Inanna knows me well. She has walked this path with me many times. She holds the lantern whilst I creep forwards. I have my hands outstretched. Now I remember to unsheathe my sword. That’s better, we’re both armed now, we’re ready. We walk on more steadily.
When I close my eyes and descend into myself, into the dark region within where the pain, loneliness, anger, frustration, defeat all swirl and vie for attention, a guide appears by my side. This was not always the way.
I lived a whole lifetime staying on the surface, avoiding this journey inwards at all costs. I would perform to the highest standard to achieve praise and safety from criticism. I would please others to gain affection and safety from rejection. When nothing seemed to work, I drank, took drugs, swung around desperately looking for distraction.
I got sick. Really sick. I entered a darkness that enveloped my entire being, as if I lived in a black cloud. No one was hearing me scream from within.
Many years passed in that darkness. I felt so alone.
When I finally opened myself to a different possibility, it was an unexpected path. I had desperately wished for a road directly out of this suffering, leading to the lightness and strength of health. This path did not appear.
A different path did. Teachers I was starting to listen to were talking about a path INTO pain, not away from it. I could not even conceive of what this meant. As I kept myself open to the teachings of those who had experienced this journey before me, I grew more confident that I could give it a try.
I stopped holding myself back at the surface of my self, and I made my first descents into the dark underworld within. Those first forays brought me to a layer of self-awareness. Continuing on, the next layer I had to find was a place of non- judgement for what I found within myself.
As Tara Brach says, “Awareness is the antidote to suffering. By purposefully bringing a kind and mindful attention to pain and the resistance to pain, the identification that creates suffering is dissolved.” It was the “kind and mindful attention” that took a little while to develop.
I was listening, I was opening. To give my pain a purpose, a power, was liberating. Here it is, this feeling and the thoughts that come with it, and my job is to just be with them, and be kind to them. To listen to them.
“Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you have taught me what I need to know,” says Glennon Doyle Melton in Love Warrior.
As I went on this journey alone there were moments of true revelation and liberation, and others of suffering and great pain. The loneliness of this journey was piercing and as time went on it became harder to descend and come back with any positivity. It was hard work and I was flailing.
So when the story of Inanna came to me and I had a vision of the Goddess striped bare of all the worldly trappings of her former self, confronting her `shadow’, and dying to be reborn as a complete individual, wholly aware of herself – wow, I had a new companion. I saw her appear by my side, a guide sent from another time and place to walk with me as I found my courage and healed the deep fear at the core of my Underworld.
As I opened myself to connection with my guides, I also started to open to connection and trust with those around me – colleagues, friends, and other women on a healing journey like my own. I joined a small healing group, I formed new bonds and I shared myself in a way I had never thought possible before.
The journey did not open one road out of illness for me. The journey opened countless roads out of fear and identification with my old selves, my old protective personalities who came with love and good will for me but ultimately worked to keep me small and in pain, far from the true self my inner core was screaming at me to be.
The journey was INTO pain. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, “What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?”
Finding the stories that make sense of our experience, finding the mentors and guides to the challenging work we need to do to let pain be released, was key to my transformation. I no longer lie suspended in the black cloud of powerlessness and pain. I no longer rage against the illness as an unwelcome visitor in an ok life. I bless the illness for the lessons I needed to learn to claim my innate power. It came to wake me up.
Now I walk with eyes open in awe, body strengthened by gratitude and heart singing with possibility. Inanna walks by my side. So do all the women I have gathered in my heart and in my life to walk along with me.
Who is by your side? And how will they help you descent into that Underworld to find the gold you have within?
Feeling called to get the support you need with your healing journey? Join a group of courageous women on our online Chronic Illness: A Path to Awakening course starting 27th Nov!
Inviting you into a loving and healing community,
To work with Jen and our team of experienced coaches, Join The Women’s Wellness Circle – an online community of big-hearted, courageous women ready to support you to fully recover your health and give your gifts to the world.
Receive our free ‘Five Steps to Reclaim Your Health’ course – an inspiring and practical mini-course for women with chronic health challenges who want to live a healthy and purposeful life.
Do you know any big, hearted, courageous women who are healing from chronic health challenges? Share this blog with them and spread the love ~ they’ll thank you for it.
Jen Evans: Women’s Wellness Circle Co-Director and Coach
Jen is a dedicated and compassionate Wellness Coach, EFT and Matrix Reimprinting Practitioner (EFTi Accredited), teacher, writer and (slightly obsessive!) herb gardener.
Jen spent a lifetime with stress-related illnesses that culminated in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2012. Through her recovery journey she tried – well, everything – and truly started to heal after joining the Gupta Program (for which she is now a coach).
She now strives to support and develop nurturing spaces for others to connect with their true self, and realise their abundant power to heal and live purposeful, passionate, fulfilled lives.