DESCENT INTO THE UNDERWORLD
Who am I?
My very existence raises this question,
and it drives my descent into the underworld of the psyche,
into the unconscious mind
to make the unconscious conscious.
We are all so multidimensional that it is impossible to fully describe ourselves.
Certainly, I am not one thing,
so which aspects of myself have the passion and committment needed to undertake a journey deep into the self?
The thought brings to mind the archetypes who populate dreams,
representing various aspects of ourselves.
They seem likely candidates for a trip into the underworld of myth, imagination and magic.
So who comes with me?
The part of myself that wonders ‘What if …?’
Who ponders the nature of mind and reality.
The Ageless Mystic?
Who exists beyond time.
Who is compelled to create.
The Author ?
Who expresses herself in words.
Whose heart aches for all who suffer.
Who is willing to risk self-shattering realisations.
The Soul Seeker?
Who seeks the truth of ourselves and existence.
The Spiritual Warrior?
Who forges forth with strong resolve,
knowing the rightness of her actions.
All these aspects of myself lend their strengths to the quest.
For I am all of them, and more,
and yet, I am also none of them.
I cannot be defined by labels.
Before beginning my journey I must clear all preconceptions from my mind.
If I am to make discoveries, I cannot go with expectations of what I might find.
Rather I must go fully open to whatever may arise.
So I meditate to allow all concepts to drop away.
I must not be in a rush to descend.
Preparation is important for me to build courage for a descent
that must go deeper than ever before.
To look back on a life characterised by rejection is not easy,
but I must do it
because something is standing in my way.
I’m hoping that my newly discovered nuerodivergence is the key to banishing it forever.
What awaits me, though somewhat known, is never always known.
After all, anything can arise, leap out at me and threaten to send me scurrying back to the safety of the known.
For some a shaman’s ritual will provide inspiration and support.
Others may wish to commune with their ancestors to seek their guidance.
Some will prepare through prayer.
Others may call upon a deity such as Gaia, Mother Earth, and request their blessing.
Like other deities, she has many faces, different in different cultures but with the same role.
Some might call on an angel and ask for their guidance.
I call upon noble beings, imaginative manifestations of my wisest self,
and take courage from the knowlege that they are facets of myself and only ever an invocation away.
Their energy is my energy,
and visualising them empowers me.
Gender matters not, for noble beings are beyond gender.
I imagine my own representation of compassion,
set her in the sky before me and visualise her sending warm loving light into my heart.
I feel the light fill me, and I know I am loved.
I am love.
And love will protect me.
I can do this.
When I’m wide open, vulnerable to the revelations of the self, I’m finally ready.
Now I am ready for my guide.
When I think of a guide to the underworld of my psyche, Persephone comes to mind.
She is not just a goddess from ancient Greece,
she is also a symbol for our own descent into the dark recesses of ourself.
Who better to be my guide than the queen of the Underworld?
Every autumn she descends into the Underworld where the dead reside,
and every spring she returns to the world above,
representing the cyclical process of death and rebirth,
of shedding the old to make way for the new.
Persephone’s journey is essentially one of growth and transformation.
Journeying into the underworld of ourself is not easy,
for it can uncover what we might prefer remain hidden,
but it is one I must take if I am to fulfil my deepest potential.
I meditate on Persephone and become familiar with her story.
She showed that from the flames of struggle can come creative solutions
and great strength in a new vision of ourselves.
That is what I seek.
I see her in my mind’s eye,
and imbue her image with power, wisdom, and mystery,
never forgetting that she is a manifestation of those qualities within myself.
‘And what talisman do you bring with you?’ she asks.
I frown. ‘Talisman?’
‘A magical item of power and protection’
‘I have no such thing,’ I tell her.
‘A crucifix perhaps?’ she says.
I shake my head.
Though I appreciate the beauty of such lovingly crafted objects,
I left what they symbolise behind decades ago.
Theology had no answers to the questions I asked.
‘Some who pass this way carry a ritual knife or dagger,’ Persephone says.
I shake my head.
The closest I got to that was my Tibetan phurba
and I Ieft that with the abusive gurus who espoused compassion
while unable to recognise the harm they caused
in the name of teaching wisdom.
‘Then something you crafted yourself over time,’ she says,
‘each adornment a mark of your learning and experience.’
I laugh. ‘I have crafted many things,
but though I wish it were so,
none of them are truly magical.’
She tilts her head and regards me anew,
with an astute, penetrating gaze.
‘What do you wear at your heart centre
to amplify the power of that sacred portal?’
Now I feel bereft,
as if I ought to have such jewellery.
‘It is not jewellery of which I speak,’ she says with distain.
‘Not something to beautify, but to provide protection
and amplify spiritual power.’
Protection and power?
The words inspire a torrent of imagery.
None of them relevant.
Or are they?
Perhaps I don’t wear such fine armour,
embossed with symbols of power and protection,
but I feel the strength wearing such arraignment would invoke.
But that is in some other reality,
not this one.
I imagine many possible candidates for the role of talisman,
but were I to make them,
bring them into manifestation,
I would find the weight of such creations a burden.
‘With what do you truly adorn yourself?’ Persephone asks.
I know she isn’t asking about my clothes.
We stare at each other for a long moment,
this goddess of eternity and I.
My mind falls away in her gaze,
and deep within, I find my talisman.
‘I wear the necklace of wisdom,’ I reply,
‘set with precious stones of knowledge,
carved with the chisel of creativity,
and the hammer of fortitude,
polished with the brush of love,
draped with chains of understanding,
engraved with runes of experience,
all sparkling with awareness.’
‘But my real talisman sits not at my neck,
but in my mind and spirit,
a diamond unseen by human eyes.’
‘I see it,’ the goddess says.
Her eyes sparkle with amusement.
‘Awareness is my power and my protection.
That talisman I carry with me always.
I uncovered and polished each brilliant facet
through thousands of hours of contemplative practice,
over decades of dedication to unravelling the mystery and majesty
of the mind, and of the very nature of reality itself.
‘That’, she says, ‘is the most powerful talisman of all.’
She steps up to the gateway to the underworld and gestures me to enter,
‘May you find that which you seek,’ she adds as I step across the threshold.
My descent into the underworld begins.
I follow Persephone into the depths of myself,
hopeful that this aging mystic and newly discovered neurodivergent
may finally release the chains I sense holding me back.
The way appears dark, and I must rouse the courage to descend,
to look at what I keep hidden,
locked behind closed doors.
But if I am to grow, this is a journey I must make,
not just once, but many times over my lifespan.
Courage is not the absence of fear.
It is recognition and acceptance of its existence
and the willingness to do what must be done despite it.
My spiritual warrior – in her many incarnations – embodies my courage,
and it is ultimately she who descends into the depths of myself.
Landscape of the Psyche
And what do I find as I pass through the first gate
and begin my exploration of the underworld of my psyche?
The remains of old beliefs previously examined, dead now and stripped of power,
but their echo reminds me that I have taken this journey before
and achieved much freedom in casting aside unhelpful beliefs I adopted in childhood.
I know that from the ruins of the past, I can build a new future.
Growth comes from understanding.
The psyche is timeless, its landscapes unfathomable.
What time is it in our mind?
No time and all time.
And neither no time, nor all time.
All four are true.
In this inner world of the psyche are worlds within worlds.
I could wander endlessly across vast tracks of timeless expanse in search of my elusive self.
But these are merely passing glimpses,
as if seen through a transparent wall,
tantalisingly there, but out of reach as yet.
I must continue my descent.
So into the labyrinth I go along a path walled by concepts.
Dead-end beliefs block my way,
and I must acknowledge and relinquish them before I can find a way through this maze.
With the touch of my awareness, the maze dissolves,
confirmation of the work I’ve done before on beliefs that have worn out their usefulness.
The hidden beliefs await me deeper in.
A path through treacherous swamps appear.
I sense long-repressed emotions watching from the depths of fetid pools,
but I continue on, carefully keeping my feet on the path.
Should one ancient repressed emotion crawl from the depth of the swamp to greet me,
what should I do?
Can I look upon that which I have previously feared to examine?
Can I embrace what I find deep in myself?
I must, for why else am I here?
Everything has its place, even pain,
and nothing is gained by hiding it from ourselves.
“Hello, ancient hurts, I say to them.
“I’m surprised you still live, but here you are.
Come, make yourself known to me so we can heal.”
I embrace the long repressed, comfort them,
and they fade to nothing in my arms.
I find I am hugging myself.
But I know this is just a mental preparation
for what awaits me deeper in the underworld of my psyche.
These creatures, in their lack of specificity, merely show me the nature of the task that lies ahead.
The path continues, growing steep and rocky, always changing,
but the light ahead draws me onwards.
I realise I’m carrying baggage that weighs me down, outdated perceptions of self.
I cannot carry these with me up this rugged path.
I must leave them behind.
What hidden baggage do I carry that I will be forced to see
before I can relinquish it and walk free of the burden?
I fight despair.
Will I ever find something other than this foreboding landscape?
Is it because I’m struggling to overcome my reticence,
wanting to move forward while afraid of what I might find.
But I will not turn back.
I have ony just begun.
The way grows steeper,
and rock fallen from ancient ruins block the path.
I retrace my steps, try another path,
but still the way is blocked.
What is this thing that blocks my way,
that prevents me from realising my creative potential?
Ah, yes, this is what I have come to discover.
But I don’t know the answer, so how will get past this?
Determination floods me.
I will not give up.
Overcoming obstacles is part of this quest.
These blockages are nothing more than my own mental constructs.
I rest a while and meditate on images of freedom.
I visualise wide open spaces where nothing blocks my way,
and I am free to move on with my quest across vast inland planes.
The resulting mental spaciousness lifts my spirits.
I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see my way forward.
I would ask it, ‘How do I find a path free of blockages?’
But I have no crystal ball.
I have only my imagination and the seer within me.
So I look within to find the part of me that knows – the shining jewel at my core.
That is where I will find my way.
But I feel trapped, as if stuck in a wall, chained in place.
Struggling is useless.
Only tiny pieces fall away as a result of my efforts.
How will I free myself from whatever binds me?
Surprisingly, just becoming aware that I’m stuck releases me from the chains,
a reminder of the importance of awareness.
But I am still trapped,
free to roam only inside the walls of my self-made prison.
In search of release, I elevate my mind.
I imagine myself flying free,
the stone walls falling away as if they never existed.
I soar high over the obstacles blocking my way,
and all cares, all hopes and fears, and all conceptions, fall away.
They become mere specs in the distance,
fast disappearing behind me.
The mental release of my flight into spaciousness disintegrates my prison walls.
I smile, breathe a sign of relief,
and step out back onto the path
to resume my search for what lies hidden in the depth of my psyche.
A door appears in the rock wall that is blocking my path,
and a ray of hope pierces my heart.
I stumble to the door and heave my weight against it.
I grit my teeth in frustration.
But even a locked door can be opened.
I simply have to find the key.
Suddenly, I find myself in a world of keys.
Keys are everywhere,
but I have no idea which one will unlock the door blocking my progress.
And the likelihood of finding the right one is very small,
This task could be depressing, but I don’t allow it to drag me down.
Chin up, determination engaged,
I choose a key that seems the right size,
but it doesn’t fit, so I try another and another and another …
Randomly searching for the right key is pointless and likely doomed to failure,
so I cease the pointless activity and ask myself, What bars my way?
And what is behind these locked doors, anyway?
Life is full of doors, I realise,
portals to other realms of experience.
Every decision is a doorway.
Do we step across the threshold into another adventure in life
or do we stay in the world of the known?
a speck of light in the darkness that grows
until the light of awareness illuminates my way.
The light falls upon a hole in the wall,
one just large enough for me to see the other side.
I look through.
What do I see?
Not the wide-open planes for which I’d hoped, but a dark place.
Do I really want to go there?
I put trepidation aside and remind myself that I am here to uncover the unknown.
I must know what is in that globe that holds their attention.
A child holding a globe of light?
In an instant of insight, I realise that this path is leading me to my child,
to the little girl I locked away so long ago.
The light of this awareness illuminates a key.
It shines so brightly,
colours flickering around it,
that I’m surprised I didn’t notice it before.
It likely only just arrived.
This is the world of my psyche, after all,
the realm of dreams and imagination
where ordinary rules of reality don’t apply.
I pick it up, keen to use it,
but a myriad of doors appear all around me,
and I don’t know which one it opens.
The doors become corridors of doors that lead off in all directions,
offering a bewildering, but inspiring, array of choices.
Excitement races through me.
I’m eager to explore the worlds to which these portals lead.
But which of these many doors does the key open?
And how does one choose when there are too many choices?
Frustration threatens to overtake me.
But before it can burst forth, the corridors disappear
and just eight doors appear before me
lined up in a neat row.
much more managable.
I step towards the one with the colourful childlike design
and place my hand on the ring.
Decades ago, I left my child self behind,
abandoned her, even took a different name.
It’s time to reconnect.
‘Wait,’ a deep voice reverberates in my mind,
and a cloaked figure steps out of the shadows,
one gnarled hand holding a tortured wooden staff.
I stare, heart pounding,
unwilling to look and yet unable to look away.
No face resides within the hood.
No eyes, no mouth, no nose, nothing.
And yet it speaks.
‘Entry requires a token.’
A bony hand thrusts towards me, palm up.
I place the key in his hand.
‘No. Not that.’
The key crumbles into dust.
My jaw drops,
and I look at him in dismay.
‘If you wish to enter the realm of childhood,’ he says,
you must give up your runes of experience.’
I touch my neck, expecting to feel nothing,
but there is indeed a necklace there.
I look down at the glistening jewels
and grip them tightly.
What am I without my decades of experience?
‘This is what you will discover,’ the gatekeeper says.
I see his point.
Resigned to the demand,
I take a deep breath,
and exhale long and slow.
I release my grip on the metaphorical necklace
and allow layers of experience to wash from my being.
A load I didn’t know I carried lifts from my shoulders.
The runes fly off the golden chain,
leaving it smooth and unblemished.
They settle onto the gatekeeper’s palm,
coating it with gold.
He fades into nothing
and the door clicks open.
To continue following my journey, click on the door to the world of Growing,
or choose a different door.