The Story of Inner Transformation
The great stories cherished by humanity contain the essence of life. The most unforgettable stories are those that express the deepest pains and longings of the human heart. We read and watch these stories to connect to ourselves, to feel what is hiding behind the masks of everyday life. We long for this kind of stories because they take us back to the Heart
Literary scholars have recognized that most classical stories have a certain sequence of events. Joseph Campbell called it the “Hero’s Journey.” This sequence expresses the journey and the transformation of the human soul, which is made visible in the reality of space and time throughout the story.
The Stages of the Journey
It is worth taking a look at the “Hero’s Journey,” since it is the journey of every human being. Below, I describe the stages of this journey, inspired by the Joseph Campbell archetype:
- THE ORDINARY WORLD: We are born human. It is beautiful and it hurts. We are involved in a constant search for happiness. There is a deep fear and longing inside of us. We try to figure out what we really want from life.
- THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: The pain and the longing in our hearts become more intense. We hear the inner call. We have an intuition that there is another kind of life: fuller and truer. But we don’t know how to get there.
- REFUSAL OF THE CALL: We are afraid. We oscillate between the longing for a new life and the fear of the unknown.
- MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: We find a teacher. It can be an external teacher or our own intuition. We see the direction to go.
- CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: We make the decision. We leave the ordinary world and take a step into the unknown.
- TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES: We taste the beauty of the new world. We meet other people with the same calling. Trials come and we learn how to face them.
- APPROACH: The calling grows in us. We have a feeling of a mission, a task. We go through a process of purification. We prepare ourselves to accomplish this task.
- THE ORDEAL: We face our biggest fears, our deepest wounds. We die inside and a new life is born from this death.
- THE REWARD: Now our whole lives have a different taste. We have found an inner treasure. We see the world with new eyes.
- THE ROAD BACK: We want to share this treasure with our loved ones, to bring it home. We undertake this journey.
- THE RESURRECTION: This is the highest purification. The deepest transformation. The final death and rebirth.
- RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: We are in possession of a treasure that has the power to transform the world and our lives become a mission to share it with others.
This “Hero’s Journey” pattern, found through research on the structure of classical stories, is also a beautiful description of the spiritual adventure. It is encouraging to know that we all go through the same process, even if our individual paths are different. It can also be helpful to figure out which stage of the journey we are in right now. Is it the right time for retreat, withdrawal, and healing our wounds? Or, maybe there is a calling to dive into samsara and share our treasure with our family and friends.
Life cannot be reduced to any strict pattern; some stages can appear in a different order or can be repeated several times. However, the observation of human lives shows that the process of inner transformation contains all the steps mentioned in the “Hero’s Journey.” The calling to enter a specific phase in our spiritual evolution appears in the heart when the right time comes. We can follow it or we can resist it. Whatever we choose, the pain will be part of our path. We cannot really avoid it until the final liberation. If we resist the calling, we can stay blocked on one stage for years. If we follow it and embrace the experience with all its pain and beauty, we become heroes undertaking the journey into the Kingdom of the Heart: the most surprising and fulfilling adventure of our lives.
Beata is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all her posts here.