Our culture is fairly obsessed with pulling ourselves up by our boot strings, climbing metaphorical ladders and reaching the top. Whether it’s in business or the spiritual realm, up is good and down is deemed bad. I might have rejected god on a throne above the clouds but I still want to get in touch with my higher self, connect with higher realms of consciousness and reach a few astral planes. Going down is mostly for losers. I might get out of my depths, reach the depths of despair, and end up down and out. The odd man might have hidden depths but generally hidden is where society would like them to remain.
I would like to suggest down is exactly where we need to be going. Along with much of society I am totally off balance, and to tip the scales back to equilibrium I need to start plumbing the depths, enter my labyrinth and tend my inner gardens. The Taoist concept of yin and yang is the place I find the most non gendered expression of this need for balance. Yin Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole. Night and day, light and dark, warm and cool, soft and hard, straight and curved, inside and outside. If one did not exist could there be any no concept of the other. And both is needed in equal balance to be healthy.
So this very yang world I am forever shooting straight outwards rather than spiralling inward. In Chinese medicine a high fever would be described as an excess of yang. And my world can often feel fevered. To restore myself, society and the planet to glorious health I believe the best place to start is by earthing myself within my body, and with the earth beneath, to find my own deep feminine. And guys this is for you too. Just as women have been stridently exploring their masculine, (for my own part desperately proving I’m as strong, clever, capable, worthy as any man) or trying build or create something of importance, so too have men. We all need to build things of course. And so too we all need to mine our deep feminine. Our earth. Within is equal in value to without. Down has the same worth as up.
Much of the language around lower self, under worlds and the earth, being so feared by our earth-fearing, god-worshipping patriarchal forebears, has been corrupted to mean dystopian. They created the myth of heaven above and hell below and sought to fit all other legends into this paradigm. The story of the minotaur is just one of the tales that perpetuate this demonisation of the earth and what happens if we attempt to go into it. We need to remember instead those stories, such as that of Odysseus, where journeys to the underworld resulted in gaining precious jewels of knowledge, or those myths which showed the necessity for balance: Osiris was considered not only a judge of the dead, but also the god that granted life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the river Nile.
Animals come in for quite a lot of flack too. Instead of noticing that left to their own devices they have far lower instances of cancer, starvation and war; instead of recognising their far greater intuition, ‘animal-nature’ indicates a rampant sexuality, stupidity or the physical side of a person as opposed to the spirit or intellect. Even our right and left sides, have overtones of right and wrong. The word gauche means left in French, whilst sinister derives from the word left in Italian.
The first time many people even consider going into the earth is when they are about to die, and sometimes not even then. Students of shamanic practices often start by assuming journeys to the lower worlds will be frightening while to the upper worlds will be enlightening. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The native Americans understand this. Vision quests are undertaken deep in nature and often in a pit dug deep into the ground. And it's no surprise that of all spiritual practices it's the one that most terrifies me and the one I've managed to avoid in 30 years of spiritual exploration.
We come from the earth and we return to it and it’s exactly where I need to go exploring while I’m living, both for its’ sake and my own. It's time to take my very own journey of a life time.