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My 5th “Hero’s Journey”

Today, I departed again for Matsuyama to cover the o-henro route of Shikoku 88 from temples 60 to 87. The number 88, the last one, number 12, the one at the top of a hill near Tokushima, and a visit to Koyasan will be the last trip.

Why can pilgrimages like the o-henro route serve as a Hero’s Journey?

Let's remember the key elements of the Hero's Journey:

  • The Ordinary World: The hero's normal life before the adventure begins.

  • The Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with an event that makes them begin their adventure.

  • Refusal of the Call: The hero may initially be hesitant or refuse the call to adventure.

  • Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give them advice and ready them for the journey ahead.

  • Crossing the Threshold: The hero leaves their ordinary world for the first time and crosses into the adventure.

  • Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces challenges, finds allies, and meets foes.

  • Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches the main crisis of their adventure.

  • The Ordeal: The hero faces a significant challenge in which something precious is at stake.

  • The Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns their reward or accomplishes their goal.

  • The Road Back: The hero begins their journey back to their ordinary life.

  • The Resurrection: The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake.

  • Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to their ordinary world, transformed by their journey.

In order to incorporate these into the o-henro pilgrimage, I am doing the following:

  • I try to minimize my use of public transportation and taxis. I cannot walk more than 25 km a day, and I cannot take a long time off from work. So, I try to balance. Some physical and emotional challenge is needed.

  • I recognize and face the real fear. Most of the time, our stress is due to fear but because of milder forms of consequences, e.g., missing a deadline, upsetting a key stakeholder, or not having enough personal money or love. We rarely feel the raw, primal fear, the fear for our lives. Up on the hills with temples, one can fall down, get lost, or can be attacked by bears. I don't seek danger, but I am aware of these possibilities, which helps me put those daily hassles in perspective.

  • I trust. There are many signs for the o-henro route. You have to pay attention, though. Those were placed by volunteers, and they are accurate.

  • I let go of the urge to control everything. There are many unexpected things, e.g., missing a sign, a sudden rain, having no bus on weekends, and a sudden change in bus/train schedules. It is impossible to know and control everything.

  • I try to read one book on the practical aspects of Buddhism. This time, I am reading No Time to Lose, A Timely Guide to the Way of Bodhisattva by Pema Chödrön. Reading a book like that serves as a mentor, a sage during the journey.

  • I try to find and regain my inner strength. Silence, detachment, and danger break the comfort zone and remind me of one simple reality: I only know that I have enough to be satisfied. I enjoy those mindful moments when I greet those temples, the trees, and the vast sky above us.

The hero’s Journey is the story of transformation. It is how we transform into our true selves, who are not burdened by social benchmarks and others’ expectations. This self is part of everything and also carries everything within.

Each step in this journey offers us unique insights into our capabilities and the environment around us. Embarking on your own Hero's Journey can be a gateway to discovering deeper truths about your identity and potential.

As you reflect on your own life story, think of it as your personal Hero's Journey.

What is your call to adventure? What fears might you face? Who will be your mentor?

Whether it is through traveling, career changes, or personal challenges, your journey will help you confront fears, overcome obstacles, and ultimately find a renewed sense of purpose.


Please feel free to share your thoughts with me

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