Blog : Integration

Why Alchemy?

Why Alchemy?

Thoughts of alchemy might stir in you images of deluded men during the Middle Ages who tinkered with dangerous substances, such as mercury and sulfur, trying to create gold from lead. You might then wonder why in the world I’m writing about alchemy.

It is true; there were many charlatans promising riches and eternal life while creating hydrochloric and nitric acid in the process. However, what is less well-known is the spiritual foundation at the core of alchemy.

Alchemy is the art of transmutation, or the transformation of a given substance into a higher one – whether it be lead to gold or higher states of consciousness. It dates back thousands of years and evolved independently in multiple advanced civilizations, including China, India, and Greece and became a discipline of scholarly study in Ancient Egypt.

Throughout its history, alchemy could be roughly divided into two branches – “the practical” and “the inner”. The practical sometimes referred to as “puffers and blowers”, were concerned with creating physical wealth and healing elixirs.

The inner alchemists concentrated on the transformation of the self and facilitation of divine truths. The transformation inner alchemists were actually describing was one of awakening consciousness. They believed that the work of the individual alchemist had the power to inform and influence the whole of creation.

Carl Jung brought alchemy back into Western canon. In his book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, he helped elucidate the spiritual and psychological underpinnings of these ancient and esoteric teachings. Jung emphasized that symbolic expressions of states of consciousness can be made manifest through dreams, creativity, and active imagination. And, through the act of making the unconscious conscious, we are creating meaning and affecting change within the psyche.

Both alchemy and Jung speak extensively about the union of opposites within the psyche. For example, Jung termed the male and female parts of the psyche, within each of us, anima and animus. Further “opposites” to be integrated include shadow and light, young and old and the conscious and unconscious.

In alchemy, the first “conjunction” is to unite the conscious and unconscious. However, the ultimate goal is to join spirit and matter, generating the “philosopher’s stone” or magnum opus. Enlightened figures such as the Buddha and Jesus Christ are thought to have reached this final stage of the inner alchemical process.

An everlasting advantage of alchemy is that it can be understood as “a map” of spiritual development. However, this is not without caution. It is very easy to get “lost in the sauce”. Many brilliant minds have debated “the stages” of alchemy and which steps come first, second and last. And, the debate endures, even today.

It is my opinion that the stages are not linear, and I believe it is possible to experience multiple stages simultaneously in various areas of our lives. This is not meant to mystify the process, but rather to provide reassurance that there is a way through, but it might not be what we expect.

Furthermore, I contend that the separation between practical and inner alchemy is a false divide. It is fundamental to do both our inner work and to live out that purpose in our outer lives. That is how the inner and practical, personal and communal, unite.

If you enjoyed this article and want a firsthand encounter with your inner alchemist, click here.

 

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Dayna Wood Creative Life Coach

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed-out professionals how to reignite their innate creative wisdom and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.

Integration & Flamenco

Integration & Flamenco

The written history of flamenco only goes back about 200 years, but there are oral accounts of flamenco that are much older. There is much debate about “what is true flamenco.” My aim is not even to attempt to answer that question, which is a very slippery slope indeed. Rather,

I would like to share with you what the spirit of flamenco means to me and why it helps explain the concept of integration.

Flamenco originated as an art form in Andalusia (southern part of Spain) as an expression of the cast-aside, the Gypsies (Gitanos), Sephardic Jews and outcast Moors. It began as song (cante) – more like a call or cry – and percussive rhythm, often a wooden cane beating in time on the floor. Only later, were the guitar and dance incorporated. Flamenco is ever-evolving and still finds itself making headlines. (Click here to read a recent example of the fluid and contrasting nature of flamenco and how it is being used as political statement.)

Flamenco is many divergent things…

and one, admittedly, includes polka dots, large skirts and dancing for tourists for money. For me, however, flamenco means not only living with, but celebrating, dichotomies. It is recognition and incorporation of many different parts, the crux of “integration.” Integrating is about bringing multiple pieces together in some sort of unified fashion – even if that “something” is in flux.

Flamenco is – no joke – about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It kicks my butt regularly, yet I am still dedicated to being a student of its many mysteries. I know it will take a lifetime and beyond to learn, and I’ve become okay with that. I’m forced not only to think about, feel, and hear the complex rhythm (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12…) all the while moving my feet, legs, hips, arms, hands and head – optimally with duende (this is an entire other article, but roughly translated means “authenticity/spirit”). Flamenco is fiery and fierce, yet also has moments of surrender and true softness. I love that it makes fun of itself. It is first and foremost music, then movement. I come up against my many resistances while learning it. To name just a few of these inner obstacles: the “analyst” that keeps a safe distance from things that might feel uncomfortably true,  the perfectionist who has a hard time letting go, the timid part that would rather stand back than take center stage, the part that is quick to judge and the one who wants to quit. But, I don’t. I keep coming back for what sometimes feels like torture. It is a genuine type of therapy for me.

I practice facing these parts, learning from them and inviting them all in.

And then there are those moments when it all comes together – left and right, light and dark, absolute freedom from thought, feeling and time, a complete surrender of my body to the invitation of the music.  I’m dancing – not just the right steps, but I’ve become a part of this continual flow of the art form of Flamenco. These moments are rare and come with numbers of hours of dedication, but they happen. This is integration for me.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.