There is nothing worse than the feeling of pain. It stings. It burns. It penetrates. It hurts. Pain is the bitter end of a faded sweetness. It is a remnant of a decision that influences all future decisions of the like. It is a signal, and like all signals, it is meant to guide. Where and how we left pain guide us is completely our choice.

On a physical level, pain is a sign to stop doing something. Get your hand out of the fire. Don’t walk barefoot on broken glass. Get away from that beehive. Pain is the body’s recourse for conscious decision-making; it is a physical action that is translated into a mental activity. Neurons react to exterior stimuli, sending messages to the brain that implement positive change. On a physical level, the necessity of pain is blatantly obvious: survival. 

It is less obvious to see the purpose behind pain in the mind, or suffering through emotions. Much like physical pain, mental pain is also a necessity to living a healthy life, but the difference between the two is that mental pain comes in forms of emotion. These less tangible—but often more painful—forms of suffering can include general sadness, anxiety, depression, and anger. These “negative” emotions cause varying levels of stress, and this stress is the signal that tells the mind something needs to change. (I keep negative in quotations because every emotion is positively relevant in the pursuit of experience and therefor cannot be condemned to a positive or negative judgment). Just like physical pain, mental pain is attempting to teach the mind a lesson.

As hinted to earlier, the main difference between physical and mental pain is tangibility. Physical pain is much easier to spot and—subsequently—fix. If I am stepping on a rock, I understand that that rock is causing infliction and removing it solves the problem. It is more difficult to identify and solve mental pain.

A good example is the all to common problem of missing someone. Everyone at some point has to say goodbye to someone they care about. It could be a lover, a friend, a family member, or even a pet. When we walk along our individual paths and have to leave something important behind, it hurts. Identifying this type of pain is very easy, but understanding why it’s there is difficult. Many reasons seem plausible. In the case of longing questions like: Am I missing this thing because I need it? because I want it? because I am accustom to it? because I am afraid of not finding it again? etc, car arise. Here, the “rock” is identifiable, but the reason for its infliction is buried. This makes solving the problem ever more challenging. Yet, solving the puzzle of pain is only the first part, learning from it is entirely another challenge.

As mentioned, the point of pain is to learn. Learning from pain points us in the direction of not having to feel that pain again. In order to learn from pain, we must understand everything about it: what hurt me? why did I get hurt? how can I stop the pain? In emotional pain, the answers may not be so transparent, but they do exist. Reaching them requires patience, a willingness to feel the extent of the pain, and an open mind to understand what choices led to these consequences. 

We so often repeat the same mistakes, only to be brought back to the same problem, the same pain. Many denounce pain and run from it. Often times I fail to understand that my suffering is the greatest teacher I have. It is a stern instructor that does not bend under the suffering of its students. It is a consistent reminder that there is a better way to live life. Pain’s ultimate goal is to provide its subject with an evolved way of being. Pain is the path to self-evolution.

Although I hate feeling pain, I know deep down that whenever I feel it I have the chance to grow. Pain makes us feel alive because it threatens our stagnation; our comfortability. It gets us moving when we have become still. It pushes us to expand the limits of our selves. Whenever I feel pain and can pull my ego out of self-pity, I know that I am on the verge of doing great work.

A yogi friend of mine once told me, “The depth of our pain carves out our ability to feel empathy.” I understood this as “the more pain I feel, the more I can relate to the pain of others,” which is correct. What I was missing was the empathetic knowledge of the self: the more pain I feel, the more I understand myself. Becoming intimate with aversion brings one closer to knowing affection. And through pain I understand more about who I am and how deep I can become.

The Miraculous & Disgusting Apple Cider Vinegar

Thanks to a group of my very healthenlightened friends, I have been on an apple cider vinegar routine.  Just typing those words make me cringe.  For any who have attempted this feat, you must already know the horror of the flavor, stench and bite this absolutely amazing drink carries.  For all its hassle, apple cider vinegar is a modern day panacea.  If you can stomach the punch, you’ll be greatly rewarded with a plethora of health benefits.  I find the classic saying—No pain, no gain—very pertinent.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV from now on) is an ancient healing remedy.  I was first introduced to it by my father, who I swore was crazy for even buying the stuff.  It turns out, health gurus from as early as 3000 BC were downing this ‘delightful’ drink.  We are able to confirm ACV usage back in ancient Egypt.  It was used as a healing remedy in Babylonia (Egypt) and travelled out of the Fertile Crescent towards ancient Greece and the Roman Empire where enlightened thinkers such as Hippocrates (400BC) and Julius Caesar (100BC) used it for its cleansing properties.  As it reached further out, it headed towards Japan, where samurais used it for strength.  It is recorded that in biblical times it was considered as one of the world’s first antiseptics. In more recent times, it was used during the Middle Ages in Paris as a body deodorant and healing tonic.  Christopher Columbus and his crew drank it to prevent scurvy.  And according to Bragg, it was even used in the US Civil war to prevent disease amongst soldiers.

In the wrong hands, ACV could ultimately lead to the annihilation of millions!

It’s obvious many people across many culture and timespans understood the benefits of ACV.  But that still leaves us with a few questions.  First, what is it?

ACV is made from crushed apples that are allowed to mature naturally in wooden barrels (obviously today methods may vary).  Wood was the container of choice as it boosts fermentation.  ACV carries a rich brown color and the stuff you want to drink has a “mother” floating in it.  The mother is a cob-web like structure that will hang around the bottom of the container.  This is an ESSENTIAL part of choosing the correct ACV. It indicates that the brew is raw and alive, which means it has not been pasteurized.  Once it is pasteurized, just like any other living food, many nutrients and enzymes are destroyed.  The mother is essentially a large mass of enzymes stuck together.

Next on my list: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

Now, the second question usually goes like this: What does ACV really do?  There is a ton of undocumented heresay about the healing properties of ACV, but what has actually been shown to work scientifically?

To this I answer in two parts. One: stop thinking so scientifically. There are many areas of existence that science is still incapable of measuring and just because science can’t see something does not mean it doesn’t exist. And because I know that’s not going to cut it for many people, two: There is a TON of science behind ACV.

In 2007, a study published in “Diabetes Care” found that those with type two diabetes who took 2 tbsp. of ACV before bedtime showed favorable changes in blood sugar levels the next morning.  In 2009, a Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry study found obese people who consumed ACV daily for 12 weeks showed significant decrease in body weight.  It is also scientifically understood that ACV restores alkalinity in the body (an important factor as our acidic diets invite favorable conditions for disease).

Some less scientifically studied, but widely proven ACV benefits are healing dandruff, reducing acne and supporting regularity in digestion.

If Johnny Appleseed knew about the healing power he was spreading...

So the third question: How do you drink it?

Well, this is an ongoing pursuit for me, but I started out with just 2 tbsp of ACV in 1/2 C of water with the juice of one lemon. This was slightly less painful than just taking a pure shot (which is highly not recommended as it can lead to enamel loss and possibly burning sensitive tissues in the throat).  Next, I tried 2 tbps ACV and a cup of apple juice.  This drink tasted much better.  However, I don’t know about you, but I love my apple juice and I’d rather not waste it masking the flavor of ACV.  So this led me to my current option, which is the best I have found so far.

I take 1 0z. ACV squeeze 1/4 ruby red grapefruit, 1/2 orange (can be a blood orange, tangerine, or regular orange), and 1/2 lime (depending on size maybe 1/4).  I mix this all together and get about 3 oz. of liquids and chug it down.  It still leaves a nasty after taste, but I’m working on it.

If it only tasted like how this picture looks...

Personally, I will attest to the energetic properties of ACV.  Not only do I take it every morning to get up and go, but it sustains me through the morning hours.  What actually inspired me to write this very detailed post on ACV was the shot I just took of it.  You can feel energy right away and the heat in your stomach and digestive system is very apparent.  Give it a try and let me know in the comments what you think.  Also if you have a secret recipe PLEASE let me know.  I’m dying to find the best one so that I can make my mornings a little more pleasant =)

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.