Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Visions, images, and concepts

Perception of a physical object involves at least three components:

a)    The visual image or sensation of the object as provided by the eyes;
b)    The imaginative interpretation of the visual image;
c)    The conceptualization of the object, that is, labeling the image.

  For example, when viewing an opaque cup one's eyes only see it from one angle - above, side, bottom, etc - while the rest of the cup remains invisible. In one's mind, however, one tends to imagine a complete cup with four sides, a bottom, an opening at the top, and a hollow inside. One also labels the object as a 'cup'.

One difference between conceptualization and the other parts of perception (sensation and imagination) is that the latter two change as one views an object from alternate angles. For instance, as a cup is turned around, the eyes see successively different parts of the cup and one’s imaginative input also changes as one imagines the concealed features of the cup. The concept of a cup, however, remains constant regardless of the angle of perception.

This reveals that sensation and imaginative interpretation are both connected to the material world, while conceptualization is relatively abstract and transcendental. More specifically, sensory input is most limited by the material world, imagination, less so, as it enables one to 'perceive' aspects of an object invisible to the naked eye, while conceptualization is most transcendent, for, as mentioned, it is unaltered by the spatial orientation of an object.                                    

On this basis it may appear that conceptualization plays a passive role in perception: it merely labels perceptions. But this is only partly true. Conceptualization also has a strong active influence on perception. For example, if one is asked to spot a cup on a cluttered shelf (remebering that the verbal request is conceptual in nature), the words evoke a mental image  of a cup which then guides one's eyes to identify the cup on the shelf.

The passive and active aspects of conceptualization find expression in skating:

Passive: When observing a skater perform a kickflip from behind, one naturally imagines how the trick appears from the other angles as well (usually one is utterly unaware that one does so and confuses his imaginings with visual sensations). Subsequently, one gives the trick a name. Skateboarding commentators must have all three perceptual elements working effectively and efficiently. The commentator only sees the skater from a particular angle and therefore must use imaginative interpretation to fill in the 'missing links' in order to correctly identify tricks. He must also be fluent in the  names of all the tricks so that he may announce them rapidly, in time with a skater's performance.      

Active: When skating, one typically thinks of a particular trick by name - a Kickflip, 360 Hard flip, etc. The name elicits the trick within one's imagination and one then 'sees' oneself performing the trick in one's immediate surroundings as the mental image illuminates one's eyes. Similarly, when 'bombing a hill' one tends to fear pot holes, rocks, branches, etc,  which can send one flying off the board into a hospital bed. While skating downhill one thus keeps mental images of those obstacles in mind. It is these images that guide one's eyes to look for and recognise such obstructions on the road... 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to eat a skateboard...

Kabbalah views human interaction with the reality as largely dual in nature. Entities, be they physical or metaphysical, either surround a person, are internalized by him, or both simultaneously. Of course there are many many gradations to the relationship.

At the most basic physical level we have different types of relations with things that help us survive. Food, for instance, is intended to be internalized by a person and vitalizes him from the inside by becoming a part and parcel of his being.

Clothes, in contrast, facilitate survival by surrounding a person from the outside, protecting him from the elements. Nonetheless, clothes are designed to fit the individual snugly, they take on the shape and size of the human body. In this respect they are said to surround a person at close range.

A house also surrounds a person, keeping him safe from many potential dangers, and also from the elements. A house, however, surrounds a person from a distance, for unlike clothing it does not, relatively speaking, need to be customized to the size and shape of its resident.

In the intellectual sphere, these three modes of experience also have their parallel. When a person is exposed to an idea which he is finds utterly unintelligible, the subject matter is said to envelop his mind from a distance - akin to a house. If he can detect the depth in the subject matter but is yet struggling to get his head around it, the subject matter is said to surround his mind at close range - as clothes do. Finally, if he manges to understand it - intellectually digest it - he has internalized the subject matter and has eaten it like food.

Unlike the physical items - house, clothes, and food - which are either exclusively surrounding or edible in nature, the intellectual, metaphysical correspondents are prone to shift from one level to another. At first, a concept may be completely aloof from the individual. Through intensive study and effort, however, he may come to feel that the subject is in his reach. Then, through even more concerted study, he may eventually come to understand and integrate the concept into his perception. The house becomes clothing; clothing becomes food.

The same principle applies to the grasp of skateboarding tricks. Initially, a trick may appear completely beyond one's calibre and ability, something one is completely in awe of. Through practice and determination, however, the trick may enter into one's realm of the possible - though exceptionally difficulty. Finally, through profuse practice, one may eventually develop the skills to perform the trick. Here one has integrated the skills required to perform the trick into his person, he has, in a sense, taken another bite of his board...                

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hooked by the bait of Justice Reid

The fisherman casts his bait into the water; a fish bites; the fisherman reels in the fish. These are the basics of fishing. Profoundly, these are also the basics of human behaviour.
Frontside Blunt slide
Nollie Lipslide

 I mean to say that we are all like fish going about our daily routine, when, suddenly, we are exposed to something alluring or inspirational which grips us, pulls us out of our routine, heats us up with the fires of passion and transforms us.    

On many occasions I have sat at the skate park observing others skating, too tired to
skate myself. Then a thought pops into my mind that grabs my attention. My entire body is then reeled in, and I enthusiastically jump up, inspired to attempt a new trick. The bait appears, I bite, and am jolted out of the cold waters of lethargy.

Frontside Tailslide
Nollie 180 to
Crooked Grind
 Recently, at Prahran skate park I experienced this in a  powerful manner. The bait: Justice Reid.

Justice, a teenager who recently moved to Melbourne from New Zealand, has a most graceful and delicate style of skateboarding. He is exceptionally light on his feet, executes his tricks gently, calmly and carefully, with a mindfulness that radiates his face. He lands with his feet directly above the bolts, and rides away cleanly.

Switch kickflip over hip
      Nollie Tre Flip into bank
Feeble Grind
Though I saw him Nollie Tre flip into a bank, and Nollie 180 to switch crook on a rail, I especially admired the simpler tricks that he performed such as a tailslide. It was specifically in these tricks, without the distractors caused by complexity or the element of fear, that his elegance was most visible. His tailslides seem to float above the rail and he glides onto his board when landing. 

Watching Justice skate, an onlooker commented, "He looks as though he's skating on the moon!" I could not have said it better, except I'd add that his personality seems to be consistent with his skating style. He has a soft, respectful, tender and calm demeanor about him.

  Since I watched Justice skate, I've been trying to skate in a more dove-like and composed manner.                            

Monday, May 21, 2012

In the eyes of the board-holder

Sometimes I hear skaters arguing about which pro-skater is the best. One skater awards the accolade to Rodney Mullen, another, to Paul Rodruigez, another, to Mike Vallely, and still others vouch for Eric Koston or Chris Cole. Who is correct?    
There is a Talmudic debate concerning how to praise a bride. The school of Shamai maintain she should be praised for the qualities she actually possesses. The school of Hillel hold that all brides should be praised with the standard formula, “beautiful and graceful.” Shamai object, "What if the bride is lame or disfigured? Isn't it written, 'Distance yourself from falsehood?'" Hillel reply that since the bride is beautiful to her groom they speak the truth.

The opinions in this debate underline that beauty is both an objective quality and a subjective experience. There are distinct criteria for beauty - proportion, symmetry, wholeness, contrast, harmony, etc - but, even an entity that fails to meet them may still appear beautiful to a person.

It is noteworthy that in legal debates, Shamai typically state a stricter opinion, while Hillel present a more lenient one. Kabbalah explains that Shamai relates to the Sefirah (divine attribute) of Gevurah— strictness and rigidity, and Hillel, with Chessed— kindness and malleability. This pattern is present in their debate about beauty as well. Shamai sees the quality of beauty as rigid, consisting of clearly defined criteria.  Hillel, in contrast, present a more flexible view: 'Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.'

Accordingly, if the above skaters' skills were to be judged based on clearly defined criteria -such as trick repertoire, creativity level, ease of execution, difficulty level of tricks performed, stability, consistency, etc - then it would be possible to determine which skater is objectively better in those areas. However, when people merely like one skater's style over an other's or feel that a particular skater resonates with them, their is no real argument taking place. Every person is merely expressing their own subjective sense.

In this regard, the great philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, stated that while people can argue about the temperature in a room - something verifiable through a thermometer or an other instrument- it is absurd for people to argue about whether a person feels himself to be warm. After all, how one feels is entirely subjective.

It is noteworthy that according to Kabbalah, the Sefirah of Tiferet (Beauty) is the product of the harmony of Chessed and Gevurah - which we have associated with subjective and objective perspectives of beauty - for ultimately, beauty is a balance between objective fact and subjective preference...  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cycles: a wheely important idea

'Good deeds bring about more good deeds; sin brings about more sin'

When Albert Einstein was asked what he considered to be the most fascinating aspect of the universe, he replied, "Compound interest!"

He was referring to phenomena such as an avalanche where a small amount of snow falls and causes more snow to fall with it, which, in turn, brings even more snow to fall, etc. Eventually, a devastating amount of snow falls all at once.

This type of cyclical pattern exists at every level of human function: thought, emotion, and action.

Mind: A person learns an idea which he understands according to his level of maturity and intelligence at the time. This understanding is stored in the subconsciousness. Some time later, the concept re-enters the individual's mind and is grasped according to the individual's new level of maturity and experience. This new comprehension is then stored in the subconscious memory bank only to reemerge at some later period to be modified, refined, and reinterpreted based on the person's further cognitive development.

Heart: If one feels mild fear, the emotion triggers the imagination to depict fearful images. The individual then projects these onto his surroundings and 'sees' justifications for his fear. This, in turn, reinforces his fear level which brings his imagination to generate even more frightening images...and so the cycle continues.

Action:  On performing an act of kindness, one takes pleasure in the act. The pleasure experienced motivates one to perform more kind acts, and so on. Unfortunately, the same principle applies to acting on lust and other self-centred tendencies. The pleasure felt through such acts motivates one to further engage in such activities - often in increasing measure.

The cycles within the human consciousness can either be constructive or destructive. The key is to break the destructive cycles and to reinforce the positive ones. With negative cycles, the more momentum they gain, the harder it becomes to stop them. One should try and identify these in their early stages of development and nip them in the bud. Conversely, positive cycles need assistance in gaining momentum. Once in motion, they become increasingly easier to build upon and develop.

Start a positive cycle today...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Living in a Half-Pipe

When skating a half-pipe one oscillates between the two sides of the transition in order to gain speed. Which aspect of daily life, if any, does this mechanism reflect?

Here are a few suggestions:

a) Overshooting: In 'Feal the fear and do it Anyway' the author explains how progress toward a goal seldom occurs in a straight line, but rather, in a zig-zag of self-correction. She provides the analogy of an airplane navigation system which is programmed to travel to a specific destination but doesn't actually bring the plane there in a perfectly straight line. Rather, it overshoots and causes the plane to travel too far to the right, corrects itself and overshoots to the left, only to overshoot to the right again. Eventually, however, it arrives at the narrow strip of runway.

The author's message is that success does not necessarily require perfection at every step of the way. On the contrary, success is typically the product of much error which is repeatedly corrected and fine tuned.


One major limitation with this analogy is that it views oscillation as a means to an end. In the case of the half-pipe, however, oscillation may be an end in its own right. Furthermore, in the pursuit of a goal, oscillation is an incidental part of the activity - if one can do without it, one does. When skating a half pipe, in contrast, oscillation is an essential part of the activity.

b) Compensation: People often express themselves in compensatory extremes. For instance, a mother may get angry with her misbehaving child, but only to regret her harshness and compensate by swinging to the opposite extreme, smothering her child with treats and copious indiscriminate love. Subsequently, she notices her child taking advantage of her kindness and shifts once more to an excessively stern mode.


In the analogy, the oscillation between extremes is unintentional, negative, and a sign of imbalance. In the case of  skating a half-pipe, however, it is intentional, positive, and requires much balance.

c) Dialectics: The Philosopher, Hegel, famously taught the notion of dialectics, that consciousness functions in a perpetual three step process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. A dynamic visible at both the sublime and mundane levels:
Sublime: the thesis of 'being' is countered by the antithesis of 'non-being' and finds a synthesis in the notion of 'becoming'.
Mundane: Alex desires to talk to his friend (thesis); however, he realizes that it is inappropriate to do so while he's at work (antithesis); he thus decides to make the call during his lunch break (synthesis).

According to Hegel, every synthesis gives birth to another thesis, and hence the dialectical process continues indefinitely. 


Perhaps Hegel's dialectics overcomes the objections that were raised concerning the preceding two possible parallels:
A. Since the dialectic process is ongoing, it may be viewed as an end in itself. It is also an essential part of conscious development;
B. The dialectic process is a positive one and is largely an expression of balance.

However, Hegel's process is not necessarily an intentional one, for it occurs at both the conscious and unconscious levels of humanity.

Please object!
If you have any objections to any of the above, please comment, for it is precisely this oppositional and argumentative form of discussion - which is richest when parties use the other side's arguments to strengthen their own -which allows people to soar higher and higher toward the truth...

Monday, May 14, 2012


The Orchard eBook
‘There is much misinformation about Kabbalah. Dovid Tsap,
an authentic teacher, explains how this ancient wisdom can
affect your life in the present.’
Rabbi Laibl Wolf
(Author of best-selling ‘Practical Kabbalah’)

‘Dovid Tsap is a remarkably gifted researcher, writer and
expositor in the esoteric dimension of Torah’.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen
(Author of multiple publications and
Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization)

From ‘In the Cleft of the Rock’
by Deborah Masel

‘Dovid Tsap’s teachings had a profound influence on my
understanding of the more hidden, Kabbalistic qualities within
the Torah.’
From ‘Painting the Torah’
by Victor Majzner

In The Orchard, Dovid Tsap takes readers on four mind-opening adventures into authentic Kabbalah thought:
Kabbalah: A Delicate Flower guides students around the pitfalls of ‘stargazing’, ‘getting lost in the palace hallways’, and ‘studying the map without walking the streets’.

Biblical Figures and the Tree of Life explores the ten energies (Sefirot) comprising the psyche, their correspondence to ten biblical personalities, and how psychological wellbeing relates to the balance of five pairs of complementary Sefirot.

Fruit of the Tree: Mitzvot as States of Being explains several mitzvot [commandments] in a universally relevant manner by demonstrating how each involves a distinct usage of one’s psycho-spiritual qualities.

PARDES: The Mystical Orchard explores the four levels of Torah interpretation known by the acronym PARDES: Peshat—simple meaning; Remez—allusions; Derush—deriving lessons; and Sod—the esoteric. After relating these to the rivers flowing from Eden, the scheme is applied in practice.
While elucidating the esoteric, the book is rich with practical insight.
Written in a style accessible to beginners it delves deep beyond the introductory.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Narrow Bridge

"The world is a very narrow bridge... the main thing is not to fear at all..."  
Rabbi Nachman from Breslov
As a child, I watched Superman I. Till today, one of the scenes in the film continues to replay itself in my mind every now and again. When Superman holds up Louise Lane in mid air she asks him, "I know you are holding me, but who's holding you?!"

When one rides a skateboard it is clear that one is guiding the board, but who is guiding the skater?
Yes, the skater is consciously and willingly involved in controlling his board but there are innumerable actions taking place at the time, making the skateboarding act possible, of which the skater is completely - or only slightly- aware. For instance, who is causing the skater's heart to beat, lungs to breath, kidneys to function, brain activity to surge through the brain,etc,? What informs the skater how to maintain balance while skating? How do all the countless memories of learned skateboarding skills flow into the skater's mind?

A person traversing the world is comparable to a young child attempting to walk across a narrow log. He fears that the slightest loss of control on his part would result in a painful fall. Unbeknownst to him, however, his father walks behind him holding on to his shirt, guiding and supporting him, and whose absence would indeed result in the child's immediately fall.

When Rabbi Nachman compares the world to a very narrow bridge and then, in the same breath, encourages us to cross it without fear, he has the above truth in mind. God walks behind us, supporting us the entire way, making what seems impossible to us, possible...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are you a feather or a brick?

The boundaries between arrogance and high self esteem, as well as humility and low self esteem are murky. This is because the former pair are both characterised by power, stature, and dominance; while the latter pair are associated with meekness, lowliness, and submission. In truth, the qualities in each set are veritable opposites. Here are four ways of distinguishing between the ostensibly similar qualities:

a) Stifling versus motivating:

Arrogance generally relates to past achievement. The arrogant individual expects admiration owing his stature, accomplishments, or possessions. This often stifles his growth and actualization of potential. Excessive focus on ‘reward’ for the past, detracts from future progress. High self esteem, in contrast, relates to a sense of potency and efficacy. The individual is aware of his potential to achieve great things and focuses on actualizing it.
A similar distinction exists between low self esteem and humility:

Low self esteem is characterised by feelings of  incompetence and helplessness; a blindness toward one's potential, it impedes progress. Humility, however, stems the realization that one hasn't achieved anywhere near one’s potential. One has so much more to offer that past achievements pale in comparison to one's potential. Indeed, the humble individual tends to be embarrassed by former accomplishments. He is forever focused on bringing out his best.

Both low self esteem and arrogance relate to a false perception of one’s potential. One with the former thinks he has little potential, one with the latter believes he's already actualized much of it. Both stifle progress.

Both high self esteem and humility relate to an awareness of one's potential. One with the former is aware of his efficacy, one with the latter is strongly dissatisfied with the status quo in light of it. Both motivate progress.

The humble individual is compared to grass which is upright (as though striving higher); the arrogant individual is compared to a large tree with drooping branches (for one complacent can only begin to decline). 

b) Seeking approval from others:   

The Euphrates was asked, “Why do you flow so quietly?” To which it replied, “People are aware of me on account of the fertile soil that I produce. I thus have no need to make noise.” 
The Tigris was then asked, "Why do you flow so noisily?" To which it replied, "Just have a look at my desolate banks, people pay no attention to me. I make noise to get noticed!"

This ancient parable lucidly illustrates the relationship between low self esteem and arrogance, high self esteem and humility. Because one with self esteem feels his own potency, he doesn't seek attention by boasting about himself. One suffering from low self esteem, however, feels impotent, and draws attention to himself by blowing his trumpet.
Based on this, low self esteem and arrogance are actually two sides of the same coin, as are high self esteem and humility. 

c) Rational/Irrational:

Arrogance and low self esteem are irrational in nature. There is no real rational basis for feeling either quality, for in reality every person has unlimited potential, the awareness of which should naturally dwarf one's former achievements. Indeed, the more rational and reality aligned a person is, the less likely he is to feel low self esteem or arrogance. Meanwhile, both humility and  high self esteem are in sync with reality, and are strengthened by reason and fact.

The humble individual is compared to a bottle filled with coins (I.e. humility is based on substance) and thus makes no noise when shaken (the humble individual has no need to convince himself that he's important). In contrast,  the arrogant individual is like a bottle with only a few coins, which rattles when moved (that is, the arrogant person needs to inflate himself to counter his deep-seated and typically unconscious sense of insignificance).

d) Tolerance of criticism or failure:

Arrogance and low self esteem make criticism or failure more painful, while self-esteem and humility make them more tolerable. By way of analogy, who will be more distraught by the loss of $500, a millionaire or a pauper who only has $500? Obviously, for one, the loss of $500 does little damage, but for the other, whose life hangs on it, it is devastating.

Similarly, one with self-esteem believes himself to be valuable. Failure or criticism thus detract little from his self-worth. One with low self-esteem, however, feels he has little value. Hence, failure or criticism can be severely distressing.         

A similar difference exists between arrogance and humility. The arrogant person who, as mentioned, sees himself as the product of limited past achievements, suffers when criticised; he's like a static statue that is being chipped away at. The humble individual, however, who dynamically strives to grow and improve, is not only capable of tolerating criticism - he is thankful for it as it helps him progress.

The humble individual is compared to a feather, which, when dropped lands softly. The arrogant individual is compared to a brick, which, when dropped lands with a thud.   

In Summary:

    What people think: 
Humility and low self-esteem are related, as are arrogance and high self-esteem.

The truth: 
 Humility and high self-esteem are strongly related, as are arrogance and low self- esteem.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ash Cochrane's Eyes

Ash Cochrane is a skater who is not afraid of heights. He lands his tricks cleanly and consistently, and regularly receives applause from other skaters at the skate park. And the tricks he lands are certainly nothing to sneeze at. I've observed him backside blunt slide hand rails, casually Ollie a set of ten stairs, kick flip boxes at shoulder height, and smoothly perform an assortment of flip tricks over a hip with formidable height.

Surprisingly, however, whenever I praise him for a trick he's landed, he almost invariably replies with mild self-criticism: 'That was so sketchy!...I can't believe I managed to stay on my board!...'I was so crooked!', etc.

What makes his self-criticism even more unexpected is that he has a pronounced capacity to see others in a positive light, in terms of their skating ability, personality, and overall style of living.


This reminded me of a teaching in the Chassidic tradition concerning the eyes:

The chassidic masters, Rabbi Zushia of Anipoli and Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk once debated the proper path in meditation: should one first meditate on God's greatness and thereafter meditate on the smallness of man, or vicsa-versa. Afterall, each approach has its advantage: awareness of God's greatness helps one, via contrast, discover one’s own smallness; alternatively, awareness of one’s smallness assists one to percieve God's greatness.

In Kabbalah, the right eye is associated with a positive perspective, while the left eye, a negative one. The right eye is to be directed toward others; the left, toward oneself. And the two perspectives are complementary. Seeing the positive in others helps one see personal impefections in need of improvement, and seeing one's own flaws helps one appreciate the beauty in others.


                On this basis, Ash's dual perspective is not paradoxical. On the contrary, the two perspectives help him appreciate and learn from those around him, while always leaving him room for personal growth and development.

It seems like Ash has both eyes WIDE open...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Viv Lyde and the power of receptivity

Backside Tailslide
 Raph Brous and I went for another skate together at St Kilda beach. This time, however, we were fortunate to have been accompanied by Viv Lyde. We skated a ledge which I frequented, and which I associated with specific tricks. Fortunately, when Viv arrived on the scene, he opened my eyes to a fresh perspective on how the ledge is to be used. (I'll let the accompanying photos of him skating speak for themselves.)

One thing that especially stands out about Viv's skating is his ability to perform very delicate as well as sharp moving tricks. Tricks that require a quick whipping action while travelling up or at obstacles at a formidable speed.  
Backside Smith Grind
Which quality affords Viv the ability to perform such high precision movements?

Well, one thing for certain, Viv is a highly receptive and good listener. He has the type of listening ability which is the hallmark of maturity. While intelligence generally involves the ability to originate, understand, and apply information - 'brain capacities' - maturity refers to the link between intellect and emotion; the brain and the heart. Here, receptivity plays a pivotal role.
Frontside 5-0
The emotions of a mature person are aroused by his thinking and back his words as he talks. When discussing a serious issue, his emotional disposition is serious, and when making a humorous remark he bears a frivolous undertone. In contrast, when an immature person talks, there's often an incongruity between his feelings and the ideas he presents. 
In a nutshell, here's how receptivity fosters this aspect of maturity: one who can't listen to others, can't hear himself either. That is, his emotions are not easily roused by his own thoughts. The effective listener, however, who is moved by another’s words, finds that his emotions are also receptive to the contents of his own mind.

During my conversations with Viv, I observed his stillness while he listened to what I was saying. I also noticed that he speaks slowly, thoughtfully, and his words come out with a depth of feeling and inwardness. Especially so, as he spoke about his relationship with his father, 'Lobby Loyde',  who happens to have been an important and influential figure in the development of Australian Rock music.
I believe that the same internal space that allows Viv to be receptive to others, as well as his own thoughts, also affords him the ability to be highly receptive to his own actions while skating. And, even if this quality is not the primary source of his skating talent, I'm confident that it plays a role in enhancing it.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The human stream

As a teenager, I read a book on Chi Kung which compares a human to a stream. The cells of the human body perpetually regenerate to the extent that after one year the body is almost entirely new.  One's body is thus in a constant flux. Accordingly, as stones and rubbish can block the flow of a stream, stress, anger, an unhealthy diet, smoking, and the like, can block the ongoing life flow - the cell regeneration - resulting in the ill health of particular limbs and organs affected by the blockage.

In Kabbalah, I learnt another way that a human is analogous to a stream. A person has three modes of expression: thought, speech, and action. Through thought one reveals his intellect and feelings to himself. Through speech one reveals his thoughts to others. And through action one has a tangible impact on one's environment.

These three modes of expression cascade into each other. Thought is like a spring at the mountain top; speech draws on thought, broadens the spring into a stream, and extends its flow down the mountain. Action then draws on speech and expresses it in the most tangible terms; the stream thus descends to the bottom of the mountain. The world which one affects is the repository for one's thoughts, speech, and actions and is thus akin to a lake into which the stream water gathers.

When skating, I like to be aware of this three step process and use it to to improve my skating. First I think of a trick to perform; then I articulate - internally or externally- how I'm going to perform it and, if difficult, I engage in self- talk in order to psyche myself up to commit to performing the trick. Finally, I attempt the trick in action.

In this way, I literally experience the flow of my psycho-spiritual energy flowing downward from my thought into speech, from speech into action, and from action into the external world.

This unobstructed flow from the spring down to to the lake is not to be taken for granted. Often, people do not voice what they really think, and the spring never expands into a stream. Often people say something yet fail to act accordingly, and the stream never quite reaches the mountain bottom. To experience a congruence in the flow of  one's thought, speech, and action is incredibly liberating and cleansing...          

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


'Transformation from one thing to another requires a nothing in between'
Chassidic Teaching

The classic example for the above principle is that of a seed which must be planted within the earth where it undergoes a degree of decay before it can transform into a plant.

Then we have the caterpillar which enters a cocoon where it loses its former self only to re-emerge from the cocoon as a beautiful and graceful butterfly.

Scientists have revealed that at the point of conception of new life, after the male and female genetic codes mix, there is a mysterious disappearance of the genetic code. Only when it re-appears does it begin to develop into a fetus.

In reference to human spiritual progress, this principle implies that one can only ascend to a new level of consciousness if he is ready to humble himself by realizing that he is utterly empty and as naught before God.

The Talmud relates the following relevant incident:
On one of his explorations, Alexander the Great came across a spring of water that exuded a most delightful fragrance. He followed the spring to its source, the Garden of Eden, where he requested permission to enter. He was refused with the verse, “This is God’s gate the righteous pass through it.” He protested, “I am a king worthy of honour, let me in!” But in spite of his efforts he was denied entry.

Immediately preceding the verse “This is God’s gate” the verse states, “Open for me the gates of righteousness, I shall enter and ode’eh God”. The word Ode’eh means to humble oneself, indicating that the way one attains righteousness and in turn merits entry into the Garden of Eden is through submission before God.               

 Only by gaining awareness of one's lowliness and emptiness before God does a door open to the spiritual realm. And what is a doorway but an empty space between two rooms - a gap- which allows movement from one room to an other.
Who is ready to jump the gap?