Sensory Deprivation Tanks

I have been interested in sensory deprivation tanks for a couple of weeks now. I will go ahead and tell you that they are also called flotation baths. Doesn’t sound that intimidating now huh? Last week I visited a spa that offered this service. Basically, were talking about a giant silo containing water and about two thousand cups of Epsom salts. Typically you lie in there for about one hour. The silo is noise-proof and gives you the option to turn off the lights. As far as sensory deprivation goes, you do retain the physical sensations of your skin, but they become sharper since all your other senses are now toned down. The water’s texture also gains a viscous property.

I’ve heard of people who took LSD whilst bathing themselves for additional effects. It was not my case, but I did close the tank and shut off the lights to spend the hour in complete darkness. It ended up being a real treat. I spaced out and began feeling like I was an unborn baby in the womb. I also became the universe. I had also taken a lot of caffeine before heading out which was not recommended. My heart went pounding for fifteen minutes until my breath became a re-assuring anchor. It made me realize how little we care for ourselves. The body reacts to all external influences. It ought to be compared to the highest luxury item we will ever have the pleasure of owning and using. Under this kind of perspective it makes complete sense to take some time off and train the body.

Overall, I heartily recommend it. The sensory deprivation tank is a great way to detect any tensions that may lie in the body. This can give us hints to certain body parts that might need conscious supervision.

Lessons From a Past, Forgotten

I went to see a good friend of mine for some smalltalk since we hadn’t seen each other for a month or two. We’ve known each other for 15 years and I compare our friendship to a ripe fruit. Sometimes the fruit was exposed to too much sunlight or didn’t get enough water, but it persisted and became something meaningful. We accept our differences and learn to see the best in each other. At least we try.

Both of our birthdays had passed, but he hadn’t given me any birthday present so I received a belated gift from him. He had the tasteful idea of buying me LEGO’s. During our childhood, we both enjoyed building and dismantling LEGO’s for as long as we can remember. I went home, slowly sat down and looked at the box. I shook it, I inspected the package carefully. Upon opening the package I smiled a bit to myself and looked at the pieces. I took the time to lay them all down noticing that my head was thinking about how much time this took and how I could do it faster to move on…

When did it all go wrong? When did I decide that fame, success and recognition were adequate substitutes for enjoyment of the immediate experience? How could it have ever made sense to value an uncertain future through projections of the self.

An object takes shape, from individual pieces that work together.

I went on with a slow, aimless pace. I know that the mind will follow the body. Eventually my brain got the message. I felt each piece on my fingers. I looked at the different shapes. I noticed how vibrant the colors were. From a bright yellow to a bursting red I realized how stimulating these colors were. I hadn’t been this mindful in months. Nothing else perturbed me anymore.

I also noticed how I had made an assumption on how one of the block was placed. The first thing that fired off in my mind was “This is a mistake”. Then I recollected myself and thought of the word “mistake”. It’s a funny word. As far as I am concerned, a “mistake” just means doing a thing which does not meet certain expectations. It isn’t really a mistake if we remove the expectations part. I would rather call it an “interesting detour”.

The product and the creator are indivisible.

Humanization with Laughter

We all have weeks where we feel like Tyler Durden from Fight Club. Alienated, disconnected, careless and reckless. For some people this translates into feeling further away from humanity than ever before. Feeling repulsed by the flesh yet taking part in pornography or prostitution, being unable to share in on our feelings with everyone else, being unable to cry, seeing life in a polarizing fashion… I could put out many more examples, but you get the point.

It shows through the body too. Fear attracts fear, it’s a powerful tool, which coupled with the concept of a self-fulling prophecy can put us into a social environment that causes endless and unnecessary suffering.

I’m experimenting with different strategies to stay out of the slump, or at least change my relationship with it. So far I have found that a very fast way of breaking the mold is by doing the opposite of our usual act. There’s a psychotherapist that once said : “If you keep doing the sames things, you must expect the same results”. Feeling frustrated? Stop acting in similar ways ‘get off the beaten path’.

Another one that I like is from a book called “A guide to the good life” by William B Irvin., he talks about laughter and self-deprecating humor as vital assets to anyones toolkit. I whole heartily agree. We often suffer because we are being very serious and putting people or ideals on a pedestal. Hell, if there’s one quick way to snap out and get down our high horse it is by picking up on how ridiculous we are being. Any good doctor will have no problem prescribing a healthy amount of laughter at the world and at self. Kurt Vonnegut likes to laugh at out ridiculous the world is too and I’d like to think that this is what makes his books so accessible.

Watch interviews of Freddie Mercury or Frank Zappa, the two guys were not acting. They were who they were. Not afraid to voice an opinion and being able to laugh at oneself and at the way things work. That’s part of what made them so interesting.

The next time you feel a bit off, do something radically different or laugh out loud.

Vagabond Series : Part 1

I introduced Vagabond about two weeks ago as being an engaging work of art that has life lessons, historical artifacts and a good deal of entertaining value. Today, I am going to cover Takezo’s psychological profile at the age of 17 which is where the manga starts. These articles contain spoilers. As always, the pictures are the work of Takehiko Inoue and are used for educational purposes.

Takezo, like many other interesting protagonists, attracts people to him inadvertently. During his stay at Oko’s hideaway, he resists temptations of alcohol and Oko’s seductive matters. There seems to be a higher purpose driving him; a worship of the intangible.

In the midst of battle, Takezo still finds the time to call out for his friends.

Takezo gets into many fights with the bandits during this arc. He is almost always outnumbered by incompetent warriors. They might not be great adversaries, but this is a testament to Takezo’s shakeless resolve to become invincible. He is continually regarded as a young boy; but he delivers. His conviction, his skill in combat and his fearlessness are the first pillars of his character at that age. These are all attractive and borderline charismatic traits. As far as his physique goes, he is bigger and meaner than your average Joe. He also demonstrates a sense of duty by trying to help out his comrades. Not the talkative kind, Takezo is seen as a quiet force in most social encounters. Being a sponge is a great trait for any leader who is keen on learning. Not to mention that he demonstrates that trait without wanting to take advantage of any situation in particular. Just great analytical skills.

At a young age, Takezo is already asking important open-ended questions. He starts wondering what this endless fighting leads to and what it means to him. This demonstrates his ability to contemplate and understand his demeanor more objectively.

We also learn that Takezo did most of his growing up in the mountains. This can describe why he is seen as distant and unapproachable at times. Since he grew up alone, it also explains why he might be prone to have contemplative moments. He must have spent a good deal of time without human contact. This must have forced him to be mindful of his own company.

We get to see some interactions of Takezo and his father. We learn that Takezo comes from a renowned Samurai bloodline. We also see that Takezo’s relationship with fear is very peculiar. I would like to think that this is what makes Takezo so interesting. In the face of adversity and pain, he still knows fear, but it does not paralyze him out of action or skew his senses. As far as his childhood goes, his father treats Takezo as an enemy. His mother, well she left Takezo with his mad father. Practically an orphan.

Takuan reading Takezo’s emotional state like an open book.

Takezo eventually meets Takuan Soho. Takuan is a known Zen Monk and this scene illustrates how sharp he is. Without even knowing Takezo, Takuan figures out the deep nature of Takezo’s character. They will cross paths many more times.

Finally, Takezo is psychologically and physically beaten up into sense by Takuan Soho who tells him that his life is not just about killing and slashing people away. There is no doubt that this life-threatening experience marks Takezo permanently and dictates his behavior in the future chapters.

That’s that! Takezo at the age of 17 can be seen as a deep, question-seeking individual with great physical capabilities and a fearlessness that does not seem to be encountered anywhere else.

Prevention : The Underdog

Watch towers in medieval times had a very specific role. They were used to sound the alarm when enemies were in line of sight. These crucial minutes could often mean the difference between fending off the enemy and total annihilation.

That is the mentality I live by everyday. The classic adage “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true. That is why I am very interested in reading books on medicine, mental and physical health. As Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones put it :

“My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.”

Staying mentally sharp to see what is ahead of the curve is of vital importance. I will read and indulge in this books with an almost angry thirst for knowledge. I do it for selfish reasons, I want to be educated, knowing that every day brings me closer to a non-existent plateau. I also believe that this action ultimately helps everyone else since we can be great mentors to each other.

Society today provides us with many sources of immediate entertainment and everything we need to lose our sense of self. I learned that less than a year ago Quebec had stop suggesting yearly physicals. The result of this act is that family doctors were now going to get paid way less for doing physicals on a healthy human beings. Human beings act on behalf of prevention. Quebec is following the lead of other provinces who have already abolished the annual checkup. I would say this is a step in the wrong direction by sending the follow message to adults : don’t worry bro, come see us when it hurts.

This wouldn’t be a big deal, but to get a physical done at a private clinic costs about 900$. That is far from accessible. It’s complete BS. Opening a file costs about 85 CAD. I mean were talking about creating a file on a fucking computer with your address, your name and general questions. How can that cost 85 bucks? The health care systems aren’t even linked, so our medical history has to be manually requested and compiled upon a new registration.

In this situation the best thing we can do is stay educated. The INTERNET might be saturated and overloaded with information, it remains a good starting point to find decent books and articles published by certified professionals on a myriad of subjects. If we stay disciplined and remain skeptical we might just make it out of the labyrinth.