“…we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.” – Joseph Campbell
Dealing with a chronic condition can be viewed as a long ordeal, but in many ways it mirrors the hero’s quest. A journey is undergone and eventually some greater knowledge is gathered and brought back to be shared. There is always a moment of isolation that separates the hero from ordinary life, a “why me?” sort of lament. It could come in the form of an illness, a task or destiny that needs fulfilling, or as in the case of Bilbo Baggins, an unexpected journey. In this moment we are forced to ask ourselves how to proceed. Along the way helpers and demons will present themselves in many forms. Healers may come save the day, while in other cases one may receive misguided information. What works for some will not work for others. Each adventure into the unknown is different, but one’s faith will be tested in every case.
A path opens up to those on the quest. One full of hardship and suffering, despair and deceit. We feel deceived by our bodies and by fate or God, and then by doctors who can help with the symptoms, but fail to offer an optimistic view or how to deal with the cause. However, it is also a path full of unexpected coincidences, spontaneous remissions, the right healer with the right method of healing, and other fruits brought forth by this forced adjustment to our usual way of life.
The hero’s journey is one of suffering and isolation, but at the same time one of union and sometimes even great joy, particularly upon breaking through to the other side, having attained a new perspective. Whether one becomes fully cured or simply adapts their condition to a new way of life, without a doubt there is always a healing that took place. An emotional healing that only one who has walked the path can understand. A coming to terms with the state of the universe and their place in it, a way of viewing the world that finally makes sense. It is there for anyone to find, we are all heroes after all, but those faced with illness are offered a special opportunity for rapid change, a freedom to leave all preconceived notions behind.
I recently watched a movie called The Sacred Science. It follows eight people with chronic conditions who journey to the Amazon of Peru seeking healing. They agree to spend 30 days working with the healing Shamans there. The patients under a special “diet” that includes certain foods, long periods of isolation and treatment with ayahuasca, and other plant medicines, as a means of gaining a new insight on their condition and breaking old life patterns they may have been stuck in. The majority are patients who tried everything allopathic medicine had to offer, and only then decided to give a different method a shot. Five of the eight patients come back completely off their medications and markedly improved.
Each participant reflected on experiencing a new level of consciousness and way of viewing their life and the world. Although they may never be able to fully explain the experiences leading to these insights to others, they know the impact it had on their own lives. An inner journey towards inner and outer health; mind, body, and soul. Having come out the other side (even when not completely cured), illness can then be viewed as a gift of suffering, a gift that led to a higher state of awareness, a higher quality of being. Many heroes have walked the labyrinth before and I hope others will continue to see their struggle and opportunity in the same light.