THE ALCHEMY OF SELF-TRANSFORMATION:
EXERCISES DEVELOPED FOR PEOPLE SENTENCED TO
Dennis Klocek has developed exercises for prison
inmates waiting for their executions in the U.S. The exercises help the
inmate create active, self-directed inner time during perhaps ten minutes
a day. This introduces a possibility for self-transformation. Anyone can
benefit from these exercises, insofar as we all, as Klocek says, “are in
prison but it is our destiny to fly out on angel wings.” Below are
excerpts from a description of the exercises.
Time’s True Nature Is Freedom
My concept of doing time in prison hinges on the fact that crazy things do
happen to everyone in this world at some time or another. Some individuals
react to this fact in more radically crazy ways than others and then the
thing that is taken away from them by society is access to a true gift
given to human beings - time. The true nature of time is freedom. In their
inner being each human is given time as a free gift of the
To develop a perceptive capacity within the profound and utter
silence of the spirit, we ask what is different (data), what is changing
(process), what has reversed (reversal), and what is the whole (destiny).
This capacity is the root of inner
To be able to live devotedly and attentively for extended periods
in the silence of the spirit is the practice and the goal of the meditant.
All insights come from silence and all images that are received in
meditation are to be dissolved back into the silent, creative darkness
from which the light of understanding flows.
Remembering Our Sacred Mission
Things like working below the minimum wage and slave labor or even having
a boss who is driving us against the wall have a fundamental resentment
regarding the feeling that we could be using our time in a more productive
way. The key to surviving this resentment requires the angry resentful
part of ourselves to get in touch with the free inner part of ourselves,
that is, the free being who lives continually in a timeless world.
Remembering what life was like before things got tight and out of
our control helps the better person in us ask the reactive person in us
some basic questions like, “How did it become like this in my life?” or,
“What would I wish to do better?” or, “How can I survive this without
doing something regretful?” These questions cannot really be answered just
like that. They really do not have any answers, but the secret and
profound value in these questions is in asking them of ourselves on a
regular, rhythmic basis.
However, the one who remembers how the world was when things made
sense may now be buried under tons of anger. So a big task is how to get
in contact with the timeless inner being who is constantly remembering how
it was before life got unpredictable and then employ it to forget the
crazy parts, so that the real “I” can remember its sacred mission to
incarnate. Of course, this is easier said than done.
The goal of this work is to build mental flexibility to be able to
withstand the resentment that can make life an emotional chaos. Without
working on ourselves everyday, going inside of ourselves can be like a
descent into the deepest darkness imaginable. When things start to press
hard in our lives it is beneficial to remember the fact that our inner
being is always living in a timeless realm. If we can get access to that
realm and to that inner being, then time begins to change in our lives.
Actually, time remains as it is, it is our perception of time that we can
change to our benefit.
Alchmical Levels of Practice
Alchemically this work on concentration is the earth stage. I can ask
myself what would I wish to do better in my life. This hard question
brings an earth-like sobriety to my work on myself.
To go to the next level alchemically we need to take the question
into the water mode of consciousness. To do this we can visualize
ourselves doing what we wish we could do. The visualized movements we make
in doing what we would wish to do add a liquid dynamic dimension to our
inner work. I should ask this hard question, what would I wish to do
better in my life, without really expecting an answer, but spend three
minutes each day asking myself questions, then three minutes visualizing
myself doing what I would wish to do “as if” I were actually doing it.
Then I can follow up this question with something like, “Is there anything
today for which I can be grateful?”
The question is the earth, the visualization of the movements is
the water, the silence is the air, the enthusiasm and the will to do this
ten-minute exercise are the fire.
Ten Minutes of Freedom
With these simple things I have a practical, alchemical meditative
practice for ten minutes. These are ten minutes out of my day in which I
am not worrying. If I can ask a question to myself every day then I
develop concentration. If I can visualize myself doing something then I
develop powers of contemplation. If I can think these questions into
silence and be comfortable without getting an answer, I develop patience
in living in the open question with the spirit. If I think of something to
be grateful for, then the gratitude will eventually help me to overcome
slight periods of depression so that I can see my destiny working in my
life. If I cannot think of anything to be grateful for then just asking
the question is steadying and cooling for the mind.
During the whole exercise period no one except yourself is
dictating how you should be using your time. It is time spent in complete
freedom, whether the exercise “works” or not.
No other person or memory or system of power can usurp this
quality time which we are spending with ourselves in these exercises. When
we are doing the exercise there is a feeling as if we are having a talk
with someone we trust. This is not a big-time revelation with light shows
and funky smoke and voices speaking to us. It is just a subtle feeling of
being in a regular conversation with someone we know will never lie to us.
Some cultures call this approaching the Guardian.
© 2002 Dennis Klocek
Dennis Klocek is director of the Goethean Studies
Program at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California. The program is
devoted to self-transformation featuring anthroposophical studies,
alchemical meditative techniques, Goethean based natural science and