Navigating Conflict and the Hero/Heroine’s Journey

It’s so interesting to me how what’s new builds on what has been, but in unseen ways. I see now how what is emerging in me about what is needed in the world has been growing and developing since early in my life and in the early roots with Nonviolent Communication and Mediate Your Life training. As Steve Jobs famously said, it’s only when we look back can we see how the dots of important happenings in our lives connect. In 1977 Star Wars first came out. I was 10 years old. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vadar and the rest exploded into my imagination, and into the collective imagination of global culture. It was only much later that I found out how much my love of Star Wars was connected with creator George Lucas being influenced and supported by mythologist Joseph Campbell, who famously wrote about the Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

The hero/heroine’s journey is a narrative arc in stories that’s been at the heart of human storytelling since the beginning, particularly in humanity’s greatest and most popular stories. Lucas and countless other storytellers have tapped into this universal archetype that seems to be encoded deep within the human psyche. When we enter into these stories we connect with the immense power of meaning, purpose, and inspiration that moves and leads us to feel profound emotion, accomplish great things, and persevere through seemingly impossible challenges and difficulties. 

So why am I telling you this? As I imagine it, mediating conflict, in our own lives and in helping others, is a way of talking about navigating life’s challenges and difficulties. It is the hero/heroine’s journey. In the grand story arc of our life, it deeply inspires me to think about responding to the conflicts of our lives from this mythic, archetypal narrative of facing and transcending adversity. And it goes deeper. The journey through conflict happens one conversation at a time, and from one conversation to the next. Deeper still, within a conversation there is the journey through the relationships between the three chairs of mediation towards the universal, integrative perspective of the third chair of awareness that holds unity and diversity – Rumi’s field out beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing. 

For the journey there are maps and skills of Nonviolent Communication and mindful awareness (dual and nondual) to navigate the different realms of conflict, and to engage empathically, courageously, and transformationally with the thinking and systems of suffering and violence. In the language of Alchemy, the journey to the third chair and the language of universal needs is the search for the Philosopher’s Stone that turns lead to gold and finding eternity in the Elixir of Life. In Star Wars it is to become a Jedi who knows the ways of the Force in order to be a powerful force for goodness in the world.

In these times in which we now live, the challenges we face are growing more intense by the day. In addition to the normal conflicts and difficulties of an individual human life, we also face the global threats of climate change and damage to Earth’s ecosystems, political polarizations, and societal breakdown and deterioration. It seems to me we need the power of the hero/heroine’s journey with and through the three chairs of mediation, meditation, and communication to find new creative, emergent possibilities where conflict seems impossible to solve. Each conflict of our lives, however small or big, can be an opportunity to experience profound meaning, purpose, and inspiration, as well as transcendent connection and transformation. From the trinity of relationship and touching the universal, we can find tangible ways of healing and resolving conflicts, to bring back the elixir, the magic into the world and contribute to the needs and wellbeing of others and society.