Are you following your bliss? Do you even know where to start? Our newest course in the Intent Shop, “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey,” written by Alanna Kaivalya, gives you the playbook you need to find your own happiness and unlock your inner potential. Intent sat down with Alanna to ask her how the inspiration for the course came about and how she thinks it can truly help you discover your own inner hero.
INTENT: For those in the Intent community that aren’t familiar with your work, what is your background and how did you get into your field?
ALANNA: In my college years, I took a course on South Asian religions and was at once captivated by the stories within those traditions. These were myths I had never been exposed to, and the rich characters and antics immediately awakened something within me. It was right at that time that I began to teach yoga, and incorporate the stories into my classes. People loved them, and eventually I ended up writing a book on the mythology behind yoga poses called Myths of the Asanas (Mandala, 2010). During the time I was writing this book, I stumbled upon the extraordinary work of Joseph Campbell and was inspired beyond my wildest dreams by this man whose work paved the way for people to think outside the box and explore the common thread within all mythologies. I decided to embark on a program that would take me through Joseph Campbell’s own course of study so I could broaden my understanding of myth to include myths of the contemporary west. With the pursuit of my PhD while continuing to teach mythology across the country as well as the completion of my second book (Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan, New World Library, 2014), I find myself now fully immersed in Joseph Campbell’s teaching with the unique lens of having brought it to the public in a way that allows them to unlock their own personal mythology and find the core connection to the self-empowering force of myth.
INTENT: What lead you to designing this course?
ALANNA: Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal work in 1949, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, where he looks at the common structure of the journey of the hero throughout various myths and legends around the world. Understanding how this common thread affects us now, in a time where our myths are constantly being questioned, helps us to reunite what has been broken and lost. Finding a way to track and discover our own heroic journey is a way to revivify our aliveness and take back the precious moments of our lives. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how.
INTENT: What does being a “modern” mystic mean to you?
ALANNA: It means taking the tools and structures that we have in this life, in this time, at this moment that are relevant and alive for us and using them to discover something more about ourselves. The time has come for us to recreate living mythologies that speak to our current modern psyche and enliven us. What is great, is that each of us already has some kind of personal belief system–figuring out exactly what that is, and what it is aligned with–is how we answer the question Carl Jung asked himself, which is “What myth do we live by?” When we know what myth we live by, what kind of hero we are, then we understand how to navigate all of life’s trials, tribulations and challenges in order to reveal something more powerful within ourselves.
INTENT: In the course you build a lot off of Joseph Campbell’s archetype for a hero – how did you find his work and what drew you to Campbell?
ALANNA: Joseph Campbell is the man behind our modern understanding of myth! You can’t go very far into an inquiry about myth without bumping into his work. He popularized the study of myth and brought to the fore the idea that there is a common theme within all mythic structures, building off of Carl Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and universal archetypes. Joseph Campbell, it turns out, had some pretty serious answers to my biggest questions and so I’ve come to be an admirer of his body of work and have been very interested in doing what I can to not only bring his work even further into the public eye, but also to show people the power and potential that his work can have in their own life, on a personal level.
INTENT: You say in the course that you want to take off where Campbell left off in mythology – where do you want to go with it now?
ALANNA: When Campbell died in 1987, he was on to something… that technology and the modern age would continue to accelerate and it would fundamentally change how we interact with one another and how we understand ourselves. This is true, and as a modern comparative mythologist, I’m looking at how to use our experiences of the world today to make our myths start working for us again. Basically, a living mythology activates human potential, and the human psyche has a primary need for myth in order to understand the unexplainable. There is a lot we still can’t explain–even with our technology and science–but as we learn and are able to explain more and more about our universe and condition, our mythology must be malleable enough to evolve and continue to speak to our human potential. This kind of rapid growth and learning can be embodied through our own personal mythology–what each person carries inside of them. Because each of us is now developing our own unique experience of the world, outside of the old, simpler way of living where the world experience was pretty well defined and confined to a much smaller group. On a global scale with wider, varying interests, what we believe needs to satisfy the core structure of each of us as individuals while still uniting us to the larger group.
INTENT: We are currently being bombarded with super-heroes in pop-culture, especially with the success of franchise films like Iron Man and the Avengers. What do you think makes hero stories so appealing to people? Why are they necessary for a fulfilling life?
ALANNA: Everyone needs a hero. Everyone needs someone who can show them the possibility and potential of their own human life. Knowing that someone has gone before you, enlightens you to the possibility that it maybe you can do it, too. This gives us two necessary qualities: Hope and connection. Without hope and connection, we live, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “amongst a heap of broken images.” I believe that the beauty of the Avenger’s series is that it is alive and responsive to the current times and culture. Each of the characters has a modern day twist on the hero: Iron Man is a billionaire genius, The Hulk is a super-smart scientist, Captain America is the ultimate soldier. These are characters that are alive and well in our culture, and with The Avengers, they get just a little boost that makes them superhuman. This is what is active and alive in our cultural unconscious and is speaking to the problems of our society including poverty, modern warfare, the development of the digital age and the collapse of large social structures. We have to have hope and inspiration in regards to the problems we face now. I believe that The Avengers are doing a stellar job of giving us a template for this hope and inspiration.
INTENT: Did you learn or realize anything new about your own definition of hero while designing this course?
ALANNA: Actually, it was the other way around. It was my own discovery of the importance of the journey of the hero and personal mythology that made me want to write a course to show people how to find this for themselves. In my more than decade plus years of taking people through the mythology in the context of eastern spirituality and yoga, I was seeing for myself how important it was for people to discover and understand that the hero they were hearing stories about did not exist outside of themselves. The hero’s path, ultimately, is an internal path and we use the stories of our heroes as templates to discover our own internal journey. This is how we find hope, inspiration and connection when it otherwise becomes unavailable in our relationships, careers, health… you name it. Give people the tools and techniques to reignite their own internal power, to rediscover their own internal hero, and they can make it through any challenge. They become heroes themselves. I have seen this time and time again not only in my work with thousands of students, but within myself. How could I not share these powerful insights with others? This is why I wrote the eCourse for Intent, and why I’m leading this as a live workshop at Esalen in January of 2014. Because, it’s a simple process, and once you know how to find your heroic journey, you can do it time and time again, no matter what struggle you face.
INTENT: What should our followers and those who purchase the course expect to gain from taking it? What should be their goal before starting the course?
ALANNA: This work is designed to give you the tools to face your greatest challenges and overcome your greatest fears in order to live the life you imagined. It’s not small stuff. I encourage those who purchase the course to think big and see where their journey takes them.
Overcome your own deepest fears and emerge as the hero of our own story. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how. Join Alanna at the gorgeous Esalen retreat center on the Coast of California with breath taking hot tubs, locally grown food and Kaivalya Method Yoga.
Click here to purchase your own “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey” course.