#8 Meeting the Mentor
Have you heard of The Hero’s Journey? It is a narrative model that underlies the storyline of many myths. It was developed by a scholar named Joseph Campbell. Campbell read many religious and mythological stories and recurrent patterns jumped out at him. He then distilled these patterns into the narrative model he called The Hero’s Journey. In these stories, the hero is introduced as inhabiting the ordinary world, until he or she perceives a call to action or adventure. The hero initially refuses that call as they are afraid of the untrodden path. But when the hero steps into the unknown and is faced by new challenges, a mentor appears. This mentor is typically older, mystical and powerful. This person supports the hero and shares their wisdom. The newly emboldened hero is now able to overcome their fear and face the adventure. This model is widely used in many popular stories. Just think of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.
At the time, I had no idea that Jill was becoming my mentor. I was just happily immersing myself in a whole new world. Here I was, living on a magical island without traffic lights! Every morning I would ride my bike so freely to the small, chaotic kitchen in which I worked. During the day, I would prepare salads and make hummus. In the evenings, Jill and I would walk along the beach. During those walks the two of us had many conversations. The pattern of the conversation usually went like this: I would ask her a curious question, and then she would give an expansive answer. Jill has a way of explaining complexities and sharing wisdom through her words that fascinated me. Especially so because she was brimming with insights into the vagaries of the human condition. When I observed the way Jill sees a person and apprehends their suffering, I learned more about why certain past experiences of my own had left me feeling frustrated and disoriented.
When I was in school I often felt that I was slow because I struggled to understand math equations or statistics. I got through school and a business degree fairly well because I had learned how to study hard, learn things by heart, and force myself to regurgitate information. No fun! Now I felt like I had found the coolest teacher in the most exciting and meaningful classroom there is – Life itself. I felt engaged. Eager to learn. Willing to apply the wisdom to my own life. I wanted to test it and learn how to use those insights and practices to navigate more skillfully through my own life.
One Saturday morning, Jill came downstairs and saw me doing yoga in the living room. She looked at me pensively and said “You know what I am noticing? You already know about healthy nutrition, about yoga and meditation and you actually do these things consistently. Most people don’t.” Jill continued “This is the foundation of my work. You already know a lot about how to tend to your physical needs.”
This is when Jill explained a metaphor to which I always come back: “Imagine a table with four legs. The table legs all need to be of the same length to function well as a table. Imagine that each leg represents one of your bodies, your physical body, your mental body, your emotional body and your spiritual body. If one or more of your bodies has not developed well, their leg-length will be compromised, and the table will be unbalanced. Now imagine that on this table with its varying leg-lengths sits a crystal vase full of beautiful flowers. How confident would one feel having this precious object placed on a wobbly table? We all know that placing a valuable object on a wobbly table is not the best idea. Instinctively we feel insecure about its stability. The same can be said for ourselves.” I was just sitting there, cross-legged on my yoga mat, listening as attentively as I could, and it felt like new connections filled with deep understanding were being wired into my brain.
Jill continued “I have synergized from my teachers and experiences what I call The Synergenic Way. It provides a structure to create a sound foundation to foster the balance and confidence you need to boldly launch yourself into your path. It does so by teaching you how to become more aware and connected to who you are, and it teaches you how to take care of yourself in a holistic way.” Yes, I thought to myself. That makes so much sense and I want to learn more!
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”
― Bob Proctor
Jill is a spiritual teacher and healer, although she does not use those words to describe herself. The fact that she is so “special and mystical” surprisingly never scared me, maybe the reason is because she is family, maybe it is because while living with her I also got to see another, more casual side. You have to understand, seeing Jill casually stands in stark contrast to the almost devotional feelings other people have towards her. Like when on one of our first strolls through the town on Nantucket, a woman came up to us with wide eyes. Jill introduced me as her niece, the woman grabbed my hands and said “You have no idea how special your aunt is! My family and I will forever be grateful for her healing, she did what no one else could.” “See?” Jill said. “I have a bit of a strange reputation here on the island because I am known as the healer lady that helps people in a bind. This is why I prefer to wear my big black sunglasses and keep a low profile.” For me, it was incredibly interesting to get to know Jill in different situations, to learn more about her past and her work. I was observing, admiring, and learning from my mentor.
We all need mentors. Mentors can come in many forms, fictional or real, old and young, human or animal. If we are truly open to learning and being guided, we can gain so much: A trusted ally, a person to ask all the lingering questions about life and love, new perspectives, constructive criticism, words of encouragement.
It boggles my mind to try to imagine how different my life would be without Jill. When I expressed my gratitude for her support once, she smiled and said “When the student is ready, the mentor will appear. You were ready.”