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Descent–Into the Belly of the Whale

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For this month of May let’s explore here the stage of the Hero’s Adventure which requires Descent and Re-emergence.  Once an adventurer set upon their glorious Quest crosses the (first) threshold to enter into the domain of their field of action to achieve fulfillment, they are often initially “swallowed up” or they descend into a “forbidden (verboten) zone” of a sort that accords with their needs.  Descent signifies allowing oneself to explore the fertile realms of archetypal unconscious potential. Descent is a necessary process to undertake before you can claim any true progress in attaining your most worthy purpose or goal.

Many an epic narrative illuminates the rich though challenging encounter with ‘denizens of the Deep’, such as is represented by the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. This is a descent into the “dynamism of the Unconscious” according to archetypal psychologists including Carl Jung, James Hillman and Joseph Campbell.

Your unconscious psychological Innerscapes that you may feel are “below” or ‘beneath’ your surface level of conscious awareness are vital like rich loam, oozing with multiple, too often “buried” perceptions, feelings and insights.

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Halloween, for example, is a time of year set aside to release and engage with such a ‘dark,’ shadowy level of consciousness that may actually represent your own unconscious, ‘inner’ worlds. Who do you like to dress up as on Halloween? What might that say about your own archetypal ‘shadow’ selves?

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This month I invite you to “step down,” to accept and listen more closely to your own subconscious and deeper unconscious–often called “gut”–voices. They are YOU; facets of your own total consciousness that derive in part from the various roles and lived experiences you have accumulated and enacted in your life, including those usually more ‘hidden’ parts of Self that might feel stunted, silenced or in “Shadow”.

Sink Into Deep Waters: A Creative Visualization Activity

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As a self-discovery, active imagination technique that you can use to facilitate the psychologically energizing experience of Descent, I invite you to imagine sinking deeply into a body of water. Remember the scene from The Graduate when Ben Braddock (the title character played by Dustin Hoffman) is overwhelmed by his conflicting feelings and relationships, so he dives into a backyard pool and lets himself sink to the bottom? He stays there as long as he can in this depth domain, performing a sort of soul searching.

Try this in a bathtub.  You can fill your tub with bath bubbles (if you wish), with time apart from family or others, and sink back (not really putting your head under the water for so long!).  Imagine sinking to the bottom of a pool or of a lake or even of an Ocean. You can breathe, though; do make sure you give yourself this ability.

Now explore: what is ‘on your mind’ or heart?  What deep questions or decisions are you contemplating, do you need answers about from your own inner parts of Self or inner guidance?

I just did this exercise myself about an hour ago and loved it. When I asked my Self what I needed to better understand I found it is my fear of being alone in my retirement.  My dog Sophie was at the bathroom door and I knew she and my cats will be with me, but I do have a fear of leaving all my friends and outer spiritual community behind me in Colorado when I move in just over a year across country.

So I stayed in the tub, continuing to imagine being underwater like Ben in The Graduate. (Actually this turns out for me to be a very apt fictional analog, as I conceptualize retirement as a graduation from Academia as a professor.) I found my inner selves piping up about the various aspects of Self I could connect with in seeking new friends at my new location. I can connect with writers, and readers, and retired teachers; with pet lovers, Scrabble or other game players, hikers, neighbors and of course my family will mostly be closer, plus a highschool friend still there. Even further, the thought arose that through today’s social media, I don’t have to wait until I make this Big Move before connecting to seek out some like minded others.  I can find online networks and begin connecting even before I leave. I have a full year left to do so before I leave. This last awareness felt very liberating to me; an idea I had not focussed on very ‘deeply’ before now!

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pictures are from pixabay.com

And so, dear fellows, Go For It! I invite you to try this creative visualization technique, either in the tub or in any environment that allows you to engage in an active contemplation session.

I invite and welcome your comments and story!