A New Equilibrium
In Conjunction, there was a general embracing of opposites. In Fermentation, there was a sheer dedication to truth and impeccable perception. Now, in Sublimation, Love and Wisdom find their union.
Sublimation begins, and Fermentation ends, when pure, ecstatic Love floods in. It is a Love unbound, not attached to anything, all-embracing, unconditional. It is not romantic. It is not brotherly. It just IS. It arrives on its own when the lesson of Fermentation has been fully understood, which is the fallibility of seeking.
In Sublimation, actions flow from both Love and Wisdom. To an outside perspective, focused on cultural norms or expectations, not all actions will appear loving from a person in Sublimation. They won’t always be acceptable. But they don’t come from a purely ego-centric or conditioned place.
Expansion of “Self”
This is also a point where greater capabilities emerge. With a more highly developed awareness, one may experience powers and strengths such as clairvoyance, telepathy, energy sensitivity, intuition, precognition, psychometry, or generally a greater sense of flow and alignment in life. These are not necessary to the experience of Sublimation, but those with proclivities in such areas may see an expansion. Things that were previously challenging may feel like they come more easily now. Some internal obstacles may simply vanish. One may have more vitality or youthfulness.
Sublimation is a whole new experience of self and reality, both being redefined. There is no need to attach to any identity, though identities can be easily worn and discarded like clothing. There may be a greater ability to adapt to social and cultural circumstances, without “buying into” them. There is neither attachment or avoidance, simply fluid motion through life.
This or That?
The main realization of Sublimation, as one moves through it, is fully understanding the relationship between the immanent and transcendent, or “physical” and “spiritual.” There may be a liberating impulse, but until you really grasp there is nothing to be liberated from, then this phase is not yet complete.
Everything is considered sacred. Nothing is looked down upon. Good and Evil or right and wrong no longer exist, though relative resonance and dissonance can be appreciated. There is simply awareness of relevance in the moment. Everything is seen as a blessing. The One is recognized in All, and the All recognized in the One.
What more can be said?
Opening to Further Possibilities
There is no formula offered here for what can be practiced or taken advantage of to pursue this path further. You have direct, open communication with your intuition and Infinite Intelligence. You have congruence with your Higher Self.
This is, of course, by no means an endpoint. One can continue to learn and explore. There will always be opportunities for this.
Some possible avenues for exploration are:
- Seek communion with nature and its inhabitants. Much can be learned in this way. With enhanced perception and ability to connect, you can take time to get to know the plants, animals, and minerals of the natural world more and what they have to teach. You can also contact the elemental beings and nature spirits.
- Send energy where you feel it can be most helpful. You can offer loving energy to groups of people, and even political or corporate leaders. Offering such energy may contribute to inspiring shifts for the benefit of the collective.
- Support seekers and those in need. You can provide direct support to those who are learning to navigate their own awareness and who may need guidance.
Beauty in Life’s Labyrinth
Jenny couldn’t feel freer! She stretched out her arms in the living, vibrant rainforest, feeling its energy speak to her. All the trees were whispering, those elders of the Earth, imbibing her with ancient wisdom. The ground hummed. The birds, in their decorous plumage, pierced the air with tickling vibrations.
She had come to some incredible realizations in this beautiful Peruvian landscape. Jenny felt totally reborn after such a long time of feeling isolated and depressed. Where there was despair, there was now a heart that was so open, it felt the strummings of Life…
After some loving goodbyes with her newly made friends at the retreat, Jenny returned to the US, where she lived with her one roommate, Sierra. She also returned to her job as a journalist. She had been on FMLA for two months, so it was surreal to come back. Everyone noticed a difference in her. She kept getting compliments about how radiant she looked or how joyful or how youthful.
Her creative flow was phenomenal. Her writing came so easily, and even her hobby as a dancer took on new life and vigor. It was as if each time her fingers touched the keyboard, or her feet touched the dance floor, she became a channel for the Universe.
These thoughts percolated her mind, and she wondered what it meant. How did she feel so tapped into the Universe, and what was the Universe? Was it her Higher Self, God, Kundalini, or something else entirely that she was experiencing?
Jenny devoured literature on the subject, and any sacred text she could get her hands on. She wanted to really understand what this was all about. She listened to gurus on YouTube and read all kinds of spiritual blogs. She went to the meditation center near her home, to see if there was anything she could learn from the teachers and students there. She got many answers, and filled in her spiritual map, but something felt missing.
Jenny was loving life more than she had ever loved it before, yet she felt she absolutely had to figure this thing out called reality. She had glimpses and visions of the Big Picture. She had intuitions and epiphanies. And they were epic! But she knew that there was still…more. And somehow she felt like she couldn’t let that go.
The more she meditated and focused on her spiritual practices, the more she felt transcendent. Her seeming awakening in Peru had made all this much easier, she thought. She felt more and more distant from the ‘ordinary’ concerns of daily living, and felt she could relate less and less to other people. It became challenging for her to remain long in a place that felt ‘low-vibe,’ though she was getting better at calling in the Light to purify herself and areas around her.
One day, several months into her post-awakening journey, Jenny received a call from her mom. Her father had died of a heart attack. She paused, noticing the immediate sorrow rising up in her. Memories flashed through her mind of her father taking her on hikes as a child, of going boating together, of him holding her on his lap as they watched cheesy movies.
After the call, she cried, allowing herself to feel everything, going deeply into it and letting it move and shift on its own. A joy welled in her heart as she thought more about her dad, and she knew that there was something positive coming from this experience.
Most of her family members were at the funeral – her mother, two brothers, younger sister, nephews, nieces, cousins, and an uncle. Her dad was so loving that this was a very solemn affair, and the pain of the loss everyone felt was palpable. It was a bit too much for Jenny to be there, and she didn’t feel the need to be gloomy, but would have rather celebrated her father’s life.
She noticed some irritation as her attempt to draw in the Light and change the atmosphere failed. When one of her brothers came up to ask her how she was handling this, she couldn’t help but tell him her feeling that this would be a good experience. She mused that maybe their father was already preparing for his next lifetime, or in a realm far better than this one. Her brother flared at this and questioned if she was mentally ill.
This made her uncomfortable and she had to get out. Excusing herself, she left the funeral site and found a path leading to a labyrinth by an old church. Her thoughts were racing, and pain, anger, guilt, and sorrow all at once. She tried to be with each emotion, diving into it, but they were all so intertwined it felt impossible. She took some deep breaths and attempted to clear her mind, but it was like pushing away water, only to have more rush in.
With a sigh, Jenny simply walked the large labyrinth, letting it take her where it would. She stared at the worn-out stones laid out on the path, and the dirt, grime, and moss between them. She noticed a couple slugs along the way, sliding their gooey trail across the stones. She saw how the sunlight reflected off the fresh slug slime, giving it a luminous, rainbow sheen. And she realized how beautiful it was. Gorgeous, even. As her eyes glanced across the slime back to the slugs, she recognized their beauty, as well – their smooth, elongated bodies, their glistening skin, their delicate tentacle-antennae with beady eyes.
She stood still as she looked even more closely at the intricate patterns on their skin, the almost feathered texture that might have been missed with its gloss. And the weaves of dark and light colors rippling along each slug’s back. She marveled at how they moved, how miraculous it was that countless muscles along their singular feet worked in tandem to inch the slugs along a slide secreted moment-by-moment. How in the hell did this creation come to be?!
She kept walking, and soon enough came across a burnt out cigarette butt lying on the ground. Jenny stopped again, a flash of fury dashing through her as she thought about how inconsiderate some people are. She reached for the cigarette to pick it up till she could find a place to toss it, then hesitated. She wondered, as she had found beauty in the slugs, if there was beauty even in this dejected cigarette.
It was folded slightly, almost an elbow shape like a macaroni. Tiny creases lined its fold, and miniscule streaks of dirt framed the creases. Tobacco granules peaked gently out of their open tunnel, a few grains having already spilled out like an infant avalanche, their black and red hue reminding her of cooling lava on the Hawaiian islands. Indeed, if she looked closely, even this cigarette was beautiful.
Dazed and forgetting to pick it up, Jenny continued on through the labyrinth, winding around and around until finally, she came to the center. And there, in that center, was a fountain – a broken, defeated fountain, no longer gushing water. If it gushed anything, it was dust. She walked up to it, seeing that small chunks of its limestone body were missing, faded out into time. A lion stood proudly next to its copper spout, one paw resting on the greenish, oxidized metal. Little cherubs danced around the edge. One had a missing wing. Another was without a nose. There were perhaps seven of them lining the bowl of the fountain.
A stone bench greeted, and she sat on it as she continued to examine the fountain. The oxidized copper blended well with the dark moss that grew in patches across the fountain’s surface. Winged insects with shiny scales lazily hovered around it, some lounging on the soft moss. The gaps in the rock had their own stories to tell, patterns left by their fallen pieces, lines and peaks and troughs and shadows that created landscapes. The whole fountain, in fact, was full of colors and shades and textures, more intricate and detailed in its retirement.
Jenny reflected on how all things change, how there is always death and dying and aging and destruction, and yet…beauty is always available, waiting to be seen. In anything. In any creature. In any person.
Suddenly, Jenny felt the full realization of her awakening, the glimpse of her Big Picture expanding infinitely until she laughed and knew it was never anywhere, because it was everywhere. There was nothing out of reach. There was nothing separate. She laughed the loudest she had ever laughed, blissful tears streaming down her face.
When she returned to the funeral, everyone was talking, but she felt they were anxious to leave. Her mother saw her and came up and gave her a big hug. She must have seen her flushed face and red eyes from the laughing and tears. Jenny hugged her tightly and felt more love than she ever knew she could.
Then she saw her brother, who gave her a sideways glance, his jaw tense. She went up to him and told him that she had felt a deep sorrow when she found out their dad had died, and remembered all the precious times they had together. She’d felt the loss of knowing she would never have those times with him again. She understood her brother’s pain. She felt it even as she spoke, and she hugged her brother and held him, holding not just him in her arms, but also the pain and the hurt. And she felt her love expand more and more (how it could expand any further, she didn’t know, but she relished its endlessness). As her love expanded, she felt her brother loosen, and he wrapped his arms around her completely. She felt his pain ease and ease, as his own love grew and grew.
“The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you already are.” — Rumi
Into the Abyss
There is a point at which, to really move forward, a realignment has to occur within the self. This is a deeper process than Calcination – it questions the ego, but it pivots our whole position of awareness. Rather than re-establishing an identity, it relinquishes attachment to ANY identity, even one which was broader from our initial perspective.
This is a challenging process. So much energy has been tied to one’s ideal, and the thoughts, words, and deeds that align with and serve it. But even this attachment needs to be dropped during the Fermentation phase. There is a complete openness, reprocessing, letting go, loosening up. Bullshit detectors are impeccable. Nothing less than complete honesty, razor-sharp truth will do. There is no patience for lies, deceit, delusion, or any form of overextending oneself. Pure Awareness stands at the heart of it all.
One of the challenges of this phase, which may also be a catalyst, is recognizing the dissonance between oneself and the world, culture, or community. There is a deep re-questioning, a re-evaluation of everything. Nothing is passed over or hidden. It is all exposed, laid bare. In this acute perception, waves of cynicism may even pass. If the stage isn’t completed, one could become fixated on this cynicism. Egotism and narcissism could result. While one may have a broader perception, it is still bound by blind spots.
The way to move through Fermentation is, first and foremost, to honor and respect all feelings while not attaching oneself to them. This hearkens back to Calcination and some of the other phases, and is truly an important process throughout one’s movement through alchemical transformation. Observe what arises, be present with it, and yet allow it to move on.
Secondly, it is critical to maintain a spacious curiosity, or humility. While one may feel wiser, remember that there is always MORE to be revealed; there is never an end to any process or path—each perspective is relative.
You may find a curiosity and devotion to the Truth that has no bounds. You will lose the need for expectations, as well as adornment of concepts. Most words used to describe spiritual experiences, or reality will feel hollow and inadequate. You will want to pierce any illusion and have pure understanding. This impulse is a call from within yourself, from a place you are not consciously familiar with. Any attempt to add words to your experience or interpret it is a distortion. Fermentation has no need for baggage.
While in earlier phases, it was useful to explore symbols and our relationship to them, to write and journal, to find something to fixate on in order to guide us, these were merely ways to hijinx ourselves into new levels of awareness. They were tools.
It becomes necessary, at some point, to drop everything. We pass through an Abyss. This can feel devastating to some. It has at times been referred to as a Dark Night of the Soul, though that idea carries with it its own loaded interpretations. Comparison will not be helpful, and nothing conceptually can really prepare you for an experience in which concepts lose their meaning. The prior alchemical stages have served to clarify one’s soul and activate qualities of awareness that can carry naturally over into this and future stages, but progress can’t be forced.
Resting in the Chrysalis
What can be very helpful for the Fermentation phase is giving oneself the time and space to process. Listen to your instincts about how much engagement and activity is appropriate for you, and let yourself be okay with needing alone time, if that’s what feels right. There is a lot occuring on a subtle level—just as in physical fermentation, where billions or trillions of microbes are changing the basic nature of a substance underneath the surface. Likewise, in alchemical Fermentation, your sense of Self is being transformed.
You may want to take a retreat for yourself, perhaps planning some time out in the woods or in a location that calls to you. You may even just find time throughout each day to dedicate to yourself. This is a great time for meditation, and a chance to deepen your meditations further. You may find it helpful to also do something physical each day, such as stretching or yoga, hiking, walking, lifting weights, or practicing a physical artform or discipline, like Chi Do taught in the Lineage of King Salomon.
As far as your meditations go, while it is best to listen to your intuition about how to proceed, you may want to experiment with vacancy of mind, or void meditation. You start out by noticing the spaces between thoughts during thought observation, or mindfulness meditation. Gradually, you pay more and more attention to these gaps. Vacancy of mind allows space for, what some say, “God to rush in.” Do not force this, though. It is more about moving naturally into a state of mental stillness that already is there.
Besides a few practices such as these, perhaps the best thing to do is simply allow this process to unfold on its own without trying to direct it. Be patient. Give yourself much free, spacious time. You may want to avoid consuming media, such as TV, books, and the internet. Allow yourself to just be.
Loss of Seeking
Sandra was a nurse who’d been working in a hospital for over a decade. She loved her job, had a wonderful social circle, and tended to keep herself healthy. She had so much compassion to give, and had a strong spiritual practice of yoga and meditation. She felt she did all the right things in life.
But one day, as she was preparing to meet with her family for brunch, she felt different. She didn’t quite know what it was—just a sense that things weren’t right. It wasn’t connected with anything specific, so she wondered if maybe it was the result of less sleep the night before.
As she joined her family and they started talking about cousins and their shenanigans, Sandra found she couldn’t focus on the conversation. She had a sick feeling in her stomach. She felt disconnected. What was going on?
Her family noticed something was off and asked her about it, but she was at a loss and simply cited lack of sleep and a hard work week. When she came home to her partner, she felt troubled by how this growing feeling of disassociation might impact him. Thankfully, he was busy with projects and didn’t notice, so she took the opportunity to be by herself and hope that this would pass. She tried watching TV, but felt irritated by the shows she skimmed through, even a show she used to love. It wasn’t the same. She listened to music, and she zoned out a bit. But it didn’t really help. She even tried journaling it out, but words didn’t come easily, and she ended up feeling more frustrated.
Weeks went by. Her feelings deepened. She felt totally alien from everyone. The world was bizarre. It seemed fake, somehow. Not just in a social sense, but really fake. She found herself questioning often, “What is the point?” She wasn’t even suicidal, because she questioned the point of that, too.
Sandra became very crass with people, even patients at the hospital. She didn’t consider it rude, just blunt and honest. She had no patience for sugar-coating anymore. Why waste time and energy on that? She was upfront with doctors and other nurses about things she thought they were doing wrong. And she didn’t care about any hierarchy of authority, which felt increasingly artificial to her. This caused tensions at work and she knew people were talking about her behind her back by their body language and, well, just a 6th sense.
Her husband, concerned about her, gave her a list of psychiatrists. But this infuriated her. What was he implying? That she was broken and needed to be fixed? They argued over this, and she realized that, though she’d been worried at first, she was feeling more and more like the veil was being pulled from her eyes and she was becoming sober to reality. Everyone seemed to be missing this.
Sandra felt she could read people more clearly and see their hidden motivations and agendas. She no longer wanted to be social with friends—they only wanted to talk about things that completely bored her. And her family loved to gossip, which made her uncomfortable being around them, too. There was a sadness from feeling this disconnect with everyone, even a grief. It was almost like something was dying.
Sandra told her husband she needed to take a few days to herself, for her own well-being. Her husband agreed it might be good for her and they worked out a plan.
She went ahead and booked a cabin near a lake. She only brought the bare minimum of essentials, and spent most of the time strolling through the trail around the lake, or sitting at the water’s edge. The air was fresh, and everything was pristine. Luckily, few tourists came here, so Sandra was mostly alone.
The days passed slowly and serenely. Sandra found she didn’t need much to entertain her anymore. She could simply stare at her surroundings for hours and let her thoughts run by. Initially, she had many serious thoughts, urgent existential questions, deep inquiries into her soul and life and reality. But these faded as she lost interest in answering them and allowed them to flow on, observing them with amusement. Somehow she knew that no answer would suffice.
As this realization deepened, she came to understand that the whole process of seeking would never suffice. She surrendered to what at first seemed a devastation, a gasping climax that reached its final breath…until even that vanished, and there was an awareness beyond anything she could describe.
Returning home from an illuminating experience, Sandra no longer felt frustrated, angry, or despondent. She simply felt alive. She realized everything was a game, and that was wonderful. A beautiful, cosmic joke. She laughed and went about her life. This time, her actions flowed not from a sense of need, but a sense of love, without any expectation.
“When there’s the intention to understand, there is attention without the distraction of the desire to attend. Then the mind is not disciplined, controlled, pulled together and made to be still. Its stillness is natural when there’s the intention to understand. No effort, no conflict, is involved in understanding.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
Crucible of Union
Everything in manifestation is polar. Hot and cold, wet and dry, expansive and contractive. Yin and Yang. Active and passive. The idea that poles are separate is illusory. In alchemy, every pole contains its opposite. And the opposite pole can be accessed through the right approach.
In the Conjunction phase, one learns to negotiate the opposites in their own personality, find equilibrium, and move towards a nondual state of awareness in which conditions fall away and pure consciousness is more readily experienced.
Conjunction is connected with the heart chakra, or green ray, ruled by unconditional love and acceptance. This is the vessel for change, the crucible in which deep transformation can unfold. It is also a critical stage in spiritual development, being a transition to a whole new dimension of experience in which the transpersonal – outside the ego – becomes familiar.
One of the simplest ways to experience the Conjunction process is by contemplating opposites and holding space for them to coexist within your heart and mind. You practice this as you encounter people, even things, in your everyday world. As you observe them, notice their qualities and consider the opposite qualities. Then imagine both existing simultaneously, while you continue observing. This invites nondual awareness to emerge.
The practice of experiencing opposites is highly useful when applied to thoughts and emotions. You can capitalize on it and tweak it to navigate life situations. For example, let’s take a stressful thought, such as worrying over paying your bills. Its opposite, peace of mind, is present – it just takes a little creativity and openness to recognize this. With each step of this transmutation process, notice the thought, and feel for the emotion behind it. Go deeper and deeper with each layer…
- Realize that the thought of worry arises due to concern for yourself.
- Notice this concern arises due to desire for self-preservation.
- Notice this desire enables you to be resourceful and get your needs met, bringing peace of mind.
- Imagine that peace, and simply focus on it, letting the rest of the story fall away.
It is possible to transmute this even more directly. Let’s take the emotion of anxiety.
Notice that it has an energy and presence. For a moment, feel the sensation without ascribing any meaning to it – simply observe it. Then, with your intention and will, imagine the strength of this energy shifting into relaxation. Imagine yourself being relaxed, and the energy behind anxiety fueling this new state.
To make it easier, you may even imagine anxiety as a color and a shape in your body, and relaxation as a color and shape. Then allow the anxiety to change its appearance in your mind until it looks like relaxation (perhaps fiery red gradually turning into a cool blue). Tap into the energy behind the experience and redirect it.
The ultimate conjunction is the union of the active and passive principles, yin and yang. I sometimes refer to them as Will and Grace. Will is focused intention. It stimulates, brings momentum, changes, shapes, directs. When you move your hand, you are using your will. When you set a goal and work towards its realization, you are implementing your will. Likewise when you concentrate on an image in your mind.
Grace, on the other hand, is surrender, openness, acceptance, fluidity, equanimity. Grace goes with the flow. It has no agenda – it simply embraces what is. It is unconditional. If you’ve ever sat with someone who looked at you and accepted you perfectly as you were, without judgment, then you had a sense of what grace is. If you’ve humorously said to yourself “fuck it,” and decided to let the dice fall where they may, you had a glimpse of grace. If you’ve ever deeply felt you could rely on events being in “God’s hands” or that the “Universe will take care of you,” you know what grace can be like.
Conjunction deepens when Will and Grace are unified within the self. This occurs when you’ve both clarified your sense of purpose, and entered into a state of gratitude and openness.
Your ideal or purpose has been clarified through the alchemical process, so far. Your will lets you empower it and to focus your actions in service of it. Grace comes in when you have let go of expectations – all expectations – in particular, those associated with your actions. It is when you’ve learned to simply act, and to allow what comes. It DOES NOT mean you allow things to distract you from your ideal and drain your energy.
There are a few ways to step into Grace:
- Gratitude List – Cliche, but effective. Write at least 3 things each morning and 3 things each night that you are grateful for. As you write them down, ACTUALLY feel the gratitude. Relive or imagine it in your mind.
- Stop Complaining – This is a mental and verbal detox. It requires practice and perseverance. Learn to let go of negative talk towards self and others and circumstances. You can, of course, be compassionate. But you don’t have to add to negativity.
- Appreciate Synchronicities – You may want to even record these in a journal or your phone. When you notice synchronicities, take a moment to soak them in and remember.
- Remember Presence – Let your thoughts go for a moment and focus on your beingness, existence, the sense of I AM. You can do this briefly, several times throughout the day.
Ways you can explore your Will are:
- Clarification – Ask yourself what is your highest desire, and notice the first images, thoughts, or sensations that emerge.
- Alignment – Check in with yourself throughout the day to ask why you are doing (or not doing) a task or activity and what you feel it brings you. Notice if you are energized or drained, excited or bored.
- One-pointed Concentration – Imagine your highest desire being fulfilled. Experience it vividly, engage as many senses as you can, and feel the emotions around it. Keep your attention in a focused state, and if you get distracted, simply redirect your mind back.
- Aliveness – Notice the energy within you, animating you. Feel yourself as part of Life, noticing that it moves through you. Affirm to yourself that the same energy animating you is that which animates everything.
Meld your sense of Grace with your Will. This is actually true devotion on a deeper level. In devotion to a higher power or ideal, you listen for guidance, act on inspiration, and trust in the process. There is no fixation on an outcome or result. All of that is let go, replaced with a love for that higher power or ideal. That love is connection and openness and faith.
In truth, Will and Grace are seen to be poles of One thing. When this is realized, and deeply felt, Conjunction has started to set in. Along with this realization comes the blurring of lines between free will and determinism, noticing that they are not separate. For All is an expression of One, and your True Will is God’s Will.
Letting Go into the New
Marcus felt frustrated that life wasn’t turning out the way it should have for him. As a salesperson for a leading tech company, he thought he would have been on a fast track to success, except for the fact that he wasn’t meeting quota and didn’t seem to be so great at sales.
But he really tried. He learned everything he could, reading books and listening to sales podcasts. He talked with the highest earners to get tips. He even went out of his way to meditate every day, visualize his success in his mind, and repeat affirmations to himself. He was doing so much; why wasn’t any of it working?
As he pushed on and on, his frustration turned to dejection. He was humiliated after having puffed himself up so much as a fast learner in his interview, and he knew that if things didn’t change soon, he was at risk of losing his job. But it was getting to the point where he just didn’t care anymore.
One day, after being teased by a coworker for a particularly lousy call, Marcus decided he’d take a walk through the park nearby his work. As he mulled over his continual defeats, his sadness deepened. After a few laps around the park, he was tired physically and emotionally, and he slumped onto a bench. He thought to himself, “What’s the point of even fighting this sadness?” And so he sat with it. He didn’t do anything with it. He just watched it, watched himself, watched the moment, at a loss for anything else he could possibly do.
After sinking into the sadness, and the bench, Marcus suddenly felt something shift inside him. He let go of his judgment of himself and the situation. He thought, “If I lose my job, fine. If I keep it, fine.” He decided he was just going to do what made sense to him and forget the rest. As he got up, he felt freer and more present. He wasn’t distracted anymore with what could or should be.
The next day, Marcus came into the office acting on his instincts. He naturally tuned out the conversations that felt irrelevant to him, and spoke easily and impromptu. He ignored the scripts he was taught and didn’t even bother pitching to people that felt like a dead end. Sometimes, he would just talk with people about anything of interest that came up, forgetting that he was supposed to “sell.” And that was okay. But people responded well to that, anyways, and he got unexpected sales.
It kept like this for a week, and by the end of it, Marcus was genuinely shocked by how many sales he had made. His coworkers and supervisor were equally shocked, though they had noticed he’d been different all around.
While Marcus enjoyed this surprise, he also realized that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about the tech world, and cared much more about education. Renewing his sense of purpose, Marcus looked for jobs at educational companies. He was mainly curious to see what sort of positions were out there and what that world was like. One thing led to another, and he eventually realized he wanted to create his own education business to fill a market need he kept seeing in his research.
He followed his feeling of what his vision of success felt like, without concern for how the specifics would manifest. What started for him as a sort of liberating impartiality evolved into a trust that things would work out the way they were supposed to, and all he’d need to do is follow his instinct and curiosity. Marcus found a deeper sense of purpose, coupled with an openness to Life. And he realized you couldn’t have one without the other.
“It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.” – Alan Watts
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In the last post of this series, we covered the second stage of alchemy: dissolution. We also reminded ourselves that it’s important to remain non-attached. At the same time, you will not complete the alchemy process powerfully without uncovering your ‘burning desire’ that drives you towards your goal. Without the attractive force of this desire pulling you, you are in danger of getting lost in the journey of this alchemical transformation. Finding your way out is impossible until a concrete goal emerges.
Into a million pieces
As life continues to throw curve balls, we get thrown out of our normal routine, and start to see what the essence of our life is. Normally, this essence gets drowned in the day-to-day dross of our waking life, and sometimes we access it through the subconscious when we sleep. But overall, we are usually unaware of the influence this essence has on our thoughts, behaviors, habits, and outcomes in life.
When we get out of our normal routine, or try to alter our life in some way (like learning a new habit), it’s not uncommon for anger, resentment, frustration, and depression to emerge. We can often have trouble with emotional boundaries as well, not being sure exactly what we want, which has the unfortunate bonus feature of making us more prone to conflict in our relationships.
Have you ever felt so emotionally fragile like you could burst into a million shards of glass on the ground at any moment? That’s separation.
There is perspective to be gained by separating and distinguishing the parts of our life that often go unnoticed. Human beings are meaning making machines, and we go around constantly making up stories about what others think of us, how otherwise meaningless actions have ruined our day, and what we’re going to do about the past when we act in the future. Most times we are not actually present to (and appreciating) what is!
Taking a moment to see each of those stories for what they are, mental objects that take up time and energy, that drive our thoughts, opinions, and actions. They enable us to move those otherwise subconscious drives to the conscious mind where we can evaluate and choose our relationship with them, rather than be driven by them. Freud was a big proponent of this theory of unconscious drives, and ended up taking it further, forming the concept of the id (or instincts/drives) as opposed to the superego (or conscience), which, from a metaphysical perspective, is necessarily aligned with our Higher Self.
In this stage of alchemy called separation, we separate out the parts of the whole that we were not noticing before, and we look at them. We start to see all kinds of relationships we never saw before. We compare and contrast the different parts of ourselves that make being a human so rewarding, giving color to our experience and rhythm to our steps. We have to have the honesty and integrity required within ourselves to acknowledge those parts of us that we don’t necessarily like before we can move towards wholeness.
Seeing the unseeable
After a particularly nasty breakup with his ex, Riley basically repressed her feelings for a year and it took her awhile to feel open to dating again. Understandably, when she put herself out there to date again, she had all kinds of caveats. “I’m never dating that kind of person again,” she decided. So she evaluated every prospective partner that came into her life from the lens of that list of traits she’d rather like to avoid, lest she find herself in the same position as last year, emotionally bruised and battered, closing herself off again to the happiness she was sure she could find if she just had another (not so crazy) partner.
She had one particularly memorable dating experience where, after dinner, she was feeling particularly attracted to her date, and decided to invite him over to her house for an after dinner aperitif. No sooner had they entered then the comments began. “Oh, what a nice space. I really like your sofa. How long have you lived in this house? Where did you get those curtains?” Riley was beside herself, one of the things on her list was no critical comments, because she felt emotionally shunned by her ex, who was always evaluating and criticizing her. Riley felt like she could never live up to his standard, so she ended the relationship.
Now it was happening all over again, except that it was happening with each person she became close with. Once the intimacy started to increase, she would start to get these comments. First they were relatively innocuous, but then later, there was some tension or even outright conflict. Riley didn’t know how to resolve this recurring issue.
One day, while at coffee with a friend, Riley was detailing how her most recent date wasn’t going to cut it again, when her friend stopped her and leaned over to say, “Riley, don’t you see a pattern here. Whenever you want to get intimate with someone, you immediately close yourself off, which defeats the whole purpose!”
Riley started to look at her most recent dates, and she was flabbergasted. Her friend was right, she always reacted with resistance whenever anyone got close enough to ask her a question that really mattered. She withdrew as soon as people were just getting to know her. This was no way to create a relationship.
Once Riley saw this in her behavior, she was able to catch herself going down that trail, and decided to she her experience differently. “No, he’s not trying to criticize me, he’s just curious because he doesn’t know! I haven’t shared that part of myself with him yet.”
After this, Riley was able to have a relatively long-term relationship again. Though still looking for that life partner, she is enjoying emotionally-fulfilling relationships both with her intimate partners and her friends.
“He [William S Burroughs] has no patience for my kind of neurosis, I know… But since then I’ve been facing my nature full in the face and the result is a purge.”
― Jack Kerouac, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters
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In Calcination, you learned that you weren’t your body, your circumstances, your identity. None of these things ultimately defined you – because, as they receded, changed, eroded, YOU still existed, something fundamental beneath it all. Something was still there, and it was an opening to a larger universe.
In Dissolution, you might try to find some ground to stand on. You may end up exploring for a bit, but then returning to your life as usual, finding your old identity (or a slightly modified one), and a comfortable life to give you a feeling of safety and stability.
Calcination can leave people in an existential crisis if they don’t find something to focus their energy on. While it may bring a sense of adventure, it’s hard to sustain a life without any solid sense of identity or foundation. So it’s understandable that some people decide to abandon ship.
If you want to continue to carry the energy forward and allow yourself to evolve, you may want to choose an ideal to dedicate your life to. We all have ideals, values and motivations that drive us. We’re not always aware of them, but they’re like programs in the background, directing our energy and actions.
This is the time to consciously evaluate what’s important to you. Ask yourself, “What is my WHY?” This opens up our minds, gets us out of our comfort zones, allows our natural intuition to flow through us more clearly. And, when our devotion is ripened, we no longer feel separate from the Divine, but supported by it. We are not caught in the “trap” of a harmful, mechanistic reality that runs lifeless and cold. We sense the Moreness and intimately feel drawn to it and lulled by it. This lifts us. Suspends us.
Blend as Water
In Dissolution, we start to blend into the solvent, the liquid that contains and supports us. The Universal Solvent is Water. Water is Love, Unity, Connection, Grace. We loosen our boundaries, and can do so more easily without being locked into our identities. We float, which is the grace and faith in the More. Our devotion, which begins to inspire our activity and animate our daily actions, influencing all aspects of life from career to relationships, is a manifestation of the greater sense of Love we feel towards the Creative Principle in All Things and our desire to know It more. It is NOT subservience to a deity. Would it be any different from the affection towards a lover? It is pure and unconditional. It flows through thought, word, and deed.
The buoyancy we learn from this stage assists us further in our processing and development, offering momentum for the other stages to fruit. How does one best take advantage of this stage, and what are its pitfalls?
Fear has not been obliterated and can still appear in this stage. When it does, we may feel overwhelmed, lost, confused, desolate, abandoned, listless. All has been burned away, and now what is left?
It is easy in this stage to take to forms of escapism and addiction. The initial relief becomes to us as a saving grace, restoring hope in something, helping us to feel good. But, without an identity, this is a trap, as we lock onto it with an iron grip. Devotion occurs here, but it is in a form that causes us to forget ourselves more and more, to withdraw our light and sink inward. It is not introspective, but avoidant. It is devotion to drugs, sex, sugar, entertainment, maybe even sleep. Wild ideas and flurries may come, and there may be something substantial in them, but without the influence of a higher ideal, and without that element of faith as support, our ideas become distortions, and rather than inspire, they collect dust.
Transcend and Include
So the goal is to not give into these escapes. As in the previous stage, it is best to listen and observe. However, the emphasis here shifts to paying attention to our Ideal. It is a transcendent ideal, in service to something larger than a limited sense of self. It is expansive, encompassing, upfliting, energizing, loving. It brings our focus regularly back to the Big Picture, so we can stare through the opening of the matrix and fall in love with the Moreness. And yet, it can also flow through our daily lives, inspiring our actions, motivating our practical choices. It guides us.
Without this devotion, we won’t have the energy or motivation to continue the journey of transformation. Ways to access this devotion are often creative or spiritual in nature. Stream of consciousness writing every morning can help us tap into this flow and listen to our intuition. Painting, dancing, music, theater, connecting with nature, and meditating can all be avenues for finding and aligning with our devotion. The simplest way is to ask, verbally, as an inquiry to one’s Higher Self or Infinite Intelligence. And then notice the signs.
An observance of synchronicity, in itself, can foster devotion, as one becomes more aware of Infinite Intelligence and Its expression. Recording these can be a helpful tool, to remind us that reality is not what so many people are telling us. Feel into what is behind these synchronicities. Call to It. Ask for Its illumination.
FIRE OF THE ALCHEMISTS
Fire is powerful. Its essence can be found in the Big Bang, the formation of the Earth, and the symbol of the phoenix. These all give clues to the secret of renewal. The science and art of alchemy sheds much light on this.
The ancient and medieval alchemists pursued far more than making gold. The creed they followed most was “As above, so below,” a mystic axiom that asserts the connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm in a holographic, Russian doll kind of way. In other words, they followed very specific physical procedures, yet these processes always mirrored internal psychological and spiritual states. Their goal was to perfect matter while perfecting their own inner natures simultaneously.
One of the first processes in alchemy was called calcination. This was the stage of subjecting something to enough intense heat and fire that it would produce white ashes, called a “salt” by alchemists. It was a preparatory step in producing an elixir, as it purified the physical ingredient. Every alchemist was both a proto-psychologist and a shaman of sorts. In calcinating a substance, he or she would strive to also calcinate the mind and soul.
THE ALCHEMY OF LIFE
Sometimes we find ourselves in a calcinating event or even stage of our life. We can choose to repress our feelings toward this, or acknowledge them and use the event or stage as a growth opportunity. Signs that you’re experiencing calcination are that your world is crashing around you and you don’t know who you are anymore. You get the sense that you have to let go of a lot of things you’ve been holding onto. The funny part is, most of those things were just limiting you, being dead weight in your journey. Now you can actually walk your Path with momentum.
Calcination may occur with most intensity when we’ve been ignoring the baggage we’ve been carrying for awhile. We get comfortable and lose touch with our true sense of purpose. Getting comfortable really just means getting habituated – even to something soulsucking or painful. The calcination process removes those anchors, whether we like it or not. Essentially, it’s an omen from our Higher Selves or Providence saying “You’re off your Path! Here’s a wake up call!”
Once we are purified through this spiritual burning, we can move forward with more freedom and buoyancy. We don’t have superfluous things restricting our flow. It can be scary relinquishing those things, because we’ve become so reliant upon or used to them…but the magic happens in letting go!
That’s really the key to moving through calcination: surrender. Give in to the process, relax, and have faith that there’s a bigger picture to all this. Spiritual traditions the world over, from Buddhism to Christianity, advocate the power and freedom of nonattachment – if you’re to have any peace amidst calcination and truly grow, you must loosen your grip on what you think is important.
Here’s a little story to flesh this all out…
Mark is an attorney who’s been working for the law firm Josef & Leibermann for 15 years. He works 50-hour weeks, and lives in a 3 story house in a beautiful gated community. Unbeknownst to him, however, the law firm is downsizing and pruning off anyone it sees as less than exceptional. Even though Mark has been there for years, the executives don’t quite see him as being up to par with their top attorneys. He’s informed, very suddenly, that he is terminated.
Furious and dejected, Mark binges on alcohol. He doesn’t see how this happened, and feels it’s incredibly unfair. He’s even considering suing the law firm – before drinking another few glasses of Pinot Noir and laughing at how much of a train wreck that would be!
Mark’s friends and family try to console him, but after seeing him go into the fourth week of binge drinking and posting vicious comments on Facebook, they start to back off. He keeps to himself, splurging his savings and sinking deeper into depression.
One day, a documentary comes on TV about big businesses influencing politics to get their way. “What!?” Mark exclaims. For some reason, his interest is piqued. He devours online articles, books, and more documentaries, and learns about the destruction to the environment caused by some of these big businesses, and how they keep politicians out of the way. Mark is fired up!
The more he researches, the more he forgets to drink. He’s even started going to networking events and lectures to learn more, which is a miracle, considering he’s getting out of the house. Eventually, he meets Sandy, a 35-year-old lobbyist working for the Earth Defense Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting environments around the world and native wildlife. She tells Mark they’ve been needing a person with extensive legal experience to help them in trial, decode laws, and draft proposals. Mark is instantly ignited, and she gives him a number to call for more information.
The next day, Mark dials the number and his enthusiasm is so obvious, that he gets an interview. A few days later, during the interview, Mark realizes that throughout his career, he didn’t like working for people he’d describe as scumbags – people who were clearly guilty and had no respect or remorse. Mark comes to the sudden insight that this is why he wasn’t considered a “top performer” at Josef & Leibermann. He just never felt right about helping guys he knew were in the wrong. The interviewer, however, sees great knowledge and integrity in Mark and decides to hire him!
Working with the Earth Defense Group proves to be a blast, although Mark is still often busy. But he absolutely loves what he’s doing, and feels this is really what he was meant for.
Mark had to let go of his old career and his old identity, and embrace a new way of life. This was too much for him, at first, and he didn’t know what to really do with himself. But, as he let the past burn away, he was able to embrace something new, something more empowering and life fulfilling.
Calcination is “step one” in alchemy (it’s not always in the same order). Get ready for the remaining 6 steps!
Can you remember a harsh period of your life, when you came out with more self-knowledge? Did you let go of anything in order to move forward? Please share below!
“If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the Kingdom.” – Jesus
Would you like to learn more about this process? Click on the links below to follow the progression by stages or jump to the stage you’re interested in most.