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Internationally-acclaimed yoga teacher Sianna Sherman became intrigued by mythology in her early 20s during her studies into shamanism, Celtic wisdom, and tantra. She says she realized that teachings of life are held within such stories, and that these can help us understand our own path. “The language of the soul is not linear, and through myth and metaphor we begin to realize our own life as an adventure. We begin to see within ourselves the potential to become heroes,” she says.
In her classes, Sianna teaches the hero or heroine’s journey brought to life by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Analyzing myths he uncovered that there are stages of any path that a hero takes—from the call to adventure to the final return. The hero’s journey is also a metaphor for the inner and outer transformation that our own lives can take when we have the courage to step away from what we have known. Whether that’s embarking on a path of yoga, undertaking a period of self-study, heading off on a physical journey, or even just approaching the day with a different attitude, when we study the hero’s journey we can begin to understand that the rites of passage are all the same.
“By choosing to be the hero of our own life we are refusing to be the victim. That means whatever we are facing we ask ourselves—how is this circumstance calling me to grow?”
The first question to ask ourselves at the beginning of any metaphorical journey says Sianna is: “Are we ready to become the hero/ine of our lives? Do we want to be all that we can be?” To help us decide, she suggests contemplating the areas for our lives where we feel stuck or stagnant. “In the first stage of our hero’s journey we usually feel something tugging at our hearts. We are called to leave behind the way we are living. Spirit is telling us it is time for growth, and for our adventure to begin, so what is holding us back?”
Once we make the decision to follow our hearts, doubt often creeps in, and there is a period of resistance that we have to overcome. It is here, Sianna says, that are able to pause and take a look at our deepest fears. We are then open to explore our resistance. Sianna says that at this time, a mentor or guide will usually appear who will encourage us to begin our journey—or perhaps it is even an inner guide that we hear strongly. When we surrender to that guidance it is then that our journey begins in earnest.
As is the way with all hero’s stories, we may soon after find ourselves tested. In our lives as a hero’s journey, those tests may be emotional or physical. We may have to choose to end relationships, to leave our homes, to change our career, or simply to let go of past habits and beliefs. We all have moments when we are faced with our old ways and an unknown path ahead.
In these moments, however, Sianna says we must remain empowered. “By choosing to be the hero of our own life we are refusing to be the victim. That means whatever we are facing we ask ourselves—how is this circumstance calling me to grow? What would happen if I moved forward?” She points to the metaphor of the hero that faces a dragon guarding a cave. While we think of the dragon as something to be afraid of, it is in fact our friend and ally—it guards our innermost treasure within the cave. It is only by turning to face what we have perceived to be fearful that we can reach this treasure.
When we turn our fears into an ally we realize our innate power. Power comes from opening our hearts, and having the courage to move through discomfort.
The Heart Cracks Open
Ultimately for any hero or heroine, there will come a time when we have to face our largest demon. In the myth that may be the monster or the mountain, but in our daily lives it is represented often by that which we fear most. Perhaps it is the loss of someone we love, or a debilitating illness. Perhaps it is being alone, or perhaps it is giving up the ego. With this confrontation of our deepest fear our hearts crack open and our old identities are ushered out.
We can become the heroes and heroines and archetypes that inspire us in every moment. We can come to see ourselves as part of a much larger myth.
“In the moment that we face our shadow, that darkest part of ourselves, our egos shatter, and now we are the point that defines us as a hero—do we seize the sword?” says Sianna. The sword is our authenticity. Do we step into who we truly are? If we do, she explains, a deep alchemical transformation occurs, and we begin to cultivate our mastery. In our new identity we can return back to where we started, to share the gifts we have received for the betterment of all.
Sianna says contemplating our lives as a hero’s journey makes our own personal stories magical. We can become the heroes and heroines and archetypes that inspire us in every moment. We can come to see ourselves as part of a much larger myth. “Every day, in every moment we are on this journey, and how the hero shows up for every test determines if he/she is a hero,” says Sianna. “When we think about our lives in this way, then we are reminded to view every moment of our lives as a chance for transformation so ask yourself today—why am I resisting being the powerful servant of love that I can be?”
Sianna suggests the following contemplation based on the hero’s journey:
Think of a hero or heroine that you are inspired by, either in a myth or in the real world. What are the attributes that you admire in this hero? What are the challenges they face in their mythic journey? Allow this hero to inspire you from within your own journey.
Call upon the strengths within yourself and be willing to name your fears in an honest way. In doing so, you can stop resisting them, and bring the light of awareness into your life to open up doorways of insight and growth. Remember that every obstacle can be turned into an opportunity, every poison churned into nectar, and every stuck wall can open up into a gracious doorway of new emergence. Truly, you are the hero of your own life!
Helen Avery is a senior writer for Wanderlust Media. She is also a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, minister, and full-time dog walker of Millie, residing in Brooklyn, New York. You can find out more about her on her website, Life as Love.