Sunday, December 1, 2013

alchemy adventure #1

Contemplate the question:  

Make a list of 5 internal and 5 external obstacles.  How can you transform these problems into solutions?

Please wait 24 hours after the query is put out to post your reply (if possible).  A reply may be a response to this question, describing this query's affect on our perceptions, or anything else you feel like sharing.  

Remember, this group is not a private group, though as moderator, I am eager to make this a safe space for discussion.


  1. Okay, so not really sure how this works, but here's what happened for me....

    I was reflecting on my obstacles (which seem to be many at times!) and then pondered on the follow-up question. Transforming incited a feeling of having to "do" something and my first thought was, "I can NOT handle *doing* anything else right now." My very next thought was: "I don't think we are called to do, I think we are called to *be*." It was almost like another voice...Will be further reflecting on what that tangibly may look like or involve.

  2. That is sweet, Shannon. I will think about being and doing.

    I'm still working on mine, but several of my internal obstacles relate directly to working part-time and being a nursing mother of a toddler. I'm tired, I feel overwhelmed, and I can't concentrate all that well. I think about what these things look like when they are solutions. Solutions to what? And my brain gets tired.

    I don't see any way of changing these things, yet. I know they will pass soon enough, but what I have is what I have. I'm ok with that though, and I think being able to acknowledge my limitations is a good thing for me to be learning, no matter how frustrating it can be at times.

    My other two internal obstacles are fear and feeling out of my league. Fear is directly related to trust, and since I have yet to form a tight-knit group of people to be my community since moving here, I have a lot of fear. I feel not quite on my own, and yet also not entire sheltered by a community. I miss that feeling, as it has previously engendered in me a surge of trust, naturally extending toward the divine (the all).

    I'm still working on the rest of it, but wanted to offer something.

    1. With our more current modern technology, we have voice recognition software and modes of transcribing recorded words into text.

      So, instead of having to sit (somewhere) and physically write, we might have a voice recorder we carry everywhere. You could tell stories to your nursing toddler, that re recorded and then transcribed.

      Such a book might be gimmicky (stories I told my son while he nursed) but if it sells, well--there you go.

      I would specifically be interested to keep the rhythm and "vibe" of stories composed and told DURING nursing. in any case, it would combine one "distraction" into an input for composing.

    2. Snow Leopard, it's not just the time it takes to nurse a child, but imagine trying to compose some kind of story while said child is doing gymnastics in your lap while attached to a sensitive body part, without having slept through the night for a couple of years. I can usually only write when I'm alone, and have some down time to compose myself.

      When I am able to take the time, I do enjoy writing. I have written the first draft of my next zine, The Short Guide to Cracking Up, which is, I hope, sort of a description of the seas in which shamans swim and "crazy" people sink.

  3. Hi. I am just wondering how people are doing on this. Still thinking about the question, or haven't had time to write? Don't like the query? Prefer now to just watch how it works? I'm just curious.

    I, personally, have not had much attention space the last couple of days. Hopefully soon, though.


  4. internal:
    fear of failure
    belief that I lack skills

    collaboration/communication difficulties
    financial stress
    family health issues
    lack of uninterrupted blocks of time

    Not sure how to transform these problem into solutions, but I think it might involve re-framing, re-harmonizing...? For example, my indecision can also be seen as an ability to see multiple sides, to cross borders freely. My lack of blocks of time forces me, sometimes, to work in bite-sized chunks, vignettes, bricolage-style.
    I also think one way to view these obstacles is as a sort-of 2D cause-and-effect situation, and if it is possible to see them as nodes in a continuous flow system that can be adjusted for better efficiency, well, then we might get somewhere.
    I think, when I look closer, many of the obstacles in my lists are different names for the same thing, and really, the fear of failure is the biggest and also the silliest.

    1. You touch on a major issue here. So I'd like to expand on it, hopefully not while seeming to do so at your expense!

      I agree that fear of failure seems like the biggest and silliest, but labeling it as "silly" just provides another input to blocking writing. I mean, since your concern is "ridiculous" (silly) that just becomes demoralizing, disheartening ("why do I let myself be stopped by something so silly?"), and that thus helps to prevent writing from happening, because why would someone "ridiculous" write anything worthwhile in the first place? So it becomes a vicious circle.

      When it comes to a lack of time, I tend to take up sometimes aggresively impatient position. I recommend minimum of setting aside one hour every day and writing, come hell or high water. And that hour can ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be found (if nowhere) by sleeping one less hour. Waking up an hour early in the day. At this point, people start giving me all sorts of excuses. I'M NOT HAVING IT. Like someone with a cat--by which I mean, one you are up, the cat will notice and start pestering you--a mother with a child might get pestered even getting up an hour early, but that just means figuring out something else (perhaps as above).

      Part of what makes this "unreasonable" position more reasonable: every day, we fritter way at least an hour on self-indulgent laziness. And it is no demerit to be honest about that: we'd rather watch a few kitten videos on the Internet than stare at a blank page. There's no shame in not being a writer--if someone is trying to force themselves to be one, for some reason, maybe they shouldn't.

      In your case, you've discovered bricolage--you've found a form that fits the time you allot yourself. That's good. I'm also sure you have an extra hour in the day to set aside to writing. I have a rule: every day I have to read 10 pages. Sometimes I break the rule. Also, if I skip Monay, I don't "make it up" by reaing 20 pages on Tuesday. A day missed doesn't get "made up," whether I read 20 pages or not. Also, I can't "read ahead". If I read 50 pages today, tomorrow still requires its 10. It's about discipline--or more precisely, honoring my commitment to myself, taking it seriously, not simply deceiving myself. Same thing with an hour of writing. Maybe it's every two days, but whatever you set, honoring your self-commitment matters, should be taken seriously.

      People sometimes tell me they want to write and then ask me how; my answer, 'Write." I might follow it up with "Read" (other authors). I'm sometimes amazed how much people would rather talk about writing (or get "prepared to write"--I know a woman who has 30 books on writing at this point, preparatory to writing her book; I don't think she's ever going to!). It can be fun to talk about writing, sort of like we talk about eating at fancy restaurants when we are dining out at Applebee's, maybe. The only really legitimate excuse for not writing is fatigue to such a degree that you can't even get teh sentences on the page (or in the computer file); everything else involves a kin of vanity. And, as a vain person, I'm not entirely anti-vanity, but I am 100% opposed to lying about my vanities, and saying that they give me good reasons for not writing.

      Obviously, I'm not directing this at you personally. I leave it to your intelligence to decipher for yourself "what applies" and "what misses the mark". But I will insist "I don't have time" doesn't hol. We all have more than enough time, but we allot what we have in a certain way, and sometimes feel as if those allotments are beyond our ability to determine, control, or set.

    2. Hahahaha! I'm sorry to laugh Snow Leopard, but telling someone with an infant they should purposefully get less sleep is hilarious! I cannot imagine having an hour a day to write! If you had small children, I think you may better understand the immensity of it. I do mourn the loss of the integration in society of families and single folks.

      I did also want to continue part of what Johnny brought up, about fear. I wrote a bit about this, but I feel like fear and trust are bound together. There have been parts of my life where I deeply felt pistis, the trust of the universe/divine in us, and our trust in the divine. Pistis is translated as faith in the bible. I don't necessary have "faith" in anything, but at times I felt like I lived in the hands of the gods have been my most fearless.

      For me, a lack of trust provokes a feeling of anxiety that is always there. I contrast this with the time of my life where I so felt the trust of the universe in me, and also my trust in the universe. There is a point where I feel that there is nothing I cannot handle, keeping an eye toward beauty especially, and so, there is nothing to fear.

      Realistically, though, I do fear things, like being unable to pay my rent. I lately have been thinking what over the last few years (since opening myself up to initiation) have I learne,d and what is worth keeping? The rest I acknowledge as helpful at the time, and say my goodbyes.

  5. Working on mine now, hoping i can respond later tonight.

  6. I've already written about internal obstacles. My external obstacles are:
    civilization/threat of force
    pressure of society to be normal
    lack of community/support

    I feel like my life is significantly altered from what it would be if there was no hierarchy in place to force me to work to put a roof over my head. I would be doing many other things with my life besides toiling for the culture of death and destruction. But, there just seems to be no way around it. Being poor in a poor place is not hard, imo, but being poor in somewhere like Urbana is stressful.

    I feel like the way to turn this into a solution is to focus my time the best I can into building up what comes next, building up an economy that does not rely on abstract hoarded wealth that is increasingly difficult to come by, but an economy that functions on care, of which there is/can be an abundance.

    For me, it comes down to concentrating my efforts on building up community. I feel like my experience as a tired, stressed-out working mother has given me a huge amount of empathy, and when I am out of this situation, I will be in a much better place to help others who are having the same problems of not enough community support and involvement with their kids.

    While I've never felt any real need to be Normal, I do feel there is a pressure to look/act sane aka normal. This can be a narrow line to walk! I've tried to keep one foot in reality and also one foot in the landscape of consciousness, and so far, it has worked.

    In sum, I don't really feel like I can change most of my circumstances, since they are mostly due to having a toddler and being the wage earner, and only time can change that. It's already gotten a lot easier, and will continue to do so. I do appreciate the increased empathy I feel (though unable to do anything about it just yet), and also I appreciate the reminder that civilization sucks and I need to do what I can to drag the stones down the pyramid. I do not want my children to be slaves.


    1. Part of what I read from this (perhaps incorrectly!): civilization in a general sense needs to be corrected in order to make space for writing.

      But what if writing is what's necessary to correct civilization in the first place? Or, putting it more narrowly, what if writing is what writes you out of the suckiness you're currently experiencing? One best-selling toddler nursing book, nd you're set. (Then you'll have to deal with the awful truth of being someone with a lot of money. Yes, being poor in a poor place can be easier; being wealthier in a wealthier place n be harder.) But even without the best-seller, writing might be the mode that writes you into a head-space where the tensions in your life resolve.


      What I found out by coming out of the closet: my head-tripping about how people would react was blown far out of proportion to how they did react, which was predominantly indifference.

      Same thing when I started wearing a tail all the time, with one major difference: I neglected to imagine that people would actually LIKE my tail. I worried about negative reactions (a little, but not enough to stop me), I anticipated that most people would say nothing, but it never occurred to me that people would say, "Yay! A tail."

      So, whatever "weirdness" you head-trip on: you already know most people will say nothing; rarely some asshole will say something--and it is worth examining why we let that 0.1% of reaction dictate how we spend the other 99.9% of our time--but remember too, there will be people who say, "Yay, weirdness!"

      I know you know this. So it's just a reminder, and not a merely abstract one, since I wear a tail all the time. (Though, yes, patriarchy makes it easier, in a way, for me to risk public weirdness--but I still think we preemptively rule out possibilities for ourselves in far greater proportion than culture would actually rule out, even with the patriarchal factors in play.)

      I risk being blunt and forthright, because I believe people want to be honest, but are afraid to. i try by being straightforward about stuff--especially stuff we are not supposed to feel--in order that others feel comfortable talking about it.

    2. Snow Leopard, I do of course appreciate your bluntness and honesty. I realized that we have different takes on this query. I took the question to mean the obstacles for alchemy practice, not for writing. It would be interesting if we each took the question to mean something different!

      I do heartily enjoy writing, but it has necessarily taken a back seat to things such as keeping the house not a pit of filth, feeding myself, etc. I'm ok with that, as I know at some point my son will not need me as much, and I'll get more of my person back.

      I do think writing about civilization is a deep part of me. I like to write folk tales of what comes next. I enjoy delving into the ideas of what else is possible, and sketching up maps from here to there. It's my bibliotherapy. There are a lot of reasons I dislike civilization, but right now mostly that it eats up the scarce time in my life. If I didn't have rent, bills, and so on--and there's no way to escape it. There's no frontier to run away to, and it's illegal to just, you know, build a house out of indigenous materials and call it your own.

      When I talk about societal pressure, I don't mean so much that I feel pressure to be normal. I've just never figured out a way not to be myself. I just feel compelled to be the way I am. However, I am really aware that if I start acting "crazy", there's a very real possibility that I could be put away in a mental institution, and that means a possibility of having my kids taken away. Whatever my imaginative life with the gods--my alchemical experiences--being put in the loony bin is a very real thing. I do watch what I say, at least in public. I temper myself here too, because of course, this digital medium is still public, though ignored by the masses.

  7. Internal:

    -Habitual depression. I’m constantly fighting off the temptation to indulge in self-harmful thoughts. It’s hard.

    -Assuming I’m unwelcome wherever I am.

    -Narrow self-vision. Believing I am this, I am not that, when often both is true.

    -Anxiety. OMG anxiety.



    -Distractions. Facebook, irrelevant political squabbles, children.

    -Busyness. I feel I have to do all the things, and I want a full life.

    -Not enough time.

    -Deteriorating body. I’ve never ever been athletic, but I pride myself in my body’s functionality and am dismayed when it quickly atrophies if I get out of my yoga practice.

    -Location. Part of me wants to live on a farm, part of me in the heart of downtown. Urbana’s a pretty good medium.

    A lot of my obstacles stem from a faulty internal narrative. I view myself as someone who is only valued if I can please others, and consequently I am terrified that if I slack off I’ll be rejected. Of course some of this is based on my history; I have literally no relationships of any kind that have lasted longer than 10 years. But with a lot of spiritual work, like yoga, meditation, trance work, and reading a truly obscene amount of mythology, I’m beginning to develop and internalize a personal narrative that is healthier. It’s based on creating – things, a community, whatever. This has helped my anxiety, insecurity, depression, better integrate my distractions, and helped me find value in myself that’s independent of what others think of me. I’m certainly not there 100%, but it’s improving.

    1. Hi Ashley:

      Think about how you feel when you are in the act of writing something--not when you are reflecting on it afterward. What is that like?

      Snow Leopard

    2. It's really interesting to me, Ashley, because you have always seemed to me to be very confident and sure. I would never have guessed that you feel anxious or insecure.


  8. Post #2 is now up, though we can certainly keep discussing if we wanna.

  9. PART A:

    My first thought:: obstacles to what? (I think I’m not quite oriented to what this online adventure consists of). So I will take this as: obstacles to writing.
    My second thought: 5 internal and external obstacles of mine or that I see in others?
    I didn’t read through all of the posts yet, but for external obstacles, if people do not list (1) time, (2) money, (3) family/friend obligations, and (4) work obligations, then I will going to think we’re not really getting to the brass tacks of self-honesty!
    Of course, all of these things stand primarily as time factors, though the money factor indirectly involves time, because we spend time to earn money. I belabor the obvious.
    But instead, let me just call all of these factors distractions; distractions not from an inadequate desire to write, but distractions by other motivations (Jungian complexes!) that hijack our will to commit to writing. For example, a friend of mine who says he can’t write because what he writes never comes out good enough: a piece of vanity in action! I read today (from Jung) about a certain kind of experiment taker he encountered, one who would go out of his (or her way) not to appear stupid; and, ironically enough, the pattern of type of response this person actually gave in the experiment came out in the same kind of pattern that developmentally delayed individuals would give. So also, in a less extreme sense, the person who never writes because it doesn’t (or won’t) come out good enough exactly resembles the person who has no ability to write anything in the first place.
    This all only to illustrate the idea that we might recognize how our internal obstacles serve some other (likely useful) end, just not (unfortunately) the end of writing. Recognizing this may provide a window for turning the obstacle into a resource?
    Unfortunately, my primary obstacles to writing involve (1) no audience, (2) cluelessness/laziness over how to obtain an audience, although I do tell people I need someone to do promotion for me. A related internal obstacle: (1) something of an inclination not to care about the audience, in the sense that I expect my reader to bring himself/herself to my work, rather than vice versa; this, because (2) when I attempt to bring my work to a reader—by which I mean, attempt to make it more accessible, whatever that means—either I screw it up somehow (because it remains inaccessible), or the effort proves inadequate anyway (because the person didn’t bother to try to meet the work on its own ground). This tension—between writing what I think amounts to accessibly and writing what I think the form of the piece actually demands—makes for a pretty ugly mess when I write. Unfortunately, I enjoy my own work; especially my plays I would enjoy if staged—though seeing them staged also would prompt some changes too. So I feel like Ross Ashby said: “Everyone is champion at some game, it just may be that the game hasn’t been invented yet.” I invent the game, and no one else wants to play it, becomes the dilemma. No one has the patience, or I don’t have the cleverness to make what I already find clear clearer to someone else. I find this whole experience generally weird—and it just points, again, to the tension I mentioned.

    1. I can relate to the lack of audience. I used to write for an online magazine, and it was so great! I had readers! Fans! Discourse! I loved it! But it is no more. I don't publish most of what I write these days for lack of audience.

  10. PART B:

    I, however, do not think I should try to make this obstacle a resource—because I have only ever failed at doing so. I’d much rather have you all give me suggestions, that I can shoot down as hopelessly inadequate!

    Only part of me co-signs that statement. The solution to having no audience means having an audience; the first step (I see): y’all should read my novels.
    So, when that doesn’t pan out—then what? Back to square one.

    So, I think it would help more to solicit your input than to iterate all over again the “solutions” I’ve already failed successfully to implement.

    Still, lest I seem merely cheeky, let me specify: conceptually, I know that I could (and should) submit short stories to the many, many online magazines. But I want someone else (i.e., you) to research which magazines would take my stuff—or, much more simply—where I would find the web-page of the submission protocol for the magazine (I do know how to read!). Apparently, this overtaxes people’s ability. Of course, you could tell me, “Stop being such a baby an find that stuff yourself.” Condescension aside, clearly I already know this sage advice already, and it does not prompt me to t differently. So it behooves us (y’all and me, our “us” as we converse together in this forum) to divine something else—assuming you won’t just take up my request to find me somewhere to get published.
    I realize, well enough, that this request has kind of cheekiness. But in our culture, we frown on asking for help—because we all consist of big, strong, independent folks who needn’t ask for help. No! We don’t ask for help, usually, because if we do, then we understand (implicitly) that we must then step up and help someone else if they ask. And goodness only knows where that leads!

    So if I ask for help, I make myself willing to help. The primary boundary or caveat, of course: I can’t help with everything. I edit easily and quickly; someone else might have a genius for ferreting out online places to publish. Skill share!

    So, I submit to you to turn my obstacles into resources, rather than obstacles. I can attempt the same for you (we all can), if you ask, i.e., if you want that.

  11. I'm very late, but I'm finding the time to do this now.


    Making excuses when I know what I need to do, but also sometimes not knowing if I’m making excuses or if I’m just too tired to do anything (see next obstacle).

    Health issues—chronic fatigue, headaches, weight gain, digestion

    Fear of punishment, fear of other people’s anger or disapproval

    Creating/finding courage to be my authentic self that is not based on people-pleasing, finding my voice

    Isolating/social anxiety—I interact a lot online, and a lot at work, but I very rarely get together with friends. This has increased tenfold since I’ve been having health issues and never have energy.

    For transforming the internal: I do best when I am focused on my spirituality, my higher power. Prayer has really helped me big time. Also taking action on the things that need it, like when I started having health issues, I sought a variety of medical care, changing my diet and eliminating those things that make my body sick. Learning not to judge myself so harshly. Seeking guidance/counseling/healing on some of the unresolved trauma that elicits disproportionately fearful responses.


    Working in an environment that can be emotionally stressful

    Financial stress--student debt, veterinary debt, feeling that I am not compensated fairly in my job, wanting to be independent but still depending on my parents for certain things


    Being too distracted and/or busy to be creative

    Feeling a lack of community and connection, wanting to be spending time with neat people and working on projects, but finding my internal obstacles holding me back, also like I don’t have enough time, also living far away from my family.

    Transforming the External: Generally, I focus on the internal solutions and the external problems don’t feel difficult/seem to resolve. Actually my spiritual life allows me to act rightly and not be anxious with the external. As long as I’m doing everything I know I can do to be responsible, to respond appropriately, doing the footwork, paying the bills as I can, not obsessing about money, taking things one day at a time. I also think I need to be brave and reach out more, and follow through when I make plans. I also dream about projects with friends that would somehow allow us to do paid work less but have “more”. As far as transforming patriarchy, I try to address the micro-aggressions that occur in my life on a daily basis (I work in a men’s homeless shelter), teaching respect, calling people out when they say or do things that are not right. It has taken a lot of practice and patience and courage to do that, but now it comes naturally. That last sentence is actually probably true of most things in life.