, Self Righteousness.

We face the truth and turn away.


(Ancient statue commemorating the Goddess of Self Righteousness)

Resisting new responses, our old mindset offers us another tactic. Revenge.
“Take the advantage you have won and expose the backstabber.”
“Take a swipe at the betrayer, she deserves it.”
“Take down the coworker who caused you all that pain.”

Except we can’t take both Revenge and Rewards.

Revenge and Self Righteousness avoid this truth: To take their easy answer we must drop our Rewards.

Drop our Rewards and our lives becomes pointless because we just dropped the ‘point.’

We will keep our Rewards and move forward on “The Road Back.”

Seize The Reward ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 18 of 24

After surviving the Ordeal …
The fog lifts, we see the reward.

In a fairy tale or movie scene, the dissipating fog is more than mystic effect. The clearing away symbolizes the inner abating of pain. Our dashed expectations give way to seeing the reward.

The reward can be a sword, a magic potion, a key or a witch’s broom. For now we will talk about the sword as a symbol of the reward.

Cutting through layers of protection in an opponent is the outer purpose of a sword. As an inner symbol, the sword cuts through the facades in the characters around us. The reward is the ability to see clearly, clairvoyance.

Swords are heavy. To use a sword you must be strong. The inner strength it takes to wield a sword can only come from the exercise of self – realization.

Which leads to … a sword, real or symbolic, must be used in order to have an effect. Mounted over the hearth of our home or heart, it is useless. A sword’s value is experiential.

Do we have a sword? Or do our rewards from past Ordeals look more like this: a diploma, a clock or a medal.

ann2

Unable to recognize the greater achievements of their characters; Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion portray oblivious innocence and provide comic relief for their journey in the land of Oz.

Not so funny in real life.

With no clairvoyance we cling to another melancholy verse of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Shy of the power that comes with self realization, we stick with false humility and the “Ahh shucks” attitude.

Using the rewards of the sword cuts through the crap.

Using the rewards of the sword cuts to a deeper realization.

No one gives us inner rewards. We must take it.

Any Wizard of Oz in our life will be out of a job.

It’s the scene where the hero claims, “I am taking what is mine.”

Ahhhh. Here is the defining moment that creates a paradigm shift for our Self.

Seizing this final reward, even your sword won’t be needed any more.

There’s a reason this ultimate reward is called The Holy Grail.

The reward, an Epiphany, is when we grasp who we truly are. We take what is ours.

The glory of our existence is being the only creature able to consciously evolve. We human beings have the choice to take being human as far as we can.

Nobody can give this realization to us.

Only through the journey do we acquire the Epiphany… again and again and again.

Bringing us the paradox of the proverb:

“The reward is the journey.”

Defying the Ordeal ~ The Quest of Living ~ 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.
burghers2

An Ordeal alters the course of our lives. We aren’t sure we will ever live, laugh, or love again.
burgher1

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.
burghers7

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.”

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

Facing the Enemy ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 16 of 24

This enemy …
darthvader
Or this …
wickedwitch
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 ~ The Quest of Living ~ 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 ~ The Quest of Living ~ Post 14 of 24

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

A trickster, like Robin Hood, wins by wits not brawn.
robinhood
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.
1-eleanor-votes-1960
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.
~~~~~~~
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 ~ The Quest of Living ~ 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.

peterpan1

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 ~ The Quest of Living ~ 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 …
snowwhite1
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.