Joseph Campbell, mythology scholar and teacher who articulated and popularized “the hero’s journey,” was one of my professors.
He taught me that myth doesn’t exist for the sake of entertainment; rather, it restores us back into being, renewing our sense of place, purpose, and aliveness. Like any tribal elder, he taught through restorative tales, born of the immediate landscape of place, our modern Western world and its absence of a healing mythology that roots us into something larger than ourselves.
We are telling our stories (personal mythologies) on Facebook, following one another through the village of humanity on Twitter, and glimpsing the deep heart of our collective soul through symbol, image, music, and the spoken word on Instagram, Pinterest, iTunes, and Youtube. We don’t live on the earth anymore; we live in suspended space, a virtual borderland. Every day, we click, post, and respond with the single goal of being seen, witnessed, and recognized in a world that has lost its story of origination and its rootedness in the spiritual soil that could grow us into our true magnificence. Instead, we are using our stories to hitchhike a ride back to our beauty, significance, and power in the flashing celebrity lights of our “daily feed.”
How can you use the power of myth right now to reconnect to your spirit, feel like magic is afoot, and be filled with a sense of your magnificence in a way that no material accomplishment could possibly offer?
Let’s start first with the definition.
MYTHOS: a tale, story, or narrative possessing a significant truth or meaning for a particular person, culture, society or group.
Carl Jung believed it is important that you get in touch with your personal myth, as it reflects the deeply unconscious aspects of your personal psychology.
What is your personal myth? What story are you telling yourself about who you are, your relationships with others, your work, your lover(s), your worth and/or your beauty? Your likes and dislikes?
Did you grow up poor and make a decision that you would never have “enough,” and now feel short of time, cash, love, and what you truly desire?
Or were you abandoned and made a decision that no one is trustworthy, that you leave people before they leave you, and now you suffer a chronic sense of loneliness?
What if you tell yourself a new story? Remember, what you think affects how you feel and how you act in the world. If you tell yourself you will never have enough, you’re right – you won’t. If you tell yourself that you will always be alone, I bet you will achieve that, too. That is how powerful your personal mythology is. What you focus on, you will find evidence of everywhere.
Einstein said “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” All deep change comes from making a new decision, creating a new story, and using your imagination to make it happen.
What was Buddha doing under the Bodhi Tree when he gained enlightenment? He was imagining a new story as the ghosts, dogs, and demons of his old personal myth bombarded him. His enlightenment came when he surrendered to the new story. What wasn’t true at its core (the false negative core beliefs about himself and the world) disappeared. He become one with his Buddha nature.
Your personal mythology lived without awareness is a straightjacket on the soul trapping you under the Bodhi Tree with no spiritual resolution. When you make decisions out of a story that may be old or no longer relevant, you are imprisoned by a value system that belongs to someone or something else, even if that someone is an older version of yourself. The ghosts, dogs, and demons of your suffering have become the authors of your life.
Your deep desires get pushed to the side or outright forgotten. These can be heard as the voices coming from the margins of your life – the outer edges of your awareness. Like that piano class that “someday” you’ll find time to do or the dream career that never gets hatched, what “conversation” do you keep meaning to have that will alter the course of a relationship?
Take action in the real world. Just for today, play with your storyline.
If you turn right to go to work, turn left. Find a new path. If you drink coffee black, drink tea with honey. Long pants? Wear shorts or a skirt, or experiment with a different style or fabric. What comes alive in you as you do so? Is your world getting bigger as you listen to once silenced possibilities? More magical as you disidentify with your current identity and shapeshift into another?
For every choice you’ve made, there is a choice you didn’t make, a life left unlived. Investigate that life unlived through the mini-choices you make throughout your day, and see what happens. Let yourself drift into a new story. You may just discover a new destiny.
In psyche and spirit,