The current crisis (Covid-19) has a shadow side, which offers us the opportunity to grow.
“Medicine women among the Pomo of California cannot practice until they are sufficiently mature; when they are immature, their power is diffuse and likely to interfere with their practice until time and experience have it under control.”
This quote resonates for me on several levels. The first is that I believe that humans as a collective are being asked to mature. This is the opportunity in this crisis. As a collective, we need more discernment so that we choose ‘mature’ leaders with experience and masterfulness in their own inner journeys. Secondly, I believe that those women who experience menopause as a shamanic initiation and process of maturation are now ready to lead from that inner place of wisdom. It’s the shamanic initiation of menopause that gives women their true maturity and her rightful place in the community.
In what is happening in the world today, we need mature women to take the lead. What we are being shown individually and collectively from the Covid-19 experience cannot be unseen. When people say they are waiting to ‘get back to normal’, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Given the insights and changes that have been revealed through this experience, what is the new normal going to be?”
What we have been shown, cannot be unseen without drastic implications and psychological symptoms. There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant. If we begin a journey of consciousness, we cannot abort it halfway through without major implications. We have to commit to the opportunity in this crisis. We must see the journey through to its full development.
If we can all change and adapt so rapidly for Covid-19, why can’t we act collectively and purposefully for other conditions that need us to react, too? The situation with Covid-19 has shown us that collectively we are capable of unifying and addressing the threats that humanity is confronted with. We no longer need to remain in a stagnant position faced with ecological destruction. That crisis can be an opportunity, too.
Carl Jung saw that the human psyche has a natural inborn tendency to become more complete and whole. He called this natural tendency, which is the natural born right of every human being, Individuation. Although, there are adaptations we need to make collectively, we also each of us need to make the journey inwards.
When Carl Jung was asked the question, “will we make it?”, he always replied, “If enough individuals will do their inner work.” There seems to be no collective solutions to this problem of wounded feelings, only individuals brave enough to take the problem personally. This is the new heroism.” (1)
One of the gifts that I can see in the ‘lock-down’ we are all experiencing is a slowing down of the pace in which we are living our lives. We are in a way being invited to become more whole, we are invited to pause, step back, see where we and our world is at and move forward on a different foot. Opportunity in crisis.
We are living in a modern world where the thinking faculty has taken precedence over our feeling faculty. By slowing down and allowing space, our feelings, intuitions, unconscious material has the chance to arise and be felt. They rise up from our underworlds, as a feeling, an emotion. At this time, more than ever, we need to honor what comes up. If we are afraid, we see it as a crisis. If we welcome it, it’s an opportunity.
The alchemical journey, the journey of becoming whole and conscious, happens through the purification of feelings and beliefs. It means developing a deeper understanding of the intricate and ongoing relationship between the conscious and unconscious parts of ourselves. We become aware of elements of our personal unconscious and also elements of the Collective Unconscious within ourselves.
We need to honor what we are feeling as our own and as the collective journey, too. This is big healing time. What the world needs to heal, we all individually need to heal.
It is in pursuing the work on my own wound and the way in which my relationship with plants can, in a living and authentic relationship, help me to heal that I can have an effect simultaneously in the outer world. It is this inner commitment to personal growth and healing, the transformation of the heavy, ‘lead-like’ aspects of being wounded to the expansiveness of consciousness or inner gold that is my personal myth and healing message. We can see the wound as a crisis, but it is really an opportunity, an invitation.
Wherever we all are in our journeys, it is important to be clear with our intentions, motives and desires – where are we going, what do we want in our lives, what do we want for our children, our grandchildren?
There’s a shied exercise that I really like and that seems to be fitting for where we are at now. Draw a shield in whatever way feels right for you on a paper and using words, collage, art…feel into where you are at in your life and within the collective whole, start to put in the shield the things you want and value in your life and on the outside put the things that are no longer needed, valuable, helpful, sustainable…
A question that I believe is important to ask ourselves is, ‘what wisdom are we gaining from our experiences individually and collectively from this covid-19 situation?
‘We each have something to contribute to the global healing process, a particular gift or vision, skill or song. Individual healing has a lot to do with finding this gift and using it for the world’s sake, finding our song and singing it’. Miriam Greenspan, Healing Through the Dark Emotions
A large part of the inner work that needs to be done in us all is decolonizing the psyche from patriarchy. Patriarchy has affected and wounded men, women and nature. Please note, there is a big difference between the masculine and patriarchy. We all, men and women, have internalized the patriarchal colonizing energy within to some degree or another. Men are being invited to look at themselves and recognize the sacred masculine within.
Women are being invited to identify the aspects of their inner masculine and decolonize themselves from the internalized patriarchal male. As women are being asked to heal the inner masculine, they understand that they have no right to shout and put down the masculine. They have a responsibility to identify, connect with and heal different aspects of their own inner masculine.
The question I hear you asking is, “How do we do connect with our inner masculine?”
As this part of ourselves is in our shadow and we cannot see it face on. The ways we can recognize it is through our dreams and projection.
It is vital, timely and important work for us all to heal the masculine within, in order to move forward in a different way. Part of becoming whole and mature is knowing and working with the inner masculine aspects. What is this inner relationship like? What parts are working in harmony and where is the disharmony, fear, sabotage, etc.?
- Examine the wounds that you may be carrying around the inner masculine.
- Connect with the sacred inner masculine, the healthy inner warrior.
To read more about the inner masculine check out the blog post “The Anima and Animus are shaped by our ancestral lines.“
Now on to the alchemical stages and how they can help us in these times of change.
The first stage is Calcinatio, the heating. On a collective level, we saw this happen with the wildfires in Brazil, California and Australia. The world was on fire, many animals, lives, homes, plants and trees were lost. It’s the first stage like in cooking heat enables us to begin the transformation process. Psychologically, inside of us, it means difficult to tolerate emotions, such as anger, fear, anxiety, anything that ‘too hot to handle’.
It can come from intense anger or fear that builds up so much that it needs to alight and combust. We can ask ourselves, “What needs to be burnt through?” Old ways that are no longer working, egoic structures that once acted as survival strategies but are now holding us back need to be burnt through or down for the cycle of transformation to begin.
Remember the only way is through – we need to allow and not resist. It’s frightening, its hot, it can be terrifying, but, in the end, we need to let go, allow and know we will survive. How do we as practitioners help people deal with their fear, their anger, their frustration?
The second stage Solutio, the dissolving, arises after the fire has burnt through the rigid structures preventing movement and transformation by allowing the unconscious feelings that were being held back to come up. Dreams also rise up from the unconscious showing us what is keeping us from consciousness, what we need to know to heal. The healing relief of tears, even if it feels like we are drowning, is emblematic of this stage.
These unconscious forces, emotions, feelings will be processed, purified, integrated through all the alchemical stages. They can feel like continual crisis, but they are in fact opportunity, over and over.
One way that we can really allow ourselves to feel what’s coming up is through the use of powerful aromas. The essential oils we use interrupt the Default Mode Network, which is the day-to-day operating system of our mind. When aromas disrupts this default mode, it allows us to see ourselves and our process from a deeper perspective. Aromas also help us bring unconscious material to consciousness.The healing is in this border land where the unconscious material is ready and asking to be bought into the light and integrated, while the conscious beholds it without trying to control it.
The third stage Coagulatio, the drying up or solidifying,is the realization and reality of being in the density of the material world in a material body and to accept the limitations of that and the such-ness. What we need to change takes integration into the heavy dense world of matter. We are all asking ourselves, “How I am going to change my life? How are we going to NOT go back to before?” It feels overwhelming. It’s real and heavy. It takes small sure steps, ideas, feelings and beliefs that need to find a way of being made manifest and concrete. We need to be here. There is also the element of the reality of being on lock-down, of people dying, of health workers struggling in healthy systems and with governments that are not up to the task. The financial difficulties, businesses shutting down, the fears of how it will play out in the real world, the world where we need to house ourselves, eat, provide for our children—these are all part of Coagulatio.
These questions of survival fall under Coagulatio. We can only really change things in the material reality. Everything else is part of the process, but it’s not real until it comes down and is integrated into the density of our material lives. Use grounding oils such as vetiver, mitt attar, sandalwood, angelica root, Indian valerian, Kapoor kachri to come back to the body and feel life running through them. Be present in the small things. The body holds consciousness. Yes it is a crisis. We cannot deny that. But we need to allow opportunity to manifest.
The next stage is Sublimatio, the view from above. This is the stage that I feel many of us individually and collectively found ourselves in at the beginning of the changes implemented in the world due to coronavirus. Our consciousness was able to see things from a new perspective through the restrictions and changes such as the whole world acting globally, the way we can reduce pollution so quickly, our lifestyles, the way our society is organized, how we got here and where we are going. With this stage we go from the narrow vision of our individual, daily lives to seeing a wider picture with the eyes of an eagle. We can see how we got here, where we are going and what needs to be let go of. We can remember that what looks like a crisis, can be seen as an opportunity from a higher perspective.
It is letting go that makes up the next stage, called Mortificatio. We become aware of what was once precious, but has become something that needs to go, to be le of, the die. As in nature, something always has to die in order to create the humus for new life. In nature it is dead plant and animal matter. In the psyche it is outdated habits and perspectives, relationships, ways of being.
The clearer view of the world and its future that Covid-19 has given us, is also an invitation for each of us individually to assess what in our lives and in ourselves must go, is no longer helping us grow or helping towards a healthier planet. It is often a difficult stage, because the psyche doesn’t know the difference between going through the stage of mortificatio and actually dying. It really feels like we are dying when we are deep in this stage. It feels like a real crisis, but unless we go through it, we miss our opportunity for transformation.
The penltimate stage is called Separatio, the reevaluating. It is the moment where we really ‘see’ all the different parts of ourselves, including our Shadow sides. We notice the opposites and paradoxes within us. For example, we may be very strong and very fragile, happy and sad, confident and anxious, etc. These opposites exist within us and we see them clearly during this stage. We become aware that we have a shadow, which for many is a revelation. There is a profound reevaluation. What we thought we knew about ourselves may be outdated and we may be forced to accept some uncomfortable truths about ourselves, including our own power. For many of us, our greatest power is hidden in our shadow and we get more in touch with it as we go through the alchemical cycles.
As we see these opposites within us in a new light, we immediately find ourselves in the final stage of the cycle Conjunctio or the sacred marriage. It is in this stage that we feel the balance of the opposites embodied within us. This integration really signifies the end of the cycle. An experience is complete when we feel all different ways about it simultaneously. Conjunctio makes us feel more connected to ourselves, because we see ourselves in a new way. Like a spiral we have cycled through once again the themes of our life and integrated them on a deeper level.
It is important to bear in mind that these stages also play out on a collective level, individually, collectively and planetarily. The stages cycle around constantly. There is always crisis. There is always opportunity in crisis.
If you are interested in working with different oils for each stage and knowing more about inner alchemy check out our blog post “Aromatic Molecules, Medicine of the Soul and The Alchemical Journey.”
(1) The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden by Robert Johnson