I have two friends who are trying to do beautiful things in the world. One is an ardent environmentalist who really passionately yearns to save the biosphere and protect the planet. The other is a social worker serving abused, abandoned, neglected, traumatized children in a community where most people are hooked on meth. Both carry so much pain in their deeply empathic hearts that their own bodies are suffering. I worry that these two are killing themselves with those broken open, bleeding, service-oriented hearts. Yet, I see in them a painful pattern that leads to unnecessary suffering, one I recognize because I’m still in the process of breaking this pattern myself. Been there can tell going there how to get there. But it’s not easy. Breaking this kind of pattern is like trying to put an octopus to bed. The minute you get two arms tucked quietly under the covers, six more arms of the pattern sneak out!
What does it take to become more tender, open-hearted, and compassionate human beings in a world that trains us to judge, criticize, compare, blame, and shame? How does this evolutionary initiation happen, when one makes the journey from the head to the heart and the heart swells into actions that ease the suffering of others? What does it even mean to be compassionate?
Compassion and its compatriots—empathy, kindness, benevolence, gentleness, tenderness—they have a bad rap, suggesting weakness, passivity, becoming a doormat that other people can take advantage of. And yet, nothing is stronger—simultaneously fierce and feather gentle—than the open heart. Just look what a mother can call upon to protect her child when the child is in danger. Don’t mess with Mama Bear, and don’t mistake unconditional love for weakness. The ultimate strength lies in trusting that the heart can lay bare without getting trampled upon, not because there aren’t unkind people who can stomp across the raw, vulnerable parts of your heart with their dirty boots, but because YOU can become the fierce protector of your own heart without closing it or armoring it off. Because you’ve got your own back, love can flow through you unhindered as you bless the world simply with your presence.
Help me remember everything that comes through me comes from You, that none of it belongs to me, that it's not mine to control. Let me remember that I am of You and in You and connecting to the You in All That Is, but I am not in charge of how You flow through me. Remind me that You will help me bring into being that which yearns to be born, and You will put on the brakes when I get off track. Empower me to accept everything and resist nothing. Help me trust and let go and let You use me as a vessel of sacred service. Please use me to bless this world in whatever way is most aligned.
As I birth my new book The Anatomy of a Calling into the world today, please gently nudge me if I try to force my will instead of trusting Your will. Help me have faith in your plan without trying to enforce mine. Remind me that you will show me when to act and when to rest. Loosen the grasping in me so I can relax into the arms of Love that hold me always. Please help everyone in this world remember that we are all One, that we are made of love, that You are in all of us, and we are all one body, one heart. Let us be each others refuge. Ignite within us the Divine spark that lets You spray through the garden hoses of our bodies and hearts. Let us all trust that what we birth into the world will come into being as it is meant to so we don't have to cling to the outcomes we wish for.
We are all, every single one of us, heroes. Life is hard, and to live it fully and express your soul authentically requires the courage of a warrior and the softness, gentleness, and yielding flexibility of a goddess. In my spiritual self-help book dressed up as a memoir The Anatomy of a Calling, I use mythologist Joseph Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey as a map for finding and fulfilling your calling because when you’re embarking on something scary and risky, it helps to have a map. Of course, everyone’s map is unique, but there are well-traveled paths that all heroes before you have worn smooth through experience. So why not model your journey after Luke Skywalker, Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King, Jr.?
So what is a hero’s journey? Joseph Campbell described it best, first in his book A Hero with a Thousand Faces and then in The Power of Myth, a famous interview with Bill Moyer that aired on PBS. His teachings were translated into Hollywood gold via Christopher Vogler’sThe Writer’s Journey, which uses Campbell’s work to teach how to write a great screenplay or a bestselling novel. Influenced by Campbell’s work, George Lucas credits Campbell with the inspiration for Star Wars. Luke Skywalker follows the epic hero’s journey classically. But so do you, every time you say yes to your calling.