The Alchemy of Joy
July 9, 2012
The idea of alchemy has always intrigued me. The transforming of something that is of little value, or a state of nonbeing, into gold or silver at first appears to be remnants of the ramblings of magicians from centuries ago. But alchemy is a very real concept. Metaphorically, what is the gold and silver of the soul — happiness, contentment, peace, joy?
Whatever that gold may be individually, billions of dollars are spent each year on self-help books, programs, conferences and life coaching in attempts to turn our current emotions and experiences into those we wish to have. In an effort to attain what we feel we are lacking — whether it be in an effort to heal from a myriad of malaises, reach our highest potential or connect deeper spiritually — countless numbers of people are searching for the way to evolve and transcend their current states of being. We want to buy a quick fix.
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian Holocaust-survivor-turned-psychiatrist and theorist, spoke in his bookMan’s Search for Meaning of his daily challenges in various concentrations camps to find not only meaning in his life to enable survival, but also the ability to imagine a life beyond his current circumstances. Metaphysics teaches us how truly powerful our thoughts are, and the process involved in the programming of our mind to achieve what it is we universally and ultimately desire — joy.
There is evidence that the body cannot discern the difference from an imagined event or an actual one. Once it has been created or imprinted upon the mind, the body reacts accordingly. This information becomes even more significant for the student of alchemy because just as a real or perceived traumatic event can negatively affect your body and mind, so can an actual or imagined positive experience (through guided-mediation and visualization) affect your mind and body. This is indeed the heart of the practice of the alchemist.
The alchemist must first be prepared to release the ego and the residue of past pains in order to begin the journey of mastery to his or her craft. Life happens; learning to live in the present moment is a life-changing occurrence. In no way does this suggest that by becoming aware thinkers and creators, we will end all suffering. Pain, loss, frustration, all of the emotions we attempt to escape from, are as much a part of life as those emotions we want to experience more, the greatest of these being a state of pure love, i.e., joy. The Tao tells us that without one, it is impossible to experience the other. We can experience more of that we desire through the art of transformation.
The process of turning an emotion into one that lifts us instead of chains us, feeds us instead of draining us, challenges us instead of defeating us, is the process of alchemy. We hold the ability to change our experiences not only by the thoughts we choose to think at any given moment, but also by training ourselves to automatically reboot our minds through habit. It takes time, just as it has taken a lifetime to acquire the thought process you currently have. The good news is that while it requires effort, it will not take a lifetime to reprogram your thoughts. You can begin to see results instantly and as your practice grows, so will the ease with which you fall into the state of being an alchemist of joy.
In coming to know that we do have the ability to decrease and more thoroughly process those emotions we wish to do away with, the discomfort and fear they hold begins to diminish almost instantly. In this, you’ve moved past the first step to becoming an alchemist of joy. A trained professional can assist you in achieving your new mindset more rapidly, but you can begin today by making the choice to transform a maladaptive thought into one that can be of benefit, or at the very least neutral. If a loved one is ill or troubled, the act of worry will bring neither of you any benefit. On the other hand, taking that same energy and focusing it on a brief meditation/prayer for your loved one by visualizing them in less pain, at peace or in a state of greater health transforms your thoughts and emotional state, and sets an intention for your loved one’s highest good. Greater still, turn the concern into action by offering support in whatever way your creative mind and intuition lead you.
We are creative beings and with that come the responsibility to ourselves and one another to be purposeful with our thoughts and intentions. Seeing deeper into our thought world that produces our feelings enables us to change how we feel. When we change our thoughts we change our feelings. Accepting this empowers the alchemist to transform their world.