By Kathryn Hayward, MD
A few years ago, I was facilitating a group of medical students in a self-reflection exercise. After sharing, listening, weeping and hugging, we stood in a circle and pressed the palms of our hands together and brought them to our hearts. I looked deeply into the eyes of each student in the circle and said, “Namaste. The light in me sees the light in you. The sacred in me sees the sacred in you.” One student’s eyes suddenly brimmed with tears of mirth. “It takes one to know one.” Our somber circle erupted in gales of laughter.
We crave the sort of affection those students felt. We want to feel connected to one another. And at the same time, as we saw in last week´s blog post, there are forces that cause us to make enemies faster than we can kill them, to separate instead of connect.
From these forces emerge epic stories that have universal appeal. Since the seventh Star Wars film opened a few days ago, I’ve been thinking about Hero’s Journey films and how good and connected they make us feel. My husband David and I happened to walk into Callao Square in Madrid on December 16, the night of the film’s premiere. London red carpet excitement was projected onto a giant screen. The English language did not deter anyone from being riveted to interviews with Harrison Ford, George Lucas, J.J. Abrams and other celebrities. The whole crowd, including David and me, wanted their photo taken with people dressed as characters from the films. Hundreds sang along to the themes of John Williams’ score.
These feelings transcend national boundaries, race, gender and language, as evidenced by what was going on in Madrid around the opening of this film.
George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars and one of my heroes, was greatly influenced by Joseph Campbell, another of my heroes. Campbell’s life’s work was to help us understand the universal message of the Hero’s Journey.
“The hero is someone who gives his life over to something bigger than himself.”
Campbell described the hero’s journey as occurring in a cycle consisting of three phases:
Departure, where the hero leaves the comfortable and familiar world and ventures into the darkness of the unknown
Initiation, where the hero is subjected to a series of tests designed to prove qualities of character
Return, in which the hero brings the boon of the quest back for the benefit of others
The Hero’s Journey is about growth and passage. Each stage of the journey must be passed successfully if the initiate is to become a hero. To turn back at any stage is to reject the need to grow and mature.
Lucas brought these themes to film in a way that profoundly changed filmmaking and popular culture worldwide. A powerful partnership occurs when the entertainment industry engages us AND offers us lessons.
Three Lessons of Star Wars
Feel the Force (we are all connected).
Hate and Fear lead to the dark side.
Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.
In the Odyssey Family Systems model, there are seven Parts of Self that emerge from childhood injuries and help us cope with being in fragile human form in an unpredictable world. Last week, I introduced the Part of Self called the Judge/Globalizer, who is responsible for perpetuating cycles of violence.
The Judge/Globalizer emerges from bad feelings like pain, fear and shame. In Star Wars, these feelings lead to the dark side. People whose Judge/Globalizer runs their lives, like Donald Trump, create separation, mayhem and misery.
As adults working on becoming more conscious, we parent the Judge/Globalizer. Parenting this Part of Self is like parenting a two-year-old who impulsively darts into the road. As the parent, you grab the child before disaster strikes. Then the temper tantrum erupts. “How dare you stop me from doing as I please?” screams the flailing child. You hold the child firmly and lovingly to prevent injury. You encourage expression of all of the feelings held within. You soothe with your comforting words of love. Finally, the child collapses in exhaustion and wants to be held close to your heart. The sobs eventually subside. Within a few minutes, all is forgotten. The child gets up from your lap and moves onto another activity.
In parenting the child in this way, you have channeled your inner hero. It takes a strong, conscious parent to guide a child through a public temper tantrum in this manner. Parenting our Judge/Globalizer requires the same.
Two big issues that people are afraid of right now are terrorism and climate change. These are challenges that require collective action. Fear can paralyze us, can lead us to the dark side, or it can cause us to act.
We convert fear to action when we get inspired by our heroes and act heroic ourselves. Our grandson is a fan of the Avengers. He is certain that superheroes never take a day off. Let’s follow their example and commit to one heroic act per day. Let’s channel our inner hero.
That means parenting the Judge/Globalizer so that it does not run our lives. When the Judge/Globalizer is parented, we feel connected to others, meeting life’s challenges with a commitment to making life for ourselves and others just a little bit better, bringing the boon of our quest back for the benefit of ourselves and others. As one of my medical heroes said, “as a doctor, you have the opportunity to move the earth an eighth of an inch.”
Two more of my filmmaking heroes are Suzy Amis Cameron and her husband, James Cameron, director of two of the top-grossing films of all time: Titanic and Avatar. Both of these are Hero’s Journey films, and Avatar offers an exquisite, timely and hopeful message for how we can take action to improve the health of Planet Earth.
For the recent Paris Climate Change Conference, James Cameron was interviewed by Newsweek on December 8. To improve the health of the Earth, he proposes that we eat more plants and fewer animal products:
“I find that a tremendously empowering message. People have a great deal of anxiety about climate change, which often manifests as denial or a sense of helplessness. They say: “Okay it may be happening, I accept that, but what I am I supposed to do about it?”
The single biggest thing an individual can do is to shift more towards a plant-based diet. It’s a win-win. It’s a win for your health. It’s a win for the environment.”
An ongoing TV film project that James Cameron is producing, which includes Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, is a documentary series called Years of Living Dangerously. In a November 18 Washington Post article, Cameron says, “When you add it all up, about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas comes from the animal agriculture sector. That’s bigger than all transportation combined.”
From Suzy Amis Cameron’s Huffington Post article entitled, “The Day My Food World Turned Upside Down,” she offers these three action items:
Three High-Impact Actions that Can Cut Your «Foodprint» in Half
Choose plant-based foods often for a healthy planet, healthy body
Buy delicious plant-based foods at farmers’ markets, community farms, and plant-based restaurants
Raise your voice with MyPlate MyPlanet to link a healthy diet with a healthy planet with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines
In International Integrators, we work to create a safe, loving, balanced life, forging our own sovereign journey, powered by our connection to sources within and outside of ourselves. We have three ways in which we work. We write blogs and encourage you to contribute articles to this blog space, we invest in projects that are making the world a better place, and we hold immersion retreats within which we can get better acquainted with the heroic parts of ourselves.
Come to Avila, Spain June 12-17, 2016 for our next Living Whole immersion and connect more deeply with your inner hero. Also experience the healing power of Planet Earth. Cook whole food, plant-based meals, move your body mindfully, meditate, submerge in a Sound Bath and deepen your connection to yourself through Jin Shin Jyutsu.
Allow the light in you to see the light in others, and allow them to see your light. It takes one to know one.
Kathryn Hayward, M.D. was a primary care internal medicine specialist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for 20 years. She now lives in Mallorca, Spain, where she practices Integrative Health in the United States and elsewhere through Odyssey Journey: A Collaborative Approach to Wellness, and is co-founder of International Integrators, a community devoted to the global promotion of Integrative Health.