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I began mentoring an individual whose internal conflict was rapidly approaching open conflict. During the first session he said, “I don’t know who I really am and would like to meet me before I die.” He went on to say, “I don’t feel really alive anymore. It’s all descended into numbness.”

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

The journey we began was one that is common to almost all of my mentoring work. Our project became to introduce him to himself – to find out who he was and then to explore the question of what he should be doing with this amazing gift that was his life. We began the inward journey – into what Campbell refers to as the ‘abyss’. Our travels took us inward – down into the center of the person he had become. As a kind of midwife, my job was to provide support and encouragement along the path. His was to maintain the courage and faith necessary to make the transformational journey to himself.

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

The process of this second birth began by looking for those things in past experience that added purpose and zest to his life. We also looked carefully at those parts of his avatar which were not adding to his life. In his case, he had embarked on career in business. Much of what he was doing could be called consulting. To be sure, he was good at it. There was plenty of money and little sense of being at risk. But the life that he had built around that career was not nourishing his life. It felt increasingly empty and lacking of a purpose that served who he was.

I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.

But there were experiences in years past that resonated in his memory. When he relived them, his face lit up and there was a lift in his voice that was hard to miss. We talked about them extensively – trying to understand why they matched who he was. After a while it became clear that there was a direct connection between the man as he had become and those experiences. Later on, it became clear that he could – and should – refocus his life in a way that filled his tank with ‘high-test’ rather than running on regular! We had found the beginning of the path forward.

But all of this was only prelude – merely labor pains – and the second birthing was yet to come. Before that birthing could take place, he had to decide to let it occur. You see, this second birthing is a voluntary event – it must be not only be allowed but willed. Perhaps a short poem might highlight the reason.

The Wind, One Brilliant Day

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

‘In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.’

‘I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.’

‘Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.’

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
‘What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?’

Antonio Machado

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