Hardship and challenge are quintessential parts of the human experience, yet suffering is more optional. The turbulent times in our lives are an invitation to lift our consciousness, make choices about our perceptions and be the alchemist of our life. Alchemy simply put, is the intention to transmute something of perceived lesser quality to a more noble and great quality – like turning stone to gold. We are called to investigate where we move into judgement, and categorical thinking of right or wrong, and bring responsibility for how we choose to perceive life’s events. This kind of black and white thinking applied to the world, to people and ourselves contributes to feelings of anger, anxiety, blame, fear and self-loathing. The opportunity found in life’s challenges, is to acknowledge the presence of these emotions, whilst also turning our hearts to the potential blessings and gold, knowing that they will surely come.
The alchemical path has a few methods to support you in creating a golden and shimmering life, you can begin with;
‘Feel the feeling, don’t tell the story’
Emotions and feelings come and go like the weather, bringing with them an ever changing blend of sunshine and storms. In the company of uncomfortable and painful emotion, it is important to be aware of what thoughts, stories, judgements and assumptions we attribute to the feelings and emotions we are experiencing. If we believe the unhealthy or unhelpful thought processes, we can prolong our suffering by perceiving events, the future or even people as bad and unwanted. We move into the head and away from the heart, turning our backs on possibility. Practice holding your thoughts and beliefs lightly, like you might hold a feather in your hand. After all, our thoughts are based on perceptions, and the goggles we wear in life are based on our belief systems, which have been inherited, accumulated and sometimes forced onto us through past experience. These thoughts then, aren’t necessarily the truth of the event occurring in the present moment. Falling into the trap of believing that unhelpful thoughts are true or wise, is like creating a dead end in your experience. Use your breath as a support in navigating through challenging emotion, by expanding the breath deep into the lungs and abdomen, exhaling longer to release accumulated tension. The breath is your sacred anchor to the present moment, keeping you out of your mind and connected to infinite doors of possibility.
Look for the blessings around the corner
This can be a real feat when the heart and/or ego are suffering after a personal loss or hurt. There can be a temptation to hold onto the hurt, as a way of honouring our suffering and not approving of the ‘wrong doing’ of others. But by being curious and looking for the blessings, you are learning to hold space for both the pain and the possibilities in your awareness. This does not imply the hardship did not invite suffering into your life, it simply means you are also prepared to look for the gold in your life. There is a rolling movement in life. What once appeared to be a disaster, suddenly unfurls itself to carry blessing and gold. An eternal blossoming and expansion, moving from one shade of colour to the next, sometimes the darkest indigo, to lightest white. If in the wake of hardship, we are willing to unveil the gifts, opportunities and personal developments that may arise, the harder events in our lives can become more palpable, perhaps even sweet. Invite the gold into your life, by asking yourself, I wonder what miracle will come from this storm?
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
~ Frida Kahlo
Have acceptance and compassion as your life travel guides
The personal growth journey has no final destination, it is an ever deepening, ever expanding path. This can bring its own set of frustrations, and means that at some stage we will realise that we never get to be that ‘perfect’ ideal version of ourselves that we are so diligently striving towards. Life also won’t go according to plan, and neither will people behave the way we always hope for. Support yourself along this journey by treating yourself and others with compassion and acceptance. Life, if we are lucky, can give us a long road, so choose thoughts that are encouraging, loving and accepting, as you trundle along the path. Know that there is a whole planet of people, trundling alongside you with their own backpacks full of self-doubt and uncertainty.
It is the very contrast between dark and light that brings beauty into the world. Think of the first day you wake up feeling fresh after battling the flu, or the delight of the first sun filled sky after a winter of grey. There is a mighty magnificence, gifted only through the contrast of dark and light, challenge and ease. Each is needed, each is sacred. Without both we would miss out on the gold. So how could one be better than the other? Rather it is the dance of challenge and ease in our lives that can create the bliss and blessings we long for.
Are you sifting through the dust, letting it fall away to reveal the gold. Or have you got dust in your eyes?
Contact Natalia to explore how you can support yourself in managing life’s challenges.
At times of great change, uncertainty and crisis it easy to slide into a preoccupation with what has been lost, and what challenges may lie ahead. The mind swiftly moves into fear and seeks out potential danger; a natural and at times helpful design function of the human brain, which has helped us survive many thousands of years as a species.
Change and uncertainty are the basic principles of the universe we live in, necessitating destruction and death, for the creation and evolution of life into new forms. Without being forced towards our growth edge, many of us would remain in our comfortable routines and habits, missing out on the experience of discovering our strength, expansion and creative potential. These times in our lives, are the fertile ground for our greatest shedding, greatest growth and blossoming.
Despite all these wonderful possibilities incubating in change, change is still unsettling for many and it can be helpful to have a few guideposts for the journey ahead. Here are a few breadcrumbs to help you find your way;
Knowing the lay of the land
Unless there is an immediate risk to your health or life, in the presence of great upheaval and change it can be wise to slow down. Instinctively our urge is often to retreat or run from our fears; instead be still in your new life long enough to have the mud of your turbulent emotions settle, and take stock.
Liken this to waking up and finding you have been dropped in a desert. Running in desperation towards the horizon is hazardous; whereas grounding yourself, observing the landscape, and sensitising yourself to your new surrounds at least briefly supports a wise response in relationship to what is, rather than a rash reaction to your new found location.
“Before taking any important decision in life, it is always good to do something slowly” Paulo Coelho.
Balance your perspective
Being second nature for most people to focus on what isn’t working, it is vital that we make the choice to widen our view. News and current affair outlets are also guilty of the same charge, and feed us only a small percentage of what is really happening in the world. For every disaster and crisis there are wonderful people dedicating their time and lives to positive change. Similarly in our own lives, even though we may be experiencing hardship, there is much going well. Seek out the people, communities, organisations and even nations that are often quietly, making positive changes. Then connect, and get involved. Rather than getting dragged down into the swamp of despair, shift your focus and search for the over-hanging branch and pull yourself out onto dry solid land. On a global and personal scale, find the hard ground. Find the people who are shining a light, find what is working well in your life, and make this your new home.
Your values are your personal light house
Use your values as your travel companions to navigate the dark and unknown terrain of life’s challenges. When the survival of the ego, or even the globe are at stake, reaction, the illusion of separation and fear can take the lead. Return to yourself, and reconnect with the qualities that you wish to embody in your life. At times of change and turbulence, a connection to our values ensures we aren’t as easily swayed by the values and actions of others. Difficult decisions are made less so, by asking “which choice best serves my values?”. You may find it helpful to write your values and goals down, and keep them where you can see them, as a gentle daily reminder.
Fear and anger can serve to remind us of what we hold dear, but are also uncomfortable to experience in their entirety. Culturally, many of us have been conditioned out of connecting with the full spectrum of our emotion. Feel your emotions deeply, and let them fuel your heartfelt action. Find your heart space, connect to your values, and ground yourself and your actions in them. Your emotions are the fertile ground for heart navigated action, as scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy explains, “Don’t apologise for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal”.
Trust in the self-organising and creative power of life.
Creativity gives birth to the new. It exists unknown and unexperienced, until it emerges from a process of letting go and trust; much like a baby bird throwing itself out of the nest to fly for the first time. This cycling from comfort to discomfort, to only discover a fresh and original new comfort has been the movement of the universe from its inception, as Thomas Berry so beautifully reflects;
“Two billion years ago, when the atmosphere became so filled with oxygen, all of life was deteriorating. The only way for the life of that time to survive was to burrow deep into the mud at the bottom of the oceans. The future of Earth seemed bleak. And yet, in the midst of that crisis a new kind of cell emerged, one that was not destroyed by oxygen but was in fact energised by it. Because of this miracle of creativity, life exploded with an exuberance never seen before.”
With this knowing, when reflecting on a crisis or a death of the old, whether personal or communal, we can sense the conception of a new delicate seedling, the evolution of our hearts, and the continuing expansion of our home, the universe.