Crucible of Union
Everything in manifestation is polar. Hot and cold, wet and dry, expansive and contractive. Yin and Yang. Active and passive. The idea that poles are separate is illusory. In alchemy, every pole contains its opposite. And the opposite pole can be accessed through the right approach.
In the Conjunction phase, one learns to negotiate the opposites in their own personality, find equilibrium, and move towards a nondual state of awareness in which conditions fall away and pure consciousness is more readily experienced.
Conjunction is connected with the heart chakra, or green ray, ruled by unconditional love and acceptance. This is the vessel for change, the crucible in which deep transformation can unfold. It is also a critical stage in spiritual development, being a transition to a whole new dimension of experience in which the transpersonal – outside the ego – becomes familiar.
One of the simplest ways to experience the Conjunction process is by contemplating opposites and holding space for them to coexist within your heart and mind. You practice this as you encounter people, even things, in your everyday world. As you observe them, notice their qualities and consider the opposite qualities. Then imagine both existing simultaneously, while you continue observing. This invites nondual awareness to emerge.
The practice of experiencing opposites is highly useful when applied to thoughts and emotions. You can capitalize on it and tweak it to navigate life situations. For example, let’s take a stressful thought, such as worrying over paying your bills. Its opposite, peace of mind, is present – it just takes a little creativity and openness to recognize this. With each step of this transmutation process, notice the thought, and feel for the emotion behind it. Go deeper and deeper with each layer…
- Realize that the thought of worry arises due to concern for yourself.
- Notice this concern arises due to desire for self-preservation.
- Notice this desire enables you to be resourceful and get your needs met, bringing peace of mind.
- Imagine that peace, and simply focus on it, letting the rest of the story fall away.
It is possible to transmute this even more directly. Let’s take the emotion of anxiety.
Notice that it has an energy and presence. For a moment, feel the sensation without ascribing any meaning to it – simply observe it. Then, with your intention and will, imagine the strength of this energy shifting into relaxation. Imagine yourself being relaxed, and the energy behind anxiety fueling this new state.
To make it easier, you may even imagine anxiety as a color and a shape in your body, and relaxation as a color and shape. Then allow the anxiety to change its appearance in your mind until it looks like relaxation (perhaps fiery red gradually turning into a cool blue). Tap into the energy behind the experience and redirect it.
The ultimate conjunction is the union of the active and passive principles, yin and yang. I sometimes refer to them as Will and Grace. Will is focused intention. It stimulates, brings momentum, changes, shapes, directs. When you move your hand, you are using your will. When you set a goal and work towards its realization, you are implementing your will. Likewise when you concentrate on an image in your mind.
Grace, on the other hand, is surrender, openness, acceptance, fluidity, equanimity. Grace goes with the flow. It has no agenda – it simply embraces what is. It is unconditional. If you’ve ever sat with someone who looked at you and accepted you perfectly as you were, without judgment, then you had a sense of what grace is. If you’ve humorously said to yourself “fuck it,” and decided to let the dice fall where they may, you had a glimpse of grace. If you’ve ever deeply felt you could rely on events being in “God’s hands” or that the “Universe will take care of you,” you know what grace can be like.
Conjunction deepens when Will and Grace are unified within the self. This occurs when you’ve both clarified your sense of purpose, and entered into a state of gratitude and openness.
Your ideal or purpose has been clarified through the alchemical process, so far. Your will lets you empower it and to focus your actions in service of it. Grace comes in when you have let go of expectations – all expectations – in particular, those associated with your actions. It is when you’ve learned to simply act, and to allow what comes. It DOES NOT mean you allow things to distract you from your ideal and drain your energy.
There are a few ways to step into Grace:
- Gratitude List – Cliche, but effective. Write at least 3 things each morning and 3 things each night that you are grateful for. As you write them down, ACTUALLY feel the gratitude. Relive or imagine it in your mind.
- Stop Complaining – This is a mental and verbal detox. It requires practice and perseverance. Learn to let go of negative talk towards self and others and circumstances. You can, of course, be compassionate. But you don’t have to add to negativity.
- Appreciate Synchronicities – You may want to even record these in a journal or your phone. When you notice synchronicities, take a moment to soak them in and remember.
- Remember Presence – Let your thoughts go for a moment and focus on your beingness, existence, the sense of I AM. You can do this briefly, several times throughout the day.
Ways you can explore your Will are:
- Clarification – Ask yourself what is your highest desire, and notice the first images, thoughts, or sensations that emerge.
- Alignment – Check in with yourself throughout the day to ask why you are doing (or not doing) a task or activity and what you feel it brings you. Notice if you are energized or drained, excited or bored.
- One-pointed Concentration – Imagine your highest desire being fulfilled. Experience it vividly, engage as many senses as you can, and feel the emotions around it. Keep your attention in a focused state, and if you get distracted, simply redirect your mind back.
- Aliveness – Notice the energy within you, animating you. Feel yourself as part of Life, noticing that it moves through you. Affirm to yourself that the same energy animating you is that which animates everything.
Meld your sense of Grace with your Will. This is actually true devotion on a deeper level. In devotion to a higher power or ideal, you listen for guidance, act on inspiration, and trust in the process. There is no fixation on an outcome or result. All of that is let go, replaced with a love for that higher power or ideal. That love is connection and openness and faith.
In truth, Will and Grace are seen to be poles of One thing. When this is realized, and deeply felt, Conjunction has started to set in. Along with this realization comes the blurring of lines between free will and determinism, noticing that they are not separate. For All is an expression of One, and your True Will is God’s Will.
Letting Go into the New
Marcus felt frustrated that life wasn’t turning out the way it should have for him. As a salesperson for a leading tech company, he thought he would have been on a fast track to success, except for the fact that he wasn’t meeting quota and didn’t seem to be so great at sales.
But he really tried. He learned everything he could, reading books and listening to sales podcasts. He talked with the highest earners to get tips. He even went out of his way to meditate every day, visualize his success in his mind, and repeat affirmations to himself. He was doing so much; why wasn’t any of it working?
As he pushed on and on, his frustration turned to dejection. He was humiliated after having puffed himself up so much as a fast learner in his interview, and he knew that if things didn’t change soon, he was at risk of losing his job. But it was getting to the point where he just didn’t care anymore.
One day, after being teased by a coworker for a particularly lousy call, Marcus decided he’d take a walk through the park nearby his work. As he mulled over his continual defeats, his sadness deepened. After a few laps around the park, he was tired physically and emotionally, and he slumped onto a bench. He thought to himself, “What’s the point of even fighting this sadness?” And so he sat with it. He didn’t do anything with it. He just watched it, watched himself, watched the moment, at a loss for anything else he could possibly do.
After sinking into the sadness, and the bench, Marcus suddenly felt something shift inside him. He let go of his judgment of himself and the situation. He thought, “If I lose my job, fine. If I keep it, fine.” He decided he was just going to do what made sense to him and forget the rest. As he got up, he felt freer and more present. He wasn’t distracted anymore with what could or should be.
The next day, Marcus came into the office acting on his instincts. He naturally tuned out the conversations that felt irrelevant to him, and spoke easily and impromptu. He ignored the scripts he was taught and didn’t even bother pitching to people that felt like a dead end. Sometimes, he would just talk with people about anything of interest that came up, forgetting that he was supposed to “sell.” And that was okay. But people responded well to that, anyways, and he got unexpected sales.
It kept like this for a week, and by the end of it, Marcus was genuinely shocked by how many sales he had made. His coworkers and supervisor were equally shocked, though they had noticed he’d been different all around.
While Marcus enjoyed this surprise, he also realized that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about the tech world, and cared much more about education. Renewing his sense of purpose, Marcus looked for jobs at educational companies. He was mainly curious to see what sort of positions were out there and what that world was like. One thing led to another, and he eventually realized he wanted to create his own education business to fill a market need he kept seeing in his research.
He followed his feeling of what his vision of success felt like, without concern for how the specifics would manifest. What started for him as a sort of liberating impartiality evolved into a trust that things would work out the way they were supposed to, and all he’d need to do is follow his instinct and curiosity. Marcus found a deeper sense of purpose, coupled with an openness to Life. And he realized you couldn’t have one without the other.
“It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.” – Alan Watts