Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mining the unconscious for flint and coal

Coal and flint are types of stone. Both contain fire but in different ways. A burning coal contains fire in actuality, whereas flint contains fire in potential. This has two basic ramifications. The fire within the coal is easily accessed, simply blowing on the coal causes the fire to surface. The flint, in contrast, must be struck with another stone, only then does it produce sparks. On the other hand, the fire in coal is limited and apt to burn out, while the flint contains an endless supply of sparks.
In Kabbalah it is taught that the unconscious contains two general levels that parallel these stones. The more superficial level  - the coal - contains memories that enable one to effectively and easily interpret, make sense of, or engage with the world. For instance, as you read this post your unconscious automatically emanates the reading skills, word recognition, relevant information and experiences, etc, that allow you to effortlessly make sense of this post. The deeper level - the flint - however, is tapped when one feels that they lack the memories needed to understand the information. One then mentally exerts himself in order to break the code of the presented information - he strikes the flint - and often the unconscious produces sparks of insight and clarity into the subject matter. Memory, like fire in coal, is exhaustible; creative flashes, like sparks from a flint, are inexhaustible.

Almost all skaters tap both unconscious 'stones' in any given skate session. Typically, they do so in a specific order. When they first arrive at a skate park they tend to warm up by performing tricks that they have already mastered, which they execute quite easily and cleanly. Afterward, however, they attempt to learn new tricks where they exert immense effort, repeating the trick over and over, experimenting with different strategies, until suddenly the flint sparks, and they acquire a new skill...


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Skateboarding, Drugs, and Kabbalah

Drugs save lives; drugs destroy lives. A difference not entirely based on whether they are legal or illegal, natural or man made, prescribed or not prescribed.

People take drugs for various reasons: to aid sleep or relaxation, to wake up, to have transcendental experiences, for pain relief, and the treatment of mental or physical illness.

Let us briefly examine the nature of a few types of drugs.

Drugs work by influencing neurotransmitters, the chemicals that travel between the tiny gaps (synapses) separating neurons from each other.

Cocaine and Amphetamines (stimulants), for instance, increase levels of the neurotransmitter Dopamine.The same neurotransmitter found to be excessive in people suffering from psychosis/schizophrenia. This is why Cocaine can trigger psychosis. Sufferers of Schizophrenia are typically prescribed Chlorpromazine, a Dopamine inhibitor.

Valium (Diazapem), Barbiturates, and Alcohol (Depressants) facilitate the flow of GABA, a neurotransmitter that slows down the firing of neurons and hence brain activity. This is why Valium aids relaxation and sleep.
Heroine and Morphine increase the flow of (or mimic) Endorphins, neurotransmitters that block the sensation of pain.

Different drugs can be associated with particular spiritual energies within the human psyche:

Cocaine relates to Netzach - Victory/Eternity - the capacity to feel highly charged, confident and even invincible.

Valium relates to Hod - Surrender/Serenity - the spiritual quality that brings the body into a state of repose, calm, and receptivity.

Morphine relates to Yesod - Life energy/pleasure - for when a person's life energy flows into the body unobstructed one experiences no pain. Pain results from blockages in life energy.         

                                                     The Ten Energies of the Spirit                                                

The basic differences between drugs that save lives and those that destroy them is the presence of Tiferet - Beauty/Balance. When drugs are taken in a balanced and measured way and in order to help one's body maintain balance. (For example, the function of antidepressants is to help balance levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, just as most medications seek to help the body regain equilibrium in some fashion.)  The end result, when treatment is successful, is the increased beauty of the person - IE. they become healthier and more stable.

In contrast, drugs are destructive when their usage is motivated by Yesod - bonding/sexual desire -which drives one to bond with an object to the extreme. Here the drug user is not interested in attaining a balance. Rather, he desires an extreme taste of a particular state of being, be it near complete escape from the pain of life (Heroine), a sense of invincibility (Cocaine), pure 'love' (Ecstasy), etc. This inevitably results in ugliness, for the individual becomes increasingly unstable and volatile, pale, fidgety, nervous, hostile, obsessed, delusional, etc.

I personally experience skateboarding as a drug cocktail. When I manage to land a trick after many attempts I experience a sense of increased power, energy, and self-esteem (Cocaine). About half an hour into the skate session I become somewhat numb to pain and feel euphoric. Now it is well known that Endorphins are largely responsible for the phenomenon of 'second wind', where during long races runners may suddenly feel a high which relieves them of soreness and fatigue and bolsters their performance. I experience mild forms of 'Endorphine high', where my physical and mental pain decreases (my dose of Morphine), almost every time I have a serious skate. Even the memory of this pleasant experience is uplifting. Furthermore, after the session, as I unwind and reflect on my achievements, I feel mentally and physically relaxed, tranquil, and content (Valium).

The advantages of a 'gram of skating' over a gram of another drug is that you get three drugs rather than one; you become fit; and best of all, its free and easy to score...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Goal Setting

Goal setting is an important part of every project and of life at large. Goals provide one with a distinct sense of purpose in life, equip one with a yardstick to measure progress, reveal the potency of one's actions - which are seen to bring one closer or further away from one's goal - and help one recruit, focus and harmonize their diverse capacities. However, to be of such benefit goals must fulfil a few conditions:     

1. Goals should be clearly defined and specific:

'My goal in life is to be happy';
'I am in this world to fulfill a mission';
'My aim is to progress as swiftly as possible';
'I endeavour to be the best I can be'...

In each of these statements the goal is obscure, making it hard for an individual to know what they really want. For instance, to pursue happiness one must first define what it is. Otherwise one can spend a lifetime searching for happiness aimlessly, pass it by without recognising it, or may search for it in all the wrong places. If a goal is clearly defined, however, one has a 'search image' and knows what to look. They are also able to measure their rate of progress relative to their vision, and can formulate a structured action plan that allows for incremental progress toward the desired destination.         

It has been said that regardless how straight one shoots an arrow, if it's not aimed correctly it will miss the target. One may have everything under control, an excellent action plan, and the discipline to progress through it, and yet, on account of the vagueness of the goal discover that, in the end, they still haven't achieved much.

2. Goals should be relatively simple and concise: A simple goal fosters sophisticated and complex plans of action, while complex goals results in confused and stupid plans of action. Goals must be straightforward and clear, one must envision what they seek to achieve, only then can a coherent and well structured program to reach it be formulated.

3. Goals should not be too easy or too difficult to attain. If too easy, one will not grow optimally; if too hard, one sets oneself up for failure. A goal must be realistic and set in light of self knowledge.

4. Goals should be written down. In writing down goals one is forced to clearly understand and articulate them. One is also given the opportunity to reflect upon goals, see whether they match one's ability level, and to decide whether they are really worthwhile. Writing also serves as an intermediary between thought and action. On the one hand, writing is largely an expression of one's thoughts on paper. On the other hand, however, unlike pure thought, writing involves action and has a visible impact on the world. Writing can thus inspire action. 

5. Goals should be broken up into sub goals. As one chews food into tiny pieces before swallowing it, one should divide goals into series of smaller secondary goals and action steps which, in combination, lead to the fulfilment of a primary goal. This requires patience.                               

6. Goals should not be set in stone. If a goal turns out to be insurmountable, too easy or too trivial - remembering that priorities change as one progresses, matures, or finds himself in new circumstances - one should have the flexibility to modify or even replace goals when necessary.   

7. Goals should have deadlines. Deadlines speed up progress and foster focus. The challenge of a deadline also brings out people's best. Without deadlines goals are often postponed indefinitely, and action plans - if any - easily dissipate and unravel. Deadlines thus keep the entire program structure tightly bound together.