Off the Hook

by Jennifer on April 2, 2015

fc52fc8a-91c9-485c-99bf-28d6e5772ce2Friday, March 20th, 2015

Dancing is not just getting up painlessly,
like a leaf blown on the wind;
dancing is when you tear your heart out
and rise out of your body
to hang suspended
between the worlds.

~ Rumi

“The ways of the underworld are perfect.” 

~ from translation of the Sumerian tablets

There was once a little girl who was born the Queen of Heaven.  A Princess who was a Goddess in human form.  An ancient Sumerian Goddess we now know as Innana.

Innana had all that she needed, and all that she wished.  Innana spoke to flowers in the garden, and knew all the stars by heart.  Innana held the fabrics of her robes up high as she waded barefoot in the rivers she so loved.  As Innana grew in her human life, she became not just the Queen of Heaven, but the Queen of Earth as well.  This would have been enough for most Princesses, and most Goddesses too.  Her domain was all that was sunlit and glowing.  Her domain was all things resplendent in the great darkness.  But there was something more…something more resplendent than all the rest…and Innana heard it calling her in the deepest of nights.  She knew she would not be Queen of all her inner realms until she took one more journey…

And so Innana put on her traveling vest, and her jewelry with the most powerful gems.  She put on her robes and her crown, and left everything she knew behind.  She went to the place no one ever goes willingly…to the land of the Underworld, the land of shadows and death.  She knew the way, deep below the earth and all the light, the sacred way we all know.  The way directly into and through our fears.  The opposite of the way most of us go, nearly every day.  She surrendered to the undertow and let her fingers slide along the moss and leafy earth’s floor one more time as she lowered her body down into a rocky chasm that consumed everything she thought she knew about herself, and left her only with the feeling of stone against flesh, and her thin but unwavering breath…

Sumerian tablets tell us a little bit of her story and what happened next, but they don’t tell us what it means.  And that is why we need Oracles, and the Oracle within, so Innana can tell us herself.

Innana bravely stepped up to the first door to the Underworld, and the guardian told her to remove her necklace before she entered.  When she asked why she was told, “The ways of the Underworld are perfect.”  At each of the seven gates to the Underworld she was asked to remove her jewels, her vest, her robe, and finally her crown…and finally Innana stepped naked into the Underworld.  The world others had only entered through death.  For Innana had gone there to reclaim all of the rest of her wholeness, and she was willing to die to all that she had known to do it.  She could not be satisfied with even one percent less than the fullness of her true beauty and power.  And so she went to the Underworld to meet her sister Erishkigel…her other self.  Her dark self.  The self that was every doubt, and every fear, her soul had ever known.  Perhaps you don’t think Goddesses have fears and doubts at any time, but it isn’t true.  Goddesses, perhaps more than any others, understand that these are the most powerful and glimmering lights on the path truly home.  These are the sign posts to the greatest treasures within, and of all.  Where you have fear, or shame, X marks the spot.  And so Innana dug.

Before she could meet her dark self, she had to face the judges.  They were not external judges but every judgement she had ever had about herself, every time she had found herself wrong for something innate to her soul.  While this was more daunting than anything she had yet explored, just to show up in front of the judges and really see them, without looking away for as long as it took, made them dissolve.  And none of this was anything in comparison to meeting her sister, her other self.  The abandoned self.  The excluded self, the unaccepted self.  That self, feral and wild, killed her on sight.  Innana fell, having given up her life to meet her full power for the first time.  Her body was placed on a hook, and there, lifeless and pierced right through…she found her rebirth.

She didn’t try to live.  She didn’t try to be Queen.  She only tried, finally, to be real.  To be true to herself with no limits, and no conditions, and no looking back.  To come back to life, she only had to let herself off the hook.  She had to once and for all find reckoning for everything she was, everything she felt, and everything that had happened along her journey.  As she did this, Erishkigel was no longer separate.  She became one again, in a way that even being Queen of Heaven and Earth could not give her.  In a way she could only be as Queen of the Underworld too.

Innana has told me that the hardest part wasn’t dying.  The hardest part was letting herself off the hook.

What if you didn’t wait for the perfect day to decide that you are perfect just as you are?  What if you decided you didn’t need another twenty years of meditation or repentance, and just let yourself off the hook?  What if you decided not to be ashamed of your shame?  Even as you unravel these shames, one by one, embedded as they are into each of us as we grow up in the this world as it is right now.  What if there is nothing you need to be punished for?  And nothing left to run from?  What if chaos wasn’t a sign that you are doing everything wrong when it comes, but a sign that you are the bravest of the brave?  A sign that everything is revealing itself, ultimately, to be very, very right.

We have been robbed of these stories of the Goddess, though they can never really been lost.  We have been told that the more “spiritual” you are, the more you can serenely sit under the Bodhi tree, safe from emotion and desire…evolved beyond suffering.  We prize equanimity and calm, and rising above.  But what of those who are willing to descend?

You see, I live what appears to be a simple life.  I buy groceries, and wish for things, and love my lover, and try to make friends I can have real conversations with, and laugh with, and who last.  I bump my knees into corners, and have strange and wonderful dreams, and get my feelings hurt just like anyone else.  And at the same time I remember everything.  I know what happens when we die because I have died a thousand times, and I know love throbs in the heart of the Universe because I feel it…all the time.  Even when I hurt.  Even when I fall apart.

I have had the beautiful and exquisite privilege of working incredibly deeply with thousands of people around the world, and when people have shared with me the hardest of possible life stories, I have explained to them that when you have experienced so many hardships, eventually you have gone down every dark and terrifying tunnel in the Underworld, you have nothing to be afraid of anymore.  And then you become a guide to others, a soft soul-saving light in their darkest hours…just with your presence in the world.  You don’t even have to try.

When Isis lost Osiris it is said that she wailed by the Nile so terribly that she became very aged, and pulled out chunks of her hair, and lost her teeth, and no one wanted to be seen with her.  This Goddess-Queen who had been worshiped as none other, was left alone in her hour of deepest need.  She too lost everything she knew about herself, except the deepest essence, and it was this immersion in her pain, rather than refusal of it, that granted her the alchemy to bring Osiris back to life.  In our world now, we speak of bringing life back to the dead as the highest of miracles, and we don’t know that Isis found it in the deep black dirt.  The deep black soil of the Nile that the word alchemy comes from.  She didn’t go into prayer and rise above.  She cried.  She went into it…all the way.

Oh I know, this is extremely specific to each person and not always the right choice in every circumstance!  Sometimes it feels right to rise above, and sometimes to descend.  You have to feel the calling that woke Innana in the night.  You have to be called to the Nile so deeply that you know nothing else could take you home.  If you need help, call somebody.  Anybody.  And if they don’t know how to handle the magic of darkness, call somebody else.  Innana, Isis, Magdalen…they all knew how to reach out for help and not just to the heavens, but right here to a warm hand when it waited.  They had times alone as well…times that secured their fall.  And it was never easy, and never sweet to fall this way.  It was sometimes brutal beyond words, but the victory of wholeness on the other side made these pains fall away like leaves ready to fly on the wind.  Like fruit that wants to be tasted.  Like the enlightenment that only comes from being not just heavenly, but bodily.  And the heaven of the body is opened in mysterious ways.

You don’t have to seek the underworld.  It finds you.  And you don’t have to fear it, because when you find it you will finally feel in some way like you are headed in the right direction for the first time in your life.  You will know in your bones that you don’t have to bear the heavy burdens you have carried in the background for such a very long time.  You will, in the underworld, finally start to feel your wings again.

And it doesn’t have to be a crisis like Isis had…it might be, but it also might just be the bright morning when you finally decide there is nothing wrong with who you are, and you have nothing to hide…when you finally decide to let yourself off the hook.

I have made a practice of letting myself off the hook, and I have been to the Underworld so many times.  Yet still I am on the hook right now, as I speak these very words.  I am surrendered, and I know my rebirth is coming, and yet I am not rushing it.  I know there is healing, even on the hook.  And I know each time the work goes deeper, and the gifts are more rare and powerful than ever before…

Six months ago I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.  As I shared in my recent writing about it, it turns out I have had it for nearly all of my life, though I only consistently began to feel the symptoms about seven years ago.  At that time I went to my guidance and I knew very clearly that I wasn’t meant to have all the answers about my mysterious illness and symptoms right away, that I was meant instead to feel my way through and discover all the medicine along the way.  A friend recently said to me, when I talked about the pain, that energy work could really assist with that.  I couldn’t agree more, and utilize profound connection to healing energy to navigate my journey through pain, but am not always presuming that means I should avoid it or immediately make it “go away”.

“Sometimes pain is medicine,” I said to my friend, and somehow the room we were in at the party went silent and everyone was listening.  “In fact, pain is always medicine.”  Goodness knows it doesn’t mean we have to want to linger in it, or shouldn’t move toward relieving it at every moment it feels right to do so, in every way we can.  But right now, as brutal as it can be and as long as it needs to take, I know the pain is my friend.  It is my vehicle into the deepest realms of the Underworld I’ve ever known.  Somehow, despite the fact that I am on the hook as we speak, and despite the recent combination of deep pain and indescribable grief over some of my loved ones, I also know and trust that I am already healed.  Somehow, I still feel like I have the most beautiful life I could possibly ask for.  Somehow, I still feel like the frogs are singing every spring night just for me…

Many people think a “spiritual teacher” who suffers, emotionally or physically, just isn’t very evolved or a “good enough” healer, but it can be quite the contrary.  Why do we judge our explorations of this nature as less than others?  Why is it less evolved to explore the Underworld rather than the Heavens or the Earthly?  The answer is that it is not.  It is all about how we do it.  And honestly no matter how we do it, it is the right way for us.  Suffering can bring the gold of alchemy, just as joy can.

And pain has taught me more than I can say.  Trauma has taught me more than I can say.  Being Queen of my Underworld is the world I am most proud to be Queen of, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  When I say I am Queen of my three worlds, it doesn’t mean that I have total mastery over all of them…except the kind where you are no longer concerned with mastery, and see all things as masterful just as they are.

No, I am not rushing to get off the hook, even though I am surrendered and willing to let myself off of it.  I am going to stay right here, with it right through my heart, until all the medicine it brings has seeped into me.  I don’t want to miss this moment.  This moment when I am crushed and before there is any new form.  I want to let go here until love is done with me in this special way.  And while I hang here, between the worlds, I can already hear the birds of spring calling from the world above…from the world within.  I know that no matter how hard things get at times, spring is coming…unstoppably, undeniably, shamelessly.  Spring will always come inside of you, no matter how painful or long the winter…

And I will have back my rivers, and my sun rises, and my conversations with flowers in the garden.  And I will never be afraid of the Underworld, which healed me more than anything else…my friend…where everything, like in the heavens and the earth, is also perfect.

Your greatest pains can be your most beautiful alchemies.  If you are in the Underworld, know that you are not abandoned, even when it feels that way.  If you can let yourself face the judges, or off the hook, go ahead love.  And if you can just hang there, and trust that this kind of death too is love’s greatest gift in disguise, you will find the kind of freedom you only once dreamed of deep in the night…like a girl named Innana did once, a long time ago…

And remember, spring will always come…

Love, with all my Heart,

Jennifer

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine April 6, 2015 at 8:33 am

Jennifer, Thank you for this truly beautiful exploration of both letting oneself off the hook and choosing to stay on to explore what the pain has to teach us. I resonate so strongly with this and I am grateful you have articulated so many of the same things I am experiencing with the intense love, joy and gratitude I feel for life and also with the physical manifestations of pain I am feeling. A heart-full embrace for your words.

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Danielle Kelly April 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

Excellent Ms. Jennifer… one of the juiciest readings I’ve had in a long while. Thank you.
A personal insight:

Each one who stands in the truth of who they are lends strength to the next to stand in their own truth – and so it is.

Blessed be.

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Barbara April 6, 2015 at 9:36 am

I absolutely Love your writing(s). You lighten my heart in ways I do not expect or anticipate. Thank You for Sharing.

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