Following the Descent of our Life Force
“The descent is characterized as a journey to the underworld, the dark night of the soul, the belly of the whale, the meeting of the dark goddess… To make this journey a woman puts aside her fascination with the intellect and games of the cultural mind, and acquaints herself, perhaps for the first time, with her body, her emotions, her sexuality, her intuition, her images, her values, and her mind. This is what she finds in the depths.”
“The Heroine’s Journey, Woman’s Quest for Wholeness” by Maureen Murdock (1)
Life Force as our Guide
Autumn is here in the United States with temperatures becoming cooler, days shorter, and nights longer. The tree’s life energies are descending down deep into the roots conserving what is necessary to last through winter. Dead leaves fall to the ground providing a new expansive view up high through the branches. I sense this change happening in my own body as well. Without the sun to call me outside, my awareness shines its light inside. I become aware of subtler feelings that require me to slow down. I move with heavier footsteps. I find comfort in resting more. To resist this natural change would be as productive as stomping my feet and shaking my fists at the sky, proclaiming that summer should continue forever- better to just say to myself “This is what is happening.” and sense what comes.
When we are present to the movement of the life force in nature, we invite an opening for connection with the life force moving within ourselves. If we feel our energy dropping and heaviness halting our momentum, we may want to follow this gravitational pull. Perhaps allow our bodies to fall to the ground like leaves, feeling mother earth surround us as she tucks us into her blanket of nutrient rich soil. Here we can just be and set aside thoughts on how we should be. Here is where new life grows.
When we do Whole Body Focusing we often begin by standing and grounding with the earth, inviting the life force to move through us, between us, and around us. Usually this feels good and helps us feel more alive. However, at times it may not feel good and may not, in that moment, help us feel more alive.
In one Focusing session for example, I found myself within a peristaltic wave of expulsion being squeezed by challenging life circumstances happening at that time. I let the wave take me to a new place within my body that felt less like squeezing and more like decay and bubbly fermentation. Embodying the process, allowing it to live its way forward, eventually I felt the tremblings of a small buried seed beginning to sprout. Change was already happening.
In Chinese creation mythology the transition from Autumn to Winter is known as the passageway of the queen mother, the golden gate, or the mysterious pass. It is at this juncture of the descent that we are given the opportunity to travel deep within to discover our original nature and let go of the imagined self one creates from interpretations of life’s events. (2)
In “Descent to the Goddess”, Sylvia Brinton Perera describes to us what can occur when we follow our body’s invitation into the depths. (3) She shares the ancient Sumerian myth of Innana, Goddess of Heaven and Earth, also known as the planet Venus that serves as our morning and evening star for much of the year, providing light at the beginning and ending of the dark night.
Innana embarks on a journey into the underworld. It is a path that has seven gates and at each gate is a gatekeeper who takes a piece of Innana’s clothing and jewelry until at the last gate she is, “crouched and stripped bare” as the dead were prepared for burial. Now purified, she gains entry into the underworld “naked and bowed low”. For us to follow our life force forward it may be time to let go of how we identify ourselves, layer by layer, and bare our inner true self with humility. To resist keeps us in one place, repeating habitual patterns, preventing us from moving forward to where this life force is guiding us.
“We” is the Catalyst for Change
An important piece of Innana’s story is that before she makes the descent into the underworld she asks her friend and confidant Ninshubure to get help if she does not return in three days. (One does not want to stay in the underworld too long. It’s a place for a visit if need be, not a place to call home.) After three days with no word from Innana, Ninshubure begins her quest, seeking help from the gods. In the end two small creatures are created and are able to slip into the underworld without being noticed.
Here they sit close to Innana’s captor Ereshkigal, Queen of the Great Below who is groaning with pain and grief. They listen to her and reflect back her groans, expressing to her that they have heard and felt her suffering. “Their echoing makes a litany, transforms the pain into poetry and prayer. It makes out of life’s dark mystery a song of the goddess.” Feeling moved by these two mourners that have come and have felt her pain with her, Queen of the Great Below is transformed and her suffering becomes generosity as she releases Innana to live and reign in Heaven and Earth above, where life abounds, once again.
We could say these two mourning creatures are reflective of what we do as companions in our Focusing sessions. We take in the feelings of our Focuser, we reflect with words, gestures, body posture and “transform the pain into poetry and prayer” as our Focuser feels heard and accompanied in their experience. We are present together, this shared space a catalyst for healing; for the life force, the body’s innate wisdom to bring in nourishing light, purifying water and lush green growth for a new season of our being.
Murdock, M (1990). The Heroine’s Journey; Women’s Quest for Wholeness. Shambhala
Perera, S.B (1981). Descent of the Goddess; A Way of Initiation for Women. Toronto, CA: Inner City Books
Jarrett, L (2009). Nourishing Destiny. Stockbridge MA: Spirit Path Press