Do you remember the myth of the goddess Persephone? Persephone was a beautiful woman who was abducted by the god of the underworld, Hades. As she was gathering flowers, Hades burst through a cleft in the earth and captured her. They dropped into his realm where she remained during the winter season. Throughout this time, crops died and the earth became barren. Persephone’s mother, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, refused to produce vegetation due to her daughter’s abduction. The gods soon realized that if they wanted Demeter to generate sustenance, Hades would have to return Persephone. Before releasing her, he gave her one pomegranate seed which obliged her to return to the underworld three months out of the year (winter). The rest of the time, she could flourish as she pleased. Persephone was freed in the spring time and she and her mother restored fecundity to the earth…until the time arrived for her inevitable descent. Persephone became known as the queen of the underworld and the goddess of spring; she was able to inhabit both realms: the light and the dark.
We know the ancient Greeks used this mythology to explain agricultural cycles, but how can Persephone’s story relate to a modern-day woman’s life? Because I can feel like Persephone. One day, I feel beautiful, bright, floriferous. The next, I feel bound, heavy, withered. I, too, embody disparate energies within me. The aim is to sift the wisdom from both.
In my “spring” season (aka I feel good about myself), I nourish inner and outer beauty. I’m not talking about media standards of beauty; I’m speaking to holistic self-care that makes sense for my mind, body, and soul. This looks like reading empowering content, stoking creativity, moving my body, limiting foods and beverages that drain my life-force, and honoring inner guidance. In my “winter” season (aka I’ve plunged into my shadow self), I self-sabotage, I’m reactive, I’m stuck in negative thoughts, and I diminish my life-force by not healthily tending to it. Yet, what I’ve come to realize is that each time I’m in my underworld, it is actually a gift to *see* how and where I give my power away. Persephone may not have had a choice in her descent, but at times I can resonate. In an instant, I can be right back to a place inside that I thought I had left for good.
For me, the underworld is a sacred (and terrifying) place where I am compelled to look at my shadow behavior. It is an inner landscape that contains my shame, guilt, fears, and wounds. This space is ruled by the Divine (both Feminine & Masculine) who can meet me in the depths of those feelings and offer a way out. And the way out is always cyclical. I will invariably emerge. I will find my way back to being a glowing springtime goddess, and I will greet my shadow self again and again so long as I’m alive. Because Life does not stop her lessons for us; we typically learn through contrast; we may have some karma to burn through; the things that pain us the most may be crucial for our development and awakening. Those very struggles can be the gateway into being more compassionate, less judgmental, and more conscious (qualities that help us engender good in the world).
I believe the underworld and spring/rebirth are a revolving door of seasons within us. There are epochs when we are in full bloom. We feel connected to our highest self; we live from her. We embody the truths that sustain our inner and outer wellness. We feel abundantly alive and infuse that light into our relationships, community, and responsibilities.
Then comes the stage of dwelling in sacred darkness. Yes, this destabilizes our nervous system. Yes, this is a painful time, but I believe it is also compulsory in the human experience. I’ve never met a person who does not have their own underworld; who does not have a shadow they must face and transmute. The moment I shift my perspective to “this place has something to teach me,” the less I resist my inevitable descent and the more I open up to the growth it offers me. This is how you become queen of the underworld. You accept the winter season within and learn from the hard and uncomfortable. When you bear witness to the shadow self, the wounded self, it becomes an invitation to love and heal her with compassion and devotion to transform her ways. As the Eastern philosophy goes, “No mud, no lotus.”
These are action steps I take to cultivate the beautiful bloom:
- Stay away from any content/media that makes you feel less than. Unfollow people/ “influencers” that drain you. Limit time on social media.
- Whether it’s a gnarly workout or a mellow walk around the block, move that body of yours in some way every day. Your lymphatic system needs it and so do your emotions. There’s a saying in the yoga world, “Move the issues out of your tissues.”
- Take a whopping 5-15 minutes to be still (start with 2 days a week). Find your form of meditation, prayer, or chanting and commit to making contact with your Inner Divine.
These are action steps I do when I’m in the shadowy underworld:
- Accept it—all. I’m often on my knees sobbing for the billionth time praying for strength and grace.
- Witness your shame, guilt, fears, and wounds through the eyes of love and compassion (nothing heals when we berate ourselves).
- See how these hurts influence your thoughts and behavior. Then the journey of rebirth begins. We seek help, we take the personal development course, we read the book on healing grief, we put down the crap food and drinks (unless we’ve carved time for indulgence because hello balance), we parent the inner child, we make amends, we forgive, we accept that we cannot change the past, but can move forward with greater awareness.
~the Light in me sees the Light in you~ Namaste.