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Your Life, Your Mirror

by Natalie Fee(more info)

listed in mind body, originally published in issue 148 - June 2008

For over 2,500 years people have been fascinated with the process of turning lead into gold. Many have been drawn to the physical quest, spending their lives in scientific experiments, looking for that magical result. Others turned more towards the philosophical nature of alchemy, seeing the physical processes as metaphors for spiritual transformation. I am certainly no scientist, and to be honest I didn’t even realize I was an alchemist until I’d already been one for some years! For me, alchemy is what happens when I turn my personal lead – negative, repetitive thought patterns, bad habits, adverse emotional reactions – into my gold – qualities like inner strength, happiness and success. In this article I look at what happens when our stresses arise, and how we can use them as a means of real lasting transformation. Everyday Alchemy can be practised in the most mundane situations; it is an on-going process that uses the ups and downs of everyday life as our most valuable guides.

Reflection of Ups and Downs in Our Lives

For many of us, ups and downs are a very much a part of everyday life. One day we can feel like we have hit rock bottom; yet the next day feel high as a kite. There are days when things seem to be working against us, and days when it feels like we are in the flow. How well we deal with challenging situations depends on what kind of mood we are in to begin with. But even the brightest mood can quickly turn sour. We can easily find a good reason for feeling bad – unstable hormones, trying circumstances, difficult people – all potential triggers for a heavy mood. So why is it that what would be water off a duck’s back to one, could be cause for a major reaction in another? Because there is always something else going on beneath the surface; however, most of us are so busy fire-fighting the emotions we often don’t look any deeper. And that something else is our energy. How we feel about what is going on ‘out there’ is a result of what is going on inside us. So if we are having a bad day, no matter how justifiable, there is also something happening to our energy that needs our attention.

Your Energy and Energy Body

Looking after your energy is a huge part of self-care that often gets overlooked. Yet it is at the core of mental and physical wellbeing. By ‘your energy’ I mean your energy body. Seers and sages have long been able to clearly perceive the energy body, and traditions like Ayurveda, Feng Shui and Yoga were born from such direct awareness of our energies. Fortunately in the West, many of us are becoming more aware of the existence of different life energies and their profound influence on our daily lives. Although day-to-day cultivation of this awareness is still something that is relatively unknown, even just a small amount of energy awareness can have a hugely positive impact on your life.

Now, focusing our attention on our bodies, and finding out how to stop losing energy isn’t an easy thing to do – especially if we are feeling down. But if and when we do stop, in the middle of an emotional storm, and reflect on what is going on around us, our awareness starts to pierce the clouds. We begin to see what is happening ‘out there’ as our mirror.

Previously, if some part of my life was causing me stress, then I would do what I could to change the situation. But for the past few years, through my own training, I have begun to experience the external world as a reflection of my energy. I know that a stress ‘out there’ is simply showing me the presence of a stress within my energy field. Running around trying to fix the situation is a bit like applying make up to the face in the mirror – it misses the point. When I focus my attention on fixing my energy – by identifying the disturbance in me and applying a remedy – I cultivate the energy needed to go beyond my current challenge. It is as if the more ready I am to see the world as a reflection of my energy, the more the world responds.

It takes some serious strength to get yourself out of an emotional reaction. But even if you don’t succeed in changing how you feel in the moment, the fact that you recognized you were losing energy through a reaction and that you needed to stop and reflect has, in itself, a positive impact on your future. It is like saying to your spirit, “I know you’re talking to me, and I’m trying to hear you, but right now this is so intense I just can’t hear what you are saying”. The more you practise stopping and reflecting, taking a moment to breathe and observe your situation, the better you will get at hearing the message your spirit is trying to give you. Not only will you hear it more clearly, but you will find you are more able to control your reactions, responding with awareness instead of reacting through fear or anger.

The Buddha taught that just putting your attention on something, without judgement, is enough to start a process of transformation. But how do we know when we need to do that? And more importantly, how do we do that throughout a busy day? Our first challenge is to cultivate enough awareness to be able to recognize when we are losing energy, and the second challenge is to be able to perceive what we need to do about it.

For example, I felt very emotional just half-an-hour ago. But now, I am starting to feel all right. Let me tell you what happened. This afternoon I did an exercise from a book by Thich Nhat Hanh,1 which helped me cultivate the energy of compassion towards someone who is seemingly the cause of stress in my life. Now as I said, I know that they are not the cause of my stress – the cause is the lack of certain energies in me that generate acceptance or compassion – and this person is simply bringing it to my attention. But, of course, it very much feels like the stress is coming from ‘out there’ and not from within. Anyway, I found the meditation very helpful. Later on, I go for a walk with the same person. Something happens to trigger the stress again and I try, for the next half-an- hour, not to go into reaction. I bring my attention to my breath, and I remember the meditation from this afternoon. It is not easy. My mind is desperate to analyze what happened, to go over what I should do or say, and constantly pulls my attention towards it. But I resist again and again until, eventually, the reaction subsides.

Body Energy Awareness

I practise something called body energy awareness. It is a learnt technique in which I put my attention on my body – and let it guide me to what I need to do next to transform the stress that has arisen in me. So in this situation, seeing that I am still feeling stressed, that is exactly what I do. I find I have to go to a well, alone, to meditate for a while. While sitting by the well, I get some insight into the situation – something I hadn’t seen before. My body energy awareness had led me to a place where the environmental energy helped me ‘recover’ the energy I was losing through my reaction. It is moments like these that remind me just how much magic there is in following one’s energy – real magic that is intrinsic to the alchemical process of transformation. Later, when I get home, the stress rises once more – along with the emotions. Again I recognize it is my energy that needs sorting, not the situation. So I stop what I am doing, listen to my body energy, and find I need to go get a cup of tea, and come to my desk. Writing is really the last thing I feel like doing. But as soon as I start, the stress disappears.

So what has happened here? I turned my attention inwards to see if there was something I needed to do to bring about a more peaceful state. Believe me, an hour ago, I was feeling anything but peaceful! The, ‘I can’t cope, this is all too much’ attitude was winning hands down, and I really didn’t want to do anymore practices or meditation. And I didn’t need to. All I needed was a cup of tea and to write. I had listened to the needs of my spirit, and it gave me a way to transform the stress I was experiencing into something positive there and then. Instead of losing energy by feeling bad, I gained energy by doing something creative. So what was it that gave me the energy to decide to change the situation? What stopped me from crying the night away on the sofa, feeling hard done by? Probably, because each time I consciously respond to a situation instead of blindly reacting to it, I gain a little bit more awareness energy. And over time each little bit adds up, resulting in an ability to know how to sort myself out. After all, if I can’t make myself happy – who can? If I am feeling bad about something, or someone, then I am losing energy. The more energy I lose, the duller my life becomes. So I try to look after it as best I can. Sometimes I don’t have enough intent to do anything about it, and I still cry and feel bad, but that is ok too. No-one gets it right all the time. And I don’t get it right even half the time. But the times I try, and the times I succeed, all add up. Cultivating this ability – to look after my own happiness – is worth a bit of effort. Actually it is worth a whole lot of effort.

For me, the idea of having a stable experience of peace and happiness is one I truly aspire to. To feel ok, regardless of what is happening around me. But for the most part of my life I have been very used to indulging in reasons to feel bad. Undoing that habit is what I am doing, and probably will be for a long time yet – perhaps even lifetimes! But the trick is not to get lost looking into the future, or hanging onto the past. The magic is in the moment, and the more I focus my attention on my energy, my spirit – the more it shows me what I need to do. And the more I am led by my spirit, the brighter each moment becomes. Right now, it is taking me off downstairs to watch the television!

I later realize that the stress I had transformed by living with intent increased my awareness energy. The stuck energy at my second chakra, which was at the root of the emotions that had come up during the day, had now risen to my sixth chakra. This resulted in me being able to see something else I could not see before. As I lie in bed, I realize that the starflower oil that I have been taking has been triggering these intense emotions and moods for the past few weeks. So not only did my spirit give me a way to transform the stress in the moment, it later showed me something that would solve the underlying problem. The stress was already there, waiting for the right moment to be transformed. The starflower oil was the catalyst, bringing it up to the surface. And my life brought me the people and the situations to make me deal with it. Thankfully, I have a great set of tools, and here are two of them to help you turn some of your arising stress into more awareness – your lead into gold.

Two Simple Energy Cultivation Practices from the School of Energy Awareness

Shining Sun

The Shining Sun is a simple weave, or movement, that cultivates happiness ki, and strengthens your energy body’s ability to let go of its weakening connections with other people. In other words, it helps you to free yourself from any negative influences on your life. The weave involves a circling, sweeping movement of your arms, coordinated with your breath.

1.    Stand facing the direction of the sun, with your feet one shoulder-width apart and outer edges parallel;
2.    Breathe in through your nose – raise your straight arms, with wrists crossed, up and forwards, fingers splayed, until they naturally uncross and open out wide above your head, with your back arching back as far as possible, without strain. Head looks up and back;
3.    Breathe out through your mouth – bring your straight arms down and out sideways, shoulders pulling back, then down to the floor between your feet, keeping your legs straight, wrists crossing in front of your ankles until your palms touch the floor;
4.    Repeat steps 1-3 20 of 30 times each morning – and anytime in the day you feel the need;
5.    At the end, briefly touch your fingertips together in front of the lower half of your chest – like in a prayer position.
    Make the ‘high’ and ‘low’ positions as big a stretch as possible, but without strain. If you can’t touch your palms to the floor, just go as low as you can.

Power Walking

This powerful and brilliantly easy practice is designed to eliminate stress from your energy body. Can be done while walking anywhere!

Form a claw with each hand so that the back of the hand is straight – fingers and thumbs bent in towards the palm. Then extend only the little finger. This is the mudra called ‘Leaving Past Angers Behind’. As you walk, keep your hands in the mudra, while keeping the backs of your hands facing forwards. There are three more points to remember while walking:

•    Breathe deeply and try to keep an empty mind;
•    Focus your eyes on the horizon (i.e. don’t be too distracted by what’s around you);
•    Feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk.

Try to Power Walk for about 30 minutes a day, or try it when you feel a reaction coming on (or even when in the middle of one!).

Further Reading

1.    Thich Nhat Hanh. Transformation and Healing. Parallax Press. Berkeley. California. ISBN 0-938077-34-1.

Further Information

For more information on The School of Energy Awareness, or Energy Awareness Training, you can contact Carol via Tel: 020 7193 7614; carol@energyawareness.org

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About Natalie Fee

Natalie Fee is a writer and healer, and offers Everyday Alchemy™ consultations in Glastonbury, London and Southampton. She is also a director of Weaving Star, designing clothing and accessories guaranteed to increase your health, energy and awareness. To book a consultation, you may contact Natalie via Tel: 01458 831116; Mob: 07871 397868 (Mon-Fri 8am-6pm) or visit her websites – www.weavingstar.com/ www.everydayalchemist.com

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