Copyright ©, 2018, The Path with a Heart, Collage by Val Olson,
I just finished watching Wild, with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. I viewed it through the lens of the heroes’ journey, and also through the MKE lens, looking for evidence of a DMP, PMA, POA and MMA (purpose, mindset, plan and allies).
Cheryl’s Ordinary World was filled with many trials and tribulations which naturally lent itself to the underworld of addiction, relationships with abusive men and scavenging for her food and clothing from dumpsters. From an MKE perspective, she had a lot of layers of cement covering the wild (authentic) aspects of her such as insightfulness, purposefulness and self-directedness.
CALL TO ADVENTURE
I assume it was either after addiction treatment, or after leaving it prematurely? that she answered the Call of Adventure, which was walking the PCT. She left Minneapolis (my home town) and headed toward California. In a flashback scene, it was obvious the idea had been planted in her mind earlier when she saw a book with a photo from the PCT on its cover. As the “voices” of home cooked meals and good company” called to her enticingly (Ordinary Life) as she packed her backback. She was obviously motivated by anger at being where she was in life; at the status quo which wasn’t serving her. What an effort she made to wrestle the backpack onto her tiny frame from a sitting position. This was her commitment to her journey, no matter how arduous, the sure completion of it was represented in the steeling of her will at the beginning.
Her backback reminds me of the MKE program. It provides everything we need for the journey of life; fueled by our Definite Major Purpose (DMP). I viewed the subtext of this film as not giving up or giving in to self-destruction, and her PPNs being Liberty from all that had previously held her back, and also the desire for Health. While so many jagged memories of her interactions with others played out on her walk through the wild, each step fueled greater self-determination. If you’ve lost yourself to addiction, it makes sense that before any other purpose can come into clear view, you have to leave the chemicals (or other self-destructive habits) behind in order to find yourself. Once you find yourself, your DMP comes more easily into view.
As I watched Cheryl reading instructions for putting up her tent, I thought again about MKE and how each week we have instructions to prepare for the week and a lesson to follow. If we follow the instructions, we are putting up a tent for life that offers shelter for our soul and the keys to fulfilling our purpose.
I enjoyed the subliminal phrases woven into the movie, which reinforced the importance of having a PMA (postive mental attitude). For example, “If you believe, you can achieve”, and “Live dangerously” (take risks). I believe self-discovery is a bigger risk that going on a solo trip across the wilderness. The journey of self-discovery and victory over every inner and outer obstacle is the ultimate heroes’ journey. There was even a moment in Wild when she had a “Gal in the Mirror” moment, seeing herself reflected in a window. I believe she was seeing herself without the cement and that this helped her carry on. I was thrilled that Carlos Castaneda’s “Path with a Heart” got a cameo mention, too. When I came across it years ago it spoke to me, and continues to speak to me now. I’ve shared the poem *below.
ALLIES & ENEMIES
Along the way, Cheryl meets allies as well as enemies she defeats. Most of her allies are other hikers, friends and her ex, supporting her on her journey, in some cases with essentials, like fuel, food, clothing and safety. Some of the enemies she defeats, besides addiction, are the rattlesnake she side steps away from, the stream she submerges herself and holds herself steady in against the current, and a winter storm she pushes through.
I loved the moment when she found the strayed llama and meets the little boy who tells her, “I have some problems I’m not supposed to talk to anyone about”, and then sang the Red River Valley in an act of empathy. This encounter with innocence, the song about loss, and the wisdom she was able to share with him as well, seems to have led to the moment of surrender followed by the (THE RESURRECTION) in the form of this profound monologue:
“What if I forgive myself?” What if I was sorry? If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if I wanted to sleep with everyone of those men? What if everyone taught me something? What if all those things I did got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What I already was?”
In this moment, Cheryl realizes that there is nothing to be redeemed; and instead embraces the thought, “How wild it is to let it be.”
In the end she found her own way out of the woods and thanked the trail for everything it taught her (metaphorically thanking her life and everything and everyone in it up to that point.
In some ways this movie is about following a path you might not know you’re taking. She took the path with the DMP of finding herself, and in doing so she was able to achieve things such as remarrying, and having wo children and then we are left to imagine what other things she will tackle and achieve in her future. Because she Returned with the Elixir. And the elixir was the ability to choose, to take ownership of what had happened to her, and what she wanted to happen next. I think she will always keep her promises…
Here’s the poem:
“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.
This question is one that only a very old (man) asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a (man) finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
~ Carlos Castenada
I leave you with this question: Is your DMP, or path you are on, a path with a heart? If so, remember Cheryl, and how she overcame so much on her journey through the wilderness. If not, never give up discovering (or inventing) your reason for being on this planet.