The Alembic Brew
Here is a secret: the Alembic universe is actually a multiverse. We do not hang our hats on one teaching, one practice, or one belief about the best way to engage reality or to catalyze transformation. Instead, we are committed to cultivating a grounded but open-minded approach that involves an array of methods, stories, paths, and transformative possibilities, old and new. Spiritual authoritarianism is a real problem, especially when the old guideposts collapse, so we take inspiration from a classic slogan of the human potential movement: No-one captures the flag. Diversity and balance, not to mention some good taste, makes for a rich and nourishing brew.
The Alembic brew is just starting to bubble, and we still have a ways to go to get to the perfect blend. It’s a creative work in progress! But we do know what our four cooking methods are:
Our approach to meditation is largely rooted in Eastern traditions but makes room as well for Western contemplative practices, contemporary innovations, and discoveries drawn from neuroscience. We know that meditation can provide healing and pleasure, and even a distinct cognitive edge in our increasingly confusing and stressful world. But we understand those gifts within a deeper framework that embraces the core values of awakening, insight, visionary encounter, and transformative compassion.
Alchemy teaches that spirit and matter are deeply intertwined. At the Alembic, physical movement is as important as meditation, and both our programs aim for variety and experiment. So while we hope to continue offering popular practices like vinyasa yoga and qigong, our program will stretch to include dance, somatics, energy work, and the sort of interactive movement practices rarely found at spiritual centers. Nobody knows what a body can do!
Imagination is a core feature of consciousness, whether we regard it in psychological, aesthetic, or esoteric terms (or maybe all three!). Imagination is how we dream ourselves into the world with others, human and nonhuman, earthly and cosmic. Without the richness and surprise of the imagination, our practice is also likely to be dry, dogmatic, and not much fun. A commitment to the imagination means a commitment to creative innovation, to the arts, to throwing good parties, and to cultivating and expressing our own visionary capacities, whether through poetry workshops, tantric breathwork, or psychoactive ceremonies.
Perhaps our favorite term for the path is inquiry. Inquiry implies a curious and courageous enjoyment of experiment and investigation, whether we are probing our feelings, assessing claims made by spiritual teachers, deconstructing the self, or encountering the world around us. Inquiry respects both the mystery — the koan of reality — and the amazing fact that sometimes we get answers and know stuff. Inquiry is open, but it is also discerning. Yoga mats and toad venom may be valuable spiritual technologies, but nothing beats a good bullshit detector. That’s why we also love the methods of science — an alembic, remember, is a laboratory instrument.