The Hero’s Journey

Posted on: June 13th, 2013
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So, I’ve been watching a lot of superhero movies lately and thinking this has something to do with yoga. Here’s what I’ve come to…

One of the most recognizable structures in movies, particularly with superheroes, is Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.”

Campbell’s life work could be summarized with three words: “Follow your bliss,” and it revealed that from Buddha to Jesus to Star Wars to Batman to cultures completely untouched from one another, the enduring myths we tell are strikingly similar. The Hero’s Journey, it seems, is the human journey, and i’m starting to see it might also be the yogic journey.

  • The call to adventure is your calling to yoga. The pain or curiosity or purpose that drew you to the practice.
  • The supernatural aid is the practice itself, the asanas and meditations passed down from generations of yogis that have cited countless seemingly magical benefits of regular practice. Pattabhi Jois would say “do your daily yoga and all is coming.”
  • Your helper in the beginning is the yoga instructor, who may even become a mentor over time.
  • The challenges and temptations come in the form of worrying about the past or future, comparing, competing, being distracted by the senses or otherwise losing your focus and presence throughout the practice.
  • Your second helper as you go deeper into practice is your breath. Moving from gross to subtle, from external to internal. You become your teacher.
  • Revelations may or may not happen, some classes are more intense than others, but if you are fully engaged in the experience you are sure to leave class a changed person.
  • The death and rebirth may happen when your mind becomes completely silent. and you remember that you are not your thoughts, that you are a spiritual being having a human experience.
  • The true gift of practice begins once you’ve rolled up your mat and returned to ‘the real world’. Who will you be, how will you engage from this new perspective. What have you brought back to your life from your adventure on the yoga mat?

This is the story of our lives. Each time we practice yoga and experience this process we become stronger and resilient both on and off the mat. The natural cycles of death and rebirth no longer bind us, and we learn to trust our callings, to follow our bliss and be willing to surrender to something greater than ourselves. Joseph Campbell would say that a fulfilling life is one Hero’s Journey after another. Hollywood might say it’s one superhero blockbuster after another.

My conclusion is that these stories we pay millions of dollars to create and enjoy exist for more than entertainment, and they fulfill a deeply human need. Hearing, seeing, experiencing fantastic stories about following your bliss and surviving all the ups and downs of life serves as a reminder of our own Hero’s Journeys. We keep telling the stories of Jesus, Buddha, princes and princesses because they are our stories. Should you ever forget, these stories remind you and inspire you. My experience is that yoga can take it a step further and gives you a direct experience of this process.

Yoga can remind you that you are the hero of life you are living, and your unique skills and talents are your superpowers. The traumas you’ve overcome, the successes you’ve enjoyed are all part of being human. Your Hero’s Journey is happening now and you need look no further than your relationships, your family, your career, your finances, your yoga practice and ask yourself…

Are you following your bliss?

Furthermore, we have not even to risk the journey alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

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