One day, you may find yourself on a journey. You never wished or planned for this. You may not define yourself as an adventurer or a seeker—and certainly not as a hero. And yet you find yourself on a quest. In the uppermost layer of your mind, in the shallow region that compares ourselves with others, we may judge this to be ridiculous. We decide that we are too old or young for this restlessness. But on a deeper level, at a depth of awareness closer to the body and sensation, you know you have no choice. You are suffering and the people around you are suffering. Life is pushing you on. You cannot stay where you are.
“We all have to be the hero of one story: our own,” wrote P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels, in the first issue of Parabola, “The Hero.” Must I be a hero? Can’t I be an anti-hero? I felt admonished when I first read this quote, a little as if the magical British nanny was scolding me for having a bad attitude. But slowly I came to see a hero as someone who dares to take off their armor for a moment—someone who dares to experience what is happening in any given moment, inside or outside, without denying it or resisting or seeking to escape. Heroism can be a momentary action that happens on the inside without anyone else knowing, a movement of availability, of letting down of our guard, and opening to a new world.
A hero’s journey isn’t necessarily a long, drawn-out affair. In a single moment we can leave the self-enclosed known world of our thoughts and habitual reactions and emerge into our present moment experience. The present moment is always new to us. Yet it is also our true home. Emerging here for a moment, we may realize that being here fully in this “homeland” is what we have been seeking. The present moment welcomes us every time we seek it, offering a kind of security the thinking mind alone can’t know, no matter how intensely it spins and plans. Just for a moment, we breathe. We remember that we belong here on earth. For a moment we allow ourselves to be part of it, to flow.