1.1 A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination
About 25 years ago, a dear friend gave me a book by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
As a young truth-seeker I was compelled to try to live by its enticing message, that happiness and all the answers you look for in life are right there, inside of you and with a little alchemical magic you can reach your true potential.
All fair enough, but what is this alchemical magic and how do I get some of it!
Well step 1, it seems, is you need some awareness of what is actually going on in your head, your thoughts and feelings, and what you’d like to do about them….
From a more holistic perspective, it is this connection to ourselves and the natural world that seems to have been weakened, mainly because our culture has lost or replaced many of the tools and practices that naturally renewed these connections every day. We now have cars to stop us walking, we have TVs and devices to keep us from solitude, we work in offices rather than on the land and we are very busy, living in a slightly heightened state much of the time, that doesn’t really promote the best environment for self-reflection.
This is why rituals are so essential for creating this ‘space and place’ where we give ourselves permission to stop, to breathe, to be introspective and to take those moments to reflect, make positive changes or even just take the time to accept things as they are. I realised I always reread the Alchemist whenever I am seeking answers to these more existential questions…. It is MY little ritual to put me in the right space and place!
You can purposely create these pockets of time but if that seems unrealistic, you can find potential moments everywhere you look - washing up, cleaning your teeth, drinking that first cup of tea in the morning. If you just changed your approach to these habits and turn them into daily rituals, seeing them as opportunities to check in with yourself, reflect on things that are bothering you, decide what you should stop procrastinating about, think of something you are grateful for…. you begin to use your time for more than the sum of its parts.
Rituals are ‘symbolic behaviours we engage in with an intention attached’.
And here comes step 2, intention, and here is where the alchemical magic really starts to happen, according to Dr Joe Dispenza, whose work comes from the fields of neuroscience, epigenetics, and quantum physics. If you are interested, I would recommend looking him up as I am not going to do his work any kind of justice, but in a snapshot, this is his take on how Intention works.
Intention is just ‘getting clear on what you want’. From my own experience, once people formulate a clear goal, no matter how small or large, much of the work is done. The hard part is actually finding enough time to get to know yourself (where the daily rituals come in!) and being honest with yourself, mentally removing all the obstacles and conditions and controls you put on your life and trying to reach down and find the truth of what you would like to happen.
According to Dr Dispenza, by speculating a possibility, your frontal lobe (the brain’s creative centre) fires up and calls up different networks of neurons with relatable connections- things you’ve learned intellectually or previously experienced that relate to this thing you are thinking about. It then seamlessly pieces all these bits together to create a new vision and once all the different neural networks fire in tandem, you will get a new picture in your mind- that clear picture is called intention.
The clearer the picture becomes and the moment it starts to take on form, you start ‘living’ in that future. What really brings the intention to life is attaching emotions to this ‘future’ which strengthens the pathways and begins changing you at a cellular level. When you imagine how it will feel, what you will be doing, your brain doesn’t know the difference between your imagined event and actual event, so you are effectively rewiring your brain to the future. Instead of your brain just recording the past, it is now a map to your future….. how cool is that!
The deeper science behind this is well worth exploring if you are interested and the expanding field of epigenetics seems a good place to start.
But for now, I will happily check in with myself over that first delicious cup of green tea in the morning, set a good intention and wait for the alchemical magic to happen :)