Nanci Shanderá, Ph.D.
Ancient Alchemists processed various base metals, such as lead, step by step, until they become gold - an apt metaphor for what we do when we transform entrenched beliefs and habits. We transmute the “lead” that obstructs the "gold" of radiant health in all aspects of our lives. We tend to be oblivious to certain beliefs that affect us physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, economically, and spiritually. Many of our beliefs, fears, dogmas, and learned attitudes can block us from knowing how they affect our health. Metaphysical principles tell us that thoughts become reality, even when we're not conscious of them. Thoughts such as "I don't like my body," or "I'm always broke," or "I don't have any friends" carry powerful energy that can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
When we view the various aspects of our lives as separate, rather than unique parts of a whole, complete, co-creative system, the underlying message is frustration and confusion: "Why does this always happen to me? What's wrong with me?" Negative self-talk is founded upon our belief that a battle is constantly going on within us between warring factions. The solution to creating vibrant, sustainable health is integration, where we accept, merge with, and unify our unique aspects, especially the difficult ones because they strengthen us. By changing our thinking about how each part of our lives is interconnected and even interdependent upon the others, we build wholeness. Have you ever noticed how whenever you're feeling "together," people gravitate to you? Your integrated presence positively affects those around you.
The seven basic stages in Transformational Alchemy are an effective and imaginative system for reconnecting our multiple aspects to form a whole, miraculous, and beautiful entity. (In this article, I'll introduce just the first four since the final three stages: Putrefaction-Fermentation, Distillation, and Coagulation, are dependent upon successful integration of the first four.)
The first stage is CALCINATION, its element is fire, and it awakens us to how the ego creates a foundation of illusion and false security within us. The ego inflates in order to protect us, and while this may have been necessary for survival in childhood, if carried into adulthood, the ego's "protection" no longer serves us and prevents healthy, mature responses. As we release old ego controls, the trick is to not confuse what is being released (burned up) with what is wanting to come forth from the authentic self as freedom, health, and joy.
For most of my life, I was a "workaholic." My ego's mantra was "I have to, I have to." Depression alternated with frantic overwork and eventually caused severe adrenal "burnout". Alchemically speaking, this was the first stage of becoming aware of the cause of the condition, which became so grave that it got my attention. My adrenals were communicating that I was burning myself out by ignoring what lay underneath the workaholism, which I eventually discovered was a need to gain favor from parents, friends, loved ones. The resolution was that it was my own favor I was seeking. Gradually, I learned how to avoid reigniting the old pattern by accepting and loving myself unconditionally.
The second stage of DISSOLUTION represents the element of water so this stage often involves crying, a way the body releases tension, stress, or grief. After going through a Calcination experience, and the ego’s rigid control is released temporarily (transforming the ego takes time), we may become aware of underlying fears of the unknown, such as feeling "too much," or risking criticism. The ego persuades us that emotions expressed will harm us so they had best remain repressed. However, since emotions are essential to wholeness, the task is to accept them unconditionally if we are to grow and mature spiritually. If we look at how much time, effort, and energy we put into stifling an emotion, we can discover that when set free by love, it becomes an ally that strengthens us.
SEPARATION is the third stage whose element is air. It represents our mental processes and how our thoughts affect how we react or respond to events. We can learn to differentiate between our own thoughts and beliefs and ones we suspect were not ours to begin with. As we explore how others' words, ideas, and judgments have influenced us, we can detach ourselves from them to make space for what we really believe. This strengthens our foundation of self-appreciation and acceptance.
For years, I sought an answer to why I habitually hid my light from the gifts I'd been born with. When life presented me with three traumatizing events, simultaneously, I was jolted into probing what lay underneath those experiences. I had already suspected a belief that if I revealed the things I loved doing, others would criticize and dismiss me (the "lead" in alchemical transformation). I began to see the three events and my fear of sharing my light as interconnected. My higher self alchemically orchestrated ordeals that would be powerful enough to rip away my resistance to illuminating my gifts. As I healed from the trauma of the experiences, I began to see that the more I allowed myself to share my strengths and talents (my "Gold"!), the more love, appreciation, and acceptance I received from others. It felt like a joke I'd played on myself. And what it took was a change of mind!
The fourth stage of alchemical transformation, CONJUNCTION, is related to the heart and the earth, and symbolizes the union of the spiritual and the physical within us through the development of compassion and unconditional love.
In the conjunctive, heart-based state of consciousness, there no place for fears to take control, so many of the old “shoulds and shouldn’ts” are no longer in the way of potential. Conjunction calls us to create a new attitude toward ourselves and others by conscious integration. We release old beliefs and embrace new ones based in authentic personal experience. If Separation set the stage for us to quit a meaningless job, for instance, we may be inspired to begin doing what we always wanted to do.
As we work through the stages of alchemical healing, we can burn out the ego's control, accept our feelings, release and replace old beliefs with healthy ones, and integrate all aspects of ourselves with joyous and unconditional appreciation for the unique beings that we are.
Dr. Nanci Shanderá, Ph.D., is a transformational-alchemical psychologist and an inductive spiritual teacher, specializing in Dreamwork, imagery, pre-birth Soul Agreements, Alchemy, Women's Mystery School, and Transperceptive Art. She is an author and director of EarthSpirit Center for the Transformational Arts in Nevada City, where she offers classes and counseling. Visit her website at https://www.EarthSpiritCenter.com
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