The Alchemist: Learning to Following Your True Path

Image

Finding a great book is like discovering a new language, it puts everything into a different shade of perception.  A truly excellent book can travel beyond all the limitations we think we have.  It will expand the mind in a manner that has not been achieved before.  Its creativity is marvelously genuine and honest, in such a way that it can speak to a million people is a million different ways. Finding a book like this, for me, is like enjoying a really long home-cooked dinner.  The only difference is their means of ingestion: body or mind.

The last time I came across such a book was in November.  I was in the middle of finals and I really needed an outlet that could take me away from all my research.  Call me 20 years late, but the book I finally discovered was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I had always heard rave reviews from both professionals and friends, but I had never got around to actually reading it.  For some reason or another, it never crossed my path.  In retrospect, I see that my consciousness was not in the right place to absorb the lessons the novel had to offer (more on this later).  However, once it came my way, I devoured it in the span of two nights—if I had not needed to sleep that first evening, I would have finished it in a matter of hours.

I think this is the best cover of all his editions

This novel was, for lack of a better word, awesome.  Purely awesome.  It begins slow, but the detail-rich descriptions and personal tidbits of life-learned lessons kept me turning pages with enthusiasm.  Something about the way Coelho so honestly writes connected me to every word. Beyond just the story—as many books are capable of achieving a plot—Coelho weaves in thematic dispositions that speak to much higher universal concepts.

One of the most intriguing themes was that of love.  Whether we accept it or not, love is something we all want.  Coelho provides a completely original context to explore the depths of love as a reality.  Through a few examples, he shows that love is neither defined by romance, attachement, or desire, instead transcending all and is embodied in one’s true path, or in this case one’s treasure.

As children we understood the concept of passion much clearer than we do as adults.  So many external factors blur the ideas that keep our inner fires lit.  Soon these ideas fade and are covered by mind-numbing suppression.  Responsibility, pride, denial, and fear keep us away from our true desires, our passions.  Often times, the avoidance will cause physical harm, manifesting in disease, depression, and ultimately the surrender of life.  I know because I have come close to surrendering to my passion.  In fact, it was only because I chose to follow my path that I was lead to this book, which served as a reaffirmation of my decisions.

You’ll always know if you are following your path

The same problem I was facing was exactly what was going on in the book: the dilemma between love and Love. In the Alchemist, a young shepard is faced with choosing between his familiar experience of love, one of comfort and romance, and the unknown outcome of following his passion, his interior self Love.  Through out the book, he meets people in all stages of this exact dilemma.  In the end, he chooses to follow his personal Love, for without that, no other love could exist.

It was this idea that expanded my consciousness.  Love without the self is not love.  Love for a girl, a dog, a father, or anything in the universe is incomplete unless it emanates from within.  This means if I don’t love myself, I cannot love another.  If I cannot do what I want to do, what I am here to do, my dharma, then I cannot learn to love anything else.  Love will never stand in the way of one’s true path.  If it tries to, then it is not love.

The Alchemist poetically orchestrates these timeless lessons of Love, dharma, and passion with a clarity and simplicity so often under-utilized in the literary world.  This is the reason this novel has sold over 60 million copies in over 150 countries.  If you haven’t already read this book, or if you haven’t read it in a while, I strongly suggest you pick it up.  This book has so much to offer that I know the next time I read it I’ll learn something completely new.

Coelho is a huge fan of “pirating” his book as he thinks all should have access.  He has even shown that by giving it away on the internet, his sales have risen.  So here’s a link to his pirating blog where you can download a version of his novel for free.  Enjoy!

Healing with Animals

“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog.” ~ Franz Kafka

The totality of all.  I would say this is by no means a small burden.  Yet, sometimes it can be the smallest, furriest, or the hungriest creatures that are able to remind us of the simplest lessons of life.

I have had the honor of meeting one of the wisest teachers of my time.  He was no sage, mystic, or savior.  Instead, he was a Guru.  And by Guru, I mean the name of my 15 lb. Shih Tzu who has taught me more than most of the people I have met.

I don’t think I have one photo where his tail is not a blur

Through him, I have discovered the limits of my ego, the depths of my compassion, and the extent of my selflessness (and selfishness).  I have watched as he has taken on my vibration and shown me my true self.  I have witnessed purity and innocence blossom and exist within a world of intention and agenda.  Like a blank canvas, I saw every brushstroke before it became a painting. I was able to trace each characteristic to its source.  Through his development and life, I was able to understand mine.

For many people, not just dog owners, animals unravel the mysteries of the human experience.  What is it about them that make the invisible visible?  How is it that my dog can teach me more about myself that I could possibly attempt to learn on my own?  I believe it stems from the flow of nature in all animals.  This pristine source of life uninfluenced by the forces that affect humans, is able to simplify the complexities of life.

An example of this simplification can be observed in the boy’s ranch.  These alternative youth programs designed to help troubled adolescent boys use the setting of a horse ranch to therapeutically heal its patients.  The actual therapy is accomplished through horses.

Each boy is assigned a horse.  For the next 6-12 months, the boy must take care of, groom, feed, and eventually ride his horse.  What has been found is that a relationship ensues that transcends the barriers of denial, fortitude, and resistance within the youth. After speaking with a few boys who have undergone this process, they described their experience with their horse as deeply communicative; the first time they were truly understood.

The horses are able to mirror the boys, reflexively communicating with them.  If the boys were holding back, their horse would also.  When the boys opened up so did their horses.  When the boys were honest with themselves, their horses began to act like horses.

An hour with this guy could heal any wound.

This healing nature exemplified by the horse is present in all animals.  It is even present in plants and trees.  The wild has served many in their quest for self understanding.

What is responsible for the inner transcendence? It is the universal connectivity that everything shares.  Quantum physicists named it the Unified Field, spiritual seekers call it enlightenment, religious folk call it God.  Whatever it is, it is present in all of us and is most easily understood through animals.

Their pureness and ability to continually stay present allow their channels of receptivity to respond to their environment in a completely reflective manner. This is why a horse can show a boy his problems.  This is why I have learned so much through my dog.

It is by no divine luck that we are so fortunate to be graced with such heavenly companions.  Unconditional love pours from their panting faces and we are blessed with their light heartedness and presence.  Many people think it would be disastrous to be reincarnated as an animal, but when I look into the eyes of my dog, I see that he knows God better than I do.

Home Cooking

There is absolutely nothing better than cooking at home.  And I’m not talking about my cramped up little kitchen in the East Village.  I’m talking about cooking in my parents’ home.

Yes, it is that time of the year when I find my way back to Northern California and nestle in to my parents’ cozy home.  Besides waking up past 10, seeing my family, and playing with my dogs, there is nothing I like more than whipping up a nice warm meal in their kitchen.

I’ve got plenty of time, plenty of space, and a plethora of cookware to choose from.  I can throw on some good music, let my ingredients fulfill their side of the flavor bargain, and really cook with love.  After I’m done, I get to enjoy not only my food, but the conversation and interaction with family.  It is a whole package that comes nicely tied with a bow of love.

Be careful when cooking with this kind of love, it may lead to other things

Real sappy, right? Well I’d certainly take my home kitchen over the likes of the nicest restaurant dungeon any day of the year.  After spending only a few years in a professional kitchen, I quickly understood my passion for cooking did not extend into the restaurant business.

Cooking in a restaurant shouldn’t be called cooking.  It has all the elements of the action, but it lacks the most important part: pleasure.  When I signed up to to become a chef, I thought I was going to get paid to do what I loved.  I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Cooking professionally was repetitive, aimlessly stressful, and surrounded by drugs and alcohol.

After just two years, I am convinced the restaurant industry does more harm than good.  Not only are the employees unnecessarily stressed out, but the food they’re selling to the public is tainted with all the aggression, stress, and anger brewed up in the kitchen.

If you have been following my blog, you’ll know I am a huge proponent of intentional food practices. Everything from growing food to digesting it is affected by the hands and people who are associated with it.  I believe that food, like everything else, is in constant communication with its surroundings.

That said, eating meals made in restaurant kitchens is risky business.  Vibrations of anger, frustration, haste, and pure stress are the only energies that are created in the professional kitchen.  Ask anyone who cooks.  Either they love the pressure or hate it, either way they’ll tell you the pressure is there.  And that pressure causes problems, but where does it come from?

Can’t wait to eat here

For some reason when people go out to eat, they choose to transform into little prima donnas, ready to strike at the slightest epicurean offense.  I’ve seen customers make waiters cry.  It’s as if the restaurant is the one place people can take out their frustrations on other people without it being socially unacceptable.  It is no wonder the kitchen is under such stress.  Yet this cycle of demand and supply is a vicious one that repetitively honors negativity, for the customer enjoying his meal is consuming the stress and negativity of the cooks.  Most do not recognize it, but there are others that do.

In my old yoga studio in Los Angeles, there is a cafe called Nite Moon Cafe.  A close friend of mine is the head chef and she is the embodiment of motherly love.  Everything she does in the kitchen is solely to give to others.  She has a great following and an awesome menu.  I often joke that her prices are high, but in reality, the food you’re getting from this place is worth twice as much.  However, there was a time when this wasn’t so.

After growing in size, my friend Wah, needed to find another chef, one capable of the tasks at hand.  She hired a qualified guy who knew what he was doing.  He executed everything excellently and had the cafe running smoothly, except that people were beginning to complain about the food.  It had lost something.

Well Wah, went in to investigate and told me that what she noticed was her chef had all the culinary skills, but lacked the knowledge of how to cook for people.  He knew how to cook, but didn’t understand the reason for feeding others was to give to them.  He was going through the motions, but not giving it any intention.  In fact, the intention he was putting into the food was more like those found in a regular kitchen.

No witty quote here, just love this photo.

Point of the story is, cooking with love and cooking with negativity are two entirely different activities.  One fosters life, while the other suppresses it.  It is hard to find places that can cook in accordance with positivity,  but it is never hard to cook a meal of love at home.  And this holiday season, one thing that I am grateful for is being able to cook with love for my family.

The Language of Food

If you’ve ever listened to a banana, it probably didn’t say anything to you.  If it did, then you most likely don’t need to read this blog as you’re much beyond the subversive language of food (that or you’re high as a kite).  However, for the rest of us, learning to understand the meaning of food is a much more subtle task.

Most people eat food.  In fact, I’m positive that almost everyone—save those breezy breatharians—eats something.  Usually the process involves chewing, swallowing, and then a mad dash back to the crazy schedule of life.  The intention of food is thus focused on sustenance: energy needed to get through the day.  This is certainly one quality of food.  Yet there exists other unnoticed meanings of food that transcend physical health and speak to the greater tenants of existence.

Can’t get enough of that air flavored ice cream

It’s mid-December and in the world of academia, its time to start handing in final papers.  So for the last month, I have been absorbing as much information pertaining to food and its relationship to the human experience as possible.  I have found an enormous amount of knowledge that defines food as a means of communication; a form of language.  Most commonly understood, food can relay messages of culture, nature, society, the individual, and the greater world.  Where the discourse falls short is about foods capacity to express the language of the universe.

Food as the universe?  What?  How could my shy, little banana possibly tell me something about the universe? Well, in Vedic philosophy it goes like this: food is the embodiment of the Self (macro) and in its relationship to the human self (micro) it can reveal the tendencies of the ultimate reality.  Now to those of you peeking behind that banana peel looking for equation of the unified field, put the down the banana and read this quote:

God permeates the soul just as oil permeates a sesame seed ~Vasudev from the Upanishad

Vasudev was the father of Krishna, seen here being an awesome dad.

This small quote carries an epic message: as is the food, so is the thought. Or more specifically, as is the food, so is the universal human experience. In its complete, holistic nature, food reveals our perfection.  Just as a bruised banana embodies the universe, the imperfect soul is an expression god.  The language of food can be heard through its simple, yet perfected existence.

The human experience is a reflection of the universal experience.  Everything in existence is a reflection of truth, meaning there are no differences.  To quote Bob Marley, “One love, one heart, one destiny.”  And one food.

So if everything in the universe can speak this language, how is food any different from the rest? Well, because the food we eat becomes a vibrational AND physical part of us.

Just like sound current affects one’s frequency, food can affect one’s consciousness.  That means that choosing between an industrially farmed triple-sized BigMac and an organically grown, home-cooked vegetarian meal is certainly going to have an impact on the way you think.  Mental clarity, perception, mood, and communication are just a few of the areas affected by food.  And not only does food influence our thoughts, but it controls our physical bodies.  Responsible for creating matter, dictating health, and supplying nutrition, food—unlike any other object in the universe—becomes a material part of us.  It is truly the connection between the tangible and the intangible.

Doesn’t this mean you’d want to eat food that is of the highest universal vibration?  I’d surely think so.  That means that banana you were just having a one-sided conversation with should probably be an organic one. It also means that food treated like a commodity, infused with the stress of commercial kitchens, or devoid of anything resembling nature should be avoided.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  Instead, I suggest if you want to achieve a greater cosmological existence, you should strive to eat better food.  Otherwise, do as you please.  The inorganic banana judges no one.