Dancing with dragons
How to work with resistance on the hero’s journey
“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.” Steven Pressfield.
If there is something you wish or dream about… that you would like to start, write, paint, build or become, then you have most likely heard the call on your “hero’s journey”. It can come like a subtle whisper or a physical sensation. Or it can take over your brain and threaten to make you insane if you don’t follow through.
Classically, the way the story goes, the hero always first refuses the call. It is too hard, too scary, too disruptive to our everyday life to go for the big dream (or even the little one). We all tend to think, “It must have been meant for someone else. Probably anyone could do it better. There isn’t enough to go around. There isn’t enough greatness in me. I am not worthy.”
We resist because we are afraid.
There are a million excuses that come from our resistance. For as deep and valid and important as that call is, we can expect our resistance to be equally as strong.
I know this story well. I know it so well. This past week I have listened to three audiobooks, I have listened to countless guided meditations, I have take mini-courses, met with mentors, coaches, and colleagues, I have dipped into every possible resource I can muster.
I’ve had revelations, breakthroughs, and setbacks. It’s been a regular week for me. It has been like this for some years now. But my need for resource to meet my resistance has only escalated the closer I have come to allowing my muse to do her thing.
It may not seem easy to say yes to the creations that want to come through us. It may feel like a struggle to face the monumental obstacles along the way, but when we are there, ease is there as well, dancing within the creative flow. I know this and yet I have still dealt with so much struggle throughout my creative process. Then I feel bad for struggling! Because I know that if something is meant to come through me then it shouldn’t be so hard. Ease is right there if I could only get to it.
There is a paradox here, of course, as most things that are true are paradoxical in nature. The paradox is this: Ease is our birthright and it it is meant to show us the way. But it isn’t always easy to arrive at ease. If it was easy to create from an easeful state, then the world would be full of self-actualized success stories. We would all be wandering around giving each other the benefit of the doubt- seeing the best in everyone because we have seen and realized the best in ourselves.
But instead, most people are unhappy, confused, tired, ill, blaming everyone else for their problems.
They’re chasing fantom dreams, hiding from their hungry ghosts. We all do this. Its human nature to do this as much as it is human nature to create. To innovate. To dream.
According to Steven Pressfield who wrote the inspiring book War of Art, (which I cannot recommend enough), our fear, resistance, and struggle are equal to the power of our potential to make or be great things.
Pressfield compares our resistance to the dragon the hero must slay which unfortunately never goes away. All great artists, creators, and prolific inspiring figures have felt it and dealt with it. Perhaps this is why so many talented greats die young, why so many artists are “tortured”. Pressfield suggests that this is also why so many people struggle in general with addiction and depression; because they have lost the battle by continually resisting the Hero’s call.
I believe we all have a calling within us. For some of us it is more acute than for others, but for those who don’t feel the need to rise above, dig deep or to birth some new creation from within themselves, it is probably still there hiding just under the surface.
We are all creator beings whether we are conscious or not of our creations or our unlimited creative potential.
Because if we were not powerful creators, to begin with, we would not have had the gumption as wise souls, to manifest this body and all of our experiences. But here we are. And here is our resistance.
I have personally always felt the desire to create. I have certainly not always acted on it, but it has always been loud. And I have always felt resistance. Fear. Doubt.
But for the past few years, I have chosen to engage on a whole new level with my dragon. I have battled harder than I ever thought possible. Died a thousand ego deaths. And because my dragon is still ever present, I began to question the notion that we have to be at war with ourselves always. So I have decided to look at this in a different light.
As a polarity therapist, I understand and have deeply explored the concept of “as above, so below”. I view this axis of truth more like a circle, or a spiral that is multidimensional, as opposed to a vertical line. It is on par with the Einsteinian perspective that space and time are intertwined, and the fabric of reality is curved and folded, alive and ever-present, rather than linear.
When you let go of the concept of linearity you realize that your positive pole (your highest most realized self) being on the opposite end of the spectrum from your negative pole (your lazy, mean, egoic self), are one in the same.
You must pass through, merge with, embody, and respect your most vilified self in order to get to your best self.
This is the same old story, told in a million ways: we must go into our shadow in order to find our light. It is the process of alchemy. Tricky indeed.
For me, this has been the most frightening journey imaginable. But it has also been the most exhilarating. Because I understand that the more I make my shadow something “other” than myself, the more energy I spend running from my ego, dragon, or negative pole, the further I get from my truest self and my highest path.
So I have learned to run towards it instead.
And in so doing I have discovered that my dragon is not as “other” as I thought it was. Rather than seeing it as a scary monster who definitely wants to destroy me, I have come to see it as another aspect of me.
Instead of being perpetually at war within myself, trying to wrangle my resistance to the ground so I can produce something, I have decided to dance with my dragon. To invite my resistance to have its voice. Allow it to be a part of my creative process and honor the process over the product.
Instead of trying to shut the dragon up I say to it patiently, “I see you, I hear you, I know you have needs underneath your bad behavior and I am here to love you anyway.”
I let this dragon into my heart, and I let go of trying to control, restrain or ignore it.
This is not something you do just once and then you’re done. The hero’s journey was never meant to be easy or it wouldn’t be heroic!
Whenever I forget to put in the effort it takes stay diligent with my soul’s work, or I start to look outside myself instead of trusting the small inner voice that knows what I am here for, my dragon takes me down.
Then I rage and cry and rail against myself. I distract myself and go off task. I create monumental hurdles and breathe fire, drown in my tears, become my fears and get stuck. This happens.
By cultivating perseverance, self-awareness, an iron will, a load of forgiveness, and tremendous resource (hello coaches, mentors, colleagues and friends), I am consistently able to show up and stay in my heart space. It is only from here that I can choose to dance instead of war.
But when Pressfield says, “put your ass where your heart longs to be,” I am with him. The only way to really win is to show up, refuse to engage in or lose the battle, and understand that underneath the big scary vibrato, our dragons are just our egoic inner children having a tantrum.
The only way out is in.
If we sit down and do the work our heart longs to do, get our ass in the chair and begin, then we will be victorious no matter the outcome of our creations.
The bravest thing we can do is make bad art.
But if we make enough bad art, eventually we might make something great. Isn’t that the way? And if we never step onto the path, how will we know what we were capable of? How will we ever know what our heart truly has to say?
Perhaps our ugliest parts are actually where the beauty lies. Perhaps with enough patience and persistence, we can learn to love our resistance and create anyway.
And perhaps, there is no limit to how many people can be prolific, inspired, self-actualized, conscious co-creators. Do you think there is enough creativity to go around? Do you think there is room for you? Is it possible that you could be worthy of doing what you are uniquely here on the planet to do?
If we all attempted this, wouldn’t the world be such a fabulous place?
And let your imagination go free.
I dare you to dance with your dragons.