You were born bold and brave and eager to begin the adventure of your life. You believed you could be anyone, do anything, go anywhere your imagination led. Somewhere along the way, you lost your audacity. The voices of parents, teachers, societal expectations taught you to doubt yourself, live up to expectations, be afraid of change. But that heroic little girl survived. She took up residence in your heart and whispered in your ear. She begged you to listen, to let her out, to embark on those adventures you both had imagined. Now, that voice is getting louder. You can’t ignore your inner Shero anymore. You are sick and tired of tamping yourself down, pleasing others, going along for the ride. You can’t bear to spend one more day on the sidelines, playing a supporting role, sacrificing your own joy for the sake of others. You fear it is too late, but you are called to reclaim those lost dreams. You are ready to play a starring role in your own life. You are ready for the Shero’s Return.

Whose story are you telling?

This is a book about stories — the stories we have been told, the stories we tell ourselves, and the universal stories that have shaped centuries of mythology and culture. It is an invitation to look at your own life story, and reframe it to make yourself more authentic, more powerful, and more in alignment with who you want to be in the world. It is a call to take an inner journey to the places your heart and soul have travelled since arriving on planet earth, and to envision yourself as the intentional creator of those experiences.

No matter where you are in your life, there is a story you are telling yourself about how you got there. The question is, whose story are your telling? Is it the story you have been told by your parents, teachers, or friends? Is it the story you made up to blame other people for your own unhappiness? Is it the story of the larger culture — a story that shapes what women are supposed to do, how they are supposed to feel and act?

Many of us (especially women) have spent our lives trying to please others — playing a supporting role in the lives of our friends and loved ones. We gladly take on the role of lover, nurturer, or muse — only to find ourselves years later wondering what happened to our own hopes and dreams.

Some of us spent our time living up to other people’s expectations. We are successful on the outside, but wind up feeling empty at the end of the day.

Others have turned the sins of our parents, teachers, or bosses into a tale of eternal victimhood. We can never be happy because we are too busy blaming others for our lot in life.

I know I have told myself all of these stories at various times in my life — until I just could not stand it anymore. I was tired of feeling unhappy and resentful, sick of working all the time and not feeling fulfilled, bored with the same old stories. It took a great crisis to break through the layers of accumulated grief and pain. But I came out on the other side determined to stop being a wallflower and start playing a starring role in my own life.

I believe that women in today’s society have a unique challenge to stay true to themselves as they navigate the world juggling many roles as partners, parents, employees, and entrepreneurs. We have embraced the persona of Super Woman, but many of us do not feel so powerful inside. It is time to reclaim our power from a place of connection, authenticity and wholeness. That is where the shero’s journey will lead.

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The Archetypal Shero’s Journey

In myth and imagination, there is a timeless formula for the hero’s journey, described by Joseph Campbell in his groundbreaking book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. You have read about it in books like Harry Potter and The Hobbit, and seen it played out in movies like Star Wars and Black Panther. This journey starts with a call to adventure, usually followed by an initial refusal of the call. Then the hero meets a mentor and sets out to confront and vanquish enemies. After facing one last ordeal, the hero emerges victorious and claims his reward, returning home with the prize.

Maureen Murdock, a therapist who worked under Joseph Campbell, recognized that his model does not fully capture the experience of many women whose external lives are intertwined with their roles as nurturers and caretakers. In The Heroine’s Journey, she explores the ways in which a woman’s path might take a different turn. She describes this as an inner journey to embrace the feminine and become a fully integrated, balanced, and whole human being.

The hero’s journey is focused on the adventures: slaying the dragon, finding the boon, meeting the goddess. For the heroine, the first part of the journey is the separation from the feminine, because of the focus in our culture on the idealization of the masculine. The individual in a patriarchal culture is driven to seek control and power over themselves and others; still slaying the dragons, internally and externally, and finding the boon, more externally. But for women, this doesn’t feed our nature. We ask, ‘What happened to my desire to write, to paint, to dance?’ And then, we experience the descent. So, there’s a split when we focus more on making it in the world, rather than on listening to our deep self. ~ Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey

The heroine’s journey also has predictable steps. First, the young woman separates from her feminine nature and aligns with the masculine. Then she sets off on a path similar to the hero, only to find that the rewards are illusory. That marks the beginning of a period of spiritual aridity and a descent to parts unknown. Only after this period of darkness can she heal her wounds and integrate the masculine and feminine sides of her psyche.

What makes it all so complicated is that women are often taking both journeys simultaneously. Our two paths are intertwined as we embark on careers, create and nurture families, and try to find some small crumbs of time for our own spiritual growth. We may take two steps forward and one step backward as our priorities continue to evolve. It is only when we reach some symbolic turning point — the death of a loved one, kids leaving home, losing a job — that we take stock and realize that we have lost our way.

According to Murdock, “Women’s quest at this time is to fully embrace the feminine nature, learning how to value themselves as women and to heal the deep wound of the feminine. It is an inner journey toward being a fully integrated, balanced, and whole human being.”

In many cultural traditions, this balance and integration are embodied in the tribe’s shaman, healer, or wise woman elder whose path follows the Four-Fold Way. They have successfully balanced the archetypes of Warrior, Healer, Visionary, and Teacher to lead their peoples to live in harmony with the environment and their inner natures. My goal in this book is to inspire as many women as possible to step into this leadership role for the benefit of our planet and our civilization. It is no mystery that the world today is full of strife, conflict, and division. The energy of light-bearers is needed now more than ever to raise the collective consciousness of the world.

The Wonder Woman Archetype

You can see the heroine’s journey played out in the latest remake of the Wonder Woman movie directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gail Gadot. Diana, Princess of the Amazons, must defy her mother to set out on an adventure to save the world from a devastating poisonous bomb being invented by the Nazis.

Like any traditional hero, Diana gains allies and enemies as she embarks on her journey to a challenging, unfamiliar world. In a series of super heroic battles, she is tested many times, and each time she rises to the challenge. Finally, she emerges victorious from her greatest ordeal, a fight to the death with Aeres.

This is where Diana’s quest diverges from the traditional hero’s journey. Had she been a man, we would have seen her march through the streets of London triumphant, holding the spoils of the battle proudly above her head. That would have initiated the return to her home, a hero bearing the rewards of the battle.

Instead, we see Diana quietly approach a wall of photos, searching for the young man who started her on this journey and sacrificed his life in service of the higher cause. She has won the battle with Aeres, but is disillusioned with her success. The world is still full of avarice and greed, and her mission to restore peace and beauty has been thwarted.

As we leave our heroine, she is alone and spiritually empty. She vows to change the world through the power of love, but it is not clear how that transformation will happen. She has rejected the male definition of success but doesn’t have a clear vision to replace it.

That is where many of us find ourselves during times of great transition in our lives. And that is exactly why we need to re-envision the stories we have been telling ourselves about love, success, and happiness.

Steps Along the Path

So how do we find a path to wholeness and integration? If the road is not linear, how do we know where to take the next step?

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Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to write a memoir. In fact, you cannot reclaim your power by looking at life chronologically. Instead, over the next ten weeks, I am going to lead you through a process to think about key moments in your life in a different way.

Over the course of a lifetime, women cycle through the dance of the masculine and feminine, separation and identification, as their life circumstances change. I think of this dance as a spiral, where the same issues are encountered with each cycle, but on a higher plane of consciousness.

In this book, we are going to look at the cycle you are currently experiencing, whether it is your first prom, your wedding, or your golden anniversary dance.

Here is a preview of the things we will be discussing in the coming weeks:

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

Every super hero has an origin story, and so do you! This is the story of why and how you came to be on the planet at this time in history. What, you’re saying? I didn’t have any choice in that. Maybe not, but you do have a choice in the story you tell about it. Your origin story is the source of your greatest powers, as well as your most dangerous vulnerabilities.

Chapter 2: The Dance of Separation and Identification

Sometimes we have to choose between our inner masculine and feminine to take on a challenge, but that always comes at a cost. Many women alternate between the two as they juggle the responsibilities of family and career. This is an opportunity to examine the choices we have made in our lives, and whether the balance we have struck continues to serve us.

Chapter 3: The Call

Every shero is called to leave her comfortable world and do something greater than herself. Sometimes we accept the challenge, and other times we choose to stay in our comfort zone. In this chapter we will take a look at the times we have embraced the call with all our hearts. What did you gain, and what pieces of yourself did you lose along the way?

Chapter 4: Donning Masks and Armor

Our inner warriors need masks and weapons for protection. We put them on when we go out to vanquish our enemies, but sometimes they also shield from true connection with friends and loved ones. Now it is time to see whether they are still working for us, or is it time to let them go?

Chapter 5: Allies, Demons & Dragons

Every shero has enemies to vanquish and sidekicks to help her along on her journey. In this chapter we will figure out how to nurture your allies and eliminate the energy vampires from your life. Some of them may be missing pieces of yourself coming back to claim their rightful place. What do you need to do to make peace with them and continue on the next phase of your journey?

Chapter 6: The Illusory Mask of Success

Have you ever reached a personal or professional goal, only to feel empty and unfulfilled? That probably means you were out of alignment with your authentic self. Let’s unmask the disconnect and figure out your own personal definition of success, so you can live in alignment.

Chapter 7: The Descent

There is no avoiding it. If you have lost your way, you are going to have to descend to the bottom of the well to confront your lost and missing pieces. There is no way beyond it but through it. But we will de everything we can to minimize the time you have to spend in your dark night of the soul.

Chapter 8: The Road Back

Now it is time to reunite you with the missing pieces of yourself that you discarded or covered up to get where you are today. We will heal and balance the masculine and feminine energies, and reconnect with the magical little girl within to reclaim your authentic power.

Chapter 9: The Shero’s Return

This chapter will help you identify and integrate your inner Warrior, Healer, Teacher, and Visionary so you can step into your wisdom as an authentic leader. It is time to let your light shine on the world.

Chapter 10: Create Your Next Chapter

You have been returned to wholeness. Now you get to create your next adventure from a place of power and authenticity. You are the author, editor, publisher, and main character of your life story. It is time to make yourself a SHERO!

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