Steve Gilligan and Robert Dilts, two of the finest trainers in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), present The Hero’s Journey in the transcript of a four-day workshop. They begin with the premise that humans are manifestations of spirit. Each life is a heroic journey in which spirit can unfold and reveal itself. To find meaning and fulfillment, each person’s task is to heed a calling that shapes an ultimate purpose.
Illness, confusion, or dysfunctional relationships are signs that one has strayed from the journey or refused the calling. In the journey, we are aided by other beings--“sponsors” and “guardians”--who help us remember our true selves.
The authors draw from many cultural traditions that find their intersection in the mythological stories and archetypal symbols of the hero’s journey. The book guides readers in exploring the aspects of the journey: • Hear the call • Commit to the call • Cross the threshold • Find guardians • Face and transform demons • Develop an inner self and new resources • The Transformation • Return home with the gift
According to Dilts and Gilligan, the self consists of three minds: Somatic (physical), Cognitive (intellectual), and The Field (expanded consciousness). Each mind operates in one of three states: primitive, ego-based, or generative. Through lecture, poetry, and verbatim demonstrations, the authors describe NLP–based processes for accessing the generative state, in each level of mind.
The somatic mind becomes generative through alignment and centering. The cognitive mind becomes generative through self-acceptance, personal transformation, and by sponsoring others. We open to The Field when we expand our model of the world beyond the self and the moment. We realize ourselves as generative spirit, (you might say we achieve “enlightenment”) by integrating the three minds, each at the generative level.
The text contains various exercises for recognizing one’s calling and bringing it into reality; reframing problems and limitations, holding a “sacred conversation,” expressing the inner spirit, working through internal resistance, and unfolding the journey. The exercises incorporate trance (centering and mindfulness), archetypes, symbols, body awareness and movement, submodalities, and timelines. Gilligan and Dilts teach skills to honor, bless, and discover the calling in one’s wounds and challenges, and to move through life transitions by transforming one’s energies.
The book invites readers to occasionally enter The Field, to be present in it, going meta to individual experience and connecting with “intelligences beyond the local self.” Obviously, this is not a book for light reading.
The authors speak about creating time for “practices” that nurture the spirit, so that one might operate more effectively in the world. I thought about how and why I could be more consistent about exercising. Such practices allow an ongoing transformation of identity. From this perspective, our habits become statements about personal integrity.
This book provides a format for groups who want to explore new dimensions of personhood. For me, it crystallized concepts that I had wondered about, yet had never known how to discuss. Gilligan and Dilts establish a vocabulary for spirituality that goes beyond the philosophical, into the experiential. They are teaching what mystics have always known and done.
Perhaps one of our greatest fears is that life has no meaning and no purpose, and that suffering is an end in itself. Yet many people plod along in daily tedium, seeking only to satisfy basic needs. Frankl wrote, “We had to learn…that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead to think of ourselves as though we were being questioned by life.” Gilligan and Dilts take the search for meaning one step farther, by inviting those who are willing, to embrace life as the hero’s journey.