by Anne Douglas
Alchemy can been described as a process of turning the base elements of earth, water, fire and air into gold. Some define it as chemistry or science, while others define it as magic. Alchemy has also been conveyed as a means to heal disease, or even prolong life indefinitely. Spiritual alchemy offers a shift from perceiving oneself at the base level as a separate, individual human being, to knowing one’s self as Pure Consciousness that is at one with all. And this consciousness has no beginning or end, without birth or death.
Presence, in the highest spiritual, non dual context, is not something we do as in a mindful meditation practice that calls us to be undistracted. Rather, Presence is who we ARE when we are without expectation, without a conditioned response, beyond the lens of ego, and is already naturally at peace, whole and free.
Another way of describing Presence is simply Being. It is something each of us experiences daily, however we don’t recognize it because we aren’t oriented to it. When we are simply Being, we are fully present and profoundly responsive to life because it is life itself expressing directly through us. The sense of “me” as a localized self may be very subtle or not even present at all. It is more a felt sense of Presence or Being without a location other than “here”, and without a place in time, other than “now”.
If you let go of any idea of who you are, the story of your life and who you take yourself to be up until this moment, then you just are. As you let yourself just be, without self-image or history or belief, a moment of freedom arises. It doesn’t take any time to be who you already are. This is a glimpse into the freedom and peace of your natural state of Presence.
When we are living as Presence, simply Being, there is a sense of completion and perfection. Nothing needs to be fixed or changed. There is a deep welcoming of all that is. We are born this way, as joyful, undefended, innocent and spontaneous Presence. And then life events and experiences teach us, mostly unconsciously, that we need to “be somebody”, “do something”, and “get somewhere”. These beliefs become conditioned ways of perceiving and relating to the world that affirm our separateness and the need to defend our selves.
And so begins what can be a lifetime of suffering as a result of the innocent identification with the idea that there are others out there that I need to please or defend myself against. In a way, it is the beginning of all wars, literal or metaphorical, as the battle to defend the sense of self. However, when you recognize the same life giving consciousness in everyone, and experience the other as your self, the old defenses naturally begin to dissolve. This is exemplified with the old expression to “know your neighbor as yourself”.
I am reminded of a quote by Einstein: A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
The Alchemy of Presence is harnessed by widening our sense of self to include all of creation. To meet, greet and welcome all that is, unconditionally. And in so doing, we come to the end of all battles, be they internal or external, personal or global. Why would we go to war against ourselves?
This isn’t to say that we avoid conflict, but quite to the contrary. We face the challenges of daily life directly, such as difficult emotions, troubled relationships, or health challenges, without need for it to be any other way. We open to the moment as openness itself, and out of this open, unconditional Presence, a spontaneous response arises. Buddhists refer to this as “spontaneous right action”, in other traditions it may be called divine will or providence, but either way, it isn’t a egoic response in an attempt to reinforce it’s position, but a integrated, holistic response that comes directly from source. Every situation is welcomed, and the alchemical power of presence transmutes every challenge into gold.
Awakened Presence lives through each of us every day, but because most of us forget our true nature, we have also forgotten our most essential characteristics of freedom, peace, love or joy, that are ever present, however subtle. Practices of meditation, yoga and self-inquiry help to orient us to remember the deeper truth that is ever present. This is why going on a Retreat is an incredible opportunity, to filter out all the usual distractions so to avail us to the deeper and yet simple truth of our inherent well-being and wholeness.
If the peace of retreat and the remembrance of your inherent perfection and wholeness beckons, join The Alchemy of Presence retreat with Anne Douglas from October 19-25, 2018, at the Bergamo Center in Dayton Ohio. For more info or to register: https://sam.yoga/events/workshops/alchemy-of-presence-with-anne-douglas/
Anne Douglas is a teacher of teachers. She has been teaching Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Teacher Trainings and iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation Trainings, Workshops and Retreats since 1989. Anne is a certified IAYT Yoga Therapist and Senior iRest Trainer. She is the creator of the iRest Daily meditation program and past Director of Trainers for the iRest Institute. Anne’s boundless enthusiasm, depth of wisdom and radiant heart create fertile ground for inspired learning. www.anahatayogatherapy.ca