Day 157: Fall Equinox, The Mythic Chain

The Mythic Chain is a spiritual practice that can facilitate your understanding of karma.  The mythic chain is the chain of practical circumstances in your own life through which one event connects to another.  Just as in mythology, the hero’s actions link one to the next and finally result in found riches, powers, or in recovering something valuable.  In this exercise, you will learn about your own hero or heroine’s journey, and in the process discover the interconnectedness of people, places, and events.

To begin, think of a person with whom you have a friendship or close relationship.  Take a blank piece of paper and at the top write down your relationship to this person.  Next, draw a short vertical line directly below your first statement.  This line represents a link in the mythic chain.  Below this link line, write down the circumstances through which you met this person.  Continue with this chain for as long as you can.

You will find that the mythic chain can trace backward in time indefinitely, sometimes beyond your own birth.  This exercise demonstrates the magical and spiritual significance of each encounter in your life and how each person or event shapes what will happen next.

When you have completed this exercise, commit your answers to the following questions to paper:

  • How did reviewing this chain of causality affect the understanding of your life?
  • What does this chain say about the circumstances of your life as they exist right now?
  • Would your life circumstances be the same had one link in the chain been broken or altered?

My good friend is Johnathan Shatto.

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I met Johnathan through living at the Janet Smith Co-op.

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I started living at the Janet Smith because I needed a place I could afford on my first year Graduate stipend.

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I had that stipend as my only income because I got accepted into the UO’s English program.

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I got accepted because I applied.

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I applied because Harry Brown said I should think about being an English scholar.

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Harry said that because I was a very good student for him.

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I was a good student for Harry because I was half in love with him.

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I was half in love with Harry because I thought he was kind and thoughtful.

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I thought he was kind and thoughtful because I saw he was supportive of his students and very invested in campus life.

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I saw how supportive and invested Harry was because my roommate, Shea, wanted to go to Ireland on a winter term trip and Harry was leading it.

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Shea wanted to go to Ireland because I’d come back from my Galapagos trip and couldn’t stop raving about how great Winter Term trips were.

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I went on the Galapagos trip because one of my favorite biology professors, Dana Dudle, was leading it, and barely enough people had signed up to make it a viable trip.

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Professor Dudle was one of my favorites because she could say things like “Photosynthesis should blow your mind.  Think of it:  sugar from air!”

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I was so into photosynthesis because I was a bio major.

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I was a bio major because my friend Andrew was a chem major, and he totally took over all the chem classes we were in, so I knew I couldn’t be a biochem major and stay friends with him.

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Being a bio or biochem major was a big deal because I wanted to be a physician.

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I wanted to be a physician because I wanted to be like my mother, but my mother said I was capable of being more than a nurse.

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My mom said that because I was smart as a child.

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I was smart as a child because my mother read all the time to me.

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My mother read to me because she was trying to bore my toddler self to sleep.

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She was trying to bore me to sleep so that she could get some measure of pre-baby sanity back.

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I don’t know why my mother would want that.  Do you?

Wow.  I hadn’t quite realized how some very insignificant things–things like Shea and me snoozing on our floor in DG and talking about how she wanted to go to Ireland and how I should come with her–would lead to sea changes in my life.  I think this chain says that at any moment, something like that can happen and alter the path I’m headed on now.  My life definitely would not have been the same had that one moment not happened.  I wouldn’t have met Johnathan because I probably would have gone onto medical school, or maybe become a nurse practitioner.  Maybe I’d have totally flunked out of that–the type of studying medical students do isn’t really the type of mental work I’m great at.  Maybe I’d be married with two kids.  I don’t know.  It could have all been so widely different.  The life I have now, though, isn’t something I saw myself as having when I was 17.  Ten years makes such a difference.

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