by Dr. Alberto Villoldo: Last week we peered into the Laika’s interpretation of the collective unconscious…
where the past, present and future are contained within the Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds. These aren’t physical places, but rather potent energetic domains. The world we live in is the Middle World, the Upper World is the domain of our destiny and our spirit, and the Lower World is the realm of the soul, where the record of all human history is held.
The Lower World is where we can journey to recover and heal wounded soul parts that split off and fled during a moment of crisis, leaving us with debilitating gaps in our psyche. But the Lower World is filled with conflicting emotions and turmoil, so it’s important to prepare properly before journeying to avoid hazards that can follow you back to the Middle World. Professional training is the best way to ensure safe and successful journeys.
During journeying, you’ll imagine your luminous body descending into the Lower World, where you’ll meet the gatekeeper of the domains of the soul. This is an imaginal being who guards the entryway to the unconscious, an archetype known by different names in different cultures. The Inka know the gatekeeper as Huascar (“the one who brings together”), who is symbolically portrayed as a rope or vine that links the Lower and Middle Worlds.
When you journey to the Lower World, must call out to the gatekeeper, asking for permission to enter and also for guidance. This luminous archetype will escort you and provide counsel during your journey. You must never enter the Lower World without his blessing, lest you get stuck there—just as the gatekeeper permits you to enter, he also allows you out.
On your first journey, you’ll learn that you can visit a sacred garden, a personal Eden in the belly of Mother Earth. As you do so, you’ll reestablish your connection to the Great Mother and the feminine. You’ll imagine yourself entering into the earth and traveling down into this sacred garden, washed in sunlight and surrounded by fragrant blossoms and streams. You may visit your personal Eden as often as you like for renewal and healing.
First, however, you must learn to open and close sacred space. In creating sacred space, you’ll be opening the doorway between the Middle World in which you live every day and the enchanted terrain of the Upper and Lower Worlds. Through your prayers, you can create sacred space at any location on Earth, and from here you can begin your journey.
Next, you will use the “little-death” breathing exercise to journey to your Eden. Breathing practices are central to many spiritual traditions because they awaken the god-brain, helping us to enter heightened states of consciousness. In this exercise you’re going to stop identifying with the ego and experience an oceanic state of communion with Spirit. The “little-death” exercise produces a heightened state of consciousness necessary for the journey. (Please remember that this exercise is practiced within the sacred space that you’ve created.)
Sit comfortably. Rest your hands in your lap and gently close your eyes or softly focus on a point on the floor in front of you. Inhale to a count of seven. At the end of your inhalation, hold your breath for another count of seven. Exhale in one continuous breath to an additional count of seven, until your lungs feel empty of air. For a final count of seven, do not breathe. Repeat this process seven times.
Although this exercise sounds simple enough, the “little-death” can be disorientating, and you’ll probably feel light-headed. This light-headedness is your entry into an altered state of perception, so do your best to hold the full count. I’ve found this exercise to be as powerful as the states of consciousness I’ve experienced during deep meditation.
Practice opening sacred space and “little-death” breathing until you can do it without reading instructions. In future blogs we’ll explore additional tools and charts to help with journeying, as well as how to heal and reintegrate those wounded soul parts.