My biggest life initiation was navigating a miscarriage while being cheated on in my late twenties. I had no support network around me, no one to call, and I went into the depths of isolation and despair.
I remember a pivotal moment when I stopped fighting it and surrendered. There was simply no one to call. No one was going to comfort me or rescue me: I was on my own. Shortly after letting go deep into the belly of despair, I entered what I can only describe as an ecstatic state: a sense of the phoenix rising from within. I felt my resilience. I felt unbreakable. Looking back over my life, I can divide it into before my initiation and after.
The archetypal thread that stories from cultures all over the world and through time have in common is the ‘heroes journey’: a breaking away from the comfort of daily life, into hardship and initiation and returning home stronger and wiser.
Even though this story is so ingrained in our bones, it still feels so foreign somehow. So little valuing or speaking of or encouragement to welcome the descent into our personal underworlds. So little concept of meeting what is, or surrender. So much avoidance of pain, so much numbing, so much thinking we shouldn’t be experiencing it.
And yet the descent is so necessary and powerful. By surrendering to whatever it is – the pain, our crisis or personal ghosts, we offer it up for transformation. By avoiding it, we forgo this possibility.
Looking back at last week and the experience of completely losing the ability to sleep for a week, spiralling downwards into pit of stress and anxiety after years of subtle existential fear, I am remembering those darkest moments. Now, a week later, ascending steadily, I am clutching my nuggets of wisdom, and feeling the preciousness of that gateway.
Sometimes descents are small (I sometimes joke about having a heroes journey before breakfast), sometimes they are huge life initiations, but they are part of life, part of the cyclical blueprint that dwells within us and around us, and they are always, always leading towards wholeness. What would our lives be like, and what would the world be like I wonder, if we truly welcomed them?