Historically alchemy was a form of medieval chemistry; the process of transforming matter, and specifically base metal, into gold, and finding a universal elixir to increase the longevity of life. To me, modern day alchemy is the process of transformation and manifesting and indeed of creating magic and ‘gold’ of sorts. The alchemy I practice, teach and mentor is a mixture of practical combined with the spiritual and mystical. It is a 360 degree mind, body and soul approach. It is healing and transformational. It is ultimately about manifesting magic in your life by working with your higher self and the cosmos. And it works.
But here is the thing. There are magical times when the process flows beautifully creating all sorts of miracles. But there is no escaping the lows. There are periods where the transformational journey feels more like torture than magic and can be so exhausting that you can barely catch your breath between the cosmic bitch slaps.
Everyone’s process is different, but I know for me there have been times when the struggle and suffering was so palpable it brought a new meaning to the word pain. Nonetheless, I have always believed that there is not only beauty in, but also a bounty for brokenness and the healing and transformation of our wounds into wisdom and light. This concept is a large part not only of my own spiritual practice of alchemy, but also what I teach and mentor. As I like to say, I practice what I teach.
It turns out there is a method in ceramic repair that provides a wonderful metaphor for this spiritual belief. Kintsugi (also called kintsukuroi) is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The idea being that the process of repair usually results in something more beautiful than the original.
Long before I knew about kintsugi (which I learned about from a speaker called Ruthie Lindsey at the Yellow Conference last year) I believed in and practiced it, both in my own life, and with others. Some time ago I decided I would no longer try to hide the flaws or brokenness in myself and that instead I would own them so they added to my being. It hasn't been easy or straightforward. In fact, my personal process of alchemy and and kintsugi has been long, messy and complicated. But it has also been utterly miraculous. I won’t go into too much of it now but I will say it involved being really vulnerable (which by nature I am not comfortable with), speaking up about my own wounds and falls, and not giving a f**k what anyone thought. And finally not doing it for a result, but doing it because I felt compelled to. Never underestimate the power of vulnerability, letting your soul be in the driving seat and not giving a f**k. That combination creates miracles. But, I digress; back to pain.
Pain terrifies people on their spiritual path. They don’t want to delve into their wounds beyond the mere surface because they think it will be too painful. They worry that they will be unleashing a tsunami of emotions in which they will drown. As a result the fear of pain can often act as a deterrent to either starting or following through on one’s path of self-development. People start their journey and then feel as though they have opened Pandora’s Box and need to slam it shut for fear of which new ghoul will pop up. More often than not I find those I work with want to suppress any darkness or avoid having to face their demons. They just want the miracles and magic! But it is in that darkness that the nuggets of gold lay waiting so that they can be revealed and used to repair that person and their life. And that’s when, and how, the magic happens.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people don’t want to go there and on more than one occasion on my own path I have asked myself why I ever started. But I knew that I had opened the eyes of my soul and could never close them again. So I had to continue trudging along my path even when I didn’t want to or felt I couldn’t cope. I had several meltdowns along the way. At times I felt like I would never come out the other end. But I did. And now, many years down the line, my higher self seems to have aligned with life in an imperfectly perfect way and from this vantage point I can see that even in the bloodiest, darkest moments there was purpose and indeed that those times provided the conduit for a process of repair that has resulted in an infinitely more beautiful existence than I could have possibly imagined.
I feel that I shine more because of my wounds and falls, not in spite of them. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my path. And I never, ever, thought I would say that.
Through all of our journeys of alchemy and transformation ‘we’ die several deaths, we stumble as we and our lives are purged and we often experience losses in many areas. It isn’t easy. It takes bravery, a leap of faith and a decision to follow through in spite of the struggle. But there are many highs to balance the lows, it is a beautiful process and the rewards are SO worth it.
For those reading who may be deep in the trenches of their process and feeling as though they can’t get a leg up or a break, I hope you take some small comfort from these words. I hope it helps you to trust that in spite of your struggle or pain, there is a method to the madness of the universe. And most of all I hope that it inspires you to know that you too can use the process of alchemy and kintsugi to have gold shimmering brightly in what used to be the cracks and brokenness, making you and your life more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
Ps I love this Death Cab Cutie album Kintsugi. An example of the glittering shimmering bits of gold for the ears that come from the process of delving deep into the darkness and revealing the sparks of light.