A Research Paper By JeongJu Byun, Transformational Coach, UNITED KINGDOM
Crossing the Threshold: The Hero’s Journey
It is at the moments when the doors open, when things flow between the worlds, that stories happen. It is from Alix Harrow’s fantasy novel, ‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’.
In the book, the curious young heroine named January has the ability to find the cracks in the world which are invisible to others but her, and she runs through every open door and goes on an adventure.
How many times in life have you taken a chance to walk through the doors? When in life have you ever dared to cross the threshold when the door lies open before you?
Many of us may not know even how to find the door or just wait for someone to bring us a key to open it for us. Then, what’s stopping you from finding it? What obstacles do you hold back from crossing the threshold? What support system can you put in place for yourself?
Taking on a Heroic Journey
The mythologist Joseph Campbell says that there is a departure stage where you have to cross the first threshold in order to take on a hero/heroine’s journey. Beyond the veil of the known into the unknown, there is only darkness and danger. Heroes or heroines are not the ones who have supernatural power. Anyone who is courageous and competent can be the one – who will be able to face darkness or uncertainty, and the danger will fade away eventually.
So, what would help you take the very first step to the unknown? And how much trust do you need to have? You don’t need to feel alone on the journey. Many of us are looking for allies who can encourage, support us, and partner with us. This is where coaching comes in. Coaching is the appropriate format that we can explore possibilities and helps us look for the key to open the door.
Crossing the Threshold: How Does Coaching Play a Role Here?
The key coaching models (2016, Gribben) demonstrate that professional coaching brings many valuable benefits such as fresh perspectives, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence.
The ‘SYNC’ coaching model can also manifest the coaching process and help clients integrate and navigate their four human structures, which are physical(Soma), spiritual(Yin-yang), emotional(Neuroplasticity), and mental(Cognition), so that the structures can be aligned to take coordinated actions and bring about greater outcomes.
In this coaching process, coaches can help clients look at the situations that they are in from various directions or angles in order to encourage them to explore deeper and to connect the dots proactively for themselves.
Here are three ways that can accelerate the heroic action process.
Pay Attention to That What Your Sensory Organs Are Telling You.
Visualization can be the art of using mental imagery and affirmation to produce positive changes in your current state. See the visualization example below.
Let’s Imagine yourself playing on a swing – you start with sitting on the seat, moving your feet back and forth, and it slowly speeds up and goes higher and higher from the ground, you are sensing that your feet don’t touch the ground any longer and you start to feel the air on your face and the heart-lifting up as the swing goes up and you sense gravity pulls you back down to earth – now you find a bit of courage to stand up on the seat and sense that your whole body is not relying on the ground anymore but the swing itself. Notice where in your body you feel various sensations and what emotions come up alongside them.
How long can you hold yourself and at which point will you know that you can make a big jump out of the seat? Count five to one and sense the exact moment where the swing goes up to the highest point. After that, let go of the swing and trust your whole body.
You may end up landing down badly or with an elegant gymnastic move. Most of us want to avoid the first, so the thought might keep you on the swing for a while. Can you sense in your soma where you can discern the right timing?
Carl Jung, who is a psychologist at the turn of the 20th century, used the active imagination technique that helped his patients by assisting the conscious and unconscious mind to communicate by making our conscious attention explore down into the unconscious mind. In many blended coaching practices, his technique has been adopted in the sessions through journaling and dialogue with yourself.
Learn From Your Past and Expand Your Awareness.
Here is my own personal experience that allowed me to expand my cognitive horizon.
“I vividly remember that my parents used to tell me off whenever I stood on the threshold of the rooms in the house when I was little. Standing on the threshold in South Korea where I come from is a taboo, it’s regarded as disrespectful and impolite behavior. I am assuming that it would be the same in many other Asian countries too. Some superstitious beliefs depict that the threshold represents a kind of boundary between life and death. They believe that the spirit can enter the room if you step on the threshold – the living and the dead can coexist, but the latter is forbidden to enter the house. You will often find higher thresholds in ancient houses or temples in Asia.”
So, what did I want to take away from this?
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a term called ‘Bardo’ – which is an intermediate or transitional state between death and rebirth – the period between one life and the next. Standing on the threshold could also be meant as you are in this particular state. However, you can’t stay forever on the threshold. In order to be reborn – also go to the unknown – it’s necessary to cross over the threshold.
Can you go beyond the taboo and experience rebirth over and over again? Perhaps, the door may be already open for you, what you just need to do is that you embrace your own learning and keep moving on.
How can coaches facilitate the process effectively when clients feel stuck in one perspective?
The ICF core competencies state that coaches evoke awareness in order to communicate effectively with clients. The power tools that International Coach Academy developed based on dualities, FlipIt, can be another framework that can be adopted to flip a perspective.
Listen Deeply to the Calling but Also Equip Your Own Tools.
You may have heard or experienced the Law of Attraction, which says that our thoughts attract events into our lives. However, thoughts are just a form of our expectations or wishes and will not be materialized until we do something about it.
“About a decade ago, there was a period when I felt strongly that I wanted to make a big change in life – living abroad, moving from far east to the west – myself as a born and bred South Korean woman in my early 30’s, it wasn’t a common idea at all culturally. I had no one who could help me settle in a foreign country, but I still let go of other peoples’ expectations or judgment on me, security, and materials that I had, and I just followed my heart.”
However, there was a roadmap that I could also follow – it wasn’t just thoughts that were waiting to be realized, but a doable action plan. Although any plan encompasses risks or issues, you can learn how to manage or mitigate them, having your full attention and willpower.
Knowing where you are heading, having a compass and a torch you can hold onto, you will be in charge of the journey. You may see ahead only within the beam distance, and you will be able to see further only when you take a step forward.
What does your roadmap look like? Are you perhaps waiting for a car to pick you up and take you there where you want to go to? What if the car never stops or it breaks down? Where can you find your own will?
How can coaching help those who don’t know how to move things forward or take an action effectively?
Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis, emphasizes that the ‘willing’ can be trained and cultivated like any physical exercise through the stages of willing, in his book ‘The Act of Will’. Sometimes, we notice that the inner experience of willing appears in a very subtle way – whilst we are meditating, making a coffee, or walking in silence in nature – can we grasp any moment in daily life when we sense the urge of willing?
In theory U, Otto Scharmer states that there are four types of listening. The deepest listening is generative, which moves beyond the current state and connects to a deeper realm of emergence. Coaches can adopt the technique to help clients listen to their deep aspirations and connect to something larger than themselves.
Streamline the Process of Crossing the Threshold
Each one of us can be January like the heroine in the book, someone who dares to go into the unknown, who always learns from the lessons, who enjoys riding the wave even if she falls off and gets hurt, and who makes her own destiny and realizes her dreams.
Coaching approaches will help the journey go on smoothly and more worthwhile as well as streamline the process of crossing the threshold. The SYNC coaching model can guide both parties to navigate the four human structures – physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental – by exploring the ways that can accelerate the heroic action process.
Taking the first step maybe not be an easy process, however, coaches can manifest the way that clients can feel right and confident as well as partner with them to co-create the roadmap that is viable to implement.
There is no success without trying. Having faith that you can achieve the goal is essential. Faith will be followed by willpower, which can ultimately make things different. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are always alternative ways to look at reality and work on it. We just need to endeavor to move one step ahead even if there might be two steps back afterward.
If you are ever stepping on the threshold now, remember that you are already ready to be reborn. Think about where you want to be, visualize the image that you wish to draw, and feel the highest intention that you would like to bring into your life. Just take the first small step and witness what is unfolding in front of you.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix Harrow, 2019
The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, 1949
Key Coaching Models, Stephen Gribben, 2016
The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary Leader, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, 2007
The Art of Somatic Coaching: Embodying Skillful Action, Wisdom, and Compassion, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, 2014
The Act of Will, Roberto Assagioli, 1973
Bardo Teachings: The Way of Death and Rebirth, Lama Lodu, 2011
Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life, Shakti Gawain, 1978
Jung on Active Imagination, C. G.Jung, and JoanChodorow, 1997
Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economics, Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, 2013
International Coach Academy. n.d. FLIPIT.