Stress & Healing
What is Alchemy?
Alchemy is the art and science of transformation - more specifically the transforming of what is unwanted into what is wanted.
The universe is made up of energy - science and mystics are both agreed on this. "Energy" includes our thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories and behaviours as well as our body, natural material surroundings ("Mother Nature") and our human creations.
What is the significance of Alchemy in Stress Management & Healing?
Healing is a journey - the journey from "dis-ease" (rejection of our current life experience) to "ease" (= flow, harmony) which is the embracing of our current life experience. Alchemy is a process by which this journey can be generated.
If your current life experience is stuck (including the stuckness of being trapped in recurrent patterns) in an unwanted experience, alchemy is the process by which your experience can be transformed.
Transformation will occur on many levels (mental, emotional, spiritual, behavioural, material) but you may only be conscious of one or more of these levels of manifestation.
Grief as an example of an Alchemical Process
Loss of a relationship, loss of "face", self-image, self-confidence, self-esteem or personal status can all result in a "hole" in our external or internal reality. By "holding" (i.e. allowing ourselves to experience) this pain over a period of time we will naturally move through it to a point where the "hole" becomes filled in with something new.
The journey of grief goes through a sequence of turbulent emotions (energetic flows), a "letting go" of our energetic attachments to what went before, framing and settling the experience in our long-term memory and creating something new to replace what we have lost. During this journey of grief, if we are able to complete the process we grow (expand our consciousness in order to accommodate to the loss without continuing dysfunction) and mature as human beings.
At some stages of grief the pain is too great to confront and we have to find new opportunities, teachers, experiences and divine "magic" before we can move forwards. Sometimes we are diverted or blocked in this journey of reclaiming our past investment of self, personal identification and life-energy and transforming and re-investing these precious personal possessions into the next phase of our life story. For example a limiting belief such as "I can never recover from this" will impede us from seeking the help and support that we need. We can also block this journey by becoming too attached to the by-products ("scenery") of certain stages of the grief process such as sympathy, special consideration, help and support, self-pity, blaming, vengeance, financial compensations, self-image as a "victim".
Grief: overview & resources
Why, Where, When is Alchemy useful?
All living things produce waste (unwanted) materials as a by-product of their creative and growth processes. Our human lifestyles are no exception. Like a two-sided coin, our lives have complementary generative and degenerative components. For example we have positive emotions at times and negative emotions at other times. To experience, accept and navigate both positive and negative experiences is a key lifeskill in living a full and regret-free holistic life.
When our lives go "off-course" or "unbalanced" we experience an increasing, or accumulating, flow of "negative" thoughts, feelings and experiences. These "energies" can be transformed by alchemical processes (healing transformations) which re-align us to the experiences that will realize our personal potential and fulfill our life purpose.
Going "off-track" or "unbalanced" in our life does not have to be seen as "wrong", or "a mistake" - going "off-track" and experiencing the negative consequences can be a key way of finding our "on-track" truth and healthy lifestyle. Finding our "on-track" truth and healthy lifestyle is not always easy because the "track" of our life often twists and turns or becomes shrouded in mist and confusion.
Going "off-course" or "unbalanced" also happens to human communities. As this direction unfolds, affected human societies experience a flow of increasingly "negative" thoughts, feelings and experiences. Left unchecked (i.e. out of awareness or alchemical control) negative/destructive thoughts and feelings will drive negative/destructive agendas and actions to create a vicious circle of increasing negativity and destructiveness. From the heart, or rather the heartlessness of these vicious cycles the energy can "spiral up" in a volcano of fiery emotions (anger, rage, aggression) and "spiral down" in increasing disillusionment, hopelessness, bitterness, demotivation, depression and hatred.
Reactive control agendas (e.g. punishment, medication, restrictive laws, rules and protocols) by society will be required to stop people "scattering" or "dumping (on others)" the energy of their distress. Some people will also be trying to "drain", "suck" or "steal" positive energy (resources) from others.
The challenge for society in a degenerating situation is to strengthen interpersonal boundaries (encouraging people to "hold" their negative energies) where needed without contributing to the escalation and spread of traumatising experiences and without restricting (where possible encouraging) the natural growth of supportive and transformative, alchemical healing activity in the community at these times of increasing stress. The qualities of courage, stillness, discernment and insight are key ingredients of successful responses which can guide people and communities "back on track".
Blocks to the Transformational Power we call Alchemy
1. Negative pleasure
Expressing (actuating) negative emotions and agendas can give a temporary relief from distress and a temporary feeling of self-empowerment (anger, rage, hatred, vengeance). This is known as "Negative pleasure". Expressing negative or destructive feelings is an essential part of the "clearing process" before healing, transformation and creativity can occur. However, we can become attached to the short-term "buzz" of these experiences, particularly if we do not consider the inevitable, longer-term repercussions on our relationships and peace of mind. Negative pleasure addiction can keep us attached to our present patterns and cycles and block the creation, via alchemy, of new and possibly more fulfilling and nourishing patterns.
2. Attachment to "limiting beliefs"
The ego seeks an illusory security and identity in limiting belief systems (which we may know as our "reality", philosophy, "worldview", lifestyle) . The intrinsically-limiting nature of belief systems provides a sense of security and identity for individuals and for communities until we come up against experiences and relationships ("life challenges") where our belief system no longer produces the results (security, identity, fulfilment) that we desire.
An entertaining example of the self-sabotaging nature of limiting beliefs - and the path out of them! - can be seen in the comedy-drama film: "Groundhog Day" (Info: UK & Europe Canada USA)
Limiting beliefs, over time, lead to insecurity and confusion - the very opposite of their intended purpose! This is because they deny the intrinsic nature and truths of our unconscious mind. This is not to say that belief systems are wrong, but that they are only a transient step or bridge towards the realization of our full potential and identity.
Limiting belief systems (doctrines) work well within the context (family, social group) where they were formulated. However, if our life expands out from these situations into new and bigger situations, or if our growing "neighbours" start to expand into our limited "comfort zone", we will meet challenges that our limited belief system (set of rules and procedures) cannot cope with. The scene is then set for internal/external struggle and strife. At this point we have 4 choices:
a) Minimise struggle and strife by contracting our lives back into a new (smaller, more guarded) comfort zone.
b) Stay locked in struggle and strife.
c) Modify our belief systems to accommodate the new experience.
d) Transform the "energy" generated by the struggle and strife into an expanded reality (internally) and an expanded (more full-filling) life experience externally - this is the path to a "creative" solution.
Modern Alchemy Based on Ancient Principles: Books and CDs of Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz.
Who are the modern Alchemists?
In this twenty-first century "information and communication" age, we are blessed with a huge tide of opportunities and resources to become our own alchemists. Training materials and courses are springing up everywhere as the pressure grows for personal and community transformation.
There is also a growing body of our traditional source of alchemy: The Shamans.
Author: Dr. Mike Meredith