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Spirituality as a Call to Adventure
Have you ever been called to an Adventure of Transformation? By design, an inner longing, a travel experience, a yoga class, a book, a life-changing life-event, or by a spiritual bug … ?
Why you were called is not important. What is important is that you have been called, and now you are going through transformation, like it or not. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s not how you envisioned it? If it’s not what you envisioned then, the sages say, you are on the right path.
But is there a path (paths are many, they also say)? And if not a path, a matrix or a template for us to follow? Or is it just that the gods, the divine powers at hand, have left us unattended on this journey?
Let me share the matrix which speaks to me, and which I discovered years ago while reading one of the most influential spiritual books I have ever encountered, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it he outlines, step by step, the spiritual transformation from a mythological point of view.
To embark on Adventure, to change your life, and to change your view of your life, you must first hear a Call to Adventure. Imagine yourself living your life as it is: you’re not too happy, not too unhappy, sure things could be better and, yes, nothing really makes sense to you but nothing is bad enough to make a change … when suddenly, out of the blue, you hear a Call to Adventure.
This may manifest as a feeling of discontent at ‘what is’, and is often heralded by a person/trigger/event which symbolises dark forces ‘judged evil by the world’ but which, ultimately, will become a necessary element for transformation.
The Call to Adventure can be frightening, as it asks us to look at things we have refused to look at within us or which are considered ‘evil’ by people around us, who also judge such things as dangerous and a threat to the status quo of our lives.
This happened to me when I left my marriage and job (a job which I hated) to go to Asia. It happened again when I was pulled by a force greater than myself and my ego’s desire for a steady academic job to travel to Jerusalem with two men who believed they had discovered the house and tomb of Jesus!
But fear not! The moment you are pulled into a Call to Adventure, there is always a herald, someone who tells you that your journey is possible, although the herald doesn’t promise riches or fame — just a journey that will completely transform you. The herald might be a ‘dark’ or ‘dangerous’ figure, a radical teacher, a travelling companion, or someone else who captivates your soul for a moment and makes you believe that yes, change is possible.
In Eat, Pray, Love, it was Elizabeth Gilbert’s lover (a practitioner of Yoga) who ignited her interest in spirituality and their turbulent relationship was one of the reasons which pushed her to leave New York on her spiritual journey.
For me it was the stranger who appeared in my life with the offer of going to Jerusalem (with much drama).
Once you accept the Call to Adventure, in due time comes the Initiation.
What is the Initiation?
Is it some golden liquid of instant happiness poured over us or — even better (writer speaking here) — an instant bestseller based on your adventure (as happened to Elizabeth Gilbert)?
Well, not necessarily, Campbell says. It is a ‘road of trials’.
And what are the trials? They are the start of the transformation from thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here in an ashram when I could be earning a decent living being … ? Fill in the blank space the way my evil alter-ego does so well now!’
We are asked to undergo a total transformation, where every preconception about ourselves and what is important in life, as well as what we have believed until now is going to be challenged – until all (or at least the main illusions) are dispelled, and our individual ego is prepared to merge withthe divine will.
This is what Campbell calls the Ultimate Boon. You are given a vision of the divine, of yourself and the world as a divine product. But, unfortunately, this Ultimate Boon doesn’t come without a crisis of some sort.
But here again we’re not alone, as on the road of trials there is always a ‘helper’ — someone who eases the pain and helps us to make sense of our new, truer vision of the Cosmos. And we finally have a vision of the Cosmos rather than a meaningless Chaos.
For me, in Jerusalem, it was one of my travelling companions (an older man, Martin), and now it is my partner Shamir.
For Gilbert, it was also a number of people, beginning with a Balinese shaman Ketut. In mythical terms, it is often a familiar figure with unusual wisdom whom we have previously overlooked.
Once the vision of the Cosmos, Unity, the Grace, Divinity, is experienced, the hero of the story (you) often refuses to return to the world. For example, we may want to permanently move into an ashram and be with a guru as happened to Paul Brunton in A Search in Secret India during which he met a great spiritual teacher, Ramana Maharshi.
But guess what? The next stage comes and it is called ‘the Return’. The Return is a part of the Adventure. We are pulled out of the ashram, monastery, our great romance, great travel experience, great sex by some unexpected external event — and are forced back to the world.
Why? Because this is where the real work begins. Now we need to unify our two worlds, inner and outer. Now we have to return to our responsibilities, our talents, to the circumstances where nothing has changed yet everything has changed.
The circumstances might not have changed greatly but we are transformed and now have the tools to deal with our life and possibly to transform it or use these circumstances as tools for Transformation.
And this is where the confusion often lies. A spiritual Call to Adventure does not necessarily mean we will become rich and famous and impact positively on a million people. It only means that we are utterly transformed, even if no one notices. This is the hard truth about spiritual journeys. They are always about you and your connection to that great energy some call ‘God’.
So what is the point, we may ask? Why bother at all? Why not just refuse the Call to Adventure and keep things as they are; that is, vaguely unhappy but comfortable enough?
Because Campbell and other sages say this is our way to evolution. This is our collective way to evolution as beings, as a species, and we are the only ones who can trigger, personally and collectively, this transformation. There is only one choice: between evolution and devolution. Holding on to what is energetically impossible and goes against the way of the entire Universe.
So yes, we can say ‘no’ — but why would we?
The Adventure awaits.
(And if you are interested in my road of trials, there is always my book, Jerusalem Diary that you can check out :).
As always, I love your comments 🙂
Sending Love, Joanna
Dr Joanna Kujawa