After an arduous adventure, the journey was finally over. With the ring destroyed in Mount Doom, we rejoiced that evil was banished to the depths. Along the way, we encountered a wise wizard, mystical elves, a dashing king; enough champions to cheer on, and they were just the supporting cast. For Tolkien gave us Frodo and his Hobbit friends—the very small ground dwellers with large feet and even bigger appetites. They were the real heroes he chose. If we uncovered winning against the evil odds and rooting for the underdog as we journeyed with Frodo, we may be satisfied we unearthed the core of the story and merit keeping a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on a bookshelf gathering dust—or is there more left to uncover?
We are as fascinated with stories today as we have been since the beginning of time. Each takes us on a journey with someone to somewhere. We choose to go with them for many reasons, and when the last page is turned, the movie credits roll, or we wake up, we are satisfied. Glad we enjoyed it or happy it is over, we were touched and the memories of our experiences remain, calling out to us to visit again soon. They are the trilogy stories of the mind:
1. Of the word – books
2. Of movement – films
3. Of night time – dreams
There are millions of them with more appearing each day. Easy to feel overwhelmed, it’s comforting that according to Christopher Booker in his book: “The Seven Basic Plots: Stories And Why We Tell Them,” there are seven plots that cover all the stories we read and see:
Overcoming the monster, Rags to riches, The quest, Voyage and return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth.
That’s much better! Turning the millions into seven is much more manageable, as we follow the protagonist (from Ancient Greek, meaning “one who plays the first part”) in their adventures. Snuggling up with our trilogy of the mind, we fully participate in a safe world where we are not judged, from the comfort of indoors in front of a toasty fireplace or on a cozy couch.
Good deal, but another type of story is always lurking in the shadows. It’s a story, not of the mind, but of the heart:
1. Of breath – our unique living story that belongs to each of us
It’s the road that only we follow, by every beat and breath we take; as we journey from a beginning to an end. We meet our share of characters and are changed by our experiences; in our words, by our movements, pursuing our dreams. We face obstacles and make choices that decide how we make the journey, so why is it that we often see the importance of our own tales to a lesser degree, and what stops us from investing our total selves in this unique opportunity we have been given?
It’s the lies…or more specifically, the lies we tell ourselves, because we feel it’s the safe road, which of course is another lie we discover later on! By that time, we have shut the door to change, found folly instead of wisdom, and can produce a list of reasons to prove the validity of our chosen approach. The mind trilogy despite all its resources: knowledge, facts, skills, and intelligence, provide us with an ample directory of excuses to support our lies.
There is no need to worry; take heart. Frodo won and you can too!
There are a whole host of lies and deceptions we follow. Here, I have focused on what I call, ‘The 5 Untruths of the Shadow.’
1. I can’t…
I have listed this one first as it’s the showstopper. When we employ this approach, we are left stuck at the starting line with no drive to move forwards. Since the depletion of energy we feel by saying, ‘I can’t,’ deprives us of the resources we are going to need to finish the race, this stubborn habit requires two steps to overcome. The first is to stop deciding what outcomes need to look like. Every ‘I can’t’ contains a pre-determined future, which we fill with unhappy endings. Removing it creates room for all the possibilities. Our minds will push to fill this space with logic, which fires up the reasoning part of the brain, but we are going to give it something else—imagination. No need to worry, when we imagine, it fires up multiple areas of the brain and your new friend will be embraced and supported by your eager mind. Practice is the key, so don’t give up!
“If you think you can…or if you think you can’t…you’re right”
– Henry Ford
2. I have nothing new to contribute…
How much we do embrace our uniqueness? With over 7 billion fellow pilgrims, we have a tendency to diminish our journey as being insignificant. Don’t…you have been called here by name! Think of books—there are only so many words and ways to combine them, yet it doesn’t stop us from wanting to read does it? When you were born, a new soul was summoned here to accomplish something. Seek it for it is for you alone.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”
– Howard Thurman
3. I don’t fit in with what the world wants…
Indoctrination is pervasive in our societies. Our schools lay out a required path to the work future. Our workplaces, necessary steps to take if you want to be successful. Our media, what beautiful looks like. How do feelings of not smart enough, successful enough, and attractive enough, support your journey? This is not our home. We are visitors here and when we are away from home, do we not seek what gives us joy and happiness? We don’t ask the world to decide. Being in the world doesn’t mean we have to be of the world, and just because there are powerful messages in the shadows, it doesn’t make them right or truth. Ignore those voices and follow the one that speaks inside of you.
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places”
– Dalai Lama
4. I am not creative…
At first glance, you may think this an odd choice, but how often do we compare the gifts of others to what we see in ourselves? The great violinist, artist, thinker, or idea. We fall short and the comparison limits us to seeking what we have been given. We see gifts as the world defines them and rate them as society says they have value—in the riches of possessions and wealth of money. We say, ‘if I can’t be that good, why should I bother, because someone is always better.’ Creativity is not about a human end, but a spiritual process; where the connection opens a channel to the true treasures; given to support your journey, and in doing so, the journey of others. Before creativity is doing, it’s being, and when we create space, we open the door to the greatest creations—love, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion.
“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found”
– James Russell Lowell
5. I have no purpose…
You are the narrator and protagonist of the only story that matters—yours. There is something you need that you don’t have, and your story, your purpose, is to find it—with every step; every breath. You must trust that it will be revealed to you, so listen and watch for the signs. No matter what anyone says, don’t expect it at a particular time or under certain conditions. People will cross your path. Some will be a blessing you will embrace and others, lessons you will want to push away. Accept all you encounter and take time for self-reflection, not judgment. Embrace change, for without it we are stuck in the land of shadows, and when all seems lost and forsaken, ask for guidance in the quiet stillness. It will come.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”
– Albert Einstein
Take some time in honesty to look at the lies you tell yourself. If they are some of the ones I describe or others, they are all the untruths of the shadow—fear. The moment we agree to a lie our mind finds every reason to support it. That’s why our answers can’t be found in the trilogy of the mind. The answers have to be elsewhere. We call the place many names: heart, heaven, soul, spirit, light, love. Whatever is right for you, name it, and go there every day to banish fear from your story.
At one time or another, we will experience all of Booker’s plots, but there are 2 more I need to add. Although they can fall under one of the headings he identifies, they are too important to leave unannounced. They are, lessons and growth, because the former will occur often and the later is my hope for your story.
It brings our total plot stories to 9—the same number of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, who began a journey in Tolkien’s story. Blowing off the dust, it turns out there was more to uncover…Frodo didn’t say ‘I can’t, or think about the outcome when he said he would take the ring—he didn’t reflect and say he had nothing to contribute—looking at the others, he could have surmised he didn’t fit in, but didn’t—he didn’t rate his gifts—nor consider a different purpose—he just said, ‘I will do it.’
He completed his journey, not because he was unafraid, but because he wouldn’t allow fear to sway him from his path, no matter how difficult it became. For whatever is bad in our world, it has no hold over us when we say that lies and fears will have no place in our stories, and like Frodo, the story we share before we take the final ship home, will be one full of love and hope.