From the yearly archives: "2012"

Christmas tree (Copy)Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my mind, a question began stirring, of what the function the Christmas holiday might hold to the human psyche and development. Now why, I wondered, have we continued to practice this ritual for all of two millennia. No doubt that, for some, a real significance lies in the religious traditions that Christmas is said to represent today. But for anybody who takes the time to look into the history of the practice will find that what we currently celebrate is very different from what has been practiced throughout the ages. This, however, does not mean that in and of itself the ritual of Christmas celebration isn’t important to the human mind and soul. On the contrary, this holiday is one of the most important rituals we have for keeping us attached to our humanity—a necessary undertaking in an era when intellectual and technological advances pose a real threat to human social unity.

Winter_solsticeThe Christmas holiday has its roots in Pagan traditions. Early Europeans celebrated the winter solstice—the point of lowest solar altitude above the horizon—as this time meant that the days would gradually grow shorter and the nights longer. The Yule log was burned in Pagan Scandinavia as a way to celebrate the return of the sun, while some of the foods we consider traditional Christmas fare, as well as the Christmas tree (15th century), came from the early traditions of Germany. The Roman celebration of Saturnalia is where the gift-giving tradition of Christmas began.

Christmas, like all rituals, was an important way to unify people. Many would starve to death during the rough days of winter, when food was scarce, so that groups ultimately learned to cultivate their food and drink, including spirits, and fresh meats from slaughtered cattle, so that the winter celebrations were true feasts to honor a successful harvest. The yearly rhythm of the winter rituals kept people connected to the perpetual cycles of nature—the annual seasons, the changing length of daylight, and the life cycle itself. In this way, the internal clock or biorhythms were set both in the psyche and the physiology, and eventually in the culture as a whole.

pagan ritual (Copy)

The evolution of the Christian version of Christmas didn’t fully take hold until the 19th century, although it had transformed slowly over the previous two hundred years. But even in this version, which became a little less festive than the earlier celebrations, as they brought the tradition from outdoors in nature to inside the home, it was still a way to celebrate new beginnings—the coming of the Sun—although this Son was now the symbol of divinity, and not merely a cycle of nature.

Nativity-Wallpaper-05 (Copy)Whichever form of winter celebration we consider, each has held a function of bringing individuals together to strengthen the group. While every person is unique and important as an individual, by virtue of being the planet’s most social species, we derive our greatest powers by working together in groups; and thus a tradition like Christmas, a ritual in its most fundamental sense, strengthens societies and cultures, creating cohesion of beliefs, understanding and gratitude for nature, life and divinity—all aspects of humanity that we can easily overlook in our day-to-day lives.

As civilization advances intellectually and technologically, we become vulnerable to the paradox of being both better connected, yet also more isolated. Man and machine will evolve together as an inevitable consequence of expanding intelligence, but that is where the risk of losing touch with our humanity will be the greatest. It will be so easy to become enamored with our expanding capabilities, to the degree that we may think that the symbiosis of man and machine transcends our natural and divine heritage. But this will be a mistake, because as far as we can surmise, machine intelligence will have the capacity to far exceed our own, rapidly, and we will never know what that might ultimately bring.

Confucius (Copy)Only by keeping in touch with our humanity will we preserve the wits and caution to remain the dominant species on the planet, and thus assure our continued existence. It is in our daily, monthly, and yearly rituals that we best keep connected to our humanity, and unity of species. The great sage Confucius understood the importance of ritual, and he taught it fervently; for through ritual we become and remain virtuous in character. It was his version of maintaining humanity, although I cannot imagine he would have predicted his ideas being pondered in terms of machine dominance. But timeless wisdom is pertinent in any circumstance, and thus the Confucian idea of maintaining and honoring ritual is universal in its applicability.

So Christmas has a function that goes well beyond what we tend to think of it as—it is more than just a celebration, and more than an honoring of a fruitful harvest, or the birth of savior. Like every ritual in which humans engage, it is a way of connecting on a deeper level of unity to one another, to nature, and to our divine essence—to the great organizing intelligence of the universe, and our place within it. This is why our winter ritual of honoring the cycles of life should not—and will not—ever die, because it is a celebration of being a part of the divine nature of the universe.

Maintaining humanity (Copy)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Oh the holidays—a time for joy, and a time for stress. From office parties to last minute shopping, the holidays can be taxing to some. But the stress I observe the most in people passing through my health practice revolves around their discipline, or lack thereof, for moderation when it comes to indulging in the temptations waiting at the banquet table (or bar) during the holiday season.

I fully understand this stress, as I’ve been there plenty of times myself. Abstinence is not always an easy option, though; especially if you wish to keep your friends. I mean how do you refuse food and drink during these merriest of times? Frankly, your holiday diet will have little meaning to most party hosts, let alone other guests who can’t understand why you won’t try even one of those little powdered cookies. And what merit will it have for you, anyway, when the eggnog comes a-calling? No matter how you slice it, the pressure will be on.

But for you, the body you’ve worked on so hard over the summer does matter, and as we all know, a moment on the lips…

I am, therefore, going to share with you a couple possible solutions to this common holiday problem, which should help ease the stresses involved in choosing between your palate and your physique.

Solution #1: Utmost Discipline

The first is practicing the utmost moderation and discipline. It is simply saying, “No”—no to the cookies, no to the second cocktail, no to the extra plate of food—which will require a Herculean stoutness, as temptations have a way of preoccupying one’s mind. But if you are firm in your convictions, of what you are striving for, then you can focus on that, and it should help you overcome most persuasions.

To master the mind in this capacity, I suggest writing down fifty to one hundred ways in which practicing restraint can help you achieve your goals. Whether that goal is to maintain your figure or to preserve vitality, whatever we want badly enough (our values) has a way of keeping us on purpose, despite temptations. And by putting pen to paper, not only will you establish it firmly in your mind, but the process of writing has a profound ability to make things happen. Some have said that nothing exists until it is written down.

Although this first option of practicing discipline is by far the more boring of the two, in some regards it may be the best for your health. And in the big picture, practicing discipline is the best approach toward mastering your life. But it is also the more immediately difficult of the two options, and if you can’t seem to hold yourself to it, then you’ll want to try option number two.

Solution #2: Moderation & Exercise

The second potential solution is for you to sustain your exercise regimen throughout the holiday season. Although continuing to exercise will not counter the effects of eating too much sugar or drinking too much alcohol, it will most certainly help you preserve two important factors: your figure and the habit of exercising.

I find that the single most detrimental behavior during the holidays is allowing oneself to get too busy to exercise. Put simply: You can’t have your Christmas cake and eat it too. In other words, you cannot both drop your discipline at the banquet table, and the gym, and not expect to suffer the consequences. The reason so many people resort to the New Year’s “weight-loss resolution” is that they feel guilty over giving in to all their indulgences over the holidays. Why waste time with another unresolved New Year’s fantasy? If you must give in, then simply stick to your workout regimen. I assure you that, at the very least, it will subdue some of the guilt that has people stressing the most over the holidays—that they are undoing what they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Listen, I have lived a life of excess, as well as an undisciplined life. I remember the self-defeating thoughts that followed the few weeks of giving in to my indulgences. It becomes a vicious cycle—feel like dirt, beat yourself up, indulge in defeat, feel more like dirt, and so on. I personally do not advocate complete abstinence, because I believe that this frame of mind has the highest probability of leading to binge and purge behavior—not the best habit for one’s health.

I am much more supportive of the moderation-is-best mentality, as well as maintaining health habits whenever possible, particularly when one area may get challenged, like during the holidays.

3 Choices…

So, ultimately, you have three choices: Practice the utmost discipline, and put not one cookie crumb to mouth, practice moderation and continue to exercise diligently throughout the holidays, or do neither and stress out. For my money, I’d enjoy the holidays in full-but-modest-fashion, and simply work out regularly the way I always do (but not more), so that when the festivities are over, I am still in my groove, and I don’t have to fantasize about all the weight I am going to lose in the New Year. Happy Holidays.

Let’s talk about judgment. Everybody has an idea of what they think this is. Some even feel that it is a virtue to try and remove judgment from our lives. “Judge not that ye be not judged,”* as if judgment is something we can function without. Hopefully, I will be able to convince you that not only can you forget about removing the vital process of judgment from your life, but that you would be wise to understand it, embrace it, and then see the whole picture masked by the illusion of a one-sided universe created in the mind. If you can do this, you will see an effective method for transcending your momentary judgments, and board a launching pad to jump into your next level of awareness.

Try as we might, we cannot escape judgment—not our own, and not that of others. Judgment, at its most basic, is a way to categorize the world around us. The sky is up and the ground is down: this is a judgment we make unconsciously every moment. If your feet are up and your head is down, you are either doing a handstand or free-falling, both of which require your brain to be in complete awareness. This type of judgment is based on neurology, physics and language—that is, what we have decided to call something that we all experience and agree upon.

We do it with people too, although it isn’t as clear-cut. He’s nice; she’s mean. He looks shady and dangerous; I think I’ll walk on the other side of the street. She’s only interested in money, or her looks, or whatever else our mind tells us about that person. This is a normal and necessary function; it allows us to walk through life, making decisions that could affect our very survival. These types of judgments are not based solely on absolutes, but instead on a number of factors including upbringing, past experiences and even book, newspaper or teacher learning.

Events and experiences are subject to our judgments, as well. This experience was bad, that one good—again, we base these judgments on a number of factors. If you think about it, though, you’ll see that these types of judgments are purely perceptual. Were the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers good or bad? Well that depends on which side you are viewing it from. As horrifying as they were for most people in the western world, many in the Middle East celebrated it. And this is true of every event. From lawsuits, to fistfights, to simple descriptions of common everyday occurrences, some people will see things one way, while others see it another way.

This brings up a deep philosophical question—are there absolutes when it comes to making judgments? Plenty of people will argue that there are; however, you will agree that no matter what transpires in the world, there is a group that sees it through their perspective, and another that sees it a different way. My point is this: We make judgments based on our values. They are necessary for us to navigate through life. You will never be without judgment because it is as vital to your survival as breathing is. Every conscious creature no matter where it stands on the evolutionary chain has to make judgments all the time. Is that food or is it death? Is it safe to come out of hiding? If I make this decision, how will it affect the rest of my life, or my family, or the world around me? Truth is we are judging all the time.

But even in its necessity, our minds’ propensity to judge is not presenting us with the full reality. In actuality, there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad—it comes down to what serves us in the moment. And this is based on our values. Predator captures prey, has a meal and lives another day—good for the predator, bad for the prey. The boyfriend or girlfriend that breaks up with you, is he or she nice or mean? Perhaps you judge them as mean in your initial assessment, but as it allows you to move on with your life and meet your future spouse…well, ha ha…I guess that can go either way, too.

Better to understand that judgment is a process of the mind, and that no event is either good or bad until we judge it. And further, if you look hard enough, you will see that all events have both advantages and disadvantages to everyone involved. This is tricky, and no doubt that everyone reading this can come up with their “absolute” examples to try and disprove what I am saying. But if you look hard enough you will find that even in those things you come up with, as with everything that has ever happened in your life which you have consequently labeled as either good or bad, has a flip side to it that gives an advantage or opportunity, along with an associated disadvantage or closed door.

By seeking and finding how every event that you judge has the equal and opposite side to it, you will see the totality of the universe. Whether we are talking about people or experiences, by seeing the full spectrum, outside of your momentary and one-sided judgments, it allows you to make leaps in your consciousness. In fact, I am certain that we all do this all the time, and it is how we ultimately grow into our next level of awareness. Once we are able to get over the initial hurt of a breakup, and see how it is serving us to move on with our lives and into something more useful for the moment, we transcend the hurt. Who hasn’t done this? Okay, no doubt some people are slower to see than others, which, if nothing else, has helped make daytime talk shows popular; but in the big picture, we all eventually see some things in their completeness.

I believe that the wisest thing to do is seek the whole as quickly as possible. Not only does it allow you to shed the pains that may be keeping you from moving forward, but it also allows you to see a larger sphere of truth. Truth isn’t only present in the judgment itself—a half-truth at best—but in the full picture, including the parts our minds are concealing.

Seek to find the whole in your experiences and you will leap into a new level of awareness and consciousness. Don’t beat yourself up for judging, though, because we need to do so for survival, and as a way to guide us into the next stage of learning. But look for the other side, no matter how hard your mind tries to resist, because I assure you it’s there. When you find it, you will have an “a-ha moment,” and you will see the magnificence of the universe open up to you briefly…and then it’s on to the next judgment.

So maybe we can stop striving to “not judge” and instead accept judging as a part of the human condition, one rooted in evolution and a necessity for our very survival. But we also do not have to become slaves to our half-truth judgments. By seeking the hidden part, the one our mind is blocking, we see the whole truth, and this allows us to move into the next stage of our own evolution.

*I realize this is a misinterpretation of an oft-misinterpreted quote, but I am merely using it to make a point.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions;” ever hear that one? No? How ’bout: Don’t eat wild vegetation indiscriminately. And another oldie but goodie: If you are a caretaker of others, do not experiment with their health. Oh yeeeeeah, timeless wisdom all; and all appropriate to this story: A third person has now died in a California nursing home, apparently the victim of an accidental poisoning from wild mushrooms.

According to the California state Department of Social Services, a 90-year-old man died on Saturday at a senior care facility where a caretaker found the fungus in the backyard and used it to make soup. The Gold Age Villa in Loomis, California (near Sacramento) has reported three deaths (the others, women aged 86 and 73) from the homemade soup served on November 8, and it is being described as a terrible accident. The caretaker at the six-bed care facility did not know the mushrooms were poisonous, investigators said. The following day, those who ate the soup were ill.

The symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea–typical body responses in an attempt to expel toxic substances. Because symptoms related to mushroom toxicity can take up to 12 hours to surface, it can make it difficult to diagnose. Says Dr. Kent R. Olson, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System, “People don’t necessarily make a connection right away,” unlike food poisoning, which comes on much more quickly.

Signs that a mushroom may be poisonous

The main problem with mushroom poisoning is that it attacks the liver, halting  normal protein production, and eventually shutting the organ down and causing death.

“Once that happens the liver can’t regenerate, so they go into a liver failure,” Olson said. “It’s quite dramatic.”

Treatment for mushroom poisoning is to give massive amounts of IV fluids to prevent kidney failure, and activated charcoal to absorb the poison. In the past, the mortality rate was as high as 90% worldwide. But with the supportive care, Olson said it has declined in recent years to about 15%. This depends on proper diagnosis, and, of course, time.

In Northern California, it’s the season for wild chanterelle mushrooms (a highly sought-after variety) and for the amanita species of mushrooms that include what are known as “death cap” and “death angel” varieties–probably something to know if one is going to prepare foraged food.* Young poisonous North American amanitas often look like an edible version of a wild mushroom popular in Asia. Olson said they grow in large numbers in the San Francisco Bay area around Sacramento and in the Sierra foothills.

Listen, this is a tragedy, and I am certain it is a common mistake. In fact, California recorded 1,700 cases of mushroom-related illnesses from 2009 to 2010, including two deaths. However, the state Department of Public Health periodically issues warnings about consumption of wild mushrooms, especially after someone eats a poisonous variety. But why not just keep things simple? Stick to foods you buy at the grocery store or farmers markets, or at the very least ones you grow yourself, but that you’ve, of course, researched and know well. Otherwise, stick to the domesticated variety.

Further, if you are going to experiment, then uh…you taste first…and then give it twenty-four hours. That way you won’t harm those entrusting you with their care. And finally, we all know that most of us want to do the right thing; but no need to reinvent the wheel. Just stick to the tried and true, and leave the wild mushrooms to foraging animals. Believe me, if they were edible, something would have probably gotten to it before you. Their presence alone should be warning enough.

*If you must forage, please educate yourself first: A simple Google search provided me with guide in 0.18 seconds

Surprise, surprise…Americans are getting just as many calories from booze as they are from soda. And being of the “empty” variety, calories from both booze and soda add to the girth without adding to energy stores. A government study released today has implicated alcoholic beverages for 5% of the average American’s daily caloric intake, while sodas make up 6%. But what’s the big deal? None really…except that overweight or obese Americans now make up over 60% of the population!

Think about that–being overweight or obese is the norm in the U.S. And while many heads are pounding trying to figure out one extravagant reason or another, it’s really no big mystery to me, as I’ve written extensively about it in this blog. In my 2008 book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I described the role booze plays in weight gain,

With alcohol providing about seven calories per gram, one might mistake it for a great energy source. However, alcohol is metabolized far too slowly for it to be an efficient fuel; and therefore, it is simply converted to fat and stored. Alcohol is also very high in calories compared to carbohydrates and proteins (four calories per gram apiece), which makes it nothing more than an excellent source of weight gain. Unfortunately alcohol has no nutritional value whatsoever–no vitamins, no minerals, nothing—so the pounds it provides come without the added benefits found in food…as a dietary staple, alcohol provides little by way of nutrition.

The study found:

  • On any given day, about one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.
  • Averaged out to all adults, the average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.
  • The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.
  • Men drink mostly beer. For women, there was no clear favorite among alcoholic beverages.
  • There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting more of it away.

For reference, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories, slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.

Now let me make something perfectly clear here, something I have also been very open about in this blog: I do not advocate the government placing restrictions on the sale or consumption of either alcohol or soft drinks, as New York has done. In fact, I find it ludicrous. When people need their government to step in and prevent them from becoming fat…well, that’s just pathetic. People need to wake the eff up! I’m telling you right now that booze puts on weight without any nutritional benefit. Sure, getting a buzz on is fun, but if you do it anything more than occasionally, expect to get fat, simple as that. The younger you are, the stronger the illusion of this not happening to you. I promise you with all certainty that if you drink more than occasionally, and you do it for long enough, you will wake up fat one day. G’head…prove me wrong. You’ll lose.

But, no, governments shouldn’t be stepping in and mandating smaller drinks any more than they should have done with sodas. But you might just see this become a new controversy, because as Americans continue to blow up, the powers that be will grasp for anything to try and slow it down. So drink sizes in New York may be next—you may be drinking draft beer out of shot glasses (for $20 a pop) before you know it. Just pointing out the absurdity of regulating what people do with their own bodies, that’s all.

In the end, it’s up to you. Starts with information, so now you know. Booze adds empty calories and anything more than an occasional buzz-up will lead to fatness. Your choice. But don’t cry later and demand the government abolish everyone’s’ rights to drink to fatness, because you knew. Okay that’s all, folks…

If you own a company but are not on social media, then you are hurting your business. If you are in health care but not on social media, or on social media but not very active, then you, too, are hurting your business. The world is changing and doing so rapidly. Social media, review sites and smartphones are all part of the new technology shaping the world today. And if you are not on that train, then…well, you are being left behind.

Mass marketing through advertising is the old way, and if you don’t have a few million bucks to spend, then you are just not reaching people with that medium. And even for big companies that have that kind of money—the Coca Colas, Fords, and Starbucks of the world—social media is a HUGE part of their marketing plan. Why? Because social media is where the people be hangin’.

As a result, today’s marketing requires person-to-person interaction. People want to engage with companies, professionals and artists—they want personal attention, as personal attention builds trust. Why would anybody today want to do business with you, or listen to what you have to say, if you don’t give them personal attention, but your competitor does? Listen, economics are tight all over and people want to spend their money most effectively. The way people, today, feel most confident in doing so is through personal attention and interaction.

Enter social media—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube—sources anybody can use to connect to companies, celebrities, journalists, athletes, teachers, professionals—you name it. And that includes you. Website magazine recently reported that people who engage with companies on social media spend 20-40% more money with those companies than do other customers. That’s huge!

But not just businesses—anybody with an inspired message can use social media to influence others. Be it a political campaign (just ask President Barack Obama, a Twitter master), a charitable cause, or a world changing idea (like Changing the Way the World Thinks About Health™), nothing has been more important in leveling the playing field for marketing and message-spreading.

Health care providers absolutely need to be on social media, specifically Twitter. There are currently 200 million active users on Twitter—two hundred million! And Twitter is now one of the top ten visited websites on the Internet. Duh! You want to reach people? You want to educate them? You’ve got to be on Twitter. And you’ve got to learn to use it right. There are ways to master Twitter, and then there is just inefficiency. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I don’t like Twitter.” Yeah, you haven’t learned to use it in the most fun and effective way yet. Believe me, learn that and your perceptions will change.

Watch the video below to hear how people are using Twitter to spread their message effectively (don’t let the first 55 seconds fool you…there’s lots of visuals to stimulate your mind). If you are in any health field whatsoever—chiropractic, medicine, psychology, personal training, physical therapy, nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, Reiki, or any other—you absolutely must watch this video. And then check out my book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (on Twitter), and you will learn the ins-and-outs of becoming a Twitter ★SuperStar★.

A common misconception people have about stretching is that it is a passive activity–that is, the muscles should be stretched by using of gravity to pull the muscles. Wrong! In fact, over time passive stretching is the best way to injure yourself.

Active stretching is really the proper way to stretch. An active stretch is contracting the muscles as you stretch, both the muscle being stretched and its antagonist–the muscle doing the opposite action. As an example let’s take the hamstrings: most people, when doing a hamstring stretch, will just bend forward at the waist, passively, letting everything–head, neck and arms included–just hang down.

An active version of the same stretch would be bending forward at the waist, but now maintaining an arch in the back to preserve the discs of the lumbar spine (a common source of severe low back injury). Then while pushing the heels down into the ground and the knees back (which contracts the quadriceps, the antagonists to the hamstrings), the butt is actively lifted upward toward the ceiling, literally pulling the hamstrings from one end (the knees) and oppositely from the other (buttocks). That, my friends, is an active stretch.

Watch the video below to see a demonstration of active stretching. Passive stretching is sometimes warranted, particularly if you have never stretched, or it’s been so long it may as well be considered never…in these cases, a passive stretch will be just fine. But over the long haul, if you want to prevent injury and get the best stretch you can, that comes from active stretching.

In my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I state:

What are the criteria you can use to evaluate your health? I believe that you can do it most effectively by simply observing three things: how you look, how you feel, and especially, how you function.

That was 2008. Today, in 2012, a Danish study has linked “looking old” to an increased risk for heart disease.

According to the study, 11,000 people were followed from as far back as 1976, and it was found that four physical appearance markers were associated with a greater risk of developing heart disease. They were receding hairline, baldness on top of the head, earlobe creases and yellow, fatty deposits around the eyelid. People with at least three of these markers for aging had a 57% increased risk for heart attack and a 39% increased risk for heart disease.

Although when considering gender specifically, women did not show an increased risk with hair loss. Men, however, had a 40% greater risk of developing heart disease when they had receding hairlines. The group for whom these results showed the greatest risk was men between ages 70 and 79. In this group, 45% of those with all four aging signs developed heart disease, compared to 31% of those with none of the four.

“Looking old for your age, by [having] these aging signs, marks poor cardiovascular health,” said study researcher Dr. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, a professor and chief physician in the department of clinical biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital. She also points out that these signs signify physical aging not biological aging.

So what does this mean for you? Well, taking poor care of your health will lead to increased physical aging, despite your true age. We all know people that look much younger than their years, and we also all know others that look a bit older than they actually are. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, increased consumption of alcohol and drugs (both prescription and recreational), lack of sleep, and those neglected body aches and pains, can all lead to quicker break down of the body. I’d also add chronic stress into the mix, of which much can be linked to unresolved mental misperceptions, in my opinion.

What can you do? First, start taking care of your health now. Eat well, exercise, get regular bodywork, rest and relaxation, and minimize toxins in the form of booze, cigarettes, and drugs. Second, if you are exhibiting those signs now–it’s not too late to make a change in your lifestyle. Being aware of these signs is crucial, and then doing something about it pronto might just end up saving your life. But I certainly would advise anybody exhibiting these signs to get in and see a doctor right away. Plaque build-up has likely already started, and so being aware of your risks might be wise before starting any rigorous exercise program.

Yes, to me it made complete sense last decade when I wrote The Six Keys that your physical appearance will mirror your overall health. Now we have scientific proof.

Quite a few people experience chronic tightness in the inner thighs, and some even end up straining the area, which is one type of “groin strain” you might have heard of (of experienced). The inner thighs occupied by a group of muscles called the adductors. Adduction, as a movement, is bringing a limb back to the body–or “adding” to the body–and thus the name.

There are five adductor muscles: pectineus, adductor brevis (means short), adductor longus, adductor magnus and gracilis. Each one acts to bring the leg back toward the midline, among other specialized functions. We can split these five muscles into two groups–the short and long adductors. The first three named above make up the short adductor group, and these attach from the pelvis to the upper thigh, while the latter two make up the long adductors, which attach from the pelvis to the lower thigh and inner knee.

I’ve already showed you a great stretch for the short adductors–the frog stretch–and I hope you’ve been doing it. Now I want to show you a great stretch for the long adductor group. Watch the video below to see a great stretch for the long adductors, but please be careful as you do it, because if you strain this area, you may find it difficult to treat, and thus, hanging around for awhile. Once you start to open the inner thigh area, you’ll see how your hips and back thighs (hamstrings) respond by opening too. Enjoy the stretch.

All is flux, nothing is stationary…is what they say. And I can tell you from my experience that…well, it seems to be true. Change is inevitable, so why do we fight it? More importantly, why do we avoid being the changer, the one directing the flux?

Well, we do this mostly because change is hard—it can be painful, filled with uncertainty and makes us come to terms with our illusions—all daunting to our sometimes fragile, and very often vulnerable, egos. But change IS inevitable, that I can assure you, so why not be the master of your destiny?

Now it’s important to understand how crucial dissatisfaction is to human development. It is in our dissatisfaction that we strive to change, to grow, whether we are talking about an individual, society or humanity as a whole. Change is growth.

That doesn’t mean that dissatisfaction alone will bring the change we want. On the contrary, the more charge behind a dissatisfaction, the more likely we are to experience it, because the human mind has a way of seeing that which we despise all around us. Have you ever noticed that the more you are put off by an action or behavior, the more those around you exhibit that action or behavior? Hmmm…

So that brings me to an important point—change doesn’t always mean that people should alter their situations or circumstances, but instead that they change their perspective. Everything that dissatisfies us does so because we cannot see how it is serving us in the moment. By searching for, and eventually finding, the purpose of any given situation in our life right now, we can understand its importance to our overall growth and development—something that we stall when we fail to see the big picture.

So I would say that the first step in creating change is to love our circumstances, no matter how difficult that may be. Ask yourself, how does my current circumstance serve me in the big picture? Does it allow me to be free, to pursue my life in the ways I love? Does it teach me how to walk through the world with strength and dignity? Or maybe it teaches me things to teach others—so that they can transition into change more easily? You have to look for the answer within yourself, but I assure you: Your current condition serves you in some way.

With that in mind, how can you be the director of change in your life? I believe that it starts by writing things down. Write what you’d love to become, what you’d love your future to be. Write down what you’d love to do, where you’d love to go. And write down the life you’d love to have in every aspect…and start today. Only by writing down what you would love in every aspect of your life will you stimulate the change you desire.

I do this exercise every new year, and have done so for the last decade. I write down everything I want in my life, in well thought out detail, and as it turns out, I see my life move in that direction. It happens because it’s in my heart; and by writing it all down, I set the wheels in motion. I read, and then re-read, my list throughout the year, and it’s amazing what I accomplish.

But I always remember to seek and understand how my current challenges are leading me toward my destiny. By putting things into perspective, particularly when I find myself dissatisfied, I make it easier for change to occur on its own, without stalling it through my discontent.

We can be the masters of our destiny. And although we cannot control every single situation in our lives—nor avoid the pain, uncertainty or shattering of our illusions—we can direct our ultimate destination by loving every circumstance along the way. Then by writing down what we would love in our lives, in its entirety, we can be the directors of our change, and not leave it carelessly to the wind.


Have you ever heard that you need to balance your work and personal life? In the world of separation, perhaps, that may be true, as balance is the true nature of all things; but in an integrated world, work and life are often the same.

No doubt that not everyone values their work above all else. Some don’t even have it in their top three priorities or highest values, so what the heck am I talking about? Well whether your work is your life, or you merely work to live, a psychic connection to your vocation can be rewarding, as it can help you gain a new appreciation for each dynamic responsible for the complete synthesis of your life.

When you do what you love; when your work is a part of your life’s mission, then it isn’t work at all—it’s just life. Can you imagine Isaac Newton needing some downtime? “Gone fishin’” posted on his office door at Cambridge? Or Albert Einstein needing a break to go “find himself”? Puh-leeze! No doubt, stepping away from your work is periodically necessary to maintain mental balance, as well as to keep the creative juices flowing; but seeing work as a drag, or living for the weekend, or counting the months till your 65th birthday, and its ensuing retirement, is definitely not living your life’s purpose through your work.

Listen, sometimes people just have to survive, and that’s what work is for them. And in these cases, of course, a balance between work and personal life must exist. However, I don’t think anybody in this mind-frame needs reminding. No, the advice to seek balance is usually left for people who are working hard, because it is either a part of their life’s mission, or they have an end in mind, and the advisors just can’t relate to that. But even so, for these people, an occasional stepping away will help them accomplish more, as the break will surely allow their brains and bodies to recharge. However, when one’s work and life’s purpose are properly aligned, then it really is misguided to try and change that.

But how about for people whose life’s purpose is not connected to their work? Well, I think for these people it is still important to see how their work allows them to live more fully. For instance, one might be dedicated to raising a beautiful, healthy and fulfilled family. Their mission might include the activities they do with their children, the things they teach them, and the experiences which they expose them to, and so on. What a beautiful life’s purpose that is!

It would be a shame to not see how one’s work actually allows for this dynamic to unfold. When we spend time resenting our work, and fail to see the interconnectedness between it and our personal life, then we block the channels to our own fulfillment. This mental dissatisfaction can lead to an incomplete awareness of the magnificence of our existence. But nothing is ever out of order.

Some people feel that when their job isn’t their life’s purpose that somehow things are not right. That’s why it’s important to be aligned with what your life’s purpose is. Don’t try to force what you think it should be. You know deep down inside, because your life’s purpose is what you love. It’s what you do every day that nobody needs to remind you of, or motivate you to do.

So again, by connecting to how your work allows you to carry out that purpose is the most empowering thing you can do in this regard. When you view things in this manner, you won’t feel the need to create balance. Balance is only needed when the misperception of imbalance exists, and this will be pervasive if you can’t see the divine connection among all your roles in your complete life; in other words, seeing the whole and not just the fragmented parts we label as duties.

So finding a balance between your work and personal life is somewhat of a fallacy, since different people have different relationships to their work. For those whose work is their life’s purpose—then live it, baby; but, of course, take the occasional break to recharge your creative batteries. For those working solely to reach a particular goal, like making your first million, then yeah, being aware of, and proactively focusing on, balance may end up saving your life. But for those of you that work simply to live, so that you may carry out your true life’s purpose, then seeing how that work allows the totality of your life to be expressed is essential…and if you can do that, you might find that’s all the balance you need.

Fascinating story in the latest issue of Newsweek: Harvard Medical School neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, claims to have been to heaven. You read right…heaven. The neurosurgeon states that during a 2008 bacterial meningitis-induced coma, one which left his neocortex inactive, he entered a realm unlike our material plane of reality. As a scientist, and a neurological expert no less, he states that medical science has no way to account for his experience.

Says Alexander,

“According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”

His description is very much like The Void that I discussed here in this post. He talks about ascending “higher than the clouds,” and being in the presence of “beings” that left long, streamerlike trails behind them as they arced across the sky. Visual and auditory phenomena were integrated, such that,

“I could hear the visual beauty of the silvery bodies of those scintillating beings above…”

He claims that he was accompanied by a young woman with butterfly wings, and that they were surrounded by butterflies—millions of them—as they floated along on their journey. Communication between them transcended language, and he understood the messages he received immediately to be truth. They were:

• “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
• “You have nothing to fear.”
• “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

He says that receiving these messages “flooded” him with

“a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.”

He says the experience changed everything for him, “and I quote,

“…shifting the world around me into an even higher octave, a higher vibration.”

Sound familiar? Yes, and he explains that in this heavenly void he got answers (didn’t we just say that?)…instantly. He even calls this place “a void”—completely dark, infinite in size, yet also brimming with light.

He then discusses how his experience goes against his scientific training, although he does admit that modern physics explains the universe to be a unity—it is undivided.

“Though we seem to live in a world of separation and difference, physics tells us that beneath the surface, every object and event in the universe is completely woven up with every other object and event. There is no true separation.”

Hallelujah, brother. What really interests me about Dr. Alexander’s story is that one, it is so congruent with what we hear from yogis and mystics as far as what they have experienced during deep meditation, and that two, a scientist placed in a coma would enter the same realm and have a very similar experience.

No doubt, Dr. Alexander will be crucified by the scientific community (like here), or let’s say the dogmatic faction of said community, devoted to the new religion of scientism. He will also be destroyed by non-science secularists, particularly because he admits to being a Christian, which is akin to Neanderthal in some academic circles. But similar accounts have also come from Hindus, Buddhists, and even those that would consider themselves no particular denomination whatsoever. Nonetheless, Dr. Alexander’s story, and his new book, Proof of Heaven, will be fodder for assault by the materialist intelligentsia of the world. And so be it…all potential truths needs to be told, no matter what the consequences.

Is Dr. Alexander’s experience absolute truth? Probably not, but it is a good model for a universe described by those that look beyond pure materialism. And his big message is rather profound too, which is that the universe is a universe of love. He sums up our current and future challenges to understanding this universe with,

“The plain fact is that the materialistic picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather that the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all else: truth…It will show the universe as evolving, multidimensional, and known down to its every last atom by a God who cares for us even more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child.”


One of the most common precursors to injury of the neck, shoulders, chest or upper back are poor shoulder biomechanics during exercise. Biomechanics are related to structure and function; in other words, how the body moves. Therefore, the positioning of the shoulders is extremely important during upper body movements.

Additionally, how the upper body parts move during an exercise will also effect the overall health of that structure. Think of a sliding closet door that no longer moves freely on its tracks–it sticks. You’ll agree that opening and closing said door will be difficult, and ultimately it’ll break down. That’s exactly what happens to the shoulder joints when the biomechanics are altered in any way. But worse, because the neck and chest are so intimately tied to the shoulder girdle, they can also be affected by poor shoulder biomechanics, sometimes earlier than the actual shoulders.

There are two main causes of poor biomechanics: posture (and we’ll include any adapted dysfunction) and poor form. The former is often a result of the latter, and they consequently worsen concurrently over time. Primary proper shoulder positioning is in the retracted state–or pulled back onto the upper back. This position allows the shoulders to move freely in the socket–thus, resolving the stuck sliding door aspect that can occur when the shoulders are allowed to round forward in the protracted position.

Whether lifting weights or doing yoga, form is everything. Watch the video below to see how to maintain proper shoulder positioning during upper body exercises. Guaranteed you’ll preserve your shoulders that way, and you’ll likely prevent much neck and chest discomfort too. And frankly, you’ll look better, because you’ll develop the way you are supposed to. Give it a try.

Some things are just not what they seem. The world is filled with illusion for the non-discerning mind. It’s not that we are dimwitted creatures we humans, but we want to believe, often in things in which we have a psychological investment…things perhaps lacking clear evidence of validity, or even lacking rationality. Take the video below for example–it shows you just how easy it is to be distracted…mmm, better to say caught unaware. And keep in mind that there are plenty of things in life we take for granted, or maybe even don’t really think about…but should. Yes, watch the video and be prepared to be blown away. Ha ha haaaaaaaa…..

“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.

Difficult people…we all have to deal with them, right? Wrong. I am certain there is no such thing. Our approach to dealing with others is usually a direct reflection of our perspective, one that, for many, is based on a misunderstanding, or an incomplete awareness, of human behavior: People do not create problems because they have nothing better to do; they direct their lives according to their needs, wants, and desires—their internal drives—which are dictated by their value system.

We only perceive people as being difficult when they challenge our values. When they give us what we want, they’re smart, good peeps, going places. Some say it’s best to “remove toxic people from your life,” but I’ve got to tell you, everybody is toxic when they aren’t giving us what we want. Our minds do that: respond to unfulfilled desires by making out the denier to be public enemy number one—a human obstacle, a force to be resisted, maybe even conquered. And while there is no doubt that different degrees of toxicity reside within the human perceptual spectrum, usually the more somebody challenges our values, the more toxic they become. But this is a severe misunderstanding of human nature. People are not out to make our lives difficult. In fact, most people aren’t even thinking about our lives at all—they are simply thinking about what they want.

Everybody has things they are trying to achieve or accomplish, the things they desire; and these correlate with each individual’s unique value system, a person’s intrinsic drivers. Understanding this first principle of human behavior is crucial to having good interactions with others: Everyone wants what will move them closer to fulfilling their values. Being aware of this can help you build a strategy of interaction that, hopefully, serves everybody involved.

The first step in interacting with a challenging person, then, is to stop thinking of them as difficult; they want something, simple as that. Your task is to find out what that something is—what does that person value? Now, sometimes, you can tell just by looking at a person—first appearances are known to shape our overall impressions—but, very often, you have to do a bit of homework to get a feel for what that person really wants.

But the easiest approach is to just ask what the person is looking for, or what they wish to accomplish. I assure you that asking is a lot more practical than guessing and then dealing with potential consequences later. Ignoring the other person’s drives altogether or, worse, just focusing on what you want, is the quickest way to failure, misunderstanding, or maybe even the cause of some bad blood between you.

Now, if you can find out what another person wants, you’ve increased your chances of having a successful interaction exponentially; and in personal or business relationships, this is crucial. Just remember that all people operate off their drives, and whether that something is concrete, like a business transaction, or more ethereal, like recognition, praise or a sense of value, it’s people’s drives that move them to interact with you or anybody else.

This is also true for you. You want things, have desires, and are trying to fulfill your highest values, as well; and these, of course, come into play anytime you interact with others. So the next step is to find a way to frame what you want in terms of what the other person wants. A true win-win situation: How to get what you value by helping someone else get what they value. Poetry in motion.

But what some people want is not always congruent with what you want, and compromising your values is not a wise option. Doing so will most certainly lead to resentment, which can be an insidious obstacle to your peace of mind, or to future relations. If you determine that what you and the other person wants is incompatible, then nothing says you need to continue the interaction or the relationship. The sooner you are able to recognize this, the better it will be for the both of you.

I really believe there are no difficult people, just people wanting to fulfill their values. Consciously and subconsciously, people move toward fulfilling what they want in life. So you can let go of toxic people all you want to—you’ll merely meet others that don’t want exactly what you want. Isn’t it worthwhile to find out what the other person wants and then try to make it work for the both of you? Think about how this applies to business, diplomacy and your day-to-day family dynamics. We get what we want easier when we help others get what they want—something we should all remember when dealing with people.

Listen up parents, particularly parents of preemies: if you’ve been giving your infant Simply Thick to help with swallowing, be warned that the product could increase their risk of developing a life-threatening illness. The FDA has issued a warning that 22 infants developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed baby formula or breast milk mixed with Simply Thick. Seven of them died.

The product is used for children that have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and although a direct link to NEC has not been yet confirmed, authorities do want to put parents, caregivers and healthcare practitioners on high-alert.

NEC is generally seen in premature infants where portions of the intestinal tissue goes through necrosis or tissue death. The FDA, however, has extended the warnings to all infants being fed the formula thickener. And parents should be on the lookout for NEC symptoms, which include a bloated stomach, greenish vomit, bloody stools and lack of interest in feeding.

According to Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician Austin, Texas, and co-author of Baby 411, if reflux and spitting up continues to be an issue, parents do have other options. “They can try doing smaller, more frequent feedings; keeping infants upright for at least 20 minutes after eating; and placing them at a 30 percent incline for sleeping,” she said. “In severe cases, your pediatrician may prescribe medication to help treat.”

And to ease some worries, Dr. Brown adds, “If you’ve already stopped using the product for a while and your baby seems fine, there’s no need to worry.”

Just some food for thought here, but Formula feeding increases the risk of NEC by tenfold compared to infants who are fed breastmilk alone. Breast milk protects the premature infant not only by its antiinfective effect and its immunoglobulin agents but also from its rapid digestion. For women that do not produce breastmilk, human milk from a milk bank or donor can be used. I am a big proponent of using human milk over formula, and this latest news is just another reason why. Am I implicating Simply Thick before all the information is in? No, just stating my belief that the human body knows better than man’s educated, and often arrogant mind. Again, just food for thought. Be safe.

Life is an interesting phenomenon if you actually take the time to think about it. Every one of us has taken life for granted at one time or another, but when one really contemplates life’s nuances, the seemingly paradoxical chaos and order inherent in the universe can be a rather perplexing notion.

Take synchronicity for example: “Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, but that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. This concept was first described by the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.”

Those lines come from a book I have just recently finished called Counterpoint to Reality by Stephen John O’Conner; and my reading it has been just as much a result of synchronicity as the various stories O’Connor uses to illustrate the concept in his book. He and I actually met serendipitously on Twitter, which I am sure is no surprise to anybody who knows me, as it’s a dimension I am prone to frequent. But what is interesting—as Counterpoint does so well to point out—is that in life there are simply no mistakes. This also happens to be my philosophy; so it appears, then, that I was destined to read this work, and also to share it with you.

Let me be upfront and say that I really didn’t think I was going to like this book at first. As I began reading, some of my own views became challenged. For example, many of O’Connor’s stories are of the “spooky forces” type, which are not really my cup of tea. It’s not that I would describe myself as the staunch materialist by any means, but I am wary of any Light Force/Dark Force interplay. But wait! Don’t let that discourage you because, much to my surprise, Counterpoint went way beyond that. What really made the book worthwhile in the end was the beauty in which the author lays out a universal philosophy. He did as good a job as I’ve come across to explain some of the bigger questions that every human being ponders at one time or another: who we are, where we come from, and why we are here…you know, fundamental life stuff.

If I were to describe my life’s philosophy, I would describe it as a sort of vitalistic existentialism; or in plain English: we are more than just material beings operating through neurochemical processes. We are a part of an energetic matrix, and as such, we vibrate rhythmically at varying frequencies, which act to guide us through life—a quantum physical homing mechanism, if you will. We have a certain amount of control over these vibrations, which, in turn, helps us to attract various things into our lives, like people, situations and experiences. And, ultimately, our lives come down to how we perceive the universe, and life itself.

Saying that, I was amazed at how much I resonated with the overall message and philosophy of Counterpoint. Not that I don’t expect others to share in my view—on the contrary, I am certain that people do, as I know many personally—but that it would be expressed so eloquently by someone who has had such a dramatically different life experience than me was really a pleasant surprise.

O’Connor’s life story, as it turns out, is anything but boring; so Counterpoint is worth reading, if even just to enjoy a fascinating ride through one man’s life lived through a quest to find meaning. From a professional music career, to cavorting with American expat dregs, to participating in several psychedelic mind-expanding Ayahuasca ceremonies, O’Connor thrills us at every turn with tales of his spiritual journey.

But, again, it was the wisdom, and philosophy, inherent in his story that held the most intrigue for me. Consider his description of The Path, as the life journey has been called by so many spiritual disciplines:

There is a Path. It’s not outside of us. There is no one who can truly guide us into that Path or help us along its way. There’s also no time limit for making the journey and there’s no one to blame for not finding and walking this Path. After all, we are seemingly alone, not physically, but spiritually. Each of our individual journeys is unique. We travel the Path in silence and with the help only from our inner guides and guardians. There are, however, helpful road signs everywhere. There are tools being made available to us constantly if only we can become aware of them. Often, when we least expect it, a phrase or comment is made that awakens us and stirs a level of consciousness that was unavailable only moments before. Books, movies and magazine articles are seemingly filled with gems of wisdom hidden stories that begin to raise feelings not normally within our patterning. On this journey, there is help and guidance waiting for us.

Precisely. As O’Connor explains toward the end of the book there is no “one way.” Everybody has to find their own, and many Paths can actually be taken. It certainly says a lot about the senselessness of religious conflict, and the often fervent drive to prove one way to be better than all others. And it gives the reader hope; hope that as he or she tunes-in to the universal matrix, guide-posts can and will be uncovered along the way. This has certainly been my experience, and in-line with the concept that inspiration is sometimes transmitted to us from sources we’d never expect. That is tapping into the Matrix.

He discusses universalism—our unity with all things—a concept taught by various philosophers and eastern religions throughout the ages. And he makes the connection to the power we all have within us to be the creators of our own destiny, which is something I so adamantly push in my own writings. Says O’Conner:

We can all reconnect with the deep source of everything. There is hope that we can reconnect and then be a conscious part of creation; that we can be creators of a mind-conscious world filled with real peace and real love.

He also discusses karmic debt, as well as the concept that our souls make prearrangements with other souls to interact and evolve in a parallel fashion. Captivating stuff!

And to my intellectual delight, he discusses the source where inspiration comes from: an information pool that permeates the universe, and from which individuals who have tapped-into this universal resource can download, if you will. He calls this information matrix the akashic records, a theosophical concept denoting a “compendium of mystical knowledge encoded in a non-physical plane of existence,” (from Wikipedia) not unlike the Noosphere, as proposed by Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin, the realm of all human thought. Anyone who has ever contemplated where creative genius comes from will find this information fascinating.

But best of all for me, I think, and I am certain you will agree, is O’Connor’s description of what occurs during meditation. I really couldn’t have asked for a better explanation, as to not only how one may shut off the incessant mind-chatter that every novice meditator struggles with, but also as to what one may expect when entering the Void—that abstract realm of nowhere-ness and everywhere-ness, where the ME of the ego discovers the I of actuality.

I loved O’Connor’s ability to vividly describe this realm, the “other” aspect of human consciousness that has led humans to conceptualize a something-more-than-just-physical reality:

After 45 minutes, I was instantaneously projected to a place I can only describe as being in the Void. There was total silence and peace. A magnificent emptiness enveloped me, if I can even say there was a me to be enveloped. I was nowhere and everywhere at once. I experienced the feeling that there was no time.

Finally, and the real reason I connected with O’Connor and agreed to read Counterpoint (or so I thought), was his account of attending numerous Ayahuasca ceremonies. I will admit that I have had an overwhelming curiosity to experience this sacred South American psychedelic substance (although O’Connor does not describe it that way, at least not in terms of what we generally associate with psychedelics, like LSD or psilocybin/magic mushrooms). Used by indigenous people of the Amazon for divinatory and healing purposes, Ayahuasca contains the psychoactive substance dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), that work synergistically to give the psychedelic, or shall we say, mind-expanding experience.

I chuckle to myself as I explain my so-called rationale behind reading this book, because, again, as O’Connor points out, rarely is the connection of souls along the Matrix a random event. He even remarked to me on one of our first exchanges that, “There’s more to the book than just Ayahuasca.” But in truth, that’s what I really went in wanting to explore.

I was delighted, then, to find both a serious and modern philosophical manuscript in Counterpoint to Reality. Although I have described some of my favorite points of the book, I have really only touched on a small portion of what you’ll find inside. I thus highly recommend picking up Stephen John O’Connor’s first literary gem, Counterpoint to Reality, as I am certain you will find it as enjoyable and enlightening as I have.

I will allow the author to sum up what I found to be the main theme of the book, which he explains so eloquently:

I find it interesting that the Path, or should I say the Path of No Paths is already in play when we are born. The moment we step upon the stage of a new life we enter the Path. Every step we take, every action we perform changes and molds the Path bringing more opportunities to grow toward the Light. Although one can read and research the Masters who have gone before and gain wisdom from their experiences, it’s up to each of us to walk the Path of our own very special journey back to Light. You are on it right now! You have always been on it. Turn it into something that brings joy and love instead of pain and suffering. Use your ability to choose, your ability to create your destiny to shape the path into a positive and healthy form.

Yes, bravo! There are truly no mistakes within the Matrix. And so I resonated with that concept as I took to reading this thoughtful, and often hysterical, account of O’Connor’s journey. I know now, with no doubt whatsoever, that I was destined to read this book; and I am grateful that I can recommend it with five stars to anybody ready to take the plunge into a pool of universal wisdom. Thank you, Mr. O’Connor, for the Path your Soul chose to follow. Through it all you uncovered much wisdom regarding life and the magnificence of the universal Matrix, and your readers can now benefit from your journey by gaining a little insight into their own.

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.

Listen up Italian food lovers–federal health officials say ricotta cheese tainted with listeria bacteria has been linked to 14 illnesses including at least one death. Eleven states are reporting illnesses linked to imported Italian ricotta salata cheese distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc., of New York. Forever Cheese has issued a recall of one lot—800 wheels of ricotta salata, or roughly 4,800 pounds—on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the cheese was distributed to retail stores in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington between June 20 and August 9.

Listeria is rare but deadlier than well-known pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. It is most dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems. It causes listeriosis, which can cause sepsis or meningitis. The overt form has a mortality rate of about 20%. It can be treated with antibiotics, however. The deaths linked to this outbreak were in New York, Nebraska and possibly Minnesota, although it is uncertain if the latter two were actually caused by the listeria.

Although the tainted cheese is a ricotta, it is not the same as soft ricotta used in lasagna. The CDC says the ricotta can have up to a four-month shelf life, so some consumers may still have it in their homes. To be on the safe side, anyone having ricotta cheese lying around and of which they are unsure of its origins, it would be best to just throw it out.

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