Our spiritual journey is one marked by descent – a continual process of letting go, unraveling, and shedding layers of ego and attachment to arrive at the essentials of our being. At times, this descent comes crashing in through traumatic life events that shatter our habitual ways of coping and perceiving reality. Other times, it arises organically from the mysterious workings of grace stirring our depths. But inevitably, all who sincerely walk the contemplative path will encounter these initiations into deeper realms of consciousness and Being.

For some of us, the descent began excruciatingly early through experiences of abuse, neglect, or violence in childhood. The innocence of our young souls wasruptured before we could gather the resources to make sense of the pain. Yet curiously, it was often this very suffering that became the seedbed of our spirituality, the place where we first felt the divine presence sustaining us, offering wisdom and solace amidst the chaos. Our anguished child-hearts opened to a love beyond the turmoil.

As we grew, each trauma became a chapter in an ongoing descent – a death to naiveties, a loss of illusions about the nature of self and world. With each new bedrock dissolving beneath us, we were launched into unknown territories of vulnerability and unknowing. The path curved incessantly back toward our core woundedness, our elemental human frailty laid bare before the abyss of spirit.

Some of us found temporary refuge in spiritual communities, only to experience further abuse and disillusionment that shattered idealistic beliefs. The very figures and institutions meant to midwife our rebirth betrayed our trust, initiating another plummet into the void. We raged at the injustice, mourned the losses, and ultimately, had to let go of dogmatic attachments to find the mystical heart pulsing beneath hollow forms.

For all of us, intimate relationships have provided great opportunity for descent. In the intensity of human bonding, all our unhealed places are exquisitely revealed and catalyzed. Partnering is a ritual of mutual undoing, stripping away protective layers to expose our deepest vulnerabilities and needs in the fires of intimacy. Even blissful unions cannot escape the cycles of dissolution inherent in the dance of twoness.

At every turn, the spiritual life seems to fiercelyand unsparingly unmask our deepest attachments, alienations, and unconsciousness. “God protects us from nothing, but sustains us in all things” – this has been our paradoxical and harrowing grace. For in the depths of our undoing, the divine presence ceaselessly meets us as both abyss and unconditional embrace. In our disintegrations, we are pierced by the radiance of what remains.

Over time, we have come to recognize the eternal ebb and flow – the inhale and exhale of the sacred breath that weaves all arising and passing away. We find ourselves irreversibly opened, each descent ushering in a further resignation, a sweeter surrender into this choreography of becoming and un-becoming. The contemplative path teaches us to show up fully to this process without resistance, riding the waves of circumstance with a buoyant trust in the “steady, strong currents of divinity” that infuse all experience.

With seasoned awareness, we sense the seamless unity weaving each gain and loss, each death and resurrection into one exquisite loom. We recognize Christ’s life mirrored in the dailyness of our own human journeying. The boundless depths ceaselessly birth us into this present moment, a virgin expiration ever emerging from the womb of the eternal. Each exhale is a dissolution into the formless ocean, as all that has arisen drifts back into the abyss, made new again in the boundaryless sweetness.

We no longer know where the descent ends and the ascent begins, for our awakening hearts embrace all states and dualities with radical acceptance. The pain, the beauty, the growth, the wounding – all are gathered into one indivisible flow. As the Jesus prayer reminds us with each breath, we are simultaneously breathing in our individuality and breathing out into the vastness. The contemplative life continually attunes us to this dance of the many and the One.

Though the way of descent can feel endlessly cyclical, a depth gradually dawns within our being that holds all of it – the birthing and the dying, the blooming and the withering, the ceaseless play of form and the infinite expanse of emptiness . It is not a knowledge but a direct, unshakeable experiencing of the wholeness that transcends and embraces the bittersweet alchemy of the human journey. We rest more and more in this paradoxical wakefulness, a grounded freedom, a blessed integration of the heights and depths.

So we walk on, descending and ascending with each footstep, relentlessly hollowed and fulfilled by the mystery of Love’s destined unfolding within our hearts. At times the path feels unbearable in its demands, yet we press on, surrendered to the sacred passion that birthed us from nothing and calls us eternally home. For those with the courage to be undone, beyond every portal of loss awaits the deathless light eternally arising – the thunderous silence that births us anew in each instant of our becoming.


At some point in life, we will inevitably face a challenge that pushes us beyond our current coping abilities, leading to a necessary failure that initiates a “path of descent.” This descent can begin very early, even in childhood, through traumatic experiences like abuse and dysfunction. Though God may not prevent such traumas from occurring, the wisdom gleaned is that the divine presence can sustain us through the suffering, becoming a source of strength amidst darkness. The path of descent is often cyclical, with spiritual growth emerging from one traumatic experience, only to be followed by further traumas that spur new descents. The contemplative journey involves being present to one’s brokenness while simultaneously opening to the “steady currents of divinity” flowing through life’s ups and downs. Practices like the Jesus Prayer can facilitate a “sweet descent into the abyss” of unity with God. Ultimately, the work involves holding the paradoxical interplay of birth, death, gain, loss, pain, and deliverance – a wisdom cultivated by riding the waves of life’s circumstances.


  1. At some point in life, we will face a challenge or situation that exceeds our current abilities and knowledge. This leads to a necessary failure or stumbling that initiates a “path of descent.”
  2. Trauma from a very young age, such as physical and sexual abuse, can mark the beginning of the path of descent. Despite the suffering, an early life of prayer and connection to the divine can provide sustenance.
  3. Joining a spiritual community like a monastery may provide refuge, but the path can continue with further traumatic experiences like abuse, leading to disillusionment and a need to find new Sources of wisdom outside that community.
  4. The idea that “God protects us from nothing, but sustains us in all things” is a central teaching. Trauma and suffering are seen as opportunities for the divine to sustain us, even if not preventing the trauma itself.
  5. The path of descent is often cyclical, with new traumatic experiences continually initiating fresh descents and spiritual growth throughout one’s life journey.
  6. Being present to one’s own brokenness while remaining open to the “steady currents of divinity” flowing through life’s ups and downs is encouraged.
  7. Contemplative practices can facilitate a “sweet descent into the abyss” of unity with the divine presence amidst the interplay of light and darkness.
  8. The work involves holding the paradox of birth, death, gain, loss, pain and deliverance – a wisdom cultivated through riding the waves of life’s circumstances.