Fall has arrived. This is my first true relational experience with fall and coming winter in over fifteen years. I realize, it's long overdue! Sometimes we need to experience death and dying, letting go and dissolving. Of course in the tropics, there are its own kind of seasons, however being back on the mainland, surrounded by leaves coloring, reddening and dripping off trees, traces of the tinge of coolness across my face like winter's coming breath is actually a respite to the perpetual summering of wet and dry seasons.As the days begin to shorten, I reflect on the coming darkness and how to welcome winter. I am inspired by one of my favorite epic Goddess myths, The Descent of Inanna. This myth is one of the most ancient and powerful tales of initiation, in which Inanna descends down into the Underworld to face the Dark Mother, hang on a hook, die and be reborn. I have written and worked with this story countless times in my women's groups, reclaiming our own dark times as a powerful time of initiation. In my book, Fire of the Goddess, I write, "When we consciously decide to go to the underworld, sacrificing the outer aspects of our little self, we meet the shadow of our larger self, reclaim her and bring her back, empowered." (p. 32). This is what Sylvia Brinton Perera calls an Active Surrender in her book, Descent to the Goddess. Active surrender is when we surrender consciously, willingly with our eyes wide open. This is courage. This is grace, fierce grace. The fullest time of active surrender were both times I gave birth. Birth is so active, active like a series of violent earthquakes moving through the body; and yet the process is a total and complete surrender of mind, body and soul. Having both my babies at home, I had no drugs to run to, no authority really to turn to, only my body and my internal utmost willingness to give myself over to the process. Other times I have felt the power of an active surrender is during deep love making, in nature, during powerful ceremony and in healing sessions. The key word in the quote above is consciously. To consciously and willingly go into the dark, into the storm, into our fear is an act of power. As I read the myth of Inanna again, this time I am moved by the opening lines of the myth which, in one version, states
From the great above she set her mind toward the great below,
The Goddess, from the great above, she set her mind toward the geat below,
Inanna, from the great above, she set her mind to the great below.What I am most moved by is Inanna's willingness to go. She literally and determinedly 'set her mind toward the great below.' The telling of the tale continues with her making preparations, to have Ninshubur, her beloved friend, assistant (and in some versions of the myth, her lover), call for help with the drum if she is gone to the great below for too long. This is it. Inanna's on her way down, headed to the great below, the Underworld. Eyes wide open. Was she afraid? Was she thrilled? A mixture of both? Right now, Pele, the fire goddess of Hawai'i is actively flowing directly toward Pahoa, my hometown for six years of my life. As I watch the drama from thousands of miles away, of this powerful force of nature unfold with so many dear friends there on the island, I am amazed by the eyes wide open approach. Instead of fear, I am witnessing courage, love, acceptance and grace. In the face of Pele's approach, the Hawaiian perspective is to welcome her, as a kupuna, an ancestor, our earth, our kin! Did Inanna too, look forward to meeting her sister, Ereshkigal, the Dark Mother, knowing that she faced likely death, and yet her heart wide open to her kin, her sister? How might we meet life in this way, eyes wide open, walking fully into the storm. How might we even step it up a little, willingly not only face our own issues, but open to facing the intensities that are happening all around us? What brave courageous act may be sitting within, waiting to be born in the powerful beauty of an active surrender? As we journey into the coming days of darkness, fall turning to winter, I am walking mindfully, heart raw and tender, full of love and grace. Many challenges arise but I am willing to witness them as a hopeful possibility of raw truth and an opportunity for deep, rich experience.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks