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This photograph an obvious product of photo shop, symbolizes most of the process of THE INITIATION in the heroic journey. The idea about “no fear” is typically not accurate – although we all wish it were so. For successful initiations, we eventually have to learn to discern helpful fear from unhelpful fear and not allowing that fear to stop us from progressing on our life journey.
During the full-day seminars on the heroic journey, I ask people to share what they most noticed about the photograph. What do you most notice?
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If you noticed it was a child riding a bike with training wheels on a rollercoaster, you might be connecting with the utter sense of vulnerability she may be experiencing. Training wheels often indicate being a beginner or just learning. The good news, it is universal that we may feel some discomfort, doubts, vulnerability, sense of not yet knowing when we hit our life initiations. The news some people don’t like is: we never outgrow it…even as we enter the latter stages of our life.
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Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike with training wheels? You may have over-steered, screamed a little, eventually laughed and became more comfortable as you adapted. Then maybe an adult had you take the next step of no training wheels. Did you over-steer, have a controlled crash and squeal? Or did someone help you feel a bit safer as they held onto your bike seat or jogged nearby acting as extra protection? Eventually, you may have become fearless with your bike-riding. Someone shared a story with me about riding her bike down a steep hill with her younger brother on her shoulders and they BOTH held their arms out as they rode down that steep hill – “look, no hands!” Maybe you leaped ditches or jumped hills or rode down steps. The unsure child with training wheels was long gone and the adventurous bike rider was revealed.
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What is it you are learning right now? Feeling unsure? Maybe even feeling like screaming out of fear? Or feeling no control? Is it true? Partially true? Do you believe you will come through this current challenge or transition?
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When you return to the photograph, did you notice that she is wearing a helmet? A helmet symbolizes protection. What protects you as you go through new experiences or transitions? Some things that often act as protection are: our ability to self-soothe in ways that are not destructive; breathing from our belly; past challenging experiences which taught you to be creative, adaptable, open to learning some new skill or asking for help. Maybe your faith tradition provides you with strength or a group of people had/or have your back. Was it has been a class or activity, like exercise, that helped? You probably also notice that a helmet is not enough protection for what she is going to face and that represents that we rarely start a journey where we have everything we will need. Part of the initiation is to think out of the box, pay attention to new choices and opportunities, trusting our judgment and others to provide some assistance. We can all pick up new skills and insights on the journey. Life looks a bit different from the angle of the rollercoaster.
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Did you notice the narrow track under her? Even though she will not have to pedal down the first hill, she will have to stay focused. The initiation is a dangerous opportunity for transformation and if we are not paying attention, being present with the task at hand and not looking so far ahead that you get freaked out by what is coming, the journey will be easier…maybe at times exhilarating!
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After the child goes down that first hill successfully, the momentum will carry her partway up the next hill…but not the whole way. This is when we have to recommit…over and over to the journey. Whether we have to recommit to a new way of life of exercise, or remaining clean and sober, or taking your medication, or attending a group, or trying again when you seemed to have failed or living through another day of grieving when you simply wish to give up at times…well, that is what begins to reveal the hero within. It develops our character and strengthens our resilience muscles. And, it is through this process that we eventually learn to make meaning out of the struggle.
Eventually, this part of the ride will be over and we move to the next part of the journey. The Great Ride teaches us a lot about who we are and what we are truly capable of.
When you think back over your own life:
Identify a time of great challenge that you eventually came through.
What was your self-talk when you were in the midst of the challenge (i.e. – “I can’t do this.” “Life is so unfair.” “This is going to kill me.” “I have the capacity to make it through this, even when I don’t feel like it is so.”)
What internal qualities do you possess that helped you to get through that time? (i.e. – tenacity, stubbornness, curiosity, healthy self-soothing, your spiritual trust, ability to see the best of the situation, to reach out)
What external factors do you possess that helped you to get through that time? (i.e. – specific people…name them, a book, a class, medication, therapy, rituals)
Was there anyone or anything which threatened to delay you or sabotage your success? (i.e. – an irrational person, your negative belief that you are unworthy or a failure) How did you make it through that?
What did you learn from that challenge? Do you have any proclamations? (i.e. – “Everything happens for a reason.” “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” “What I feared was mostly an illusion.”)
What do your answers to the above questions indicate about how you will come through future challenges?
Note: if you like your answer to the last question, savor it. If you don’t like your answer, then how do you wish to do it differently? What would help you do that?
So, the next time you are on the Great Ride of an initiation on your journey, remember this photo and the lessons from the photo. Or, what would be a good symbol for you, rather than a rollercoaster?