A Path of Becoming: The Hero's Journey by Karen Sheldon (YTT Cohort 2)

Carl Jung once said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”  Wrapped up in this little nugget is the essence of The Hero’s Journey; a path of becoming.  This ‘becoming” is often evaluated in today’s society by the outward demonstration of growth or stagnancy, success or failure, doing or not doing.  The external pursuit of reward and recognition, and the avoidance of rebuke, is what so often drives and guides the journey. In this instance the focus is on the external world. 

But there is another way. Practicing yoga encourages an inward focus.  Turning our attention to what is happening within the body/mind, using the breath, developing awareness; going down and through instead of up and out.  This alternative direction of attention can cause us to reconsider our hero’s journey. No longer are we overcome by comparison to the achievements of others and the expectations of the world.  Instead we can begin to hear the longings of our self. We begin to sense our beingness, moving incrementally towards Self. 

Participating in yoga teacher training is part of this hero’s journey for me.  I can reflect back on the times of other great transition in my life; my parents divorce, finishing high school and starting college, ending important relationships, ending college, pursuing and leaving different jobs.  These points in my life on my personal journey shaped me not only from the external circumstances, but the internal messages as well.   

This training spoke to my desire to do the job I do [counseling] in a way that is the most Karen it can be done.  Sure, counseling can be done on a couch with thought provoking art; but it can also be done giving power to the client to develop knowledge and ownership of themselves: to walk side by side in nature and allow the external and internal balance out.   As an authentic and effective therapist, I must bring myself to session. To bring myself to session I must know who that is, and understand that Karen is still and will be changing. 

Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who studied The Hero’s Journey across many different cultures, once spoke about following one’s bliss. The bliss I sought when I was young was creative expression through art and theater.   Moving into college the bliss I followed was to learn and grow and prepare to win at life’s external terms. When I married this was still the bliss, adding in the desire to keep a partner happy. Then my hero self-became a mom and suddenly my bliss was not so clear.  How does one maintain creative expression, succeed in life’s external terms, keeping a partner happy and NOW shaping other people to identify, know, and follow THEIR bliss? AHHHH! 

Here I must recalibrate.  Perhaps this is the “edge state” where we come face to face with the unknown whilst on our path. This is the point in the journey when the way forward is called into question.  I look back and assess, “What is it that I have been doing?” “ Is this how I want to move forward?” “Is this how I want my children to move forward?” I can identify a number of edge states that shifted my attention and intention.  It has been tempting to follow the journey of others, those who seemingly have it under control and are leading the way. But this is not the true hero’s journey.  We must accept the influence of those teachers and mentors and understand when their teachings have made their mark and we are ready to take or leave what they have shared.  For me this has been my parents and grandparents, friends, teachers (in the literal sense). And the challenges have been present too, in the form of mean girls and popular kids in school, attempts to change who I am and how I carry myself in this world. 

Yoga teacher training supports my ability to trust myself.  To know who I am and what I want no matter the messages that surround me.  Yoga gives me language, peace, and confidence to stand in my truth know that it is only mine alone. I stand uncertain of what dragons lie within me.  Some I have already encountered and the battle to slay them is no ‘one and done’ scenario. “Following my bliss,” even in its vague form gives me direction and bravery to face other dragons that I may not have met yet.  It sounds naïve to say, “I’ve got this”, but perhaps the intention of that phrase is more like Moulin Rouge – “Come what may…”.   

I don’t yet know where this journey will take me, but carrying an understanding of what has unfolded behind me, a long with a sense of awareness and fortitude for what lies ahead, I feel confident that the tools I’ve developed from my yoga practice have set me on a path that creates ease in the present, and also a foundation for later.

Which brings to mind this quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.” -Omar Mestri 


Hilary Buckwalter Kesti