Week 7 – Approach to the Inmost Cave
Luke Skywalker leaves Dagobah and flies to Cloud City to save his friends in The Empire Strikes Back. Dorothy and friends head to the Witch’s
castle to get the broomstick for the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Neo asks for guns, lots of guns before he enters the Matrix to save Morpheus in The Matrix.
As the Hero approaches the Inmost Cave, he or she prepares for the coming Ordeal. This may involve training, battling lesser enemies, or simply resting and
building strength for the final challenge. It is a time for preparation, planning, and dealing with fear. As you enter this week remember that the
preparations you make now will pay off later as you face the challenges ahead on your Hero’s Journey.
When you simulate an activity, you’re creating a virtual training ground that allows you to learn and test your skills in a safe environment. But let’s
face it, by simulations I mean video games, only treating them as a martial art rather than entertainment (and using in moderation).
Video gaming is like dreaming. The experience seems real, but the consequences are not. Nonetheless, it can still be a profound emotional experience. Video
games are also part of the storytelling tradition of our culture. They give life to the mythology of our time and allow us to face the wonders and fears of
our post-modern world.
Video games also simulate action under stress, and function as a forge of the spirit. The repeated actions create pathways in the brain which allow the
practitioner to remain calm and focused under pressure. They also allow the user to face his or her fears in a controlled environment and try out new
strategies and tactics.
There are few activities that have not been simulated in detail in a commercial video game. From flying a plane to surfing, the sky is not even the limit.
You can drive a performance race car, learn languages, or become a master of the martial arts. You can practice what you want, and learn skills as well.
For example, I’ve been using the Microsoft Flight Simulator series for a number of years and feel confident that it would now be much easier to get a
pilot’s license given the knowledge and techniques I’ve learned.
Depending on your resources, you may find that your computing hardware is not up to speed for the latest games or you don’t have access to a modern gaming
console. However, the gaming community has been hard at work developing these simulations for years now, and you’ll likely be able to find older games that
will run on less powerful systems. A few recommendations for amazing, classic games that contain elements of the Hero’s Journey and run on minimal systems
include Half-Life, in which you take on an alien invasion armed with a crowbar; Deus Ex, a story of conspiracy and adventure in the near
future; and Thief 2, where you rob the rich and battle a nefarious plot. Simulations give you access to experiences you may be unlikely to have,
such as travelling to a different time or saving the world as a secret agent. In other words, they are an opportunity to live your impossible dreams.
As I write this, the 2010 Winter Olympics are underway in my home town of Vancouver. Visualization has long been a tool of the athlete, and the top
competitors use this technique to envision themselves performing at the peak of their abilities. Experiments show that the muscles used in an activity are also
activated by the visualization process itself. Of course, this skill is useful beyond sports, and can be utilized for any activity that requires
preparation. You’ve used this technique already in Week 2 to determine the Difference, the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be, and
you can use visualization to picture yourself doing almost anything you want to do.
The key is to see your success in as much detail as possible. Whether you want to develop your physical skills, your career, or your relationships, if you
can create a clear image of what you want, you’ll be more likely to manifest your goal. There is no magic here. This method simply provides you with a
definite vision of what you want so you can reproduce this vision through your actions. Partly conscious and partly instinctive, visualization has been
demonstrated to work.
It’s best to formalize the process. Just like your meditation practice, set aside some time and find a comfortable, private space where you won’t be
interrupted. You could combine this activity with your daily meditation if you’d like. Close your eyes, and picture yourself doing whatever it is you’d
like to do. Make the picture as clear as you can, fill it with color, rotate it in three dimensions, and watch it move. The more real you can make this
vision the easier it will be to duplicate in real life.
Self-hypnosis works in a similar way. Suggestion audio tracks can be created by recording your voice in a calm tone giving instructions to relax followed
by a description of you flawlessly performing the activity at which you’d like to get better. You can then set up a visualization session as above and add
the suggestion tracks to the process. These tools will help you to prepare for any activity or challenge you may face on your Hero’s Journey.
It’s said that if you get your sleep sorted out, everything else will become easier. However, sleep has always been a challenge for me. Even as a baby I
never wanted to sleep. The world was too full of interesting things and sleep was a waste of time. My little son is the same way, but unexpectedly he’s
helped to improve the quality of my now more limited sleep opportunities. It’s certain, though, that good sleep is vital for a great life.
There are a few generally accepted principles about getting a good night’s sleep:
- Try to get up at the same time each morning. This is one of the best ways to improve your sleep, but also one of the most difficult if you like to stay
up late. If you do get up at the same time in the morning for a few weeks you’ll find yourself getting tired at the same time each night. If you go to bed
at this time, you’ll be getting the amount of rest your body needs.
- Don’t spend time in front of screens before bed. Television and computer screens will prevent you from readily entering deep sleep. Read and relax in the
hours before bedtime.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room. A warm or bright bedroom will disrupt sleep.
- Eat well during the day (see Week 4), and eat lightly before sleeping. Going to bed either stuffed or hungry will lead to restless sleep. A small bowl of
cereal is a good snack before bed.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, and cola) late in the day. Avoid them entirely if possible.
- Take a short (approx. 20 minutes) early afternoon nap if possible. Napping has numerous benefits.
- Continue your meditation practice. Meditation has been shown to improve the quality of your sleep.
If you’re motivated, check out lucid dreaming. This is the practice of becoming aware that you’re dreaming and taking control of the experience. There are
numerous techniques for becoming lucid in a dream state but they all require commitment and discipline. One way to start is with reality testing. For
example, you can look at your hands regularly during your waking hours and ask yourself if you’re dreaming. This becomes a habit that will carry over into
your dreams. You can also frequently count your fingers and if you’ve got more or less than five, you’re dreaming. At this point, you’ll become aware that
you’re dreaming and can change things as you like. This activity can become a virtual reality that will allow you to practice new skills or face your fears
in the ultimate simulation.
For more on sleep check out Sleep Hacks at Sleep Warrior. Also, one of the bonus
tracks included with this program is a Falling Asleep audio track. If you’re having trouble sleeping, lie on your back in bed and listen to this track
through stereo headphones. When it ends, turn over, relax, and drift off.
Week 7 Exercises and Resources
- Continue your weekly meditations. Once a day this week, listen to Week 7 - Approach to the Inmost Cave.
Continue meditating for the rest of this course and beyond.
- Seek out a computer simulation for something you want to learn or do. It could be learning French, flying a search and rescue helicopter, or exploring a
lost city. Be sure to take your current computer resources into account.
- Pick an activity or goal, sit down somewhere comfortable where you won’t be disturbed, and visualize it for 15 minutes. Make sure you create as much
detail as possible (color, sound, movement, etc.)
- Sleep well using some or all of the tips above. Like eating well, getting sleep straightened out will make everything else simpler. If falling asleep is
a problem, be sure to try the bonus Falling Asleep audio track.
Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Wizard of Oz
Microsoft Flight Simulator
by Sleep Warrior