Friday, April 9, 2010

Nigredo: The Darkness Before the Dawn

(Fourth in the series on alchemy as metaphor for great coaching)

On the first long car trip I took with my new GPS, I felt I had my personal traffic controller, especially as the sun began to set and I couldn't see the road signs to my son's new apartment in a city unfamiliar to me. What a relief, when driving in the dark, to hear a voice saying "in 100 feet, turn right."
Nigredo--separating the extraneous from the real. This aspect of alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition, all ingredients cleansed and cooked to a uniform black matter, representing the moment of maximum despair, the dark night of the soul, the dying of inner chaos and doubt, discovering what really matters, what is authentic essence.
Without a map or GPS when seeking a new destination, our tendency is to either succumb to panic or turn back to more familiar roads. Likewise, the journey of transformation is not rational or linear, there is certainly no GPS, and it can take heroic effort to stay present and open to the change. Carolyn Myss calls this spiritual madness. When we help our clients stay centered and endure the madness, they begin to hear their internal GPS, their own voice of guidance. And Myss endearingly adds, "How do you expect the answer to be given to you? It's not going to come in a letter!"

Here is Nora's description of her emerging voice of guidance:
I think in the process of our evolution we have things that block us. Leonard Laskow speaks of "treasured wounds" and beliefs. So for me the exploration is seeing how I've held things that kept me from moving forward. One of my core issues has been not feeling I'm good enough. Early on I had so little sense of myself that I'd go away in my head. Many of my struggles were in learning to get past that, to stay in real time, to stay in the midst of whatever was scaring me, which was usually a threat proving there was something terribly wrong with me.

I have the image that along the way you move from pain and toward possibilities. There have been times when I had clear choices as to whether I was going to go on or not. I wasn't suicidal, but I thought I'd go crazy. I'd lie in bed and feel there was a battle between light and darkness inside, and consciously choose light. The first few years of my marriage were so hard, and any number of times I felt like walking. But I knew I needed to stay with it, to learn to love, even though there were problems way over my head. And I'm glad I stayed with it.

There have been a number of lessons for me. One is to trust that what and where I am right now, without any exaggeration or drama, is enough. Another is that life without drama isn't mediocre or bland, it's living from the center. It wasn't the events or people in my life, it was the emotional energy I gave to them that was the problem. Drama pulled me away from my heart.

Today is a good day to let go of the baggage getting in the way of my being in my heart. For this, I will gladly leave the drama behind.
(See also Calcinatio, Solutio, Solificatio, Separatio, Mortificatio, Sublimatio, Coagulatio)


rongilliland said...


This is a beautifully written piece - I appreciate that your perspective is influenced by the concept of alchemy and depth psychology. It definitely makes me want to return and read more.

Mary Bast said...

Thanks so much, Ron. I'm glad to know you're out there.

Deborah said...

Hello, Mary--

It is somehow so healing when disciplines in which I'm invested find a marriage in someone I respect. And, of course, most especially when their appearance in my life is so utterly synchronistic and in time for helping me to 'name' and bear and stay with the darkness without dramatizing or personalizing what is already more than enough to hold and stay present for what one forgets will change/transform/let go. I am so glad I know you and your work.

Holding watching the hope and the despair dissolve into soup,


Mary said...

Hello Deborah!

And it's healing to me when I see that someone with your depth (and height) of spirit finds a comforting space here.

Much love,