Anxiety ~ a message from your spirit, calling for change?
Through my own life experience, and witnessing the experiences of my clients, anxiety isn’t just some random affliction. I have seen time and again that it is really a desperate plea for change from your body/mind/spirit. The journey out of anxiety, into inner peace beckons to you in every day situations. It’s not an enticing journey you naturally want to take. It is fraught with danger and the unknown. It is a hero’s journey.
Change is hard. Just like a lobster will not shed it’s old shell and grow a new one until the old one gets uncomfortable – as long as life is working well enough, human beings resist change. When life gets uncomfortable, and the old patterns and habits no longer work for us, it is a sign that old ways must be shed.
“Tragedy is an unfinished comedy.”
― Joseph Campbell
Feeling lost, unfulfilled, anxious, depressed, disillusioned, bitter, or alone are the siren calls of the spirit within, beckoning us toward change, healing, growth, and rebirth.
I like to think of the difficulties in life as an invitation to enter the “hero’s journey”, as Joseph Campbell so wonderfully outlines in his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”. There is much to be gained in facing our challenges with the view of ourselves as a hero, like the many who have journeyed before us.
The stages of the hero’s journey are found in every myth, fairy tale, and religion known to humanity. They also show up in modern movies, books and plays.
- The Call – we either heed the call and willingly begin the journey, or we are dragged kicking and screaming into the belly of the whale after refusing to heed the call many times. Either way, the journey begins as we step over the threshold of the familiar, into the territory of change and the unknown.
- Supernatural Aid – once we have heeded the call – said ‘yes’ to the journey, there is often an appearance of a protector that provides aid of some sort to help us through the journey. I have inevitably found that once I make the conscious decision to face a problem, the universe presents me with inspiration, and help in the form of books, movies, supportive friends, conversations, teachers or other guides to aid in my quest. It’s as if my internal ‘yes’ sets off a series of events that confirm and strengthen me in my decision. After all, we are sovereign beings, and although there may be armies of helpers ready and waiting to aid us, unless and until we ask, they cannot act.
- Guardian of the Threshold – There are boundaries and limits to our existence, some set by society, some set by our own fears. Once we dare to cross over those boundaries, we come face to face with our deepest fears. In dreams and myths, these fears are portrayed as an ogre or watchman – encountered at the threshold of our known world. We must battle or somehow trick this gatekeeper to gain access to the unknown world beyond. Many turn around at this point, preferring the familiar.
- The Belly of the Whale – This is the famed ‘dark night of the soul’ that St. John of the Cross talks about. All hope is lost, there is no trace of light at the end of the tunnel. All is chaos and confusion and turmoil. Many stories around the world contain this image of the womb of transformation. Every seed must go through chaos and annihilation before it can burst forth as a new seedling.
- Trials and Testing – Simply put, the ego-self is on trial here. This is the stage at which we must peel away the layers of hurt, trauma, fear, false beliefs, defence mechanisms and learned patterns of behaviour that no longer serve us. Our job here is to work with each emotionally charged situation or memory that comes up for processing, so all that no longer serves us is dissolved, transcended or transmuted in the fire of our conscious awareness. Relationship issues will be the major theme during this stage – whether with others or with oneself. After all, it is in relationships that we are forged for good or ill, and it is through relationships that we must do our healing. If the hero stays the course through this stage, there often appears a helper, or the supernatural aid which came earlier will help them through all the trials.
- Transformation and Atonement – The whole purpose of the period of trial is the attainment of “the divine state …… beyond the last terrors of ignorance.” (Campbell, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces 2008, p. 127) The ultimate transformation of the ego self allows us to be free of fear and sense of separation. We become whole again, returned to a state of inner freedom and peace. It is a remembering of the divine self that we really are. “When the envelopment of consciousness has been annihilated, then he becomes free of all fear, beyond the reach of change.” (Pranja-Paramita-Hridaya Sutra) This letting go of the ego-self is what allows the atonement (at-one-ment) to happen.
- The Return – After having successfully won the battle against inner demons, and transmuted and transformed the ego self, the hero (heroin) is commissioned to return to the world with her healing balm of self knowledge, strength, inner peace and clarity. She is to stand as an example, and bring renewal and inspiration to her community, nation, and planet.
“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth.”
I hope you can take some comfort in thinking of yourself as an everyday hero. Each time you choose to face life’s difficulties with the intention of transforming them, you enter the hero’s journey. The stages I’ve described above are like sign posts on your path. Know that for the hero, the hard parts of the journey are not permanent states, and you are never alone!
Run forward, the way will spring open to you
Be destroyed, you’ll be flooded with life
Humble yourself, you’ll grow greater than the world
Yourself will be revealed to you, without you.
– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi