This blog post is an essay that forms part of the material in a Web Course from the Hero’s Journey Foundation, called Walking In Two Worlds.
Ally – defined - a person that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity.
Synchronicity – defined – the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
The Mystery of Commitment
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do,
Or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
Power and magic in it.
When one is able to make a wholehearted commitment to one’s soul journey, as the most essential and heroic task one has for their lifetime, then something mysterious and profound begins to take place. Goethe was a late 18th century German writer, artist, biologist, and theoretical physicist, whose expertise and influence spanned a great many subject areas. He expresses his wisdom in the passage above.
The moment one commits one’s self, then Providence moves too. When our heart’s desire acts in alignment with God’s will, our authentic lives begin to be supported both from within and from without. We have a sense of being provided for; as well being able to provide what is needed for ourselves. We have a sense of resourcefulness.
Joseph Campbell said that we have to just take that one step towards the gods, and they take ten steps towards us. The unseen world needs our embodied actions, on behalf of the highest good of life, and so cooperates with our actions, when they are in service of this aim.
So a basic truth is this: when we step forward with wholehearted intent towards our soul’s deepest calling, things get moving. Goethe and Campbell reference this from an action-based, masculine, yang energy perspective. We take that decisive step forward, extending ourselves beyond the familiar and into the unknown, and we find that the universe is also extending itself towards us. We go forth, propelled outward – towards the world, and we trust the process of life to support us as we do.
There is also another level of commitment that needs to take place, which may be less obvious – but no less challenging. It is an inward step, a deep surrendering within to what will come. It is an inner undoing, as opposed to the outer doing, of the hero. Here is Rumi, describes this deep level of letting go, so that we can learn to let Providence come to us:
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.
Rumi encourages us to enter this state of being positively, letting go completely of our individual will long enough, and fully enough, for grace to enter us and carry us forward. This is a deep level of surrender that we are usually reluctant to enter; thus we only find our way here in extreme ordeals or circumstances.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
Again, more honesty, humility, and surrender is required. Being lost, undone, we have no perspective or vision, like the mouse. Admitting we can’t sense the beauty of divine grace and Providence even as it approaches us. But once it is very close to us, if we don’t see it, or say ‘No’ to the possibility of grace coming to us, we are beheaded – locked up in our heads, ensnared in hostile projections and judging states, and cut off from our hearts. This indeed shuts tight the window the opens us to spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
In the authenticity of deep inner surrender, the ego is certain of nothing; the will is surrendered to whatever comes. We can be sure only of our own embodied presence, in whatever state we are in, and of our vulnerable, willing heart. This is the very condition that brings forth the compassionate minds and able bodies of allies. This also elicits the same merciful (and often intriguing) response from the unseen world of spirit, surprising us with synchronistic happenings from beyond.
At our deepest surrender point, we can finally open ourselves to the help that wants to come, and open ourselves to be led and guided, balancing against the ways we must courageously step forward and make our own way. As Rumi says, when we have totally surrendered to that beauty, we shall become a mighty kindness. These are beautifully balanced words – mighty – present with all our might, strong and full, and yet kind – gentle, tender and nurturing. Here, we become an embodiment of the zeal of eternity for a full and meaningful incarnation in space and time.
“You know, the jackass doesn’t have much sensibility.
But even he gains spirit from the company of his own kind.
But when the jackass crosses the desert alone,
how many more blows it takes to get him there.
Now, this is what this poem says to you:
If you’re not a jackass, don’t cross the desert alone!”
An ally, from our mythic journeying perspective, is a particular kind of helper.
He or she is one that is capable of being in it with us. They are the ones who can stand beside us, as they have the knowledge of similarly lived-through experiences. They are the ones who are able to understand the richness and the complexity of the mythic adventure.
An Ally is also someone who is able to have a differing perspective from our own, which we will need as we journey through life. They are individuated people, clearly differentiated from us, yet also identified with us, and with our journeying ways.
Here is another essential task for the hero, the task of discernment, as he or she embraces their way of mythic adventure. One must be able to learn the difference between doing things FOR one’s self, and doing things BY one’s self. Many of us assume these two matters to be the same. Of course, it is of the utmost importance, if one is to become the hero of one’s own life, that one act wholeheartedly on behalf of those matters, which bring one towards being fully alive. No one else can do that for us.
Yet we can’t afford to confuse this vital way of living with selfishness, because it is in fact the very opposite of self-centered ways. The meaning and vitality the hero receives by being true to their own path is precisely what is needed, so that he or she has what it takes to be able to give of their aliveness to others. This is what true service is about, which goes beyond the charity of one’s actions.
However, it is foolish and prideful to think that one can make one’s way solely on one’s own. We all need helpers. Many of us have justifiable reasons why we resist or refuse help from others. Most of this reasoning is a defense against the vulnerability of opening, and learning to accept that powers greater than ourselves can lead us, restore us, and ultimately, transform us.
When I undertook the painstaking ordeal of intensive studying for my state’s psychology licensing exam, while also having a full-time psychotherapy practice, I began asking for help wherever I could get it. My mother, sister and close friends provided me with meals; I didn’t have to cook for myself even once in the four months of studying. People took care of mundane details for me. Friends ran my errands, family helped out with caring for my daughter. I went to New York City to take a prep course, a kind of help I typically would have viewed as unnecessary. I had numerous people tell me they were praying for my success. I was provided a suite in a religious convent, where I studied for long periods of time with no distractions. I was deeply moved by these constant gestures, and I am once again, as I recall them.
Over the four-month period, an inner transformation began to take place: I no longer resisted certain topics I had dreaded, like inferential statistics; I actually took up an interest in learning them. I followed the advice of the prep course, and took regularly scheduled mini-tests. A sustained focus and intensity developed; I began to get energy from my effort. One day I became aware that my old fear of failing had fallen away. Passing or failing the examination no longer defined me. The fear was simply not there – it was somehow gone, faded into the background of something larger.
One day it struck me that I had already passed the real test – the one of self-acceptance, no matter the outcome. I was deeply contented by the realization that I had allies who could rally in a big and extended way for me when I needed them. Passing the licensing exam took on this new and larger perspective, and I relaxed. There was no more dread of failing, and having to do it all over again. I was no longer concerned about taking the exam, or receiving the results. If I had to choose between my allies and a license, there was no question which one meant more to me. In the end, I happened to pass the exam, but more importantly, it was more a celebration of how much I was cared for, which mattered much more to me that my own performance.
“Synchronicity as a term explains nothing, it simply formulates the occurrence of meaningful coincidences which, in themselves, are chance happenings, but are so improbable that we must assume them to be based on some kind of principle, or one some property of the empirical world.”
- Carl Jung
Synchronicity is that unignorable thing that rivets our attention in the present moment. It brings something that was deep in the background of our awareness suddenly to the foreground. It is an indicator that something wants us to be paying attention, and that mysterious forces are at play. This feeds our sense of adventure, provides us with a moment of ‘swing’, one that can propel us forth on our journey. It is something that has an intangible origin point, coming that other world, and brings something forward in this world for us to glimpse, as a kind of guidepost. Synchronistic happenings are like sudden turns in the road; they can change the focus and direction of our journey in an instant.
To summarize, synchronicity is that which both captures our attention, and also causes us to pay more attention to an unseen track that is there, waiting for us. Synchronicity helps support one of the primary functions of myth, which is to pull us forward in life, and onto that very track that is meant for us. Joseph Campbell emphasized this dynamic repeatedly in his teaching:
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
- Joseph Campbell
Redefining Heroism: To Be in Alliance with One’s Highest and Best Self
Each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself…His task was to discover his own destiny – not an arbitrary one – and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.
- Herman Hesse, Demian
In the Implicate Order, the totality of existence is enfolded within each ‘fragment’ of space and time – whether it be a single object, thought or event. Thus everything in the universe affects everything else because they are all part of the same unbroken whole.
- David Bohm
Ultimately, synchronicity helps to guide us towards an alignment with our highest and best purpose in life. We learn to say “YES” to our own largeness, our own potential, and to line up wholeheartedly with this aim. It is an alignment with our full commitment to the journey that is meant only for us, and to the one journey that will take us, and pull us forward. This is an essential and consciously repeated internal action step that must be undertaken by anyone who seeks to be the hero of their own life. Here is a prayer for
“On my own mythic adventure, let the exact circumstances and opportunities come to me that will inevitably bring forth the highest and best self within me.”
“All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.”
- Carlos Castenada
Just go with it. You cannot be fixed in how you’re going about it any more that you would be fixed if you were setting about to paint a great work of art. Be alert; be self-aware, so that when opportunity presents itself, you can actually rise to it.
- David Bohm
When we are open to being helped by people that matter to us, and when we can feel carried by unseen forces, we enter into the way of beauty. Our willingness to be in alliance with others provides us with a sense of being intimately loved and cared for through meaningful companioning.
Accompanied by journey companions, and deeply struck from time to time by uncanny and improbable occurrences, we begin to cultivate the ‘extra-ordinary attention of the spirit-warrior’, as described by Carlos Castenada. We are on alert, being self-aware, so that when opportunity presents itself, and our ‘cubic centimeter of chance’ appears in front of our eyes, we are ready for it, and can act decisively.
As we prepare to face adventures and confront ordeals, the heroic aspect of our nature must practice two things: active waiting and decisive acting. When we learn to wait with alert attention, with one foot in the world of daily routine, and one foot in the realm of mystery and adventure, we must be ready and be patient. We are patient because in our hearts we know that it is inevitable that the gods will give us chances. Our unique opportunity to step towards largeness will come.
And when it comes, we must be able to act decisively. To say yes to the adventure, and accept that it will turn into an ordeal at some moment. And in that moment of challenge, when we find our authentic and vital response to the ordeal, we have become contributors to living. This is modern day heroism, and we are all called to play the part we were born for, no matter how we’ve played it to date. Today could be the day your window of opportunity opens. Or perhaps tomorrow.
Remember, that which you are seeking, is also seeking you.
- Michael Mervosh