These past four years have a been a whirlwind of change, sadness, and joy. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible to learn (isn’t that the case when we learn something about someone we didn’t really know that well to begin with?). Last week for a paper in my Integrative Seminar class for my graduate school program I found myself writing what was a story about how I arrived at this place and moment in time. I couldn’t resist sharing my paper as a reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go.
I know this is the journey that never actually ends (cue sappy music and Ralph Waldo Emerson quote), “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
A Foreword to PCC (Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness) Hero’s Journey
When searching for inspiration for my PCC Journey paper and presentation I requested guidance from my trusty “Magical Mermaids and Dolphins” tarot card iPhone application. The card I pulled (more so touched since it is on an iPhone) pictured a mermaid reaching out of the water with the title, “Have Faith,” the card went on to say that this was a “precious time for you and your dreams.” This seemed an apt way of describing the journey of my calling to and in the PCC program and also how a Hero’s Journey begins — with a call to adventure and a lot of faith.
The writer, lecturer, and mythologist Joseph Campbell spent most of his life discovering the magic of myth and dissecting its value in the everyday experience. As humans we appear to have an unconscious draw to fantasy that Campbell explains in Myths to Live By as “like moths caught in its allure” of light invoking within us an innate curiosity about the world we inhabit and its meaning. My second semester in PCC I took a summer course about Campbell and wrote a paper comparing the Hero’s Journey with my favorite childhood movie, The Neverending Story.
I realize now that the time leading up to and in the PCC program has been a majestic mono-myth I couldn’t possibly have produced on my own. It has been a stunning, co-creation with the entire cosmos and all of my fellow classmates. The journey has been filled with confusion, joy, frustration, and love – lots of love. Looking back now it would only be perfect to know that the three years I will spend in PCC have also corresponded to the main years of my Saturn Return, from ages 28 to 31. This time is considered to be a sacred time for integrating parts of ourselves we haven’t paid attention to or releasing past patterns that no longer serve us. I have plans to complete a thesis this summer and fall and then graduate in spring 2013. On this day, while I tell the story of my journey – I know it isn’t over, and my true intellectual and spiritual quest is only just beginning.
According to Campbell, the Hero’s Journey consists of many stages within three main parts: the separation, initiation, and return. While I have certainly separated from my family of origin and begun my initiation, I can’t help but feel I still have a ways to go for completing this round of my journey. I feel confident in my return knowing I have PCC as my tribe, chosen family, and my home away from home. And with that being said, a PCC Hero’s Journey commences…(names of course have been changed to protect my – I mean their privacy)
Call to Adventure
Our story begins with a quirky young maiden named Betty staring out the window of her beautiful office at City Hall. She has worked there as a public relations person for almost four years. However, the past few months she hasn’t been working much at all. Instead she spends most of her time emailing her best friend (they both hold well-paying positions for the same government entity), texting the guy she has been seeing for quite some time (was he her boyfriend, she didn’t quite know), and planning her next vacation abroad. Life is good she thinks – I have money, love, and friendship. She lets out a sigh and can’t help but notice that something still seems to be missing.
Moments later she suddenly stands up from her long mahogany desk and walks right into her boss’s office dramatically announcing, “It’s time for me to leave.”
Her boss Sandra barely glances up from her glasses, “Yes, Betty, I know. I’ve been waiting for you to say this for years.”
“Oh,” says Betty, “so you aren’t going to ask me to stay?”
“No, it’s time for you to go, you don’t belong here and we both know it.”
And with that they negotiated Betty’s last day in six weeks where she would walk away from a lucrative, by many standards well-respected career, and enter the unknown. She didn’t know what she was chasing or where she was going, she just knew something was pulling her forward. Later Betty met her parents for dinner later where she told them the news.
“You’re crazy,” said her father, “why would you leave such a great job?”
“What are you going to do next?” asked her mother, obviously worried about daughter’s future.
Refusal of the Call
“Things will be fine Mom and Dad, I’ll figure something out,” Betty reassured them.
But she wasn’t so sure herself. What was I doing? Where was I going? What have I done? In her anxiety she headed over to her “boyfriend’s” house to tell him the news. Upon arriving and greeting him, she couldn’t help but noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring. He looked at her with tears in his eyes and said he was married and hadn’t been wearing his ring since his wife had been out of town for quite some time. Devastated Betty left his house and wandered into a park near her apartment. Everything was falling apart. The next day she frantically began applying for jobs so she had a plan once her job ended. She emailed her best friend to set up a dinner date to tell her all about her breakup and that she had finally quit her job. As she rushed into dinner that night she could tell Marie just wasn’t herself and that something was wrong.
“Betty, I don’t think we should be friends anymore,” Marie whispered.
They had been fighting a lot lately, but after 12 years of friendship they had learned to weather their storms and disagreements with ease.
“I don’t understand Marie, what’s wrong,” asked Betty. Marie explained she felt they were growing apart and headed down very different paths. Marie had a new boyfriend and believed Betty didn’t like him or that having both of them in her life at the same time wasn’t possible. Betty left the restaurant feeling hopeless; she had lost both her best friend and boyfriend within two days and would be unemployed within a few months. Things didn’t seem like they could get any worse, and then they miraculously got better…momentarily.
A week later she received a call to work for a film festival that was looking for a new publicist. She accepted a job with the and looked forward to her new position, which paid less, but sounded much more glamorous. But before she headed back to work she had an adventure before her…complete with living at an ashram and going to China! (My blog has plenty of posts about these experiences and while they were a formative part of my journey, I don’t feel the need for any in-depth journeying in this post or paper.)
Within months Betty found herself exhausted from working 70 hours a week. Something had to change; she was exhausted and right back where she left off with her last job only with an addiction to watching films, without a fancy office, and being able to brag about meeting several B-list celebrities.
Fed up and disheartened Betty agreed to speak to a Vedic astrologer (a very expensive one she might add) recommended to her by a friend. She wanted to know what to do with her life and why her future seemed doomed to failure. Even though she didn’t believe in “that sort of thing” Betty was desperate for answers even if they came from a guy who read the stars. During the session the astrologer explained she had a tough road ahead of her, but that she would reap amazing rewards. The most important thing he said was that she go back to school as soon as possible to study philosophy or psychology in a city near the ocean.
Once the session was over Betty began a simple Google search on philosophy and theology (she had after all had lived at an ashram and wanted to continue along on her spiritual quest). She found an interesting school called the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco that claimed a commitment to “Higher education honoring the spiritual dimension of life.” Betty was intrigued and decided the next step was to bring it to her naturopath along with a list of other schools and programs to find out her truth through muscle testing.
For years Betty found muscle testing to be a great way for her to get out of her head when making decisions. Her naturopath had helped her resolve many questions in this way and at her next appointment it was confirmed without a doubt that moving to San Francisco and attending the PCC program was the best possible place she could go.
Betty began filling out the PCC application the next day, she couldn’t help it once she wanted something she couldn’t help but start working on it right away. Skipping ahead several months, to keep this Hero’s Journey moving, Betty was accepted and excited to start planning her future in San Francisco or Man Francisco as she liked to call it. She was dating a great guy who was headed off on his own adventure into the Peace Corps and that seemed to be the only thing keeping her in Colorado. It was particularly difficult to say goodbye to him, but she knew it was for the best. Something amazing was in the works and she couldn’t wait to get started!
Belly of the Whale
With her departure date creeping up, nothing seemed to be coming together for her move out West. The truck rental wasn’t working out and the whole thing began to seem like a bad idea. She was a mess and thought maybe she just shouldn’t go. To make matters worse all of her insecurities began creeping in…SF was full of bright, creative people and Betty doubted she would ever fit in.
The idea of a life somewhere else with new people and new adventures was scary and yet also motivating. She knew it was time go so she packed up and started her drive out to the ocean side city with one of her closest friends Stacy and a Penske truck (Sean Penske as she named it).
Road of Trials
It was a long drive and Utah seemed to last forever (I think it actually does), once reaching Nevada they decided to stop in Las Vegas to celebrate and take a break. Stacy was excited to gamble and go party, but Betty couldn’t seem to get herself out of the fetal position on the hotel bed. She had just left her family, friends, and community for a city filled with strangers. Betty didn’t want to party or have fun, she wanted to weep and feel sorrow for the life she left behind.
The next morning they continued on with Betty in better spirits, taking pictures at all the state signs with their shirts off and listening to Betty’s terrible taste in music. Finally after 24 hours as truck drivers, Stacy and Betty arrived at Betty’s new place in San Francisco. And then just like that Stacy flew back to Colorado and left Betty alone in her quiet apartment. Betty knew in that moment that things would never be the same; she missed her family and wanted to go back to the way things were before with Marie, with her job, and even with a lying boyfriend. But it was too late. She couldn’t go back, only move forward in her tiny, dark apartment in Man Francisco with a major cockroach problem.
Meeting with the Goddess
It was a very lonely first few months filled with lots of online TV shows and crying at photos of her friends on Facebook. Then one day a friendly classmate, Kendra, invited her to a music show and bit by bit Betty started spending more time with other people and less time alone. She continued making friends and finding connections that felt based on a depth of authenticity never experienced before. Betty’s new community was filled with sharp-minded and soft-hearted human beings unlike any she had ever met. She couldn’t help but feel she had finally found her people — a tribe to call her own.
And then, just when it seemed Betty’s life was coming together again there appeared familiar patterns that threatened to take her off her path. She was meeting lots of guys and seemed to have a date almost every day of the week. It was fun having an entire city of new men, but deep down she knew they weren’t a good investment of her time. She was up to something big and they didn’t really seem to care. Even more so the men Betty was coming into contact with only perpetuated a cycle of inauthenticity and the avoidance of the intimacy she really craved. These guys couldn’t offer her anything worthwhile except a distraction from herself and greater purpose. So slowly and surely they all disappeared out of Betty’s life sometimes by choice and other times by chance. It was a sad process to say farewell to someone she thought she wanted, but a voice inside of her reminded her to move forward and do the work she set out to do.
Atonement with the Father/Mother
Unfortunately, some of the work turned out to be more painful than she was expecting. According to several of Betty’s friends this initiation, or individuation process as they called it, included coming face-to-face with the parts of herself that she avoided – especially when it came to the relationship with her parents. Living in the same city with them it was easy to be unconscious of the ways in which Betty related to them.
Heeding a friend’s advice, Betty started seeing a therapist and reading lots of depth psychology books…it seemed like the California thing to do. The process of separating emotionally from her family and facing her shadow head on frightens Betty. To this day it takes days for her to recover after a therapy session and at times the work seems never ending. The process is lonely and exhausting and Betty sometimes wishes she had never even started.
And yet there are moments Betty catches a glimpse of the woman she wants to become and all seems well in the world. This powerful woman is unrecognizable to her. She is kind and deeply rooted within herself. She loves herself and others for all of the complexity of their being and is capable of deep intimacy and authenticity. This future self pulls Betty forward in difficult times and reminds her that all of this exertion is for a greater good and that one day she will understand why it has been so difficult. So Betty continues to buy silly books with titles such as How to be an Adult or Surviving the Saturn Return, because she is excited to meet this woman who has been patiently waiting for her to finish the rest of her Hero’s Journey. A journey she knows wouldn’t have been possible without PCC.