“It is precisely the god-like in ourselves that we are ambivalent about, fascinated by and fearful of, motivated to and defensive against. This is one aspect of the basic human predicament, that we are simultaneously worms and gods.” –Abraham Maslow
Welcome to the Hero Initiate series. The central conceit of this series is that we all have a hero buried somewhere within us. For most of us this hero lies dormant, expressionless and cut off from the world. To be initiated into our hero identity we must descend into the dark depths of our unconscious. Therein lay the key elements of our heroic destiny.
We, the hero initiates, discover our hidden hero through an inner journey broken up into four stages inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. This article covers the first stage: the encounter with the Inner-Herald.
Joseph Campbell referred to it as the Call to Adventure. Nietzsche called it the will to power. Anthropologist Arnold van Gennep posited that the rites of passage founded in all cultures begins with the Separation Stage. Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls it the Beginning Initiation. Bill Plotkin refers to it as the Descent into Soul. But renowned poet Rainer Maria Rilke may have said it best, writing, “sinking back into the source of everything,” and “going out onto your heart as onto a vast plain.”
We all hear the call to adventure in some form or another. Some of us choose to listen to it, while most of us refuse it. Or worse, we suppress it. Either way it is there singing its fluted truth. It can arrive spontaneously, as a blunder, or as a lucky break. It can arrive through super-serendipity, as a chance occurrence, or a cruel twist of fate. It can come through new life, or through unexpected death, or both. It can come from a book, a song, or even a movie. There are countless places that the call to adventure can come from. The key is to be open and adaptable.
But where is this “calling” coming from? Who, if anyone, is behind the bullhorn? It’s arguable that it comes from deep within us; from a primordial place that is still in touch and in tune with the greater forces that connect all things. The archetype we’ll use to describe it is that of the Inner Herald. The Inner herald is our hidden messenger, our innermost voice, our soul-whisperer. He, or she, is our gut instinct personified, warning us of danger and revealing to us the path toward our true vocation.
But in order to hear it we must first be able to listen. We must have a mind open enough to comprehend it. Otherwise it just goes in one ear and out the other; or from one dead place to another, which is perhaps a big reason why so many people go through their lives without ever listening to their own personal call to adventure.
One way to grow “ears” powerful enough to listen is to meditate, especially on the Vishuddha chakra, or throat chakra, located at the back of the neck.
With the purification of the Vishuddha chakra, deep listening becomes an essential skill. By listening with conscious intent, deep knowing arises; and through deep knowing, a deeper being results. Our highest expression becomes manifest. We are then free to “say what we mean and mean what we say.”
In between commitment and doubt, our Inner Herald reveals a place where we are free to be creative. Tapping into this creative space is the essence to heeding the call. This is where we are free to grow, to stretch comfort zones, to shatter mental paradigms, and to think outside of whatever box was preventing us from tapping into our authentic creativity. In this space there is no true self. There is no fixed essence. There is only momentary self-awareness.
The best way to learn about it is to play with it; like a kindergartner in a sandbox full of infinity. In a lot of ways our inner herald is our inner child, eternally curious and ready to take on all sandboxes. As Bertrand Russell wrote, “Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant.” And so the future becomes more pleasant, and even the unpleasant pain experienced with transitioning into heroism becomes less unpleasant.
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