Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A sign you're on the right track...

The discovery of meaning, richness, beauty, and depth arises not only through an encounter with the light, but also by way of immersion in the dark.

In ways the conscious mind isn’t quite able to understand, we can also be held by the darkness, inside the womb of the unknown.

It’s going to feel counter-instinctual to allow ourselves to stay in that place of not-knowing, meaning we’re not going to want to do it. The pull will be back to certainty, clarity, and knowing ahead of time how it will all turn out.

Holding the tension between all the contradictory feelings in the body vessel is the activity of love. Providing a home for the burning, the longing, and for the darkened material to reveal its nature is the essence of the alchemical journey.

There is wisdom here in the shattered – and profound guidance for the path ahead – but it can’t be accessed with ordinary awareness. It can only be felt and known through the heart.

This process involves an emptying of the cup, a cosmic decaying and recycling, where we’re shown that the path of awakening and healing, while giving us everything, will simultaneously take everything away.

This “taking everything away” is one of the signatures of the beloved, of a fierce and reorganizing grace, but it’s not necessarily the sort of “grace” we had in mind when we started out on the path.

It is only through the process of embodiment and incarnation that the beloved, her being and blessing can find its way here, with us as the vehicle for that sort of embodied, ensouled transmutation.

Yes, it can be so shaky at times: “I can’t take any more. Can I just go back to the way it was?”

But this tenderness and sensitivity, that ache in the heart, that burning in the body for union, is a sign you’re on the right track, that you’ve crossed the threshold into the liminal place where the Friend is there to receive you.

That longing is the doorway in.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Autumn and the emptying of the cup

Dear friend, I hope you’re doing well as we move into the Autumn, a time when the colors change, which for the alchemist was a sign of transmutation in the vessel.

For many of us, this transition is also occurring simultaneously in our bodies and hearts, as some part of us falls away. It’s as if some piece of soul is no longer able to accompany us into the next phase; a tender emptying of the cup.

This clearing out, which some part of us might long for, can also be shaky and unknown, leaving us with the felt experience of groundlessness and uncertainty.

In alchemy, this is the stage of the yellowing, with its primary process known as putrefaction, one of my favorite alchemical words and images, referring to the putrefying, or dying away of one thing so that something new can come into Being.

Autumn has always been the most emotional, vulnerable, and broken-open time of the year for me personally. It’s as if a certain landscape of grief or melancholy is activated and a doorway opens where the blue ones of the Soul emerge in my body and imagination.

These pieces of soul who reside in the blue regions of psyche carry felt experiences of tenderness, melancholy, sadness, and grief, and invite a shattering. It’s not the ordinary, conventional sort of sadness where something is felt to be missing, lost, or incomplete. It’s more like an overflow in the heart, a sadness that is pregnant and full.

It’s tender, raw, naked, and sore, as if it could take you to the ground and turn you to dust if you were to go with it, to walk with the blue ones into their world.

In the Autumn we see that yellowing unfolding out in nature, by way of the decaying leaves, the wet green moss, the burning reds and the oranges and the rotting logs. And we may also see it deep in the Soul.

To attune to that Inner Autumn requires a new cleansing of perception and a polishing of the heart, where that which was once so clear - me and my life and how I was so sure that it would all turn out - my relationships, work, physical health, living situation, emotional stability, who my friends are, what I enjoy doing, what it is that brings me meaning…

There’s a way that in this yellowing, all of that can begin to putrefy, fall apart, and be turned to dust. The particles of light which comprise this dust, the alchemical scintilla, are one of the true symbols on the alchemical or mystical path, emanations of the activity of the Ally as it incarnates in time and space by way of emotion, image, and pure feeling.

It’s only natural that we’d view this as less than idea, or as evidence that something has gone wrong. I mean, who among us wants to have their life putrefy, and their most precious beliefs, reference points, and realizations ground into particles of dust.

But from an alchemical perspective, this is a necessary process and unfolding, a clearing of the space, and evidence of the emissary of wholeness, laying the foundation for something new and creative to come into Being… something we didn’t quite expect, that we weren’t able to see beforehand, something literally beyond our capacity to imagine.

This process begins to flow by way of our willingness and ability to grieve, to tend and stay embodied to the death of an old dream, in whatever form it comes, which requires a fidelity and a real devotion to the broken and to the wisdom it carries.

One of the mysteries of the path is that we can’t know in advance what it will be like to live our lives without our conditioned ways of seeing the world. If our lenses of perception are cleansed it’s like we’re naked and newborn. This is the archetype of birth, or rebirth, which can be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, and almost always contradictory.

Yes, there is a certain excitement in stepping into new territory, but it can also generate bewilderment or even a panic in psyche and soma as we sense a pending confrontation with the unknown. We must be kind to ourselves during times of liminality and transition, and honor the actualities of what it truly means to heal.

In the end, it is a work of love, but it’s a path that includes the sweetness of love, as well as its more wrathful and reorganizing aspect, holding, and honoring not only that which we gain from the journey, but also everything that we’re sure to lose on the path of awakening and healing.

If we look carefully, we can see that whole cosmic drama unfolding in the very center of each falling leaf.

It's a love that’s Whole, that is vast enough to contain and contain it all. It’s all path, it’s all grace, it’s all God.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Tending grief and the path of the wounded healer

Tending to grief is the essence of the wounded healer. Providing sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body and in the imagination – requires that come to the ground, touch the Earth, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of a dream, for the entirety of the unlived life, the way it was all supposed to turn out. Inside these tears is the alchemical tincture.

Grief is not something we “get over,” step by step, or transcend with our spiritual experiences, but a partner we practice intimacy with, honor at times, argue with at others, and lament with as the cycles unfold.

The goal is not to wiggle into some state where we “never suffer again,” through some fantasied sustained transcendent experience, rising above our embodied vulnerability, but to find meaning in our suffering and to use it to help others and this world.

And to be shown the endlessness of the Beloved and the way she appears in time and space.

To marginalize the experience of grief to work against nature.

There is no endpoint to this depth, meaning, and aching beauty in the soul, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from the wildness of grace. The path of awakening and healing isn’t only about what I will get from it, but also everything I will lose.

Here, we find ourselves in what the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy rotation of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human soul. Inside the shattered is light, longing to come through us and out into the world.

The soul is endless and the visitors of grief may companion us for a lifetime. But the grieving, orphaned ones of psyche and soma come not to harm, but to reveal.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by that of circle and spiral.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The parting of the veil

So much of our psychological wounding is relational and encoded around love.

While understanding by way of left-brain processing can be helpful and supportive, it is right-brain immersion in fields of safety which fosters reorganization.

The body will reorganize when it feels safe.

Inside the body the lost one travels, taking up temporary residence in our muscles, cells, organs, and breath. Scattered pieces of soul gather in our eyes, shoulders, and bellies, and the secret places within our hearts.

They’ve become frozen and crystallized there. We feel their longing to come Home by way of the variety of symptoms we experience.

If we’re unable to access them, to feel what they feel and to tend to their tears, they will make their way deeper, into the underworld and the somatic unconscious.

To put a name to the terror and the grief, to the primitive agonies as Winnicott referred to them, is vital when it comes to the felt experience of integration.

From time to time, they will peek their little head, their little heart out into the field of consciousness, as if to say, “Is it safe yet?” “Can I return home?” “Can I play again?”

In the slowness of the morning, in the quiet at night, in the dreamtime, and all through the day if we listen carefully, we might hear them.

As the veil parts just a bit, we may discover that it’s a lot more creative, more intelligent, more (bitter)sweet and achy and majestic than we ever expected.