The Underworld - an initiation back to soul

Karla Riddell
3 min readSep 4, 2022

It’s been an epic journey. Of course, through the heart. Through loss.

I have become an observer of my own life. I guess that is what one would call “mediation”, or maybe deep listening. It’s strange to both be in the experience and see the experience at the same time.

The months before my breakup, my heart would wake me up through the night. Racing in worry, the thought already in my head before waking, “she’s leaving me”. It was intense, to be in this state for months. Physiologically this was insomnia, psychically it was karma, spiritually, there was a message not getting through to me. I started to dread going to bed. I think that would be what you would call a dark night of the soul, but it was not one night, it was two months of it.

Then enviably the day came, she broke up with me. I was set free, the dark nights of the soul ended, but an even deeper journey was beginning. I went into a state of shock. Mentally I thought this is a bit extreme, it’s not like they died… but there was a death, an inner death. I got really sick, everything shut down. I got to a point where I didn’t even want to go outside, and I am normally a wild woman. I needed to go really deep into the underworld, to bring back a part of myself, that has possibly been suppressed my whole life. I started to crave for the night time to come, my soul was calling for the night.

Whilst the insomnia had left, now so sick, it felt like a momentous effort just to get through the day, and I couldn’t wait to get to bed, couldn’t wait for the night to take me into the unconscious realms. When I would wake, I wouldn’t want to face the day. It was an epic effort just go get out of bed, I normally have an overflowing sense of passion and purpose that gets me up and straight into my day.

At no point did I fight this journey. Not the insomnia, not the sickness, not the pull to hibernation. I knew it was not a battle, but an initiation into a new way of moving through the world. A new life was awaiting me, and I had no control.

The recovering and emergence is slow. I was down there for a while. I wake up in this body and know, if I am in the underworld again, or back in life. Yesterday I woke with immense pain in my heart, feeling the hurt so strongly. The tears just kept coming that day. I had let go of all hope of getting any work done. That is how grief works, it comes in waves.

The reason this loss has taken me so deep into the underworld, is because it was not just the loss of a lover. It was the loss of being in family, the loss of having a child deeply interwoven into my life. I had started living a double life. When I was in Melbourne I was thriving in community and all of my offerings, then I would see her and her little one and be deeply contented by family life, I never wanted to leave. I felt belonging in a whole new way, so when that all ended, I was left with a massive void. Motherhood was always something I pushed to the side. Now I look at children and I feel their joy so much more than I ever have.

The underworld…

I have gathered more of myself down there. The spring is coming and I am tenderly coming out of this cocoon. Still living “my old life”, but now with new eyes. My vision for the future is clearer. I have learnt there is a timing for everything and ultimately we live in the great mystery. One can dream, but we don’t control our soul, for our soul is the one that moves us through life.

Mossman Gorge QLD, Sacred country of the Kuku Yalanji people.

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Karla Riddell

Karla is the founder and facilitator of the Young Shaman Foundation. She is dedicated to creating rites of passage to connect people to self, nature and tribe.