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“Wherever pain seems to operate, the presence of God is.” I remember hearing this quote a long time ago; so long ago that I can’t even remember wherefrom, or who said it. I didn’t really understand it at first, either; not for many years actually. Wherever pain seems to operate…hmmm, yes…profound…

I liked it so much, though, I wrote it down as an affirmation. It would come up periodically in my affirmation card rotation, so I would say it religiously (and still do to this day), often pondering its meaning, and how it might be applied to my life on a practical level.

I do not necessarily see this as a specific religious, or better yet, denominational, statement, even though the reference to God is made. I think one could just as easily substitute Yahweh, or Allah, or Krishna, or the Universe, or anything of meaning to the sayer, quite honestly, as it is the essence, I believe, that matters. It speaks of omnipresence, yes, and maybe that’s obvious, but again it’s the practicality to my life that hits home.

Every seven to ten years we go through major life shifts which, as unsettling as they may be at the time, create the necessary dynamics that allow us to step into the next phase of our destiny. Like all things, our lives experience fluctuations—momentary victories, successes and support, as well as challenges, failures…defeats—both sides necessary for our growth and fulfillment in life.

At first glance, we may perceive any particular challenge as a very bad turn of events, something we wouldn’t wish on anybody for the pain; but what these moments really are, in the big picture, are catalysts for change. You see, most experiences that catapult us into the next major phase of our lives require pain. Without it, we probably wouldn’t change very much. Who the heck wants to change when things are going well? It’s the rare bird who purposefully looks for heartache so that he or she may grow (they do exist; just rare, that’s all).

If you look back on your life, you will see these major shifts that have occurred in cycles, each one being shrouded in pain. Without a doubt, we also have many minor shifts in between, but you’ll probably agree that the growth in those cases is more steady than steep. Then along comes a doozy—a death, a divorce, a bankruptcy—and you might even think that your heart is going to condense and sink so deep into your abdomen that you’ll be vomiting any minute…and frankly, some people do.

But it’s these moments that truly define us. That’s another saying I didn’t really get right off the bat, as I thought it was just more pressure to act “in the right way,” whatever that might be. But because we must, by necessity, transcend the experience to grow—to evolve—then of course these shifts define us. We are never the same after these major life shifts, because as painful as they are, they are necessary to complete our destiny—and our destiny is our life.

The all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever present is the source of our experiences. We may not know how any particular one is going to turn out, but in the infinite, it is already done. I like to play a game and mentally expand myself so that I can see down on a smaller version of my life, like viewing an ant farm perhaps. But also to be able to see it in four dimensions, which includes time, such that on the far left of the image is my youth, and on the far right is my future. I’m in a sort of cosmic helicopter looking down at the traffic, and I can see how what I am doing yesterday actually leads to where I am today, in the same way a traffic chopper might see the development of a traffic jam as it is happening. When taken from this context, it’s pretty easy to understand how all my challenges have led to amazing growth in my life. In fact, if it weren’t for the deaths, divorces or bankruptcies, I wouldn’t be who I am today; I wouldn’t do what I do, or have what I have. And I’d be a fool to not be grateful for all of it.

But have it, I wouldn’t without the pain. Wherever pain seems to operate, the presence of God is. Oh yes, I get it… We do have a destiny, and all this on the left of the ant farm is necessary for all this on the right of the ant farm to happen. I get it…yes.

And I can look still farther to the right, even though it is clouded…but I am able to use my imagination. And I can be confident that whatever turmoil I have today, I am being led to where I need to be tomorrow. It’s destiny fulfillment. The all-knowing knows even when I don’t. But now I understand that wherever pain seems to operate, even in the moments of my greatest distress, the presence of God is…and it’s called growth—a part of the cyclical nature of all things.

They are like dreams or flowers in air:  foolish to try to grasp them.

Gain and loss, right and wrong:  such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

~ Hsin Hsin Ming (606AD)

Two years ago I was embroiled in a vicious lawsuit that started to turn me sour. I was freaked out by the majority of it, but particularly by the financials, as the costs really began to soar. The amount of time and work I had invested had become overwhelming. It involved another professional, someone with whom I had a history, and not a particularly good one, either. Obvious or not, we were in a lawsuit against each other, and so the bad blood was flowing.

This piece is about a universal truth—that there is no gain or loss in the universe. As an ancient principle, understood by the Zen masters, it is backed today by the known physical laws. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy in a closed system (the universe) can neither be created nor destroyed—it can only transform. It is called a conservation law, because along with mass, momentum, angular momentum and charge, we recognize that certain properties of the universe remain invariable.

Another physical principle relevant to our discussion today is mass-energy equivalence. Made famous by the equation E=mc2, it states that mass and energy are interchangeable—each one a property of the other. In other words, all things that have mass also contain energy, and all things energetic have a particle equivalent. These two principles are at the root of what I wish to convey: You can never lose a thing. All mass and energy are conserved in the universe—therefore, loss is an illusion.

Seeing the Other Side

When we perceive that we have lost something, we are simply not seeing the other side. We become blind—or ignorant—to the gain portion of the equation; in other words, we don’t see where we are gaining. This ignorance actually keeps us down—it keeps us stagnant. If we were to just look hard enough, bearing in mind the law of conservation, and thus, that the other side must exist—we would eventually find it. And as a result, we would grow. The Ancient Chinese called it Tao or “The Way”…and within it lay the understanding that gain and loss are just illusions.

Most of us come to the realization, over time, that “all was not lost.” For some of us, we have to stretch the imagination to pretend like we haven’t lost that much, yet I would argue that this approach is still operating within the perspective of gain-and-loss. The real power comes from seeing the two sides present in the moment, during the chaos and the uncertainty. If successful, the end-result is expansion—of our character, of our mind, and of our spirit. Believe me, it’s worth the effort to look.

During my own dilemma, I was stressed out because I believed that I was losing a load of money (the bills were in the tens of thousands). Also, things were getting down and dirty—I saw more of the dark side of the legal world than had I ever imagined, or cared to, and was resentful because it was a lesson that I wasn’t actively seeking.

And the time! I had invested long hours compiling paperwork and helping put together the details of the case; it was not insignificant, especially since I had a thriving chiropractic practice to run, and my business was getting busier by the day.

The Balance

Then it hit me—my business is getting busier every day. Wait…I knew the principle…I just wasn’t applying it. No gain, no loss…where was the transformation? Well, my practice had picked up massively since the start of the case, and I was earning far more than the lawsuit was costing (I paid the difference in pain, if you’re wondering about the balance).

I kept looking. Oh yes, I was also experiencing far fewer problems with insurance companies, dissatisfied clients or staff; in fact, life at the office was unusually smooth. I kept looking: My home life had become rather tame too—no drama from mama or the girls—shoot, I couldn’t complain about any of that!

I kept looking. Well, the education I was receiving about life, about the law, and about a reality that we all have to face at one time or another—that people have conflict, and the legal system is the customary route for solving disputes (well, better than a duel, anyway), and therefore, nearly impossible to avoid—it was probably more than I could ever pick up in a book or classroom.

So even though I ended up losing the case, my business grew and so did my income; I was wiser, and thus, that much more influential, and I expanded in character and awareness—that was worth it to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. I got to see the law of conservation up close and personal, and I am convinced of its universality.

One can even change one’s awareness with regard to the perceived loss of people—but that is for another piece altogether. Just know that the first law of thermodynamics always applies—that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; no gain, no loss—and so our loved ones are all around us, all the time. It’s simply our illusions that keep us from seeing so.


Are life’s modern-day challenges harder to tackle than those of yesteryear? That’s the question mental health experts are asking, as a recent study shows that five times more high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues than youth of the same age decades ago.

The study did a comparative analysis of a popular psychological questionnaire used as far back as 1938 and found that more students today struggle with the stresses of school and life in general. Researchers at five universities analyzed the responses of 77,576 high school and college students who, from 1938 through 2007, took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Overall, an average of five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health categories, compared with those who did so in 1938. Some of the increases were even higher in some categories:

  • hypomania,” a measure of anxiety and unrealistic optimism (from 5 percent of students in 1938 to 31 percent in 2007)
  • depression (from 1 percent to 6 percent)
  • and “psychopathic deviation,” which is loosely related to psychopathic behavior and is defined as having trouble with authority and feeling as though the rules don’t apply to you (from 5 percent in 1938 to 24 percent in 2007).

Lead author of the study, Jean Twenge, who wrote a book on the influence of pop culture on the mental health of young people titled, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” believes that the growing interest in being rich amongst the nation’s youth has a big part to play in the study’s findings.

Experts say that such high expectations only lead to disappointments. They also note that some well-meaning but overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping skills, like handling emotional challenges or even balancing their checkbooks. Says Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Motefiore Medical Center in New York City, “If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Students themselves put the blame on everything from pressure to succeed–self-imposed and otherwise–to keeping up with technology as the causes of increased mental stress. Sarah Ann Slater, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Miami stated, “The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age–that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success–not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money.”

A New Jersey mother whose daughter is being treated for depression said, “I don’t remember it being this hard. We all wanted to be popular, but there wasn’t this emphasis on being perfect and being super skinny.”

The study’s findings, however, do not prove any correlation between pop culture pressures and mental stress. And it is not without its critics, either: Richard Shadick, a psychologist who directs the counseling center at Pace University in New York states that the sample data weren’t necessarily representative of all college students (Many who answered the MMPI questionnaire were students in introductory psychology courses at four-year institutions). Also, the increased numbers may simply reflect a heightened awareness of mental health services and treatments–like pharmaceuticals–available.

I believe that today’s youth are facing challenges that earlier generations didn’t have to contend with. That’s certainly no surprise to me. Young people of the 1950s were dealing with very different–and I’m certain perceptively greater–challenges than the youth of 1776. Things change, the world changes, and it happens faster every generation. It seems only natural, then, that the faster things evolve, the harder it will be for everyone to deal with these rapid changes. I’m not trying to minimize things here–I just think that it sounds fairly logical that new generations will have their hands full with the world of their era. Whether or not these challenges lead to increased mental health stresses over previous generations is debatable, especially since the mental health field has evolved along with everything else.

What it really says to me is two things. One, mental health is as important as it always will be, since our minds are integral to every aspect of our being. If we don’t have our perceptions in balance, havoc will wreak on our health and our lives. Therefore, obtaining mental balance is critical. If you or your child are having trouble finding this balance, contact me, I can help.

And two, it really brings up the point of having realistic goals and expectations. College does not ensure financial success. Nor does what you see on T.V. constitute reality (despite the moniker as such). If you can’t explain to your kids that success–financial or otherwise–requires a marketable product or service and super-hard work, not a four day work week, not six weeks vacation, not a French-style social system (go ahead, ask your French friends their opportunity for financial freedom and wealth), then, really, it’s your burden to bear when they can’t hack the pressure.

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