What’s with the ‘life alchemy’ that is in the tagline of this website? (You know, the one that reads “Life alchemy: to boldly explore, explain and play around with life and consciousness”).
It’s simple, really: Alchemy, originally, is experimenting with diverse elements to create gold, wisdom and longevity.
The way I use it, “life alchemy” is playing around with the elements of life to create wisdom and a better life. In fact, the very act of playing is fun, so that creates a better life right there. In short, life alchemy is a way to get insight and design your life the way you want it – without the ‘insight and wisdom’ bits, this is sometimes called lifestyle design (though I prefer to just call it life design).
Or, to put it differently …
Life alchemy is conscious life design, based on exploration, experimentation and a playful attitude.
Conscious awareness and authenticity are both tools in the process and part of the end result of the process.
Further end results of life alchemy include a more pleasant state of being (wholeness, happiness, inner peace, freedom, love, balance, etc.) as well as a better life experience in every other way.
Of course, life alchemy, like it’s cousin “good old alchemy” can, at any time, blow up in your face. But that’s just part of the fun.
Contents of This Article (Clickable Table of Contents)
- 1 Good Old Alchemy
- 2 Do a Pre-flight Check
- 3 Go Explore!
- 4 Exploring Life (in Life Alchemy)
- 5 Exploring Consciousness (in Life Alchemy)
- 6 All Hail Experimentation!
- 7 All Hail Playfulness, too!
- 8 Final Words and Further Reading
Good Old Alchemy
Alchemy is an early form of (proto)science with roots that go back about 4000 years. It predates and relates to modern spirituality, philosophy, psychology, esotericism, metallurgy, chemistry and medicine, and has been practiced in China, India, Arabia and Europe.
So even though some people today may view alchemy as outdated and a bit silly, it is certainly a venerable and very influential form of early science.
One of the main points of good old alchemy was to mix the basic elements of life in ways that produced a refined result.
In terms of our physical body that result would be a healthy, long lived body; in terms of our mind it would be the ability to think clearly and see things for what they are; and in terms of metal, the result would be gold.
Well, life alchemy or life design is the same: It’s all about mixing the basic elements of modern human life to produce a refined result: a better life, the overall of experience of which is: wonderful.
Do a Pre-flight Check
When preparing to do any kind of life alchemy work I recommend that you consider yourself the pilot of your own life (you’re empowered and in charge!) … and that you also do a pre-flight check.
This includes taking a look at your current life situation and, more importantly, checking out your assumptions, beliefs and other limitations with regards to yourself, life, reality and consciousness. Write it down, so that you can look at it and relate to it more objectively. Before you begin your life alchemy work the primary thing you’ll want find out is this:
• What are your beliefs and assumptions about your identity, life, reality and consciousness?
• And what do you believe and assume are the limits to you exploring, experimenting and playing around with your identity, life, reality and consciousness?
These two questions are fundamental, because your assumptions and beliefs determine your experiences – whether you’re aware of those beliefs or not. If you have a ton of limiting assumptions and beliefs about yourself, life, reality and consciousness, you aren’t going to get the really cool experiences in consciousness, and you’re also likely to have a hard time changing your life for the better. (We don’t want that, right?!)
Why Spend Resources on This?
I’m spending quite a bit of space in this article talking about this pre-flight check of your beliefs and assumptions. That’s because I consider it important. Very.
I also consider it not-at-all-properly-covered in most texts on spiritual and personal development, self help, self improvement, education, psychology and psychotherapy. Too often I’ve seen entire books written on e.g. new therapeutic methods that DO NOT take the reader’s (a.k.a. the client’s) existing assumptions and beliefs into account. So let me be clear:
If we do not take our existing assumptions and beliefs into account we risk not being able to get the results we want (and indeed even getting some unwanted results). No matter how brilliant the theory, technique or method described is, it may not work for us at all if our existing assumptions and beliefs do not allow it. That’s why we need to uncover and relate to them!
How to Find Your Assumptions and Beliefs
As to how you identify your own assumptions and beliefs, that’s simple: Just tell the truth. Tell the truth about what you think, feel, assume and believe. You’re looking for your own opinions, really, and that shouldn’t be too hard to find.
So. What are your opinions about yourself? What are your opinions about life? And so on. Be as specific and detailed as you can, and spend some time doing it, because some of the opinions (assumptions and beliefs) you’re looking for are hidden in your subconscious, and you need to entice them to come out in the open.
Write It Down
Like I said, writing your answers down is a really good idea, because having them in front of you makes it much easier to relate objectively to them.
How to Identify a Limiting Assumption or Belief
First off: ALL beliefs and assumptions are limiting. Each and every one of them. That said, some are more limiting than others, and what we’re looking for (and aiming to change or let go of) are the MOST limiting ones. The less limiting ones, like e.g. “Everything is possible” are much less problematic and can even be empowering, depending on our starting point.
Seriously limiting beliefs and assumptions come in all colors, shapes and sizes, but nevertheless there are certain archetypical characteristics that we can be on the lookout for, namely beliefs and assumptions based on …
• Negativity, Denial and Disempowerment
– “That’s not possible!”
– “I’m not good enough”
– “I’m not important”
– “I’m not like that!”
– “There’s nothing to be done”
– “There’s something wrong (with me, you, ideas, life itself)”
– “It is dangerous”
– “Life is a struggle”
– “Physical death is to be feared”
– “This is normal, and I want to be normal”
– “There’s never enough of anything”
• Pooh-poohs, Peeves and Put Downs
– “I hate that/them!
– “I’m inadequate”
– “How disgusting!”
– “That’s ridiculous!”
– “That’s unrealistic!”
– “That’s irresponsible!”
– “That’s unacceptable!”
– “That’s crazy!”
The most archetypical and underlying generally limiting characteristic of all, though, is based on this …
• Separation and Dichotomies
The basic purpose of a belief is to create a make-believe (relative) reality. The same is true for assumptions, which are simply a bit more like guesswork.
The way to create a make-believe (relative) reality is to impose artificial boundaries, barriers and divides – and thus limits:
“There’s THIS (us, good) and then there’s THAT (them, bad)”. A dichotomy. Two sides of the fence. The “right”, “good”, “safe”, “normal”, “realistic”, “sane” and “possible” side … and … the other side. Guess which side of this make-believe barrier your ego will tell you that you’re supposed to be on?
So that’s the general thing to be on the lookout for: beliefs and assumptions that split up, separate and divide.
Sure, pretty much all beliefs and assumptions do this artificial splitting up and creating boundaries, but we’re looking for the ones that tell us that “I”, “you”, “humanity”, “the world”, “life”, “reality” (or even “consciousness”) is like this – divided, separated in sides.
Another Pointer: Negative, Unpleasant Feelings
Limiting beliefs and assumptions like the ones mentioned above are powerful so they’ll likely be connected to other elements, including feelings. And since the assumptions and beliefs are unpleasantly limiting, the feelings they’re connected to will be negative, unpleasant feelings. Connected to” means that either …
– they generate those unpleasant feelings in you directly (as beliefs based in fear, negativity and disempowerment do)
– they’re supposed to keep you away from and protect you from those unpleasant feelings (as beliefs based in denial, pooh-poohs, peeves and put downs often are)
Either way, being connected to negative, unpleasant feelings is a big tell-tale!
Limiting Beliefs and Assumptions: The Reason Why We’re Hunting Them
Why, again, are we looking for this type of assumptions and beliefs?
Because they make for a lousy life experience!
At the very best limiting assumptions and beliefs like those above keep us from being who we authentically are, from realizing our full potential, from living our life to the fullest, and from having wonderful and rewarding experiences both on inner journeys and in our daily lives. That, mind you, is the best case scenario.
In all the other scenarios this type of limiting assumptions and beliefs are pure poison.
Plain and simple.
Which is why we’ll want to change them (into something more open and accepting, and thus less limiting) …
… or even better …
… let go of them completely.
How to Get Rid of Limiting Assumptions and Beliefs
Once you identify some limiting assumptions and beliefs, make an effort to let them go.
Just so you know, this is not necessarily an easy task. So, a bit more info and knowledge might come in handy. The basic things to remember when working with assumptions and beliefs are these:
You Can Change Your Mind and Your Assumptions + Beliefs
– Assumptions and beliefs feel like reality and truth but they are not, they’re mere opinions
– Assumptions and beliefs exist because you’ve decided they should, they’re your creations
– You can, at any time, make new decisions about your creations (e.g. change or drop them)
You Weren’t Very Conscious and Didn’t Have All the Info When You Decided
– Most of your basic assumptions and beliefs were created when you were just a small child
– You created each of your assumptions and beliefs for some reason (e.g. something happened)
– Whatever happened, happened, but how you interpreted it was up to you … and it still is
There’s Never Just One Possible Interpretation … the More the Merrier
– Most things (e.g. the happenings) can be explained and interpreted in many different ways
– Brainstorming alternative explanations and interpretations is very freeing and empowering
– By re-interpreting the reasons behind your assumptions and beliefs you change them
You’ve Subconsciously Taken on a Lot of Crap – Get Conscious about It
– Many of the assumptions and beliefs you hold are inherited or borrowed from other people
– We rarely question our inherited or borrowed assumptions and beliefs, they’re subconscious
– Subconscious things can be made conscious by an effort of will (or using a technique)
– When subconscious things are made conscious, we get a choice about them
With this basic info under your belt (and a list of your limiting beliefs and assumptions) you can actually get pretty far. If that’s not far enough, do try out a few different self improvement techniques. Some people have success using Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or hypnosis, others go for methods that are specifically designed to work with unwanted feelings, thoughts, habits, assumptions and beliefs:
These methods aren’t all that different, and several other self improvement techniques (e.g. The Journey by Brandon Bays or The Lefkoe Method by Morty Lefkoe) may do fine, too. The main thing is that you set free yourself from those limiting beliefs and assumptions, one by one.
This process might take some time. But afterwards you’re ready to …
If life alchemy is conscious life design, based on exploration, experimentation and a playful attitude, what is it we explore?
The answer to that is this:
In life alchemy (a.k.a. conscious life design) we work with ourselves (incl. identity), consciousness, reality, life, the universe and everything!
Or we can cut it down to just two words, which are actually synonyms for each other: life and consciousness. (They’re in the tagline of this website, too).
What is life? It’s everything, right? You, me, the world, the universe, everyhing we can see and touch as well as everything we cannot see or touch … It’s all life. Life is a BIG word.
Well, consciousness is exactly the same, or bigger. Cutting edge modern science and age-old mystical wisdom now agree: everything in existence is actually consciousness. Which makes consciousness equally as big as life, and, in fact, as big as it gets. Consciousness IS life, the universe and everything!
When talking about exploring life, most people tend to focus on the physical (and daily) aspects of human life. The trees, the animals, the sun, our jobs, our homes, our friends and lover(s) and such. In this perspective exploring life can be anything, from switching from monogamy to polyamory, to switching career or getting an education, to going mountain climbing or deep sea diving, to studying things through a telescope or a microscope. And so on.
When talking about exploring consciousness, on the other hand, most people tend to focus on either psychology, or spirituality or inner journeys (which may lead into the realms of psychology, transpersonal psychology and spirituality – as well as many other realms).
Exploring Life (in Life Alchemy)
Daily life as a human being on planet Earth presents us with plenty of challenges, many of which appear to be of a physical nature (though often they’re actually not). So of course we do explore, experiment with and play around with the physical world in life alchemy.
There’s the question of finding the right balance, for one thing. How much free time versus how much work time? How many lovers, friends, children, etc.? How much meat vs. vegetables vs. carbs? How big and expensive a home? And so on.
Most notably, though, we try to make sure the physical elements of our lives are a match to who we are.
Things like your physical body, your home, your work, your money, your love life and your vehicles of transportation all have physical parts that you’ll want to fit who you really, authentically are.
– Because, hey, why spend time, money, attention and energy trying to look like a supermodel (male or female) if you really just want to be yourself and feel good about it?
– Why settle in a major city and get a high paying job in an airport, if you’re really a loner who loves simplicity and nature?
– Why settle for a monogamous relationship in a huge, lavishly furnished ostentatious villa, if you’re actually polyamorous and love the simple life you can have in a one-room studio or cottage somewhere?
– And why get a Ferrari and a yacht if what you really need is a bicycle and a kayak?
Physical things DO have a tendency to attract our attention, time, energy and money, and we MAY want to use those resources differently when we realize that we have a choice.
Exploring Consciousness (in Life Alchemy)
Mainstream thinking focuses on exploring the physical world. That’s probably a remnant of the scientific revolution which moved us from the dark ages to the age of enlightenment to industrialization to the present age.
The most common and accepted types of science were (are?) the ones where you can objectively measure the results as well as replicate any and all experiments and results. This scientific method was a shift in paradigm and caused many changes, one of which was dispelling various superstitions, another of which was to release the stranglehold organized religion had had on most people around the world, and a third of which the fall from grace of good old alchemy.
Today, though, we are going through another paradigm shift and another revolution, a consciousness revolution. This can be seen from the fact that modern physics (which is basically as physically focused a science as you can get) has realized that the only way to account for the results generated in quantum physics is to assign consciousness the lead role in the play.
It all comes down to consciousness, in fact it all IS consciousness.
The New Focus: on Consciousness
To me this means that the cutting edge exploration of today is the exploration of consciousness. Which you can do from home, lying your bed or comfortably seated in your favorite armchair, if you like.
It also means that the only person you have to prove anything to is yourself.
When you experience something that proves something TO YOU, that is enough. You don’t need another explorer of consciousness in another country to experience the same thing in order to prove that you had your experience. You KNOW. You were there. You have proven whatever-it-is to your own satisfaction, and that is all that matters.
The Why(s) of Consciousness Exploration
We explore consciousness for lots of reasons, from curiosity, to healing (physical and psychological), to wanting to know who we are, to wanting to finding meaning in life, to mere fun. Consciousness exploration can yield all these results and more.
Want to Read about It Before You Do It?
If you want a crash course in consciousness and the exploration of it, the most important author to read, in my personal opinion, is Stanislav Grof (born 1931), most notably his book Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research. That particular book, like no other book I have ever read, provides an overview of modern consciousness research and the data and results behind transpersonal psychology.
Stan Grof, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times, is a personal hero of mine. He’s been there, done that and knows an awful lot about an awful lot. What he has to say is based on tons of data and it is truly, utterly fascinating.
Grof is a hardcore scientist, though, and his texts reflect this, so not everybody will find his books an easy read.
Consequently I’d like to also recommend a much more personal account of consciousness exploration given over four books (with a fifth book being a how-to guidebook) in a series called “Exploring the Afterlife” written by engineer, lecturer and author Bruce Moen. Each book in that series is better and more interesting than the previous one.
I have also had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Moen in person, and as well as being a fine author, he is one of the nicest persons imaginable. In addition, his method for consciousness exploration is among the easiest to use, provided you’ve done your pre-flight check and gotten rid of your most limiting assumptions and beliefs. (If you haven’t, by the way, Bruce Moen also has some suggestions about how you might proceed to do so).
The How(s) of Consciousness Exploration
As to how we may explore consciousness there’s a host of possibilities, and more arriving each year. Anything that tells us more about what consciousness is, how it works, and how we relate to it can be considered consciousness exploration.
Good old fashioned psychoanalysis as proposed by Freud is one way; visiting or working with a more-or-less spiritually enlightened teacher is another; and simply reading about it in books and on the Internet is yet another; but in my opinion nothing – absolutely nothing – beats personal experience.
Inner Journeys (in Consciousness)
Ergo: Inner journeys is one of the best ways forward. Going on inner journeys means you wilfully enter “altered” states of consciousness to have different kinds of healing and spiritual experiences and gain deep insights and wisdom.
Inner journeys are sometimes called psychonautics, and a person doing such consciousness exploration can be called a psychonaut (which means “soul navigator” when translated from Greek).
Going on inner journeys is one of the most fascinating, useful and rewarding types of exploring you can do. I’ll be writing much more on the subject later, but for now let me just briefly mention a few fine methods (apart from meditation and guided meditation) that can be used to go on inner journeys: The Journey by Brandon Bays, The Deva Method by Rachel Kaufmann and Rick Phillips, consciousness phasing by Bruce Moen, Holothropic Breathwork by Stanislav Grof and The Let Go Method by yours truly (Soren Lauritzen). There are many more, of course, and I will get back to that in a later article.
You may need a mentor or helper/facilitator, but other than that most methods require very few paraphernalia. And, as mentioned, you can do it from your bed or your most comfortable armchair.
Every once in a while you do need to get up from that armchair, though, and live the rest of your life, which is why I use BOTH consciousness AND life in the tagline. We all have daily lives to live, and those lives need our conscious awareness and authenticity before they can become a really good “fit” to us. Ergo: conscious life design a.k.a. life alchemy.
All Hail Experimentation!
The alchemists of old were both philosophers, communicators and experimenters, and so am I. I encourage you to do the same; okay, so you may not be as philosophically inclined as I, or as interested in writing and communicating, but I certainly encourage you to perform lots experiments in your own life.
Experiments are fun! And useful too. You can learn so much from them, and the best thing about experimenting in life alchemy is, whatever your results are, once you get the results they are pretty much already applied in your life.
So what if it doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped? Change it.
An experiment in life alchemy might mean that you’re temporarily changing your whole life, but so what? You can always change it back agiain.
Who cares if it turns out to be a mistake? Then you’ve learned that, and you’re ready to try something else instead. If you keep doing that, over and over, you’ll end up improving your life in ways you cannot even imagine today. You don’t even need a plan to do it, you can just start doing it – right now.
And what more, you can have lots of fun in the process.
All Hail Playfulness, too!
One of the very best ways to have fun is to play.
As adults many of us have been taught (often in very subtle ways) that playing and being responsible are somehow not compatible. That’s a load of crap! It’s one of the most damaging cultural myths we have. It sucks the joy right out of our lives – and a lot of the creativity, too.
Women! Special Attention Required
If you’re an adult woman, you probably need to pay extra attention now. Women, in particular, have been taught to be responsible, and because of the crappy myth of responsibility versus play, they tend to look down on play, often so much so, that they actually completely forget what it means to play.
If you’re a woman, do you think that playing around with, well, everything is … irresponsible, or childish, or futile, or a waste of time, or something else that’s negative?
Then you have been brainwashed.
But not to worry, it just means you need to read the next several paragraphs extra carefully.
Playing around is basic human behavior. We all do it. If it isn’t socialized (subtly threathened and brainwashed) out of us, then we keep doing it until the day we die. Why? Because it is useful and rewarding.
The Benefits of Play
How is play useful and rewarding?
Play is useful because …
– Play allows us to experiment and test things without fear
– Play expedites and boosts learning
– Play stimulates us creatively, boosting imagination and the ability to act on ideas
– Play stimulates our abstract thinking skills and helps us get better at solving problems
– Play stimulates us socially, helping us to befriend, bond with and cooperate with others
– Play stimulates us emotionally, teaching us trust, empathy, compassion and more
– Play also relieves our worries, anxiety and stress, allowing us to unwind and relax
Those are just some of the benefits of play. There are also benefits to do with attention, concentration, sharing, conflict resolution, self-confidence, self-esteem, persistence, turn-taking, rule-making, rule-breaking, risk-taking, communication, leadership skill development and physical development.
Those are some EXTREMELY persuasive benefits, don’t you think?
And as if it weren’t enough with all those many benefits of play, play is also rewarding …
– Every one of the reasons why play is useful is also a reason why it’s rewarding.
– Play is inherently meaningful. Even with no goals, no purpose and no pre-defined rules it still makes sense to play. It makes sense all by itself. For no reason. This in itself is so unusual that it ought to make everybody stop and think. And play.
– Play is fun. Plain and simple. If what you’re playing at or with isn’t making you feel good, if it isn’t joyful and fun, then you change it. Play in a different way. And you keep doing this until your play is in fact joyful and fun.
So I encourage you to be playful – as often and as much as you can. In life alchemy / conscious life design and everywhere else, too.
Creating a better life is inherently meaningful, and there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be joyful and fun, too. In fact there’s no reason why your life shouldn’t be joyful and fun, period. So play. Don’t take it too seriously.
Final Words and Further Reading
So now we know a bit more about life alchemy a.k.a. conscious life design. But this article, long though it may be, still leaves us with a few questions that would be nice to have some kind of answer to, some of the most pressing ones being:
• If conscious awareness is so important …
… what exactly is conscious awareness?
… how do we “get” it – how do we raise our consciousness and awareness in practice?
• If authenticity is equally important …
… what exactly does it mean to be authentic?
… how do we become (make ourselves) authentic in practice?
• If what we explore, experiment with and play with in life alchemy is our identity, life, reality and consciousness …
… what are each of those elements (identity, life, reality and consciousness)?
… how, exactly, can we best explore, experiment and play with those elements?
• If our beliefs and assumptions about our identity, life, reality and consciousness are such huge hindrances to breathtaking experiences, profound healing and deep wisdom …
… what exactly are beliefs and assumptions?
… how can we learn more about liberating ourselves from them in practice?
• If inner journeys are such a great tool in life alchemy …
… what is it we can experience on inner journeys?
… how do we do it in practice – going on inner journeys?
• If experiments are so useful and such fun …
… what are the best elements in our lives to experiment with (and how)?
… how do we perform those experiments in practice?
• If play and a playful attitude is as great as I’ve made it out to be …
… what exactly is play?
… how can we integrate play in every aspect of our lives?
Those are some of the subjects I may look into on this website. Once I do, I’ll try to remember to make hyperlinks out of the above questions, so they’ll lead to my version of an answer.
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