Well, it looks like I have finally come through my own “Belly of the Whale” experience in terms of juggling my various personal activities. Let’s see if I can get this Hero’s Journey series kick-started again.
Hello Spiritual Seekers, and welcome to another Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts. I am your host, Mark, and I have practically been avoiding writing this podcast episode for the last 3 months.
Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. I have not been purposely avoiding the podcast. What has really happened is that I’ve been having to learn to balance my life out a little more than I’m used to. I’m quite accustomed to my life being somewhat random and chaotic and I often just sail wherever the winds take me, but lately I find that I need a little more focus and direction. As I get older, I need to make sure that my lifestyle will continue to be sustainable well into my retirement years
In essence, I really feel like I have actually been living through this fifth step in the hero’s journey - at least in terms of producing the podcast.
The Belly of the Whale phase of the hero’s journey is what could really be termed as the “rebirth stage” or perhaps as the “preparation stage” for the trials that will follow. If you have begun your hero’s journey and are feeling a little stuck or are uncertain what direction to go next, then it is most likely that you are in this Belly of the Whale stage. Make no doubt about it, you are being prepared for major growth ahead. After you’re reborn, you have to grow up.
The major issue with this stage of the Hero’s Journey is that you have no idea when the whale is going to spit you out and where you’ll be when it does so. You may have to wait for supernatural aid to convince the whale to cough you up on a beach somewhere (that’s a Jonah and the Whale reference) or you may have to start a fire and have the whale sneeze you out (that’s a Pinocchio reference).
Or maybe you’ll have to escape from a burning space station (that’s a Gravity reference - check out my podcast on that one). Or perhaps you’ll have to shed the armour that weighs you down and practically drowns you in the castle moat (that’s an Excalibur reference - there’s a podcast on that one too).
My point here is this: I can’t tell you how long this stage of your journey will last because, in essence, you have died and you’re waiting to be reborn. This is a time in your life where old and worn out things are going to be cut away. This is when you cast stuff off and get rid of things, when you stop destructive cycles of behaviour and tell certain people in your life that you just need some time to yourself.
Every step of your Hero’s Journey thus far has led up to this moment: you have heard the Call to Adventure, you’ve possibly refused that Call at first, but came to accept it, some kind of Supernatural Aid has come into your life and then you took your first step and Crossed the Threshold into a new world of being.
And now where do you go from here?
While I can’t give you that specific answer (I’m not much help today, am I?), I think I can provide you with some general “rules” that may give you some clues as to the rough direction you can look in.
If you have always been a very orderly person that likes to be in control of things, then I believe the you are going to be in more of a Jonah situation and you’ll have to wait for the whale to spit you out when it’s jolly good and ready. You have to be ready and willing to welcome a little chaos into your life. You absolutely cannot control every situation in life and if you truly want to continue your Hero’s Journey, you have to do your best to not control the direction it wants to take you. You have to learn when to take control and when to relinquish control. You have to learn about and accept your limitations.
On the other hand, if you have always been a very carefree or outright driven-by-your-passions kind of individual, then you need to start by accepting some responsibility for your actions and clean up your room - I’ll direct you to an early scene in the movie Limitless and a scene in the YouTube series Cobra Kai for that exact reference: the men in these shows who are down and out and blaming all their problems on their pasts finally learn that the path to becoming real men starts by simply and literally cleaning up their apartments.
And for chaotic individuals, myself included in that group, starting on a path of Order can be that simple, but it really doesn’t end there. You have to stand up and learn to become an adult. You need to forcefully create some order in your life and get that Whale of Chaos to sneeze you out so you can continue your Path to Wholeness.
I guess what I’m really saying is that the Belly of Whale stage is not something you can really fight your way out of. You can’t force this stage to be what you want it to be. You have to develop into a human being that can be birthed anew into the world. The more you fight it and try to make it what you want, the longer it will hang onto you.
Oh, yes, you were the one who took the plunge through the Threshold, but Life is ultimately the one in control: for the Whale to release you into the new and wider world you generally have to do something or act in a way that is counter-intuitive to your nature.
It’s what I’m having to do right now as I write this podcast episode. It would be pretty easy for me to just let Life continue to carry me along in its wake at the moment, but there was a purpose for my taking a break from the podcast and it is time for that break to end or this period of “coasting” will simply never end. I cannot avoid writing or producing this podcast forever. And now that I have done so, hopefully I will continue my journey towards newer and greater experiences.
One thing that I have always done with these Hero’s Journey podcast episodes is to use songs to emphasize the particular stage that I am talking about and I would like to continue that trend even though it has been quite difficult to find a song that fits this Belly of the Whale theme. However, I believe I have found a song that, for me, certainly does portray the comfortable and complacent feeling that we can get if we refuse to leave the Belly of the Whale - I think that’s the possibility I’ve mostly iterated for the last few paragraphs.
Because we can ultimately fight our rebirth. We can be satisfied with accepting the Call to Adventure and Crossing the First Threshold and we can simply allow the Whale to swallow us and never accept and grow into our full capability.
We can choose to remain as unformed, incomplete human beings.
And these days too many people are choosing that path - or choosing not to take the path depending how you look at it.
Best example? Look at the concept of being “woke” these days. Yes, you can be “woke” and shake off the shackles of the past and look at the world with new eyes and new understanding, but what good does it do you to be “woke” if you refuse to grow up? It seems like most “woke” individuals these days seem to want someone else to fix all the problems in the world when, as I always say on Think Spiritual, you have to change your Self and then YOU can change your world.
Being “woke” is simply a Belly of the Whale stage of your Hero’s Journey. Being “woke” isn’t enough. It’s time to be reborn and become someone new and better than you were before.
Anyway, back to the song I began to talk about: it’s called “Start Swimming” by the Dutch band Delain and I think these few lyrics emphasize some of today’s talk:
Do you remember why we started running?
Do you remember why we’re running at all?
If I dared, I’d choose to swim,
But it’s safer on the shore.
To me this seems like the protagonist of the song began a journey a long time ago - so long ago that they have forgotten where they came from and where they are going, but they know there is a way to go deeper and a way to continue the journey. It’s not about just Crossing a Threshold at this point - that’s been done already. This is about choosing to face and experience life in a new way.
This other line of lyrics continues this theme - oh and I want to specify here that if you look up lyrics for this song they may say the word “then” in this section, but it is not “then” T H E N, it is “than” T H A N. Very important difference that changes the meaning drastically:
I would rather stay here the rest of my life
Than (remember, T H A N): Than close my eyes and start swimming
Think about it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay in the Belly of the Whale or stay on the mountain top or stay where it is comfortable and safe than it would be to be spit out into the depths and have to swim?
Because, I will admit to you, that if you do choose to be reborn, the journey is just beginning and what comes next is difficult. Once you leave the Belly of the Whale you will face a Road of Trials.
Ah, but once again. That next stage of the Hero’s Journey will have to wait for the next Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual podcasts.
Thank you very much for listening. I have been your host, Mark, this has been a talk regarding the fifth stage of the Hero’s Journey and I really do hope and believe that you will be reborn and step forth from your Belly of Whale as you continue your journey to becoming a new and better you.
I will see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual podcasts.
Change your Self; change your World.