Any good rite of passage has 5 main components
1. The Call. Most men at some point in time feel a longing to go through something hard, to taste danger, death, and the unknown. If you have ever felt that longing, it is what Joseph Campbell describes as “the call to adventure” on the hero’s journey. For evolving men, this call is critical. Many of you have turned away from the call at certain points in your life. Many of you have turned toward the call and stepped into it fully.
If you never felt like there was a call for you personally, you were likely not paying attention.
2. Severance. This is where you must leave the comforts of your own home, community, tribe, and go off on your own. Even in modern day times, you can get away alone into the wilderness, meditate in a retreat cabin for months. However you don’t need to trot off into the wilderness alone like the movie Into the Wild. You can, in my case currently, engage in an urban rite of passage while staying within the framework of your life (family, job, etc). If this is the case, your “severance” will simply look differently.
3. Initiation. The initiation can take many months, many years or just a few hours. What are you being initiated into? There will always be a threshold you have to cross. What is it? What does it represent? Are you going from boy to man? Are you leaving the corporate world to discover who you really are? Whatever the case, you must cross a threshold of some kind in order for your initiation to move forward.
Within the initiation is the fourth component:
4. The ORDEAL. This is the crux of the ROP and where you must face some kind of mortality, death experience only to be reborn anew. This death can be an actual near death experience, or an ego-death, meaning a part of you dies or is let go of.
Be realistic. It is never what you think or want it to be. Even still, set an intention (see below). This is where I am right now in my life. In the middle of a birth canal of some kind.
As my bro Jeremy likes to say, “Everybody wants to be reborn, but not everyone is willing to die.” In other words, I want to the goodies, but I’m not willing to face my demons, my fears, or what might kill me. Any genuine ROP must have have an ordeal, a test, a challenge that really confronts the deepest, darkest aspects of yourself.
Sometimes in life, we don’t choose the ordeal, it chooses us. Such as the death of a loved one or a catastrophe that was out of our hands, or a major crisis of some kind. This then, if you choose to engage it fully, becomes the crucible to a deeper you.
Once on the other side of the ordeal, if you live to tell about it, is finding your way back bringing your gift.
5. The return. This is a critical component and one that many men blow. If you want to impact others by who you now are, you must come back, tell them, and more importantly show them who you are now. You are now different, altered in some way. Your community needs your gifts, your lessons, your new, fresh perspective. You have a gift to give in some way. It is your job to find out what you are bringing back, bring it back, and find out how you need to deliver it.
A few other key points to consider
Determine why you are wanting this. Why now? What is your intention setting out? What is the point? Are you really willing to surrender fully, partially? Get crystal clear on why are you setting out into the unknown.
Then, as my bro Dan Riggan once told me when we led four, back to back, 7-day men’s ROP wilderness trips together, set your intention and let it go. That’s right. Offer it up and be open to whatever experience you get. It will likely be very different than you wanted or expected.
For example, if Matt’s intention is “to relate to myself as someone who can survive and even thrive in the world with nothing – and from there, create massive wealth for myself and the world,” then he needs to consider what “death” needs to happen to step into this. What needs to die in me? What am I willing to let go of and burn forever? He might actually create a ritual within his journey to address this.
Since Matt also wants to explore receiving, more clarity is needed here. What qualifies as receiving? From who? Just because Matt might learn to receive from others on the hitchhiking journey, does that mean he’ll be more able to receive love from his family, lover, and friends? Learning how to receive love is a massive edge for me and most men.
Determine if you want others involved. How so? What is their role? I believe it is essential to have a few “mid-wives” that have gone down the path before you that will have some idea of what you are going through. Someone who can “hold you” through whatever darkness you might encounter.
A mentor is key here. It is also possible to get others on board so they can be doing their ROP concurrently. For example, maybe several men in your men’s group want to do a four day vision fast together. This is good for safety in the wilderness. If, on the other hand, you might want to go-it-alone. If you want to do a year-long journey and travel abroad alone, your set up and support system must be well calculated.
For Matt, who is holding him throughout the process? What kind of spiritual context, framework or undercurrent will assist him?
Determine the structure. Is it tight such as a month-long solo meditation retreat in a cabin? Or is the structure loose and open-ended like Matt’s? Is the wind going to take you or are you in the driver’s seat planning every step? Go after your growth edge. Do what is uncomfortable, new, and fresh for you. But stay away from stupid, irresponsible, impulsive acts.
Use the 5 steps above or look more into Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey for an outline to your ROP.
The more embodied your journey the better. Being in your body will help you clear blocks, move through karma, and release old emotions. If you are not experiencing pain and great joy, something is likely off. If you don’t feel anything during your experience from tremendous highs to dark lows, then re-evaluate. I know plenty of meditators that just sit there and space out and think they are getting somewhere.
Having a daily practice of some kind, be it meditation, journaling, walking quietly, and other contemplative, body-present-centered practices faciliate a deeper journey.
What about illicit substances? If used consciously and in a ritualistic, respectful way, plant medicine such as peyote or ayahuascacan be massively transformative for truth seekers and courageous men willing to face their demons and their darkness to uncover their light. Plant medicine is only to be done under the guidance of trained shamans and elders who deeply know the power and potential consequences of their use.
Document your ROP. Bring a flip video or journal and keep track on things. Write about it, and share it live or later on. This way, others can learn from your experience.