Take another slow and conscious bite like you did before with your eyes closed. Pay attention to chewing and tasting and the texture of the food in your mouth. Since healthy physical activity is fundamental to a naturopath's philosophy and treatment approach, this made sense to me--and the idea of testing my mental and physical grit not only sounded exhilarating and empowering, but also seemed a plausible method for staving off declines in both areas. I signed up for survival training school in the woods of Vermont, where I learned to frame a shelter out of twigs and branches and make a sleeping bag out of leaves. But I ended up freezing, exhausted, and confused about how I could adequately take care of myself in the wilderness when I was suffering from MS. Despite what I desperately wanted, I realized that my body wasn't up to the task, and after two weeks I called it quits. Admitting to myself that what had worked for my father was not going to cure my disease, I decided instead that maybe restorative medicine could. I started weekly sessions with an acupuncturist; With full enthusiasm and confidence, I tried it all. I just knew that my story line would be different. And yet during the next three months, my symptoms progressed, and I found myself more fatigued and confused. Merely walking across the living room sapped my energy and strength. And most importantly, is there a divine principle or essence that flows through all of life? If there is, how do we find it? In keeping with the transformational intent and inquiring attitude of all alchemical traditions, Alchemical Healing, the alchemy described in this article, works to transform the suffering of our spiritual, emotional, and physical symptoms into meaningful messages that hold the potential to illuminate the divine purpose of life. The pressing question then, which I hear time and time again in my treatment room, is, Am I living the life I was born to live? Historical Origins Alchemical ideas and practices appear in the mystical traditions and perennial philosophies of a wide variety of cultures between 1000 BCE and 1800 CE. Although many alchemical texts have been lost or destroyed, enough remain to puzzle, entice, and inspire us. Bringing modern-day insight to bear on the still existing texts, we can begin to piece together a coherent view of alchemical consciousness.

Alchemy was the way that human beings in many cultures organized their observations of reality until modern science and dualism overshadowed alchemical awareness. The first stirrings of alchemy arose as shamanism declined during the Bronze Age. Meeting Jonathan that day only confirmed why my outside appearance and achievements mattered so much: if I was going to attract and hold a boy's attention, I needed to be something special. So, I changed my eating habits by reading every single ingredient and food label. I overheard a conversation between my mom and her best friend. Fat makes you fat, one of them said. It was the early 90's and the fat-free craze was in full swing. Learning the skinny on fat was all I needed to know. I ran with this new-found knowledge and determined to never eat fat again. I demonized things like butter, mayonnaise, and even meats. Carbs became my main go to because they were fat-free and therefore must be healthy. One of my aunts grew tired of my ranting and food restricting, so one day she bought me a Godiva ice cream bar and made me eat it in front of everyone. Have you ever wondered how you got here? Your life has evolved into what it is because of every thought, action, and choice you have made in response to the events and information you have experienced. It is important to remember that you are making new choices every single day and your choices can always change as new events and options occur. If you believe you have to stick with the first choice you ever made about something, you can really feel disheartened. Just about every choice in life can be rechosen, and you deserve as much as anyone else to choose the people, places, and activities that give you joy. The more consciously aware you are about your choices, the more successful those choices will be. A lot goes in to making a choice that fits who you truly are. Thoughts, feelings, information, values, expectations, and goals all need to be included in the process.

Too often it is just simpler and quicker to focus on only one or two of these components rather than take the time to fully evaluate what will bring you closer to what you're hoping for. This is a good time to reevaluate your past choices and see whether they are still serving you and moving you toward your life goals. I'm attempting to be a better boss of me. These quotes are who I am, yes, but they're also who I'm trying to be--a person I fall short of being on a rather regular basis. If you don't believe me, ask my husband. He was once so struck by something I said to him in the course of an argument that he immediately wrote it on a scrap of paper and stuck it to our refrigerator, where it stayed for nearly a decade. I'm going to be mad at you for the rest of my life. Except I'm pretty sure I said it in ALL CAPS. With an exclamation point! So you see, I'm very much still a work in progress. Which is exactly what I've known all along--in spite of the tweets, posts, tattoos, quilts, coffee mugs and greeting cards, posters, and needlepoint pillows with my quotes that have cropped up over the past few years. Each time I see words of mine taken up in this way I'm flattered, but surprised. And when I start holding myself accountable, then my problems will start to go away. Five Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable Don't overextend yourself. So often people involve themselves in too many projects. They put their name in the hat or sign up for a new project, saying, I'll be there at this certain time, and they find themselves overly committed. Don't take on more than you can handle. Take action before you speak. Remember that actions speak louder than words.

If your goal is to write a proposal, just start writing it and then tell people about it. Instead of just talking about it, actually jump in and do it. A frustrated spouse might say, you never wash the dishes! Even if you have a legitimate gripe and the other person does often do what you are accusing them of, if you word your complaint this way, you will not get the results you want. This is because you did not voice it in a way that they can receive it. They will hear the always or never part and feel like they are being attacked, and they actually are when this is the approach. When a person is being attacked, they are inevitably going to defend themselves. Their first instinct might be to point out something you do that annoys them, which leads to a completely non-productive conflict where the participants are just throwing darts at one another without hearing what one another is saying. One of the most common reasons people give for a relationship not working out is that they did not feel like they were being heard. If you want someone to receive your complaint, you need to be direct but not unnecessarily harsh. Here's what I mean by that. You want to tell them what behavior bothers you--no more, no less. And once again, chew at least twenty-five times before you swallow. As you finish your snack, experiment with the two approaches and notice the differences between them. Which is more satisfying? By simply raising your awareness and paying attention to the process of chewing and tasting and swallowing, you can transform the simple act of having a snack into a sensual delight. This is the art of mindful eating, and the gateway to enlightenment of which we spoke. The Voice that Tells Us When Also available to us as a path to potential enlightenment is a voice within that speaks to us with certainty and clarity. It is not loud, not aggressive, and consequently, easy to ignore.

But it is accurate, and it guides us perfectly if we will only listen. This voice, among other things, tells us what we need, what we should and should not do, and when we have had enough to eat. A second MRI showed eight new lesions in my brain. Within 12 months I had difficulty urinating, struggled to move my hands, and had to protect them even from benign stimuli like warm water--which would send searing pain up my spine. Playing the piano, one of my favorite activities, was now out of the question. Just tying my shoes took several minutes each--and sometimes more. I returned to my neurologist; I felt like I had failed. Was it because I had eaten cookies a few weeks ago? Was I not mentally strong enough to fight the disease? What kind of naturopath was I? I played a list of questions over and over in my mind. In both the East and the West, the initial movement from the nature-centered unity consciousness of tribal shamanism to the more objective laboratory experimentation of alchemy emerged around 2000 BCE with the development of smelting technologies and embalming techniques. From the first millennium through the Renaissance, alchemy evolved steadily in Egypt, India, China, and Europe as human beings continued to explore their inner and outer worlds. As cultures developed the capacity to work with metals, document their histories, create calendars to predict the movement of the stars, and form vessels that could withstand high heat, a new perception of space and time emerged that included the awareness of past and future, above and below, within and without. People began to relate to the material world differently, to be curious about its properties, and to perform actions that significantly altered their environment. As alchemists explored the outer realm of matter through laboratory technologies, they also became increasingly interested in the possibilities inherent in their own being--the inner laboratory of the soul--and began to create elaborate practices to upgrade the value, durability, and luminosity of their own lives. Chinese alchemy is entwined with the symbols and myths of Taoism, which along with Buddhism and Confucianism, is one of the three main spiritual traditions of China. European alchemy is heavily influenced by the Judeo-Christian mystical traditions; Yet, as I delved deeper into Taoist, European, and other alchemical systems, I discovered overlapping insights, related symbols, and amazingly synchronous practices.