The Heroes’ Journey is a metaphor. The usually young man or woman takes a journey away from what is familiar, the safe, what is comforting and known. This reaching into the unknown implies great risk and danger. New challenges are encountered demanding new responses, the cultivation of new skills and capacities. This reaching into the unknown, meeting new and often unexpected challenges, the unfolding of new perceptions and capacities is the essence of transcendence. The formal definition of transcend or transcendence is ‘reaching beyond limitation and constraint.’ The entire spectrum we call childhood and human development is based on this principal. Joseph Chilton Pearce devoted an entire book, The Biology of Transcendence, to this theme.
The question is: what is it that limits and constrains? What is it that must be transcended especially when viewing the parent paradigm? Yes, parenting is a paradigm; a pattern, an archetype, a way of perceiving with implicit behaviors. Looking deeply, a transcendent model of parenting is one that overcomes the limitations and constraints that the known pattern represents. The known pattern is called culture.
In Joe’s book he describes how biology is based on transcendence. Culture is not. Culture is the story we tell each other. This is the way it is done, not that. Culture is essentially conservative, that is, it resists change. Biology is dynamic, using homeostasis, stability, as a basis for ‘reaching beyond.’ We call this evolution and this constant morphing is accomplished through play. Play in this regard is not a thing, rather it is a verb, a state of relationship that is open, flexible, curious, full of energy and attention, a willingness to risk, to try and try again with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. There is wonder; meaning interested ‘not knowing’, humor, care with its implied affection and respect. All these qualities and more are active, present and available to meet the next unknown. Play is a state, not an activity.
The rules we call culture have none of these. We eat this and not that. We speak this way and not that. We ware this kind of clothing and not that. And each of us are compared, judged, punished and rewarded based on our conformity to the accepted pattern. Culture represents one paradigm and our innate nature, what Joe calls the Biology of Transcendence, is another paradigm. And there is a battel between the two.
Again, looking closely, we find that our identity is etched as an adaptive copping pattern to the limitations and constraints imposed by culture. We have our embodied temperament and we have our personality, our persona, our particular social mask that we ware, must ware when dealing with the slings and arrows that culture represents. Temperament is largely biological. Personality is defined by society and that by culture.
The hero’s journey is and has always been traveling from the safe, the accepted, very limited, very constrained patterns culture imposes to the deep interior, far more authentic and vastly more diverse and dynamic and mostly unknown ground of our being. What we really are, not the mask.
Like a fish in water we can’t take off the mask in culture. Our very identity, our self-world view is defined by the water. And mask, which is all most of us really know, was carved precisely to fit in that particular pond. What now is the hero’s journey? It is giving up our very identity, who we think we are. More importantly the hero’s journey means negating the power ‘what will they think of me,’ has over our behavior and choices we make. Risky indeed.
To not be subject to culture’s approval brings a heavy price, that of being rejected, punished, even being abandoned by the culture. Mainstream parenting is based on this punishment and reward, comparison, judgement system. Parenting, mainstream compulsory schooling, law enforcement, the courts, church, prisons, the military, flag waving patriotism are all part of the same paradigm. Taking the hero’s journey implies bucking and then transcending this paradigm.
Joseph Campbell picked mythology as the framework for the journey. What is important to understand is that there is only one journey, that of transcending the limitations and constraints imposed by conservative-culture and thereby discovering and developing our authentic nature, which is boundless.
New human beings are born into their authentic nature. What Ashley called the ‘genius of childhood’ in Growing Young, is the free expression of our authentic nature. The goal of traditional parenting models, ‘eat another spoon of this crappy boxed cereal for mommy,’ is to domesticate children out of their authentic nature adulterating them as we are adulterated.
The only hope for ourselves and our children is for adults to take the hero’s journey, to see very clearly how conditioned and compliant we are, which as John-Taylor Gatto points out, is the goal of compulsory schooling and as an extension of the same paradigm, compulsory parenting, comparison, rewards and punishment. Deeply conditioned, adulterated adults have no choice but to deeply condition and adulterate their children. OMG! Now what? Welcome to journey. The next step to the right is the twilight zone.
But there are hints, helping hands along the way. Recall in the bible, ‘unless you become as little children you can’t enter the kingdom?’ The kingdom is your authentic nature which is nothing less than creation incarnate. You ARE made in the image and likeness of God, but god is not a thing. Culture took the Tao, living, moving, always changing creative intelligence and froze it, as in a comic book, in the form of a wrathful parent or domineering parent or vengeful Monarch. The true likeness is that of ‘creation,’ creative intelligence in action. That is what your child is and you were.
Your challenge, and the perineal invitation each new human being offers to the adulterated culture is to become once again as a little child. No, not spilling and slapping mud pies. Becoming as a child is to return to our authentic nature in a mature adult form which means transcending; reaching beyond the limitations and constraints we imposed on ourselves by accepting and reincarnating, moment by moment our social-cultural identity. Right! How do we do that? Easy. Do what you children do naturally. Play.
Games? No, not football or golf. No winning games. Games are culture’s counterfeit for authentic play or what Fred Donaldson calls ‘original play.’ Unadulterated children may get frustrated but they have no self-image to compare, a prerequisite for failure-conformity. Imagine not having an image to compare, to get embarrassed, to be judged, bribed, punished or rejected. With no inner social image none of these limitations and constraints has any meaning. They don’t exist. Imagine it if were impossible to ever get embarrassed again. What would you do, explore and learn that you have self-censored for fear that someone might not approve? How much of your vast potential would you have discovered and developed that you have not? Welcome to the hero’s journey and what Transcendent Mentoring is all about.
If you are caught in comparison and judgment, feeling compared and judged, you have no choice but to pass this along to you children. If you get embarrassed, you will pass this phobia on to your children. Monkey see. Monkey do. In order to free your children form the limitations that our cultural identity implies you need to become free, innocent, as a mature caring adult. Let the genius of childhood be your guide, but you have to wake up early, or your conditioning will infect the children you love and they will become just like you.
What does it mean to wake up? Recall we said that play is a state not an activity. This is your key. Just as you have been deeply conditioned to live inside the image you created in order to navigate a judging, punitive culture, you can rediscover what it is like to be absolutely free of that image.
What does it feel like to wonder, to be really interested and not knowing? Wonder is a state. What you think you are wondering about is thought, memory which is different than wonder. What does being open and flexible feel like? Consider how it feels to be closed and inflexible as a feeling. What does it feel like to be full of energy and attention, to be really attentive and curious before thought comes in and makes up a conclusion or reduces all that energy and attention to a word or concept? Imagine what it feels like to try, to risk again and again, like learning how to roller-skate or ride a bike for the first time with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. What does kindness feel like? What does trust feel like? Not the idea, the feeling? What does affection, care and respect feel like before these become words or ideas? Imagine meeting your young child who IS all of these, and relating to the world, the next moment and the next in this shared state, the child leading with their lack of experience and you from your years? The young mind points and gestures. The mature mind responds with wisdom. Together they represent the ever-newness that life is with the maturity that timeless wisdom represents. The transcendent mentor invites and models wisdom, kindness and appropriateness in the child while the child reminds the adult of beginners mind and ever-renewing innocence.
The key to taking the hero’s journey and along the way becoming a transcendent mentor for this and future generations is to understand the nature, quality and experience of authentic play. For the kingdom isn’t a place. It is a state. The state you are in as you meet any challenge defines the challenge and how well or poorly you will respond. Elite athletes know this. They seek the Zone, which is a clam, curious, fully attentive highly energized state, and from that respond to the next pitch. We need to do the same as parents. If being in the Zone is good enough for hitting a golf ball don’t our children and the future of humanity deserve at least the same? Is that asking too much? By the age of five the average child has spent over 5,000 hours staring at a dead screen, hardly the zone.
The majority of our time will be spent exploring what authentic play is and its cultural counterfeits. This will involve a number of video interviews and programs with Joseph Chilton Pearce, founder of the national institute for Play Stewart Brown, Fred Donaldson and Bev Bos.
With this as a foundation we will explore play ages and stages and how you can live your life more and more in this optimum state for learning and performance. We will explore how doing so will eliminate the vast majority of conflicts most parents experience with their children, even with two year olds and teens.
Most of the chatter in our lives is self-generated. This electrochemical smog clouds our awareness, dulls our senses. We spend most of our time chasing our own fear-generated tail. We have all sorts of silly ideas and opinions about ourselves and others.
None of this is intelligence. Real intelligence rests below the self-generated smog. To access this intelligence, with its billion yeas of unfoldment, we need to shut up.
Some call this meditation.
Others simply say, "Be still."
Being still invites expansive sensitivity. No longer distracted by all the noise we make, we see and respond to life, and especially our children differently. We talk less, encourage more but without interfering or controlling. We take our cues from the child instead of telling them what to think and do.
Some set aside a specific time and sit in a given way.
Really, we can become still anytime, anyplace. The more we do the more silence with its expansive awareness and intelligence fills our life rather than the fears and latest pop-culture entrapments.
Being still is transcendence in action.
Background for Michael’s insights emerge from twenty-five years of personal relationships and over one hundred film and video taped interviews with scientists, authors, visionary educators and athletes.
Michael is an author, educator, documentary filmmaker and founder of Touch the Future, a nonprofit learning design center. His book, Magical Parent-Magical Child, the Art of Joyful Parenting, co-authored with Joseph Chilton Pearce, applies research on optimum states to parenting and to education. Michael is developing two additional books; Kids are Not The Problem, a series of essays on parenting the next critical generation and Flowering, a collection of dramatic floral images (see: zfolio.com) and quotes by Krishnamurti.
Inspiration for this work emerged from personal relationships with Pearce, physicist David Bohm, philosopher J. Krishnamurti, and over one hundred scientists, authors and educators. If being in an optimum state is important to professional athletes, imagine what this could mean to parents, childcare providers, educators, coaches and the children they love. Michael writes and speaks internationally on the Next Frontier in Education, The Intelligence of Play, Transcendent Mentoring of This And Future Generations, Media and the Brain, Corporate Exploitation of Children, The Brave New World of Un-Schooling and Home-Schooling, Seven Principles that Transform Adults and Children, The Childlike Mind, Rational Imagination, Raising Children in a Sport-Crazed Culture, and other topics.
Playful Wisdom transforms the experience of being a father, as many mother’s know, into a deep and profound state of constant learning and growth. Being a father today is not easy. The growth that occurs during the critical early years happens so fast and the changes are so profound that we can barely keep up. Fathers are often dazed by the blast. If we blink it is over and that moment will never repeat itself again.
Read more about Playful Wisdom and its reviews here.
Magical Parent – Magical Child With Joseph Chilton Pearce
Magical Parent-Magical Child, the Optimum Learning Relationship is the first book to define parenting, coaching and educating children as developmental, transformative practices for adults. The central theme of the book is the transformation of childhood through the transformation of adults. Our goal is to optimize the adult-child interface by applying the proven strategies that allow top athletes and other specialists to consistently perform at extraordinary levels. If optimum learning, performance and well-being is the goal when relating to tennis balls and hockey pucks, what about you and I? What about our children? Do they, or we, deserve anything less?
We do this by helping adults rediscover the “playful” and “childlike” genius of their own innate intelligence, as they guide, learn from and mentor children, which awakens and develops in adults new capacities and possibilities. Infusing the adult-child relationship with this fresh creative energy and attention transforms the adult which results in a radically different learning environment for children. Changing the adult changes the environment we call childhood. This transforms the child, which cycles back and transforms the adult. We call this playful, reciprocal-dynamic, the Optimum Learning Relationship.
The book develops this theme by exploring and applying the psychology of optimum experience to parenting, childcare, education and coaching. Research shows that the “state” athletes call the Zone, what researchers and professionals call Flow and what children call Play share the basic characteristic of complete self-less absorption and engagement in the moment. This “state” of complete unconflicted behavior is nature’s baseline, her expectation, for optimum learning, performance and well-being. Yoga, meditation and athletics, when approached in their true spirit, attune us to this optimum state. Looking deeper we discover that all learning, performance and wellness is “state specific.” States of being are primary; they come first, filter and define what we learn, how we perform, and our relative wellness or disease, moment to moment.
Conferences, Public Speaking & Workshops
Beginning in the 1980’s Michael has been challenging national and international audiences. He organized Learning Without Limits, a national educational conference on play-based models of learning and performance. He has presented workshops and keynote addresses in San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles, in Canada, India, Poland, Amsterdam, London, Milan, Salzburg, Stockholm, Munich, Innsbruck, and many other venues before the Association of Pre and Prenatal Psychology & Health, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, Waldorf educators, Child-Spirit groups, educational, home school, research and business associations.
Touch the Future
Touch the Future is a nonprofit 501c3 learning design center. The mission is to apply research on optimum states of learning and performance, what athletes call the Zone, what researchers call Flow and what every child know as Play, to parenting and to education. Touch the Future’s website (see: www.ttfuture.org), hosts an extensive archive of interviews and publications on birth, bonding, brain development, imagination, fitness, sports, competition, and an array of inspired educational and play based learning models.
Film and Media Production
Michael has over twenty-five years of professional experience producing film, video, print and interactive media programs for public education, medical research, corporations, national and international television broadcasters, UNESCO and private foundations. Most notable is a twenty year history working with the life and teachings of J. Krishnamurti, directing two feature documentaries, The Challenge of Change and With A Silent Mind plus a twelve-part encapsulation of major themes entitled Beyond Myth & Tradition. Most recently he designed and produced a traveling museum exhibit summarizing the life and teachings of J. Krishnamurti. Plans are underway for a major international documentary exploring Krishnamurti’s views of education. Michael also produced and directed a ninety-minute biographical documentary on the life of Paramahansa Yogananda, teacher and author of Autobiography of a Yogi.
The Nurturing Project
The Nurturing Project revolutionizes the way that local communities mentor and support parents and the people who care for young children. Nurturing partners civic organizations with childcare providers, drawing together, on a regular basis, civic-mentors, parents and providers in creative dialogue. The goal is to surround parents and early childcare providers with the most inspired information, nonviolent communication and group communication skills. The system is designed to develop the personal relationships required to meet local needs with local resources, neighborhood by neighborhood, all across the land. See: www.nurturing.us
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