In Week 10 of Incarnate, I teach on this stage of the Hero's Journey: The Road Back. The dynamics of this stage are, in a nutshell: the Hero has had a significant, transforming experience in an adventure. He or she is now on a road back home, with significant treasure: lessons learned, a pot of gold, the Arkenstone. In the spiritual life, this might mean a new identity realized, a forgiveness issue resolved, healing, or a gift emerging.
The Enemy is not happy. In fact, he, she or they are in a rage that the treasure has been stolen back, and do everything in their power to stop the Hero. Think Han Solo, rescuing Princess Leia, and the Empire striking back...
This is another life-and-death challenge as the Hero returns to the Ordinary World from
which he/she came. Can the Hero fend off the enemies again, and hold onto the treasure? Can the lessons learned in the Special World be
applied in the Ordinary World? Has the Hero truly been transformed, or
has he/she just had an incredible experience?
And so we teach our students these dynamics, and how to return home well. Over several days of teaching and debriefing, we teach them how to tell the stories, how to move on, re-integrate, and hold on to breakthroughs gained in their time at Incarnate.
Did they really change? Time will tell. Did we as staff?!
For anyone who thinks this is easier with experience, let me share a few moments of re-entry shock with you. I've learned all sorts of tricks over the years, and can usually navigate the disorientation of changing cultures. Usually. This was not one of those times...
Incident with the Soap Suds: using dish liquid instead of dishwashing detergent; coming home from a walk to a kitchen filled with soap suds.
Epilogue: finding the dish liquid in the refrigerator.
Incident with the Checkbook: writing a check for someone at the office with just the month on the date line. Correcting it--with the year "2015."
Epilogue: leaving the checkbook in the office and not finding it for several days. (Although I never missed it...)
Driving: forgetting that the red lights are overhead, not to your right. Discovering all the little glitchy stuff that is wrong with your car now, and where you put the spare set of keys.
Incident in the Produce Aisle: finding myself paralyzed in the produce department, trying to remember a routine that suddenly escaped me: put keys away, exchange sunglasses for reading glasses, pull up the iphone shopping list and navigate with the cart at the same time...nice young man staring at me with deep sympathy..."Can I help you, Ma'am?"
I am, as a friend would say, flummoxed.
The Road Back for me personally has been a test to clear my mind of so much stimulation, relationship and creativity. To clear my spirit and re-connect with God in a different routine. To walk out the spiritual lessons I learned, without the community I adapted to holding me accountable.
It's figuring out the new washing machines in the multiplex, the new gas pump, the new tax form, and and what the best ant-killer is.
To work differently: at home, to keep stimulation to a minimum, and deciding what projects I need to focus on now that Incarnate is finished.
To remember Guiseppi's not cooking anymore, and every meal time that comes around means I better figure out what I want to eat! But I can return to a diet that doesn't sap my energy.
To sort through the winter clothes for storage, the summer clothes I now need, and what to give away.
It's learning to let go of new friendships that now must go virtual, and renew flesh-and-blood ones here. But maybe those friends have moved on, or been relocated....
It's frustrating and feeling stupid a lot, and angry that you have to go through this; then laughing at soap suds, and smiling as you pore over photos, remembering, and loving being in your own bed again, with no springs poking you, and having a shower whose head doesn't detach from the wall to flail you and soak the bathroom.
It's privacy and quiet and big, weak American coffee. And in spite of all the inner chaos, it's a little too neat and tidy in America. And too task-oriented.
But I/We have two more stages to go: Resurrection and Return with the Elixir.