Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rebirth From the Belly of the Whale

As the Chilean miners emerged one by one from a narrow tube in the earth, the Belly of the Whale came to mind. This mythic image depicts the archetypal passage of being swallowed into the unknown, appearing to have died and re-emerging in a newer, more expanded identity. This is certainly the case with the 33 men who were trapped 2,000 feet underground. For 17 days after the mine cave-in, the miners were believed to be dead. Miraculously, rescuers found them alive and engaged the odyssey of returning them to the surface. During the 69 day ordeal, the entire world watched nervously and breathed a collective sigh of relief as the miners emerged from the darkness and finally breathed fresh air on the surface.

Why did this drama resonate so deeply in the collective psyche? Perhaps it's because each of us has personal experience with the Belly of the Whale. At some point in our lives, we are swallowed into the unknown. It may be the unknown of a blank page, blank canvas or blank checkbook. We may be swallowed into the belly of disease, divorce, or a loved-one's death. Whatever tips us over the lip the predictable into the unpredictable, we find ourselves engulfed in forces beyond our control. We are walled in with no clear path to escape. Everything in us screams to eject from the crushing circumstances, but the only way out is through.

Often, the passage through the Belly of Whale demands that we wait. With nowhere to go, we hang in limbo, not dead and not alive. That in-between state can be excruciating to mind and body. In that intense pressure and heat, however, profound alchemy can occur. The dense, opaque stone of our self-centered, selfish frameworks for living can be squeezed into shimmering gems reflecting the wider light of the world. The confinement of our soaring fantasies can force us to see the treasures sparkling in the dirt beneath our feet.

Today we cheer and cry for the heroic passage of the Chilean miners. In the process, let's include those closer home. Let's honor the dark journey each of takes through the Belly of the Whale.