hero's journey

STEP 2: COMPLETING THE HERO’S JOURNEY

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Step 2: Completing the Hero's Journey follows Step 1:  Conceiving the Heroine's Journey.

Over the past seven years I’ve gone alone. 

For my twenty-first birthday, my dream was to go to New York City to celebrate. I spent months planning the trip and invited my best friends at the time that said they were "IN". When push came to shove for many reasons whether it be money or time constraints, they couldn’t go. I was left with a choice, go alone or stay back with my friends. 

I chose to go.

I knew a couple people in New York and on my birthday itself I had planned to meet a friend of a friend. For some reason, her phone went straight to voicemail and no matter how many times I tried, she just couldn't be reached. We had planned to go to the Museum of Modern Art and by noon I finally stopped waiting. “I’m here. I’m going.” 

Through that experience and many others over the past several years, I've learned that pursuing your dreams often requires a solo journey. 

Biography drawing depicting my life in seven-year stages 0-7, 7-14, 14-28 etc.

Biography drawing depicting my life in seven-year stages 0-7, 7-14, 14-28 etc.

A psychologist friend recently took my colleagues and I through a powerful exercise called “Biographies” (above) where you chart your life in seven year stages. In each stage you record the significant events and then examine it for themes and unfolding patterns. What I discovered from looking at my "going alone" stage from twenty-one to twenty-eight is that it strongly correlates to the “Hero’s Journey”

After decades of studying ancient myths and stories, Joseph Campbell, developed the “Hero’s Journey” to describe the “monomyth” or universal storyline present in each. The general arc of this story unfolds where the hero (often male) hears a “call to adventure” and leaves the “known world” of home and family to undertake the “unknown world”. Whether alone or with the assistance of minor characters helpers, the hero conquers adversaries, obtains treasure and returns home with greater status or goods where he is welcomed and validated as a new leader and master of two worlds. 

herosjourney (1).gif

What Campbell also discovered through his studies is that we can apply this same storyline to our own lives and that each of us is experiencing our own hero’s journeys.

For me, my hero’s journey has been one of growth, learning, and exploring. I’ve traveled across twenty-five countries from the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. I’ve held over twenty-four jobs ranging from serving in restaurants to managing graphic design firms to leading coworking spaces and doing global culture consulting.

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Through these adventures, I've been blessed to meet many mentors, helpers, and friends and though it's taken many forms, I can see that the Hero's Journey is a cycle I’ve repeated over and over and over again. I answered every call. I went all in. I threw myself into the ocean and became a “Yes woman” or “Yes-mad” a digital nomad that says “Yes” to life. 

As I round out this last year working and traveling in Southeast Asia, I see my hero's journey coming to an end. While it has been an incredibly insightful and useful framework, I’ve made a new discovery.

 “The Hero’s journey is a search for one’s soul and is chronicled in mythologies and fairy tales throughout the world. This quest motif does not, however, address the archetypal journey of the heroine. For contemporary women, this involves the healing of the wounding of the feminine that exists deep within her and the culture.

In 1990, Maureen Murdock wrote The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness as a response to Joseph Campbell’s model. Murdock, a student of Campbell’s work, felt his model failed to address the specific psycho-spiritual journey of contemporary women. She developed a model describing the cyclical nature of the female experience. Campbell’s response to her model was, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to” (Campbell, 1981). That may be true mythologically as the hero or heroine seeks illumination but psychologically, the journey of the contemporary heroine involves different stages.

heroines-journey-model.jpg

The first part of the heroine’s journey is propelled by the mind and the second part is in response to the heart. The heroine has been working on the developmental tasks necessary to be an adult, to individuate from her parents, and to establish her identity in the outer world. However, even though she has achieved her hard-earned goals, she may experience a sense of Spiritual Aridity. Her river of creativity has dried up and she begins to ask, “What have I lost in this heroic quest?” She has achieved everything she set out to do, but it has come at great sacrifice to her soul. Her relationship with her inner world is estranged. She feels oppressed but doesn’t understand the source of her victimization. (Article: Heroine's Journey, Maureen Murdock)"

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

The Heroine's Journey describes with absolute accuracy what I am experiencing now. I’ve achieved a “successful life”. I’m doing work that I love, traveling around the globe with the support of a community of family and friends but in the process I’ve sacrificed much of my body and soul.

Though the soul is eternal and cannot die it has still suffered and been silenced beneath the noise of my mind. Additionally, my body has struggled to do all the things I demand it to do. My inner man has been in control with lofty performance goals and ambitions to live a life rich in life experience. And while this journey has been enriching it has also left me quite exhausted.  

The body is an amazing vehicle for the soul and at a young age, I’ve found tools that allow me to heal just enough so I can keep going. That said, this isn’t sustainable. One mentor has said to me, “the biggest reason brilliant people fail is they burn out.” I know I have an inner journey of healing to surrender to do. My soul needs me to slow down, to listen. 

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Though I've been offered a full-time role with an amazing innovation company in Southeast Asia, I've decided to shift my focus from "doing" to "being" by taking the next three to six months off. 

Sounds easy but keep in mind, I've built my entire identity on what I do. In making this decision my spiritual teacher asked me, "What feels like the hardest thing you would have to push yourself to do?" I replied, "Letting go. Letting go of "what I think I know" and "who I think I am" to explore my undiscovered multitudes, my "unknown unknowns" asking gently, who am I?" 

As I step into my next seven-year stage from 28 to 35, my sense is carving out space to reset the currents of my life is timely. 

“Finding out about being instead of doing is the sacred task of the feminine. Being requires accepting oneself, staying within oneself and not doing to prove oneself. It is a discipline that is accorded no applause from the outside world, it questions production for production's safe. Politically and economically it has little value, but it's simple message has wisdom. If I can accept myself as I am, and if I am in harmony with my surroundings, I have no need to produce, promote, or pollute to be happy. And being is not passive, it takes focused awareness." (The Heroine's Journey, Murdock, 1990, pg. 128)

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

So here’s to the next stage, a time of going inward, of healing, recovery, and rediscovery. 

With gratitude and grace,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

STEP 1: CONCEIVING THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Today marks the conception AND domain purchase of HeroinesJourney.com: a newborn blog featuring true stories of real heroine's navigating the inner journey of wholeness.

The YINspiration for the Heroine’s Journey comes from three sources:

  1. As a compliment to the yang of Joseph Campbell's the Hero’s Journey
  2. As a reaction to the recently released movie Wonder Woman
  3. As a personal desire to take ownership of my Chinese name "Qay Lin", meaning "Heroine" and to bring voice to the untold stories of amazing women from around the world

YINspiration #1: THE HERO's JOURNEY

In a lifelong pursuit of profound passionate curiosity, Joseph Campbell studied myths from ancient to modern across cultures. From his in-depth research, he unveiled a unifying storyline or “monomyth” for the vast majority of stories, which he named “The Hero’s Journey”. The complete findings of his theory are captured in his book “Hero With a Thousand Faces” and while each story has it’s own contextual differences, the storyline is this:

The Hero hears a Call to Adventure, he leaves the Known World and ventures into the Unknown. There he meets a Mentor who has traversed both realms and acts as a guide. The Hero comes upon a Road of Trials and Temptations where he is faced with challenge after challenge testing his strength, courage, and conviction. He meets helpers along the way who support him in his mission. Finally, he crosses the Abyss and has a transformation, an atonement. He then returns to the Known World victorious, having conquered his dragons and demons, now a Master of Two Worlds

"The Heroine’s Journey, on the other hand, is a journey inwards and does not culminate in this [same] sort of victory [as the hero’s journey]. The Heroine’s Journey begins when she feels like something is missing, or that something could be different, or that she’s not living the life she wants to live. Her quest ends with wholeness, a balance of feminine and masculine, success and failure, darkness and light, death and life, health and illness.

As Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine’s Journey, explains, “The hero’s journey is up and out–with a big splash–to the light, while the heroine’s journey is down and in—into the body, into the metaphorical cave, to the Black Madonna.” — Melissa Burch, Author, My Journey Through War and Peace.

More on What is the Heroine's Journey?

YINspiration #2: WONDER WOMAN

Recently the first major action movie with a female Super Hero by a female director hit the big screens. I saw accolades for Wonder Woman’s badassery on Facebook and so I thought, WOW this movie must be good. I was in Bali and was lucky to be invited to join a caravan of women driving to one of the few movie theaters to see it. It was a journey! 14 women and 2hrs each way.

The beginning of Wonder Woman was stunning. It was fascinating to see young Diana (Wonder Woman) growing up on Thespellis raised by Amazons. The Amazons including her Mother, Queen of the Amazons, were fiercely strong and strikingly beautiful. The majority of their time and energy was dedicated to physical training so that one day when the God of War, Aries, returned, they could protect the planet.

As the movie progressed, it became clear to me that this movie was not about Divine Feminine power. This was a man’s movie dressed up in a steel skirt and corset. A big money maker waving the false flag of female empowerment for hopeful women and girls everywhere yearning to believe or be saved.

This movie left my hurt and confused. Afterwards, I felt physically drained and abused, as if I had lived through a war. I recognize my sensitivities have become heightened but I was really shook by this experience and felt completely shut down.

I was at a loss for how this had happened and I tried to understand the true message. Was this a Trojan's horse for men to see women are just as powerful as them? Was this just a Hollywood money making hoax? Was I expecting too much?

While my experience was painful, it also inspired and propelled me even further to start Heroine's Journey. To tell real stories of real heroine's approaching life's challenges, not through extreme violence and war, fighting fire with fire but through love, healing, compassion, forgiveness in the divine feminine, Shakti, yin way. 

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

YINspiration #3: QAY LIN (My Chinese Name)

On a personal note, I've always yearned for more stories about real women. Female role models I can believe in and look up to. Leaders I can see myself in and relate to. Heroine's with courageous hearts. 

When I was a child my Grandpa gave me the Chinese name Qay Lin (not sure on the spelling), which he told me meant Heroine. At the time, I was very unfamiliar with the word. It sounded more like the drug heroin than something to be proud of. It was so rarely used and I had no clue what being a Heroine meant so I never claimed the name.

It wasn't until learning more about the Hero's Journey and Joseph Campbell's work that I started to see the power of that name and the recognition that I am on my own Heroine's Journey.

That I AM the Wonder Woman I've been waiting for.

While the website is still in progress and the concept is still developing, the conception of this new project and the act of throwing down $1K to purchase the domain feels like a symbolic and mighty first step.

So stay tuned as I’ll be looking for stories from men and women alike on the Heroine's in your life!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your ongoing and limitless support on my heroine's journey.

With love and gratitude,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Photography: Marva Merci Dixon | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Burning Man 2016: A Heroine’s Journey

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
I ask myself, was it all A beautiful dream?

Two weeks back in the default world. The reintegration has been relatively gentle. I have a heartner, a job, and a support system that love and accept me.

But something has changed.

The biggest change and REVELATION for me from the playa this year is: I love and accept myself.

What an unbelievable relief and gift.

I feel INpowered. I feel showered in self-love and affection. I feel more clarity about my purpose and next steps than ever. I trust myself and my sensibilities. I have a direct line to the Universe.

It is remarkable.

Declaration of Self Love,  Jamen Percy Photography

Declaration of Self Love, Jamen Percy Photography

The best way to share my journey to this revelation is through story and though each burner's journey is unique, we are all experiencing our own hero’s/heroine’s journey.

You may not have heard of the Hero’s Journey explicitly, but you know it very well. Joseph Campbell, an American mythological researcher, wrote a famous book called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and coined the term “hero’s journey”. This book was a manifestation of his lifelong research in studying common patterns in hero myths and stories from around the world. That research led him to discover a singular/universal arc of basic stages that almost every hero/heroine-quest goes through (no matter what culture). He calls it the monomyth and every story from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Dante & the Inferno, Finding Nemo, Mulan, Lion's King, etc. follows this arc.

What is even more amazing to me is that we are living OUR OWN HERO’S & HEROINE’S JOURNEYS.

Hero's Journey,  Wikipedia

Hero's Journey, Wikipedia

First step is the Call to Adventure.

For some it’s no question, they answer the call immediately, they’ve been going to Burning Man for years or they know for certain they’re going this year.

Though I've answered the call twice before, every year is different and I realized to go this year that I’d really have to get it together and prepare on my own since the Soul Fam Soup crew I loved going with last year had disassembled.

Two months to the burn and I didn’t have a ticket, accommodation, or transportation. I contemplated “refusing the call” – I really didn’t have to go, I was content in THE KNOWN WORLD, my current reality. I have a fulfilling job, a loving and supportive partner, I live in my dream city. I’ve worked hard to get here and yet I could feel myself being ushered forward. I knew the high frequency and potent magic of the playa was calling my name and so I snapped out of it! 

Jeremy Orion Watson, The Mentor or "Yoda",  I Must Be Dead

Jeremy Orion Watson, The Mentor or "Yoda", I Must Be Dead

Once the heroine crosses the THRESHOLD and is committed to leaving the Known World, they come across a MENTOR.

This Mentor or “Yoda” is a seasoned traveler of the Known and Unknown worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. In this case, that “Yoda” was Jeremy Watson, longtime burner, fulltime magician, and Leader at Camp Walter (where I’d be camping this year) who became a source of courage, wisdom, and even found me a TICKET to go.

As I prepared, I was still worried about going alone. I was holding onto the past and super bummed the Soul Fam Soup crew was no more. But things are temporary, that’s part of what you learn at Burning Man and I realized it was less about WHO I was with and more about HOW I wanted to feel.

What did I want to feel? SAFE & LOVED.

The " My Intent " playa gifts I handmade this year

The "My Intent" playa gifts I handmade this year

Once that was clear, ALLIES and HELPERS CAME THROUGH.

I asked my badass friend, Lea Artis to join me (Note: asking someone to go to Burning Man with you is like asking them to marry you, it’s a big deal). Thankfully, she said, “I do!” 

Lea "So Pro" Artis

Lea "So Pro" Artis

Then to my delight, one of my Soul Brothers, Jaymin Patel told me he would be camping in Camp Walter too! Two weeks before, the cherry on top was Troy Swanson aka “Genie,” a dear friend and world traveler who I rarely see (because he lives in Amsterdam, Spain, and India) said he too would be joining Camp Walter.

AMAZING!!!

Three days before I planned to leave, I had my Spiritual Coach or “Soul Godmother,” do a biofeedback session on me. Based on quantum physics, biofeedback provides powerful insight into your subconscious and enables a recalibration of your physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, and environmental wellbeing. I’ve been working with her for 7 years (more on biofeedback here).

When she worked on me, one of the heightened emotions I was experiencing was fear.

Fear can come in many forms and for a heroine in her journey, it is often fear of the UNKNOWN. Specifically for me, it was a fear of not being enough (strong enough, smart enough, deep enough, the irrational enough's go on). These fears culminated into one big fear: Standing on My Own Two Feet (full story here).

I gave myself some grace and pushed my travel date by two days. I listened to my body, I listened to my spirit, I needed some time to recover and work through the fear. I realized just because I could arrive early for the build didn't mean I had to. I needed to do what was right for me. 

Finally, I was ready, packed, and triple-checked.

Black Rock City, Nevada

Black Rock City, Nevada

I rode the Burner Express seven hours from San Francisco to Black Rock City. I left the comforts of the KNOWN World: running water, personal bathrooms, electricity, restaurants, refrigerators, cell service, and a warm bed to survive in the barren desert for a week. By choice.

Upon entering the UNKNOWN World, just like every hero, I crossed the Abyss and experienced a “ROT” or Road of Trials.

I felt enormous anxiety my first night. After I set up my space tent, fear took the driver’s seat and I lay on the floor for nearly two hours om-ing asking myself, WHAT AM I DOING? WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?  Maybe I should just stay in the tent the whole burn!

Sonic Runway synchronized with the speed of sound,  WIDE WALL .

Sonic Runway synchronized with the speed of sound, WIDE WALL.

But the biggest trial I faced involved being separated from Lea in the middle of an unbearably cold, wickedly dusty white-out. It was after Burn Night at 5:00AM on the other side of the playa from Camp Walter.

Lea and I had set out three times to go home and each time it had been too cold, finally we said, “no going back, we got to go.” Less than ten minutes after we left, we were separated.

I couldn’t see her, I couldn’t see anything in front of me or behind me. I froze up with my bike faced with my deepest fear: standing on my own two feet. Literally. All I saw was white. I had a choice – go back or carry on.

I moved forward.

As they say, “the playa provides”.

Within 20 minutes of traveling alone, I stumbled upon a fire den and as I walked up the stairs, to my surprise, I found a Pirate who I had met two nights earlier with her crew of Technicolor Teddy Bears, ALL part of Camp Walter. What are the odds?!

I was instantly embraced because I TOO had a technicolor teddy bear fur coat on. This will have to be its own story because it was wildly amazing but in that moment of radical self-reliance facing my greatest fear, I found a new family. I found a home away from home.

Through that experience, I learned to surrender.

I came to understand that surrender is about LIBERATION, not defeat. I learned that you can be Radically Self-Reliant and Communal simultaneously.

Through that adventure, I stepped into my own inner power and strength, and I was REWARDED with generous, loving, and beautiful people.

This was the most dramatic of my trials, but throughout my time at Black Rock City, the playa provided, whether I was hungry, thirsty, lonely, frustrated, tired, sad, happy, or hurt, my needs were consistently met. My heart warmed and spirit dazzled.

It is difficult to quantify, but what I know to be true is the playa is truly magical.

when you are open to iT, you experience: serendipity, synchronicity, coincidensity–all of it.

  • Michael, Janet, Prince parties
  • Bubbles and Bass for breakfast
  • Sunrise sets at Candyland in the deep playa
  • Whale sounds under painted glass
  • Glorious weddings with unitards, butterflies, and top hats on shark fins
  • The Pirate and the Technicolor Teddy Bears
  • Breakfast at Troyfanny’s
  • Sunset photoshoots and a first kiss that takes your breath away
  • Sake and miso at midnight
  • Fresh flatbread and hot ginger tea
  • Massive margaritas at Human Petting Zoo’s
  • DeMentha mojitos and beats
  • Wok-tossed noodles and electronic waves
CAMP WALTER 2016

CAMP WALTER 2016

  • Walter, Kalliope, Mona Lisa, Big Red and Peace Train
  • Father Time, Brave Heart, Humpty Dumpty, ANDERStand, Flying Disco Squirrel Queen
  • Infinite Mirror Mirror Sister Sister Sisters
  • Fire Dancers, fun-meters, seahorse segways, and TWERKshops
  • Disco Kat Cuddle Puddles
  • Symphonies under strobe lights
  • Merman Space Cowboys on stilts
  • Dusty Rhino, Mayan Warrior, Robot Heart, Pink Mammoth, Disco Fish, and Headspace
  • David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, The Goblin King
  • Howling with wolves at Temple Burn
  • Finding your purpose at Red Lightning
  • Dusty yoga under the Walter Dome 
  • Rituals honoring hero's past and present
  • Sharing your love stories with angels
  • A new leaf, a selenite crystal heart, the right hug at the right time 

The playa magic goes on…

I often say my end game is to live a life rich in experience, and I can honestly say up to this point that Burning Man as a collective experience takes the cake.

It is a true gift. I am returning GRATEFUL, CLEAR, and COURAGEOUS.

Thank you to all my playa peeps for making this an unforgettably moving experience. My mind is expanded. My heart is overflowing. My soul feels whole.

The heroine has found her home.

With dusty love x light,

Lotus

A Heroine's Journey,  Jamen Percy Photography 2016

A Heroine's Journey, Jamen Percy Photography 2016