It’s in Ireland, north of Dublin in the Boyne Valley, in a place called Newgrange.
I know, it looks make believe. But it was made by human hands more than 5,000 year ago. It’s the entrance to a tumulus—a huge mound of earth with a chamber at the center.
At dawn on the winter solstice, the sun shines in the entrance and sends a thin line of light down the 70-foot long passage. When it reaches the heart of the mound it fills the 20-foot beehive chamber with yellow light. This lasts for a few minutes, then fades, and the line of light recedes the way it came.
Sunrise beneath the ground.
It’s the best metaphor for the chthonic adventure I’ve ever come across.
Wait… what? The what? What the heck does k-h-th-opfffft-onic mean?
Chthonic is a great word. It looks and feels ancient, as if saying it will rouse some elemental force. Like any good spell-word, pronouncing it challenges you and causes a moment of awkwardness—and therefore, awareness.
The ancientness and challenge of the word are clues to its meaning: of or related to the underworld.
Yeah. The underworld. That’s where it all happens. That’s where your experience of life comes from. Fear and well being, that’s where they live.
In your underworld. Your chthonic realm.
“Your most basic sense of what is possible in life is a direct communication from your chthonic realm.”
What’s your underworld?
It’s your own personal place of ancientness and challenge. It’s the place within you where you connect with the pulse of creation. And it’s where your participation with that pulse begins to happen.
Because it’s also the place where your conditioned responses to life have their dens. The great creative pulse can be ambushed by fear as it enters your being. It can be dragged off to a cave and imprisoned by the monsters of fear and self doubt that inhabit your underworld.
So it never shows up on the surface.
And that’s no way to live.
Your underworld is your inner condition. It’s a pretty wild place.
What happens in the underworld stays in the underworld
What happens in your underworld shows up on the surface and everybody around you sees it. They may not know what they’re seeing. You may not know what they’re seeing. But it’s there. And it has a regular, daily effect on your experience of life.
It’s how you show up in the world. It’s how it feels to you to be alive, to attempt your dreams, to be with people. It’s that basic sense that underlies everything.
Your surface is scattered with clues to the doings in your chthonic realm. They show up in your attitudes, your behavior and your responses to the circumstances of life. They effect how you treat people and how you let people treat you.
And they effect your idea of what you think is possible.
That’s right. Your most basic sense of what is possible in life is a direct communication from your chthonic realm.
The mythic journey
Do you want to live a life of your own making?
I’m guessing yes.
Do you get stuck in hesitation, doubt, self reprimand? How about just plain laziness?
Guessing yes again.
(By the way, don’t underestimate the power of laziness. It’s a subtle form of fear that can and does determine the course of your life.)
If you want to overhaul your sense of what’s possible, and anchor your ideas in concrete action, you need to venture your chthonic realm.
That’s the mythic journey.
“If you undertake the mythic journey, the sunrise can happen in everything you do…”
Yes, mythic. Complete with monsters.
You are a mythic being. You decide your destiny moment by moment over time by interacting with your circumstances. What you do with right now is what counts—no matter what right now looks like. The mythic journey leads straight into the heart of your daily experience, into how you feel and how you act, right now.
That means that at any moment, you can begin. (Or begin again, as needed.)
Most of us have surface lives organized to reduce our awareness of the difficulties we face inside. It’s called safety. In a life of safety, it’s especially important to ignore the chthonic call of creativity.
When you listen to that call, or even acknowledge it, the monsters of your conditioning get at you and try to make you stop. The mythic journey leads through their ranks to the place where the call originates.
Avoiding this journey reduces the risk that you will anger the monsters. When they get mad you feel the overwhelm, the self doubt, and all the subtle nasties that trip you up when you step out of line and think big.
So, if you want to live a life of your own making, you need to go down there and deal with those monsters.
Why would make the mythic journey?
Creativity is an effort to connect. Your desire to make a life of your creativity comes from a deep need for connection. That’s how you get the meaning and fulfillment you crave.
(What’s that? You don’t crave meaning and fulfillment? I’m amazed you’ve read this far. You may not be ready for this journey. Give it some thought.)
The goal of the mythic journey is to access more and more of what you have to offer so you can share that with the world. The more of yourself available on the surface, the more powerful and complete your connections are, and the more meaning you get from life.
A life of powerful connections is epic. No, it’s better than epic. It’s Mythic. Filled with collaborations and interactions that breed newness and surprise.
The reason we want to get paid for our creativity is so we can spend all our time doing it. And we should. Because it would be awesome. And awesomeness is our birthright.
A world of fully realized people making mythic connections and living on their creativity would produce a whole new social fabric. That world would be so different from the world we have now, I’m not sure we would even recognize it.
That’s where having a life of your own making can lead.
That’s why you make the mythic journey.
When the sun rises in your underworld, you become more visible. That sunlight becomes what people see. All the stuff you wish would go away, gradually does. It’s transformed into beauty. And all the stuff that makes you prosper activates and grows strong.
You start interacting with your circumstances in a constructive way that helps you relax and achieve your goals.
No matter what they are.
If you undertake the mythic journey, the sunrise can happen in everything you do: your work, your relationships, your parenting, your creative projects.
The result is your creativity, unbridled and magnificent, loosed upon the world.
The result is mythic.
The result is you.