As I finished my presentation and made my way out of the auditorium, an eighth-grader approached me.
"My parents are going through a messy divorce, so I can relate to all of this pretty well. I thought you might like this," he said, handing me a piece of paper. "It's called the Rules for Being Human, but after listening to you today, it could just as easily be called the Rules for Being a Hero. Thanks for coming today. You put everything in perspective." I opened the folded paper and read the following:
Ten Rules for Being Human
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day of this school, you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error and experimentation. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as are the experiments that ultimately work.
4. A lesson is repeated until it's learned. A lesson will present itself to you in various forms until you have learned. When you have mastered the lesson, then you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better place than "Here." When your "There" has become "Here," you will simply obtain another "There" that will again look better than "Here."
7. Others are simply a mirror of yourself. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and the resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie inside of you. The answers to all of life's questions lie inside of you. All you need do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all of this.
—Chérie Carter-Scott A Time to Remember
At the same moment that I smelled an aroma of burning sage and cedar, a loud clap of thunder filled my ears. I was about to introduce Michael, a revered Lakota elder, to the conference participants who had assembled to study the art and science of complementary medicine. Michael looked at me and smiled. We both knew the power of offering cedar to cleanse and balance, and we also knew the healing power of thunder. In the time-honored tradition of seeking the sacred wisdom to be shared, on behalf of the entire group I presented to Michael a pouch of tobacco, which he graciously accepted. As I extended my hand in gratitude, I thought of Joseph Campbell, who had embarked on his journey to explore mythology through a similar encounter with a native elder when he was a teenager.
Michael began his eloquent talk with a mythical story of creation, about the spider spirit who weaved a world of creation around the planet earth. Then he spoke of the four directions, the four colors, the four totem animals, and the symbolic meaning that wove all of these aspects together. Once again, the power of myth was resurrected.
"We tell these stories so that we don't forget who we are or why we are here, so we don't forget our sacredness. All life is sacred," he said. "Unfortunately, there are many who have forgotten, even those from my own tribe. I come to honor the sacred hoop and share this wisdom because now is a time for all planetary citizens to remember who we are and why we are here." His comments were punctuated by loud claps of thunder. "The spirits are speaking," he said. "Their voice is a clarion call to remember."
Of course, sometimes we do forget or, worse, fail to listen to the words that keep us on course. This is known as "falling asleep on the spiritual path." Drifting off course may initially seem a bit liberating, but as the winds of change pick up, the emotional barometric pressure begins to increase to a point where feeling lost overcomes feelings of self-reliance, and hope begins to turn to despair. As the clouds move in, a bleak moment attempts to lure us into the dark night of the soul. This, too, is part of the Hero's Journey.
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