The hera’s journey is not only an archetypal tale of spiritual healing and growth, it also provides an alternative framework for engaging the trials and challenges that life brings our way. Our cultural norm, like the hero’s journey, entrains us to look outward for answers and solutions when faced with a challenge. But on the hera’s journey, we turn our focus inward in our search for insights and our way forward. This exercise is an initial exploration of the hera’s journey. For these activities, choose a single issue, either an opportunity or a challenge, that you are currently struggling with. Pick something important to you but not with too much emotional charge. The hera’s journey can be very intense, so begin with an easier, gentler situation. Start by taking out your journey book and exploring what you already know and feel about the issue. Consider the details: who and what are involved; why the issue is challenging for you; what kind of emotional response it invokes; where you are blocked and resisting; where you are excited and motivated; and what kind of personal change is involved. Don’t worry about being thorough or logical in this exploration, and don’t focus on solutions or action taking. Just see what wants to appear on the page. Then put your writing to one side and let go of what you have recorded. The intent of this first step is to prime the pump, and to get the things you don’t yet know stirring inside of you. Close your eyes and take a few slow, full breaths. Though you have let go of the content of what you have just written, stay with the energy that has been stirred up inside of you. Follow the movements and sounds of your breath until you reach a state where you are truly empty of thoughts and expectations. Give yourself over to your desire to know more, and your curiosity about what else is true and important in this situation. Imagine that everything you already know has led you to a doorway. Beyond this door are stairs that descend into the depth of your inner landscape. This is your personal sacred dark with its vast treasures of hidden information, lost parts of your life story, secret desires, dormant potential, and profound mysteries. Know that this darkness holds your beauty and wounding, and both are essential to your journey of soul. Set the intention to discover more about the issue you are struggling with, and to only go as deep as is right for you at this moment. Then consciously, deliberately open the door and descend the stairs. Be empty, alert and follow your intuition. Travel until you sense you have come to the right place and then step into the vast emptiness inside of you. Speak your intention out loud to the listening darkness, and ask for the information to come to you in alignment with your highest good. You don’t need to discover everything at once, nor do you need to engage the edgier parts of this situation until you are ready. And then see what comes to you, in whatever form it shows up. We each engage our inner landscape and the mysteries of the sacred dark in our own way. You may encounter an ally who guides you, hear a voice speak inside your head, get flashes of insights, recall an experience from your childhood or a recent event, enter a dream-like state, or experience body sensations. Just be with whatever shows up, trusting that this is what you need to know at this time. Drink everything in and imagine it reordering your inner landscape. When this engagement feels complete, express gratitude for anyone who came to help you, and honor yourself for making this descent journey into the sacred dark. Don’t worry about cognitively understanding what you have experienced, or what you will do with the information and insights you have gained. Trust that you have absorbed what you need to know for now, and that further insights and direction will come. Then imagine climbing back up the stairs and stepping through the door into your waking, everyday reality. Take a few full, slow breaths and pat your body until you feel present in your regular mode of engaging the world. A word of warning: the hera’s journey is not an easy pathway. When you follow its ways on your journey of soul, it will lead you into the very depth of your life story, with its beauty, wounding, joy and pain. You will need courage, determination, wisdom and self-care to make this journey, traveling at the pace that is right for you and making sure you always have the resources and assistance you need. Yet the benefits are truly extraordinary. This exercise is just one experience of the power of the hera’s journey’s inward focus. Our outer life arises from our inner landscape, and profound healing and transformation can happen when we engage the deep, hidden roots of our life’s issues and story. Like Persephone and Inanna before you, the hera’s journey leads you home to the full maturity and powers of your Deep Self, and the shining forth of your beauty and gifts in the sunlit world.