We’ve talked a lot lately about the two worlds—the unschooling/unconventional world and the conventional world—and how, in the return phase of our journey, we’re working to knit them together.
Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the causal deep and back—not contaminating the principles of the one with those of the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other—is the talent of the master. (p. 196, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell)
At this stage on my journey I found it helpful to envision these two worlds as a spiritual/inner world and the material/outer world. Bringing the two worlds together was—is—about achieving an easy flow between them. Or, in Campbell’s words, the “freedom to pass back and forth.”
One of the challenges is that we can get caught up in thinking of the inner world as more meaningful and the outer world as more banal. Yet as I explored the crossover between them more deeply, I found ways to bring my inner perspective into my outer world interactions and I was amazed at how different things looked! I realized that my views on life and living had changed so fundamentally that it changed how I approached every moment. In both worlds.
Everything seemed both more mundane and more wonderful.
Here’s an example. Something as mundane as tidying up a room is no longer a philosophical struggle against what else “more productive” I could be doing with my time. Nor do I worry about what “message it might send to the kids.” With no expectations of myself or others, I finally felt free to choose—and in that freedom I discovered that, for me, the choice is really about the possibilities. What might unfold on the fresh canvas of a tidy room? Newly invigorated children’s play? Relaxed adult conversation? Engaged family play, adults and children sharing the stage? Me relaxing on the couch with tea and a story?
And to boost the fun factor (since I’m no longer feeling put upon and grumbling), sometimes I listen to music or audiobooks or podcasts, and other times I quietly let my thoughts wander, feeling almost meditative in the repetitive physical motions. I’ve been graced with some great insights in those moments. So I’ve hit both joy in the moment and the possibility of joy in the future. It’s hard to lose in that situation!
I was delighted to find the spiritual world mingling easily with the material world. It turns out, the everyday tasks of life are not frustratingly mundane; there is such beauty in them when I’m open to it.
Let’s try another example—the other way this time—starting with something that sits at the spiritual core of unschooling: learning.
With unschooling, we have come to realize that there is learning in everything our children do. As we watch our children in action we can practically see their minds at work, the sparks of connections flashing across their face as they try this piece of the puzzle and that, searching out that one piece that will so satisfyingly fall into place.
Yet, if we look at that moment through conventional eyes, we see that they are “just” doing a puzzle.
At the heart of one of the most beautiful and spiritual tasks of being human—learning—so often lies the most ordinary of things. A puzzle. An insect. A TV show. A star in the sky.
Passing back and forth between the two worlds no longer seems so intimidating.
We discover that these worlds enhance, rather than contaminate, each other.
Here’s how Campbell describes the personal growth that has brought us to this stage of our journey:
The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. (p. 204-5)
It’s a great description!
No longer feeling driven to define ourselves by our personal traits—our limitations and idiosyncrasies—we feel free to stretch ourselves and explore beyond our comfort zones, and at other times to say “no thanks,” without judging either choice as “good” or “bad.” Both are what worked for that moment.
Moving beyond our hopes (i.e. expectations) and fears, we can more clearly see ourselves, our children, and our choices.
And “no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth” is a succinct way of saying that we realize now that it’s not about giving in or giving up but about releasing our tight grip on our need to control things, allowing us to start fresh and be open to the many possibilities that are truly present in each moment.
And that brings us full circle to the stories above. The possibilities that are opened up by our seemingly tedious tasks—like tidying a room. The possibilities for play and learning and joy that are inherent in the most ordinary things.
Now when we look around we see possibilities everywhere.
And “the great at-one-ment?” With our newfound perspective, we see both the beauty in our material world and the ordinary in our spiritual world. It’s all so compelling! And soon we find ourselves comfortably flowing between them.
They truly are one world, full of possibilities.
If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments! Here are a few questions about the “master of the two worlds” stage to get you started:
1. Have you found dropping your need to control things has helped you move more seamlessly between the worlds?
2. Has your new perspective on living and learning helped you see more possibilities in each moment?
3. How do you find joy in the more mundane tasks of living?
Next stage: Freedom to Live: Embracing the Flow of Life
The road so far …
Departure phase of the journey
Call to adventure: We discover unschooling and excitedly imagine the possibilities.
Refusal of the call: The many implications of choosing unschooling hit. Do we commit?
Supernatural aid: Our children guide us on our unschooling journey.
Crossing of the first threshold: Confronting the guardians who claim to protect us.
The belly of the whale: Transitioning to a learning mindset.
Initiation phase of the journey
The road of trials: The heart of deschooling.
The meeting with the goddess: Seeing the value in all experiences.
Woman as the temptress: Accepting our nature.
Atonement with the father: Accepting others where they are.
Apotheosis: Moving to compassion.
The ultimate boon: Unschooling with confidence and grace.
Return phase of the journey
Refusal of the return: Will we choose to step back out of our unschooling bubble?
The magic flight: Finding a safe place in the ordinary world.
Rescue from without: When the ordinary world comes knocking.
The crossing of the return threshold: Integrating your new perspective into everyday life.