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An Invitation to the Cellars 

Come with me now. I’ll take you down the dark stairs to where there are old trunks filled with your grandparents’ secrets. What do they have to do with you? You will never know until you have explored these musty cellars. We are going down there, you and I. We will stir up old things that have not been asleep. Not all of them are yours, but the key to the storeroom is in your hand.


We first must find the entrance. Look for the door that leads back, and down, and in. I can say this about the entrance to the way in: Each person has a different path, and you must be willing to have it be whatever it is. Even beyond that, every time is different, and every time is magical. It is always marked by a certain willingness, and the endurance of discomfort is sometimes required.


You are very near the door when you encounter the feeling that something is missing. Look next for the feeling of fear: the hand-wringing anxiety, the anticipation of suffering. The churning in your stomach, the tightening in your shoulders, whatever it is for you, pay attention to that. It points the way. Then the descent can begin. All that’s required is some willingness to commit yourself and your safety to the mercy of the darkness, without being certain what it contains.


The entrance to the cellars is like falling. It starts with the simple and courageous election to not step back. Allow yourself to relax into the velocity and the sensation. Allow yourself to acknowledge and embrace the fear that at the end of this there may be pain. Right now that feeling is very strong. Allow it. It is safe to feel what you are feeling.


And this doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just the sand box, just playing with dolls and blocks. There’s really nothing to do but line things up in interesting ways and sit there and look at them and notice how you feel. There are no secrets here. All the voices hear each other all the time, whether you do or not. The doors go off in many directions, but we won’t attempt to open them all. Puzzles and unanswered questions will remain. This isn’t about history, this is about how you feel.


Take my hand. We’ll go into the dark and we’ll come back to the light. You may wish to recall some of this later. Just don’t mislead yourself that you understand what you’re doing. It’s the arrogance of consciousness to believe that it knows what it’s doing. On this level, down here where the machinery is, you have never in your life understood what you were doing. That in itself is a description of where we are going. And it is safe.


Are you still following me? Are you going to follow me further? My qualifications are simple: I talk about the places I have been. Of course, there’s really only your own sense of whether we’re proceeding in a direction that holds some promise, some hint, of something you may want to hear about, a faint reminder of something long forgotten – something it is now time to remember.


The world is not a picture frame. There are no edges here to mark off pieces of experience. And I want to focus your attention on the dark richness of the currents that underlie everything. Those swirls and eddies do not move by any clock that we can comprehend. Deep down in those flows, the deep, deep, flows, time itself is only a metaphor.


Are you willing now to submerge yourself in these currents, to let them permeate you, fill you, take you to the point where there’s no consciousness left of anything but the sensation of what you are experiencing? You are in charge. Each individual goes as far as they must, goes to the point where that thing that drives them is satisfied, where the voice says, “I don’t need to go any further. This is where I can stop.” How deep do you need to go?


The point of exhaustion is a way station. Down there in the place where you are when you have done with holding on, when you have let go your hold, after the fall, the descent, the relaxation into the long-resisted darkness, is the balm of exhaustion. Down there, down in the gentle darkness, when you finally allow your cramped and aching muscles to relax, there’s nothing you must do, and the only sound is your own rhythmic breathing. Exhaustion. Much can start from the state of peaceful exhaustion, and you can let it happen in its own time.


This is how it starts, the journey down into the warmly welcoming darkness. This is how it starts. And there’s always another layer.


Come with me now. Let us find the entrance to the cellars.


Joe Turner, 2005

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