The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

Who knew all the ancients had similar myths and stories?

Apparently, Joseph Campbell.

The Power of Myth is a nice book that discusses all the parallels that exist between the myths of many different cultures throughout the world. It’s quite a fascinating read if you’re into stories, culture or religion / spirituality.

What’s surprising is that so many cultures have similar myths and motifs in these myths. Those folks knew some stuff about the human psyche.

One important aspect of the book is how new life is made. Campbell states that “Somebody has to die in order for life to emerge,” and this has been common to most cultures throughout history: human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, sacrificing oneself for one’s children… you get the idea.

Basically, it’s a fact of growth that something has to die first. In PD, one could say this means dying to your old self: forget who you were yesterday, that’s not you now.

Another thing that some of you might be familiar with is the motif of the Hero’s Journey.

Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Starts by being seen in ordinary existence.
  2. Presented with call to action, opportunity.
  3. Rejection of the call.
  4. Forced to accept call because it is imposed upon him.
  5. Ventures into unknown territory, faces threshold guardian (first obstacle).
  6. If fails, goes to find mentor (=hero from past generation).
  7. Returns to fight threshold guardians.
  8. Faces more guardians until final boss which guards Holy Grail.
  9. Enters the belly of the whale: has to face himself, rethink his approach, look at his inner demons.
  10. When he gets Holy Grail, there is a 180 degree reversal of understanding of grail -> journey was not about the grail but about the development required to reach the grail -> finds peace and happiness in who he has become => journey to FIND himself.
  11. Tribe cannot comprehend his lessons because have not gone on journey.
  12. Hero retires as mentor.

How to be a hero 101 😉

This is the journey that all the great heroes throughout history and culture have taken: Jesus, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins… the list goes on.

Campbell defines a hero as “someone who has given her life to something bigger than oneself.” He even argues that motherhood can be seen as a heroic act, because in the past it was essentially devoting one’s life to one’s children, and sometimes even dying in the act of giving birth.

The interpretation I like is that the Hero’s Journey is really just a metaphor for Enlightenment. This is the Hero’s Journey we’re all called to go on in the end. That’s what giving our lives over to something bigger than ourselves is truly about.

Most people don’t realize that all these stories of heroes are really just metaphors for Enlightenment (which is what religion is). But that’s ultimately what it’s about.

Campbell says that all spiritual masters have undertaken this Hero’s Journey.

He also says that for you to have a Hero’s Journey of you own, they must “follow your bliss,” which I like as a substitute for Life Purpose. Find what best “fosters the flowering of your humanity.”

But don’t get distracted by the sexy life purpose journey: the real one is still Oneness.

Another point that is important in any journey: the TRIALS on a metaphorical Hero’s Journey and REVELATIONS on a spiritual Hero’s Journey both contribute to the raising of the hero’s consciousness. Muy importante.

At some point in any journey, you will need to descend into the belly of the whale, a notion that I really like. It’s that dark psychological place into which a hero MUST descend.

That’s where the real growth happens. Go the the very root of the thing.

Ok, enough with the Hero’s Journey. Campbell also discusses the universal notion of love, which he distinguishes into 3 types:

Eros = lust

Agape = spiritual love

Amor = romantic love

I love those names! Sounds so much better than simply “love.”

He also reminds us that compassion literally means “suffering with.” Being compassionate means voluntarily participating the the sorrows of the world.

Hopefully, he points out in the case of the Bodhisattva, you complete your Hero’s Journey to Enlightenment and then come back and live with and help the rest of the world. That’s what a Bodhisattva is.

Lastly, about the book itself: I really enjoyed it. It’s in the form of a dialogue between Campbell and a journalist named Bill Moyers, who is actually a pretty smart guy in the book. It’s a really pleasant read, and full of cultural juice.

Favorite quote:

“The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life’s joy.”

The Verdict:

And excellent read for understanding the origins of myth and the universally-known truths of the human psyche.


Traps of Personal Development (#1)

Personal Development is a journey. As with every journey, there are traps along the way. Here I’ll be sharing some that I’ve fallen into or that I’ve managed to avoid.


Trap #1: Obsession

The first danger is turning this journey into an obsession or an addiction. This is different than it simply being an interest, which is fine, or a passion, even better.

But if you feel like you’re doing personal development to run away for something or just to have something to do, rethink your priorities and the reasons why you’re doing this.

I’ve fallen into this trap before, not just with personal development. I’ve also become almost anorexic due to my obsession with “healthy” eating. But for PD, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with it, and everyone around me could see that it wasn’t healthy for me. I would have seen the same thing if I had been honest with myself.

Now, PD is a passion of mine, and I know when I’m turning it into an obsession. It’s like your ego gets addicted to this one thing, and your life is centered around that thing, and if anyone attacks, you defend.


Trap #2: Judgement

This is associated with the first trap. Basically, when you become obsessed with anything or subscribe too much to one paradigm, you tend to get very judgmental about others. Which no one wants.

The important thing here is to remain open-minded. Realize that PD is just one of many paradigms through which to see the world, and not everyone subscribes to that one. And that’s fine. They don’t have to.

If you want to take it a step further, you could even start to question personal development. What’s the proof that it’s the right way to see the world? This will start to make your mind very tranquil and unaggressive, because you won’t have anything to defend.


Trap #3: Individuality

This is more a of a basic trap. This also happened to me when I first got into pickup. You know how everyone in that community says “Don’t care what other people think of you?” (Actually, you hear that a lot in self-help circles as well). Well, your ego can take that use it as an excuse to be a real insensitive dick.

Basically, the individuality that comes with pickup and self-help can be taken to such a degree that you’re inconsiderate. But one of the goals of personal development is compassion and love. How do you strike the balance between compassion and people-pleasing? That’s a tough one to answer… Know that over time, it will work itself out.


Trap #4: Getting stuck at lower levels of PD

Most people get into PD for the outward success: money, health, relationships… I know, because I did too! What people fail to understand at the beginning is that these are the lower levels, and they’re only here to provide the groundwork from which to move to the higher levels: all the inner work, questioning, contemplating, and being, that have to be done. This is where the real juice can be squeezed out of the lemon, and it’s the most satisfying life ever!

Many people don’t even know that there are higher levels! They keep operating under the old paradigm of outward success = inner happiness. Which is simply false. And they get caught in that endless cycle.

Understand: The only reason people go through these levels on the PD journey is to be ABLE to do the deeper work. I mean, how effective will you be at meditating if you’re stressed out about paying rent?

If you’re still at these levels, that’s cool. They are necessary. Just realize you will eventually have to move past them.


Trap #5: Misinterpreting Information

This is a biggie. This happens when your ego hears advice for someone more or less advanced than you and uses it to justify its own actions.

For instance: You’re a people-pleaser, and you hear someone say that you need to be more compassionate and do benevolent service to the world. But what you don’t understand is that they’re talking to people more advanced than you who have surpassed people-pleasing. They are now too individualistic, and need to be more compassionate.

The problem here is that you have an unhealthy paradigm of love. The people-pleaser thinks that doing benevolent service will get him love from others. It is a selfish motive. The person talking about compassion has moved past this and can truly be compassionate without wanting anything in return.

The same situation arises with determinism and victimhood. Let’s say you’re a victim, but you hear some spiritual teacher talking about no one having free will. Your ego will misinterpret that and justify itself: “See, I don’t have free will, so of course I’m doomed to be a victim.” Again, this teacher was talking to people further ahead of you.

This is one of the main difficulties of personal development: knowing which advice to listen to, because it can be contradictory depending on the level you’re at. This is why it’s difficult to effectively grow through impersonal means like these posts or videos, because we can’t tailor the advice to your problems. (It’s not impossible to grow: I’m just saying you will probably run into this trap a few times).

The best cure for this is just being honest with yourself, and honest with what you need to be focusing on.

Gratitude: Free Happiness!

In the spirit of the season of giving thanks, the topic-of-the-month (totally a made-up thing) is gratitude.

Let’s talk about the importance of gratitude in our lives. And it is important. Most people run around worrying about what they don’t have, when it’s so easy to be happy with what we do have.

Yep, it’s that good.

What makes gratitude special? Look at it this way: if we can be happy and fulfilled with what we have, that eliminates 99% of all our worries.

Try it! Pick 3 things in your vicinity right now that you could be grateful for. Maybe the chair you’re sitting on or your mug of coffee. And feel a sense of gratitude for that object.

Gratitude is actively accepting what already is (after all, how could it be any other way?). Different from the neurotic, who is always going from one thing to the next in pursuit of happiness. You see this a lot in business and finance: people wanting MORE without giving thanks for what they’ve got.

My favorite way to practice gratitude comes from Tony Robbins on a podcast he did with Tim Ferriss. He runs the audience through an exercise of gratitude.

Here’s how it goes:
–   Eyes closed, pump your arms up and down synchronized with your breathing to energize your body.

  • Put your hands over your heart. Feel it beating. Feel its strength, its power. Breathe into your heart.
  • Choose something in your life that you could be so grateful for, from earlier today to 10 years ago, doesn’t matter. Feel into your heart. Feel how you felt back in that moment, then feel gratitude for that moment.
  • Choose a second moment or person or coincidence that you could feel grateful for. Feel into your heart.
  • Choose a third. Feel and breathe into your heart. Notice how good gratitude feels.
  • Pause with that feeling for as long as you want.
  • Breathe into your heart 3 times and open your eyes.

Here’s the link to the exercise:

I love doing this if I’m feeling a bit down. Another way to practice if you’re pressed for time is just journaling: 5 things I can be grateful for right now. Boom. I like to include something simple near me in the list.

So what some of you are probably saying is “But I have nothing to be grateful for! My girlfriend left me, I’m broke, and my dog just died!”

You have a body, don’t you?

Start by being grateful for that. You have a body that functions, that allows you to inhabit this Earth and experience this wonderful blue ball we call home.

Be grateful for being born in a time when so much is available to us: all of human knowledge at our fingertips, opportunities to explore and experience the world in ways that would’ve blown our ancestor’s minds!

Be grateful for modern medicine: most people in history died from a little flu. Now we can numb and operate on your eye.

Think of all the comforts we now have. It’s literally freezing outside and my house is warm enough that I can wear shorts.

Another way to feel an immense feeling of gratitude: nature. Go into a forest or a desert and get a huge sense of awe and stupendousness at the beauty and intelligence of a whole living system.

Still you’re broke you say? Have you eaten today? There you go.

Most people don’t give gratitude enough credit. Not only is it an easy ticket to happiness, but it also is a form of practicing abundance. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, that sets you up well for giving. Shifts your perspective from getting to giving.

Don’t practice gratitude to get anything out of it. Do it to for its own sake. Gratitude is your natural state, neurotic chasing the next thing is not.

Hopefully this motivates you around that Thanksgiving table (if you celebrate Thanksgiving) to be grateful for and love all that you have.

The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages

Gary Chapman

Category: relationships

Sorry I haven’t written any reviews lately. I’ve had a lot of books to deal with at once. Good new is there will be at least two this month.

The first of which, you may have guessed, is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman 🙂

I was really blown away by this book. Its concepts are so simple and so fundamental, yet it is something most people overlook in their relationships.

The two main concepts in the book are these:

  • everyone has an emotional “love tank” that has to be kept as full as possible in order to feel loved.
  • everyone speaks at least one of the 5 “love languages” described in this book. This basically means that everyone has different ways of expressing and receiving love.


Now, we’re all familiar with the story of the couple who’s madly in love, but after they get married the love just kind of disappears.

This book is the remedy to that story. It takes the guesswork out of the act of loving your spouse (or anyone else for that matter).

Gary Chapman is saying that love is not out of our control. We can learn to keep it alive by learning to speak the primary love language of our spouse.

These 5 love languages are:

  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical Touch
  • Receiving Gifts

The author goes into a lot of detail about each, and give loads of exercises about how to determine your primary love language and that of your spouse.

The problem most people run into after marriage is that they come down off the “love high” that got them into it, then never learn to express love in a way the other can receive.

The idea is that the way you most feel loved is not necessarily the way your spouse will most feel loved. It’s like you are both speaking different languages (which you are: different love languages). As a result, neither of you feel loved, and that lack of love leads to resentment, tension, anger, divorce, abuse or infidelity.

For example, a lot of men think that by doing Acts of Service (doing the dishes, mowing the lawn) his wife will feel loved. But if her love language is different (maybe it’s Quality Time), she won’t get the same level of love as she would if he just spent more quality time with her.

You can see how this idea can make a huge impact on your life right? If you learned to love your spouse the way he/she wants to feel loved, you can greatly reduce the problems you will run into.


Favorite Quote:

“Real love” – “This kind of love is emotional in nature but not obsessional. It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth.”
The Verdict:
This book can revolutionize the way you think about love (it is in your control) and can drastically improve your intimate relationships. One of the best books on relationships out there.