The Alchemical Properties of Waiting

by Leslie Reed

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For Hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,

For love would be love of the wrong thing;

There is yet faith

But faith and love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

T.S. Elliot

Alchemy, a medieval forerunner of chemistry, is primarily concerned with the transmutation of matter. It is through the process of time and space that metal becomes gold, that galaxies form from one unimaginably hot, dense and tiny pinpoint, to a resulting explosion, cooling and expanding process. In the human sphere, agonizing grief is transformed into beloved sorrow, calcified anger moves toward forgiveness and unrelenting suffering lets go in a compassionate release. Welcoming this transfiguration that comes with mourning; that which is no longer needed nor desired, we are forever altering the life lines carved out of the self, releasing an indelible mark of self-emptying love.


So, what might we become privy to in the space of waiting? What alchemical process might occur in this waiting space? If faith, hope and love are all in the waiting, how do we turn our awareness to the stillness that waiting delivers?


Might we engage ourselves to listening with all our senses and in that listening become alert to the shifts in our breath, our mind and our body. May we become aware of the disruptions that are upon us or that beckon us from the edge of a kind of presence, where darkness and the unknown reside. Can we summon our curiosity about this nascent untraversed landscape. Or peek ever so tenderly inside and begin to ask questions of this part of our self. Willingly. Unwillingly. Simultaneously, with trepidation and abandon.


Cautiously we move from our years spent in the wilderness of the ego and we sit, with reverence and openness. For it is the openness that welcomes us inward. In this openness a light shines on what appears to be initially unknown. Slowly, a familiarity reveals a presence of who we are to ourselves. An intimate resonance is recognized in those experiences we know to be true to us, yet not fully revealed by us and as a result are yet to be faithfully loved.


Loving ourselves requires a loyal tenacity. A willingness or call to dig deep, seek and re-connect with the hidden parts of ourselves that have quietly been incubating an unfettered life. Those parts that have been silently acting on behalf of the whole of ourselves. They come to us in our dreams and even in our “sleepwalkingwaking life.


“The alchemical symbol for water is the inverted triangle, symbolizing downward flow. It is also an ancient symbol for femininity. One of the four alchemical properties, water has the properties cold and moist, and symbolizes intuition, the unconscious mind and the enclosing, generative forces of the womb.”1


After years spent in the wilderness shepherded by our non-generative ego, it is the self-giving properties that bring new realms into being. Ways of being that bring us into alignment with what is natural in us and leads us to a deeper unfolding into our wholeness.


So, it is this introspective process of sitting and waiting which brings forth this dance, this co-mingling of our growing consciousness; through this effervescent nature of the spirit, springing us into wise, right action. For in this stillness we can sit with what is ordinarily unknowable. It is not the perpetual seeking that leads us to our knowing. It is this beguiling mystical process that carries us inward, outward and consequently forward.

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