Turning Lead Into Gold: What Medieval Alchemy Can Teach Us About Body Transformation

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As far back as I can remember, I was always fascinated with how things worked. Growing up I have fond memories of taking apart electronics and toys with abandon, and attempting to put them back together – sometimes succeeding, often times making a mess.

I have always been fascinated with the questions of “how things work” and “why they work”?

25-plus-ish years later, I still find myself fascinated with these questions, but rather than dismantling my iMac (lord that would be a disaster), I’m more interested in people, and why as humans, we do the things we do.

Being in the fitness industry for over 10 years, this is a question that pops up for me on the reg – why can some people make radical changes in their lives while others, seem to struggle? I see it. I have clients who take my coaching and advice and run with it, making massive changes in their lives.

One of my clients, who’s been in pain since childhood due to a neurological condition, takes every single piece of advice I give him, every exercise recommendation and every nutrition change, and in the last 4 months, has been pain-free for the first time…in 22 years. The dude is only 30 years old, so for 73.33% of his life, he’s had to learn how to live with daily pain, and being an active guy who enjoys swimming, biking, working out and traveling, this is a milestone. Like, a legit, for real transformation.

However, not all my clients have this radical of a change, even though I know, they all have the potential to. All of them.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

And so do you.

So, what’s the difference then?

How can someone transform their body?

How does a personal actually change their unhealthy habits, into healthy ones?

How can a person truly change their life?

I’ll go out on a limb here and assume that these questions have been and are on a lot of people’s minds because these are the foundational questions of a billion-dollar industry we know as “personal development” or “self-help”.

I originally began my personal development journey as a way to accelerate my career, to be a better manager, trainer, and business person. I was a young 20-something looking to get ahead, make all the money, bring all the boys (and the girls) to the yard, and inspire others to make similar changes in their lives.

And while I am by-far, no where near the upper echelons of the leaders, thinkers and philosphers (past and present) in this industry, I feel as though my experiences and what I’ve learned along my journey may be of some use to you.

Please keep in mind that this is only one way to look at the topic of personal development and transformation. This blog represents a single strand of hay in a quantum-sized hay stack of possibilities. There could be endless reasons why my client has seen such drastic results; I’m merely presenting one perspective.

Since I am writing from the perspective of transforming your body, your habits and your health, you will see that this is the framework that I will approach this blog. Meaning, I will be answering the question of, “What does it take to create a lasting transformation in your body and your health?”

Whether you have dreams of being a person who prioritizes daily exercise and getting consistent with your workouts, or becoming the person who just knows instinctively what to eat without stressing or getting anxious, and if you’ve attempted to, and still find yourself going in circles, I can almost guarantee that 1 or more of the 3 things that is needed for a transformation was not present.

So, what are these 3 things?

Well first, we must understand a little about alchemy.

When we hear the word alchemy, we may think of medieval scientists attempting to turn ordinary metal into gold. That’s what most of us have learned.

However, along my journey (1) I’ve learned that true alchemy is actually an internal process, it’s about changing something about us on the inside into something more powerful.

Rather than turning metal into gold, we are transforming our pain, our shadows, and our challenges into healing, and awakened consciousness, which is our own internal metaphorical “gold”. We are turning ourselves from small sized Mario, into big sized Mario… with the golden star!

From powerless, to powerful.

From victimhood or martyrdom, to empowered and sovereign.

We are taking an aspect of ourselves that may not be serving us anymore (like being inconsistent with workouts, or stress-eating, or judging ourselves) and transforming them into something that does work for us, like self-care, awareness, and compassion.

What we once experienced as a struggle, we can now use as a gateway to transform ourselves.

Chances are, you performed alchemy this morning without even realizing it. See how powerful you are! You were performing magic and didn’t even know it.

One of the easiest everyday examples of this is the process of making tea, or coffee.

In doing so you are transforming an ordinary dry tea bag into a warm, delicious and soothing cup of herbal medicine.

However, could you imagine if you tried making the tea without boiling water? You’d have a pretty pathetic cup of cold, slightly tinted water. Not herbal medicine.

Or, imagine making tea without a cup? You’d have a puddle of steaming liquid dripping down your counter. Again, no transformation and no herbal medicine.

This example of boiling tea is one of the easiest and most understandable ways to begin to think of your own transformations, and the 3 things that are needed, are:

1) A container – In the case of the tea, the container is a mug, or a cup. In the case of your own personal transformation, this could be your gym, your trainer, a coach, a workout group, an online FB accountability group, or even just your awareness.

2) The thing to be transformed – In our example this was the tea bag. For you, this could be an eating habit you desire to change, like skipping breakfast, or stress-eating, or a lifestyle habit that doesn’t work for you any more, like judging yourself for not being perfect, or getting into bouts of self-loathing and victimhood.

3) ENERGY – The energy in our example was the boiling water, and the fire that actually boiled the water. If it were not for the boiling water, our tea would never steep. And in your transformation, without movement, without energy, your desires and your goals will always remain just desires and goals; they will never become actualized. I will also note that the commitment to your intentions can also act as a form of energy.

So how does this translate to your personal transformation?

Let’s use the example of my client above from above.

His container was our client-trainer relationship. Our relationship provided a tight container for his transformation to occur. He knew that he had a weekly appointment to attend, and he knew that he had homework to do on his own.

We laid out a well-developed plan, with the days he would do certain exercises, the days he would rest, the intensity, the time, and the volume. All of these parameters created a container for him so that he knew exactly what to do and when. The container allowed him to stay on a path and not get caught up going in a million different directions.

The thing to be transformed was his pain.

And the energy was the actual workouts, and his intentions. The workouts provided movement (energy) to the equation, while his dedication and intention to heal his pained fueled his internal fire to make a change in his body.

Again, I am not saying that this was the exact or only reason why he’s experiencing a transformation in his life, it’s just one way to look at it.

Any physical transformation that you desire for yourself, all require a container, it requires energy, and it requires something to actually be transformed. 

Here’s how you can use this for your own personal success in your current or future body transformation:

1. Set up a container that will hold you throughout your transformation.

  • Hire a coach
  • Hire a trainer
  • Find a workout partner
  • Join a group with similar goals in mind
  • Share your goals with your closest friends and ask for support
  • Create a sort of accountability system with co-workers or workout partners
  • Keep your goals in your mind, in your awareness, and remind yourself of the thing (the number 3 in this list below) that you want to change.

2. Ensure that you have enough energy to fuel the transformation.

Move your body daily. Even if it’s for 5 minutes. Get up, do something. It could be a walk around the park, on your lunch, a bike ride to work every day, the stairs instead of the elevator, strength training, yoga, cardio, group classes. Move. Every. Damn. Day.

Explore forms of meditation that focus on moving energy (chi, prana, life force) throughout your body. Things like Kundalini yoga and various Reiki practices can help. (If you’re interested in this and want to talk more about it, let’s set up a time to chat.)

There is nothing more debilitating to your transformation than stuck, stale energy. And learning how to move and channel your energy without always having to workout intensely is one of the greatest skills you can learn while you’re incarnated as a human here on Earth. This is why I strongly recommend to explore the energetic system, and various energetic practices to see what works for you.

Along with actual movement, whether that’s physically or energetically, setting clear intentions on what you want to transform and using this as a mantra on a daily basis, will act as kindling to the fire you have inside to change.

Without going off on a tangent about mantras here, one way to approach this is to think of your end goal as already happening, and state it out loud to yourself as a way to train your brain to believe that it’s already here. If you desire to become a person who wants to feel stronger, and happier in your body, a simple mantra like, “Every day I choose to become stronger and happier with my body.”

3. Be SMART with your goals.

When it comes to setting goals, I find that clients often think in very broad brush strokes: I want to feel better. I want to look better. I want to be more fit.

However, without setting clear, specific and realistic goals, it may seem like we will always be on the chase. Without knowing exactly what it is you desire, you’ll never actually know it when you get it. What does feeling better actually mean? What does being fit actually mean? Be specific.

I know it may seem a bit jaded, but using the SMART system for goal setting is a great place to start. Another, more feeling-based way to approach goal setting, (and one in which I feel works well with SMART goals) is a process developed by Danielle LaPorte called Core Desired Feelings. “Goals with soul” as she calls it, and you can read more about it here.

However you decide to set them, choose a system that feels good for you.

And now, I will wrap up this post with a bit of encouragement and some real-life talk about the process of internal alchemy and personal transformation.

And that is:

Don’t give up. Shit’s gonna get real. And shit is no doubtely gonna go down. Whether you are embarking on a fitness transformation or total life transformation, you will be confronted with challenges –  your beliefs about yourself will be challenged,  your current patterns of living will be challenged, and it may even feel like you’re dying at times. And that’s OK, it’s part of the process.

Because the truth is, there is a sort of mini-death of old patterns and beliefs that occurs whenever you are making a huge life change.

You gotta clear the old to make room for the new.

And like in alchemy, without the fire, nothing changes, which means, if you truly want things to change, things are gonna fire UP, so get used to the heat.

The Phoenix would never have risen had there not been a fire.

Be patient with yourself. This process is not going to happen over night. Real transformation is a process, a seemingly never ending cycle of birth and re-birth, of death and re-incarnation. This path and this process is not linear, there is no starting and ending point, just a continuous cycle of growth and decay.

You are whole and exactly where you need to be, doing exactly the thing you need to be doing, with the people you need to be doing them with. I whole-heartedly believe that life is always sending us the people, places, and circumstances we need for our soul to evolve.

The question is: Are you willing to look at your life with the eyes of curiosity and acceptance, that all things happening are here for your highest good?

Know there is absolutely nothing wrong with you and you aren’t fucking up if things don’t seem “perfect” (when in fact they already are) or missing out on anything that you don’t truly need.

I trust that there is a reason why you are reading this, and trust that if you made it to end of this post, that you are receiving what you need to be getting out of this.

And if you have any questions, comments, insights or your own personal reflections, I want to hear them, you can leave them in the comment section below or personally email me through the contact page with your musings.

1. The greatest teachers who have had an intensely profound impact along my path, showing me unconditional love and support, have been these amazing, beautiful, and powerful beings:  Jen Blackstock, Nisha Moodley, Elayne Kalila Doughty, along with every single person to have walked with me in this life, and all of life’s initiations.

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