I talk a lot in my books and classes about transmuting negative energy to positive, but what does that really mean? Negative and positive are polar opposites; they represent polarity or duality, which is what we all enter into when we choose to become embodied as human beings.
Negative and positive are also value judgments. In general when you ask someone, which is "bad" and which is "good", they will likely answer that negative is bad, and positive is good. And perhaps in our embodied experience of duality, this is often true. However, in ultimate reality, they are equal. For example, in electricity you need both positive and negative poles for currents to flow. In chemistry, you need both for molecules to attract to form matter. Our bodies are made up of matter formed from opposite polar energies, which forms the basis for one type of energy healing, polarity therapy.
Taoism and other Eastern philosophies express the concept of polarity as yin yang, the balance and distribution of opposite energies flowing one into the other, each containing the seeds of the other. Both energies require the other to make a whole, and each has equal opportunity for expression in the physical world. Neither is inherently good nor inherently bad; both just are, and both are necessary when we are embodied.
This moves beyond philosophy and embeds itself deeply into our lives, although our value judgments often make the experience of duality uncomfortable for us. For example, we may deem sadness as "bad" or joy as "good" although they are both the same thing: emotion, existing on a spectrum. You can't fully experience joy if you have never understood sadness.
So while we see polarity as a series of opposites with one side more desirable than the other, in fact duality is always a spectrum with one opposite flowing into the other in an endless cycle. Each expression along that spectrum has equal value. None are inherently good nor bad. They just are. It is how we choose to allow those qualities to express in our lives that truly matter.
I can provide some examples of spectrum energy to illustrate. Hot and cold are opposite energies in our world of relativity, but they don't feel like the same experience to us at all. With one of these energies, we shiver and bundle up. With the other we sweat and strip down. Hot and cold are the same energy. They exist as a spectrum, and while some of us may prefer one or the other, in fact both have equal value. Both are merely an expression on a scale we call temperature, and we can choose to some extent which expression of temperature we'd like to experience by the clothes we wear, what we eat and drink, how we move, and how we control the climate in the spaces where we live, work, and play. Neither hot nor cold are inherently bad nor inherently good. Both are necessary expressions of temperature that nourish the natural world and make it possible for varied life to flourish on our planet.
Here's another example: beginning and end. In our embodied experience, everything appears to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. In fact, life is just this: birth, living, and death. This cycle continuously expresses throughout our lives in various ways such as idea-creation-usefulness-obsoletion (rotary telephone anyone?). These cycles repeat endlessly, over and over again as we move through our own process of creation that we call our lives. And often, we apply value judgments to the parts of the cycle; we see one part as good, positive, or desirable and its opposite as bad, negative, or undesirable. In doing so, we often fail to recognize that value judgments aside, each expression we chose of an energy always contains the roots of its opposite. For instance, endings always hold the seeds for new beginnings. Anger holds the seeds for forgiveness. Fear holds the seeds of love.
So when I suggest that you can transmute negativity into positivity, what I mean is this: your experience in each moment exists along a spectrum that we call duality. In those experiences, we often ascribe the qualities of "good" or "bad", "negative" or "positive", "desirable" or "undesirable". And we have the ability to choose how we quantify the experience and how we choose to allow it to express in our lives. To transmute negative to positive means choosing what you consider the more "positive" expression of a quality that exists on the spectrum. In other words, choosing the expression of joy if you find that more desirable than sadness, or choosing abundance if you find that a more desirable expression than lack.
Astrology contains great examples of this. In astrology, your "sign" is part of your karmic imprint. Each person is born with a karmic imprint, which are qualities that will express in your life making you the unique person you are. However, you are never "stuck" with the qualities you are born with based on your astrological chart. Instead, you get to choose how those qualities express in your life. For example, my sun sign is Sagittarius and my rising sign is Libra. Both of these have several influences on my personality, but for simplicity's sake we'll stick to a single one: both Sagittarius and Libra are often free-spirited. However, both Sagittarius and Libra can also be restless and easily bored. These are the opposite expressions of the same thing, and at different times I choose each expression. Sometimes, I am restless and bored, which is not an experience I enjoy. And so, when I find myself choosing this expression, I can transmute it from what I judge as its negative pole (restless and bored) to it's positive expression (free-spirited).
Another example that shows up in my chart are the opposite energies of easily hurt and compassionate. One of those feels negative to me while the other feels positive, but in fact, one flows into the other. In my life, the ends of this spectrum are inseparable, and each is necessary for the other. The things that hurt me allow me to feel greater compassion. I need the hurt experiences to help me be more compassionate towards others and towards myself. Here's another: my chart suggests I am flighty and disorganized but creative and enthusiastic. Certainly both are true, but I choose the creative and enthusiastic expression more frequently because it feels more desirable to me than flighty. However, my creativity and enthusiasm often lead to my disorganization, and my flighty nature often is what sews the seeds for new creation. They are both expressions of the same energy, and each is necessary for the other.
So when I talk about transmuting negative energy to positive energy, what I mean is choosing that aspect of a certain energy that feels more desirable to you in the moment. Which expression of an energy do you choose in this moment? And realize, the expression you choose is neither right nor wrong; it's merely right for you right now. It can change from moment to moment, and sometimes the expression needs to change in order to serve your highest good.
I have two tattoos that remind me of this. On the front of my right shoulder, I have butterflies, which represent yin energy to me. On the back of my left shoulder, I have a hummingbird, which represents yang to me. Together, the two remind me of the balance and flow of the spectrum of energies and the importance of allowing the expression of both in my life. The energies join together and intertwine in a cyclical dance that shifts and evolves to continue to serve the highest and greatest good.