Soul-level initiations are part and parcel of the spiritual path. They are tests directed by your higher self to help you concretize aspects of your spiritual evolution. The oldest initiatory narrative ever recorded is The Descent of Inanna. In it, Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess of Love and War, journeys through her descent to the underworld. Despite hitting rock bottom, fearlessly venturing into the unknown, and encountering her own death, she successfully moves through her soul’s initiation. She is born anew and returns to world above to teach others how to transcend fear and rise. Initially (and understandably) frustrated by the obstacles she encounters in the underworld, Inanna realizes the need to accesses her discernment and listen to her heart. By doing so, her frustration becomes an opportunity to cultivate the ability to surrender.

Why does it feel so hard?

These initiations can feel intense and can be long in duration. They can also be smaller and more subtle, but they always lead to expansion and healing. It is common to experience the spiritual path as challenging, especially if we have elected (in this incarnation) to clear a significant quantity of karma. But if you borrow the focus of the Inanna and meet these tests with an open heart like the Goddess of Love, the way through will reveal itself. The key is in the heart. In the story of Inanna’s descent—her initiation—she doesn’t tremble in fear as she approaches the Great Below. Instead, she surrenders to the process and the seven locked gates she must negotiate to enter. At each of these gates she is required to strip off a holy garment and shed her earthly possessions to enter the Great Below naked and bowed low. She succeeds by dissolving her resistance internally.

Endurance is Required

No matter how far along you are in your process towards mastery, these tests or initiations will continue to show up, enabling you to continue your evolution. They will always match your level of readiness. Being equipped with the perspective of open heartedness, however, allows us to experience initiations with progressive ease. Often these tests emerge repeatedly, allowing us to go deeper into our healing and to release any lingering attachment to outdated and erroneous belief systems that are the result of prior trauma or wounding. Inanna was guided to experience hitting literal and figurative rock bottom in order to transcend her soul initiation. She had to go deep, letting go of her attachments (­­­­her holy possessions). When she thought she had reached all she could handle, she surrendered further to the vulnerability of being stripped completely naked leaving her without any defense mechanisms. This was how Inanna navigated her initiation, she committed to her process and allowed all aspects of her to be broken down so she could rebuild. When she was granted entry through the last locked gate, she approached the throne of the underworld and was turned into a corpse. For three days and three nights she hung crucified on a nail before she was resurrected. Her endurance allowed her to learn the mysteries of death and rebirth.

Transform Frustration

It is not uncommon to feel anger or frustration at the repeated tests or initiations. Yet, as soon as you do, you will be presented with a situation that will invite you to transform that frustration and meet it with an open heart instead. When your soul continues to push you, it’s because there is something that can be restored further. Let go of the anger about that and ask yourself, what outdated defenses are in place which are no longer serving you? It is an internal shift. Listen to what is being revealed to you. Ask to be shown what needs to be done into order to successfully complete the test or initiation.

Putting it into Practice

As a short exercise, imagine, for example, one of your initiations is about releasing a fear you have of standing in your power. Specifically, the fear is that your power will threaten others which leads you to conceptualize your power as unsafe. While such a belief may have initially been due to wounding, in the now, it no longer serves you. Your soul is encouraging you to heal because you are ready. Below are some approaches that Inanna uses in her descent, and they can help you surrender and access courage and inner strength.

  • Open your heart to you. Trust that your soul knows you better than anyone and knows you are ready.
  • Detach from the projection of others. See it for what it is.
  • Ask yourself what is needed to heal further. Keep your heart open to the answers and take action.
  • Consider the person or situation making you angry or frustrated in a different light. Break the cycle of wounding by understanding the ways the person or situation is serving your evolution.
  • Practice gratitude to your higher self for orchestrating the initiation. Doing so shifts the vibration of the situation to a higher frequency, which may be all that is needed.

A feeling of accomplishment always accompanies a successful initiation. It allows you to stand even more in your own power, just like Inanna, who, through negotiating her initiation, emerges with even more power, gaining mastery over death and rebirth as she does. By consciously bringing an open heart and inner understanding to your initiation process, you will find yourself moving from the felt experience of challenge to ease, confidence, and joy.


*Inspired by the wisdom of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, this blog is an invitation to live as she does, like an Unapologetic Heroine.

Seana Zelazo, LICSW is a psychotherapist, spiritual coach and intuitive channel committed to helping us live unapologetically, by restoring balance within and without through the wisdom of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna. Look for her upcoming book The Return of Inanna: The Unapologetic Heroine in 2022.