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N° 16 – Exploring the Caves Within

Posted by Leila Janah on

Did you know that the caves of the Yucatan peninsula are one of the last unexplored frontiers on the planet?

There are 6,000 caves (cenotes) in this area. Only 400 have been studied.

Inside, archaeologists have found Mayan cave paintings, skulls (from human sacrifices), and other artifacts, some as much as 11,000 years old. At Summit this weekend in Tulum, I had the chance to meet marine archaeologist Guillermo de Anda. This is his encore career — de Anda used to run the most successful dive shop in the area, before he got recruited by the local university.

Its pretty crazy. We know less about these caves than we do about the moon.

In high school, reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, I loved the idea of staring at a blank map of the continent of Africa and feeling that desperate urge to explore. But there are no blank maps anymore. Our roads, canals, satellites, and drones have made known all the unknown. There are no mysteries left.

Or so I thought. Caves remain a mystery. Caves hold ancient secrets and keep us wondering whether there is more to explore just beneath the surface.

I thought a lot this weekend about the caves within ourselves. The places where old ideas, memories, and fears get trapped and buried. What might we discover if we took the time to explore the caves within?

Cave exploration is dangerous. De Anda sometimes goes 3,000 feet into a cave with no light and murky water — if his equipment fails, he’s dead. He carries extra tanks, an extra regulator, and a dive buddy. But going deep into the heart of the Yucatan, surrounded by skulls and artifacts of the dead, is a risky and dark pursuit.

And yet it yields indescribable riches. De Anda has found paintings that have sat unseen for 10,000 years! He’s the first to see treasures of the ancient world and connect their meaning to our time. What a gift.

The caves within ourselves are accessible, too, but scary to enter. Many people never explore their own caves, content to go through life on the surface. I lived that way for a long time, before discovering meditation and psychotherapy two and a half years ago. These tools are De Anda’s scuba tanks — they assist me in going deep into the recesses of my consciousness.

On those explorations, I’ve uncovered calcified parts of myself, dusted them off, and reexamined them. I’ve found bits of my past I needed to make peace with, and other bits I needed to bring into the light of day and release. And I’ve found jewels — buried memories that forged me and have a new relevance in my life.

This week, I wish you the courage to explore the frontiers of your own mind. To arm yourself with the right equipment (see this short video on meditation if you need some help) and go deep. You never know what you might find.

Stay gorgeous!

Leila

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