Serene Alchemist of the Wild, she whispers into the circle of women at Women’s Temple, looking straight at me. Yes, the women nod, it’s my temple name.
These women don’t know me. We have just spent about an hour dancing and practicing in circle together, but we don’t know each other outside of this. Or do we?
I left Women’s Temple that night wondering about this name. It seemed so mysterious, yet so fitting. So big, yet so presumptuous.
I wrote it on the top of the full-length mirror in my room in red white board marker. I read it from time to time.
Now, 4-5 years later, I am claiming this name as my phrase to live into for this New Year of 2019.
Serene Alchemist of the Wild
I have not always been a serene alchemist of the wild, but rather a lion tamer, a domesticator, a perfecter, a fixer, a manager of all things wild. It has been my job, especially as a Self-Pres type One, to make things proper and right and good. Wild was not that.
Wildness had no choice but to go underground.
It was OK for those trees out there to be wild, and those squirrels racing around, and those rabbits that try to get into my garden, and nature lavishly abundant in the countryside, but not me and not things around me and not anything that I could get my hands on, that I could fence in or fence out…
And serene I was not. I was serious. I was stern. I was carefully contained. I was—yes, truthfully—at times rigid. I was often frustrated that so much wildness was taking over and needed managing, that so much was “not right.” And I needed to fix it.
I did transform things. I have always had a knack for improving things, for making beauty, for creating order and goodness out of the raw materials at hand. But the transforming was often fueled with distress and frustration within me and had that effect on anyone in my trajectory…
And there was often not much fluidity, but more forcefulness, pushing against the river to try to get it to flow better… I had ideals, perfect ideas in my mind of how things SHOULD be, and I tried to reach them and to make things and people around me live up to them as well.
Quite unconsciously, I had bought into the “habit of dominion” (from Nora Murphy’s book White Birch, Red Hawthorn). The patriarchal culture I was born into that values using people, animals, things, and nature (a thing) to get, first and foremost, our superior human “needs” met also taught me how to express my type One tendencies. I learned early on how to be an active doer in the world, a subject, not an object, that acts on other human and non-human objects to satisfy my separate “improving” and “righting” self.
This separation of us and our superior needs from the rest of life is how, on a small but infinitely multiplying scale, we continue our habit of dominion—over those less economically stable than us, over native peoples, over nature and the earth. How we glean the goods, the profit, the resources we “need” at the expense of human and non-human “others.”
In my small case, for example, I assumed that the separate me knew better how things “should” be—better than my husband or even the plants growing outside. And I imposed my ideas on them, not taking theirs seriously, if taking them into account at all.
How do you continue the “habit of dominion” to get what you,
as a separate self, think you need (quiet, praise, love, safety, etc.)?
Cut to now. A new time. A time of transition and wonder and freshness.
Winter Solstice and Christmas herald the rebirth of light. The New Year creates a fresh start, recommitment to a new vision of living and promise of a huge relocation to Washington state with my husband, literally a new life opening up.
And a new relationship to what I now recognize as my soul’s calling—
Serene Alchemist of the Wild
It is stunning to me to view my life through this lens—to see how my spiritual practice, my re-training as an interfaith minister, laughter yoga leader, holistic coach, yoga and women’s work teacher… how all of this has been part of the unfolding of this deeper soul’s calling.
I am much more serene.
Like the trees that bend and bow in storms or ice, that let rain wash over them and funnel it down to their roots, I am coming to a much deeper sense of calm, of contentment, of easeful equanimity amidst the “Sturm und Drang” of life.
“In the Virtue of Serenity, there is no feeling of effort or of striving.
We are soothed and soothing. We flow from one experience into the next,
feeling calm and balanced, regardless of the ups and downs of life.”
(Understanding the Enneagram, Riso & Hudson, p. 64)
And Serenity is the Virtue for type One (those women didn’t know I was a One)—it is the specific grace of the heart that my One soul learns as all that fixing energy dissolves, allowing me to be at peace and at home in life exactly as it is, unfolding now, and now, and now…
“The Alchemist takes our pain and turns it into compassion
for ourselves and for each other… the Alchemist spins
our fear into love and our pain into prayer.”
(Sweat Your Prayers, Gabrielle Roth, p. 189, 190)
The Alchemist trans-forms, shapeshifts the seeming dross, pain, fear and dis-ease of life into shining, precious gold, fierce, radiant beauty, and deep, rich Love—within ourselves and through us within those with whom we share the journey.
Them’s big shoes to fill!!
But we don’t do this alone—it is not a separate “I” that trans-forms me or you. It is God/dess within, True Nature within that shapeshifts and spins our lives into a healing prayer.
We orient to this continual “optimization of being” with our lives—by what we take in through our senses, consciously and unconsciously. Just like an Oak tree receives nourishment through sun, rain, soil, micro-organisms, and its connections to other plant and tree-life to grow into its unique form as White, Red, Black, Pin, or Burr Oak (the familiar species here in Minnesota), so do we receive constant nourishment from outside and inside. From our relationships with people, animals, sun, moon, stars, trees, animals, plants, birds, and non-human others as well as our inner relationship with ourself and God/dess, to become, to trans-form and shapeshift into Who we are.
Serene Alchemist of the Wild
Which brings me to the WILD!!
The dynamic, instinctual, primal life pulse within us all that keeps us as human animals alive on this planet—that cannot be separated from our wild soul’s calling to BE who we are—wild child and all. That spark of the Divine that lives within and as all of nature, including humans and wants to express and grow and heal and BE you and me.
This wild life force participates in the ever-dynamic flow of Being that optimizes naturally by coming into relationship with all that is around it. It comes into a shape within which it is held without being trapped, which gives it form, like the banks give form to the flowing river as well as respond to its flow.
This shaping is not perfecting or domesticating, but a natural response to participating in relationship, a dynamic responding to life. There is a trusting of the wild pulsation, the impulse within which gives birth to a new form, a new shape, a new unfoldment.
I finally understand how necessary it is to give each part of me a home—to welcome all the wildness in. The too big parts, the critical parts, the angry parts, the grieving parts, the fearful parts, the wounded parts, the over-indulging parts—all our wildness must be welcomed home within.
No part excluded. All Welcomed. Accepted. Loved. Seen. Understood. With compassion, gentleness, kindness, and Love.
“I see you,” say the African Bushmen as they greet each other, responding with “I am here.” (The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo, p. 428)
From this place of full acceptance of our wildness, the individual spark of the Divine within can continue its journey of expression in this world.
Who knows how that wildness will shapeshift and trans-form when it is held in Love, not forced to be other than it is?
Who knows how the passion and juicy life-force energy will radiate in our lives when we are not trying to change it, shut it down, tame it?
Serene Alchemist of the Wild
I accept you as my soul’s calling for 2019.
I am willing to grow with, unfold in, shapeshift and trans-form into who this soul invitation calls me to be.
How about you?
How is your soul calling you as we enter into 2019?
How will you live into your soul’s invitation?
Join me for some Serene Alchemy this month!
Check out my calendar for more information: