The Hero’s Journey: Stage 1
Updated: May 16, 2019
Separation: Responding to the Call; Crossing the Threshold...
Long ago and far away, I felt a Calling to study how things were interconnected. It was at a time in my life when Everything seemed like it was unraveling. My marriage was falling apart, my spiritual community had questionable ideals, my job as a teacher was not very satisfactory anymore. I didn’t know Who I was, Where I was going, or Who I was going with. I was filled with a deep anxiety that I didn’t know how to address.
So after about a year of research, I decided to enroll in a Master of Humanities program at a local university in Denver. I connected with the head of the art department there, who was to become one of the most profound guiding teachers of my life—Charles Moone. Right before I was scheduled to begin an independent study course with him, I injured myself badly in a sledding accident. Since I couldn’t meet with him in person, he told me to draw a self-portrait. I took a photograph of myself, divided it into lots of little squares, and drew each square, skewing each horizontal line in a way that made me look fragmented by the time I finished. And I was—fragmented—although I didn’t know the extent to which that would play out in my life, until later.
When we finally met in person, Charles told me I was not really going to be engaged in a Master’s program. He said I was on a Vision Quest…and that the direction I was to go in would continue to present itself along with way. I just needed to Pay Attention to Everything.
Truly, I was embarking on an heroic journey—the kind Joseph Campbell talks about in his books and lectures—The Power of Myth, Hero with a Thousand Faces, Pathways to Bliss. I remember being captivated as I read about all the stages of the journey, the heroic figures that had embarked on it, the guides they had met, and the transformation they had experienced.
At the time, I didn’t know I was looking for my Bright Star, which was, in reality, waiting for me to find it. And over the course of time with Charles as my guide, I would gather wisdom, find clarity and peace of mind, and experience transformation at a level I had not anticipated.
Let me tell you about the first of the three stages of the Hero’s Journey in this blog. It is often referred to as Endings. See if you recognize a time in your life when you have experienced something similar.
Stage 1: Separation: Answering the Call; Crossing the Threshold
In this beginning stage, Something happens that separates us from the comfortable definition of life as we have known it: a loss, an illness, a major shift in life, an Ending of something we have known. As a result, we can no longer look at life in the same way.
Somewhere, in this disorientation of things, we might experience a Calling. It is often accompanied by a feeling of yearning, a resonance about something that is undefined, but that beckons to us. If we respond to that Calling, we cross over a Threshold. It’s a choice we make, impelled as we are, to move toward that Something that we don’t understand yet.
That thing that we are moving toward is our Bright Star.
If we respond to the invitation of the Call and decide to cross the Threshold, we enter into the second stage of the Hero’s Journey: Initiation: Tests and Trials. Sounds a bit tricky, I know, but I will tell you more about that in the next blog.
In the meantime, here are a couple of things that can help you find validation for the courageous journey we all undergo as heroes in our own lives.
First, a lovely quote from W. H. Murray about the guidance and gifts that can emerge from committing to the Hero’s Journey. It’s what my professor told me would happen, if I paid Attention to Everything:
“Until one is committed, there is a 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 not 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 would have dreamed would come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’”
W.H. Murray, in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951
And second, a couple of writing prompts to help you begin to negotiate this stage of the heroic journey.
1) In what way does the concept of Separation, Calling and Thresholds resonate for you? How does it feel to contemplate taking the leap on the first part of this journey?
2) Write a list of all the things you need to release. Keep in mind that some of the old ways may have served you well at one time but are no longer helpful. Writing a list is a great choice if you are feeling rushed or emotionally overstretched. Write until the list feels complete. Write below the list any insights or feelings that come up. Keep this list in a handy place. You may later decide to add more to the list. On the other hand, you may decide that some items may not be left behind; you may choose to carry them into the next stage of your journey.
And please contact me too.
It’s good to have support when you embark on this kind of journey.
Cyncie Winter’s practice has been honed by decades of having traveled along life’s paths herself. She brings a warm, intuitive, and compassionate approach, to help others create their lives as a work of heart. Weaving together her skills as a therapist, life coach,
and creativity coach, she provides integrated guidance to support and empower personal direction, find balance and clarity, to enhance heartfelt vision and purpose.