I think the whole world has been watching the story of the Thai soccer players who wandered into a cave and got trapped by rising water. Of course, we were all rooting for the children to live. Our country has needed a story where we care deeply about the welfare of children regardless of their skin color, religion, or nationality. Our world has needed a story that unites us rather than divides us.
But the Thai cave rescue has additional metaphorical meaning for me that mirrors a journey I have taken recently: my own “cave” experience.
Not long ago I was feeling weary about the state of the world and other tasks I have felt called to devote myself to. I felt an urgent need to pull away from much of my normal interaction with the world and retreat to my bedroom for some deep inward exploration. At the time, I had absolutely no idea I would be in my cave for a solid week.
I’m not saying I went to my room and didn’t come out for a week. I came out to buy groceries, attend church, have a meal with a friend, etc., but even when I was attending to these essentials in the outer world, my conscious attention was still inside the cave, in my inner reality. And when I didn’t have a reason to be outside my bedroom, I found myself choosing to respond to that unexplainable longing to traverse the unchartered territory of my inner cave to see what I would discover there.
I kept up with Facebook, the news, email and Pathwork commitments, but much of my time was devoted to reading, journaling, and spending a good deal of time letting go of all distractions and just being present to what was arising in me in the moment.
This was a deep, dark, labyrinth of a cave I had entered, and I found various chambers filled with the murky waters of unconscious painful emotions that threatened to drown me. Waves of hopelessness, despair, grief, and fear moved through me without any real story as to why I was feeling this way. Just emotion, sensation, and the willingness to swim through it.
Like the Thai boys who were tethered to a diver ahead of them, a guide who led the way and carried the oxygen they needed to survive, I felt held and led by Spirit as I surrendered to the darkness.
There were periods of peace too, and a feeling of shedding old ideas about myself and the world that I had come to realize were just not true – and therefore no longer needed. It continues to surprise me how challenging it is to let go of what amounts to nothing but a mist of illusion, just because it has accompanied me most of my life.
A full week later, I awoke and felt a new, although somewhat tender, energy arise in me. And I knew it was time to leave the cave and move out into the world. Outside, we had been experiencing extreme heat and humidity, but when I stepped outdoors for a walk that morning, the oppressive weather had broken and it was a glorious day.
I spontaneously made plans to take a hike on a trail that was not well traveled, and I had the woods to myself. The sound of the birds and the squirrels, the tall, magnificent trees towering toward the sky, the pretty little creek meandering through the ravine…. I met all of these with fresh eyes and ears, and their beauty filled my soul.
Later I met a friend and we sat on the banks of the Rappahanock River enjoying seafood, our deep friendship, the warm sun and the delightful breeze welcoming me back to the world. Even the ordinary cornfield alongside the road I experienced as exquisitely beautiful.
While I don’t want to minimize the traumatic experience it must have been for the boys in Thailand, I do want to underline and honor the rhythm that flows through each of our lives. Sometimes we need to go in our caves for a period of introspection, silence, reflection, and solitude. It isn’t always comfortable, but it builds our resilience, restores our energy, and helps us remember who we really are. Other times, we find ourselves in a state of expansion, manifesting, expressing and in gratitude for our gifts and our interconnection with all of Life.
The Pathwork has taught me to trust these explorations I feel periodically guided to, to surrender to them and to search for the treasure that lies buried amidst the darkness.
While there is an innate wisdom to the flow between the inner reality and the outer reality, ultimately, there is really only one true Reality. When we arrive at the place where there is no dividing line between the inner and the outer, our dualistic vision has merged into unity, and we have truly found our way home.
Have you felt called to go caving lately? What did you discover inside? I’d love to hear your experience below!
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