Category Archives: People

How to vanish into thin air

I once crossed paths with a most peculiar woman at a gathering. I can’t really tell what she was, but she had the look of a gypsy witch shaman. With her she had an apprentice and a helper. I never spoke directly with her, but I did get the chance to study her.

As I did so I saw her vanish into thin air and then she would reappear somewhere else entirely. Her vanishing would go fast, as the blink of an eye. It was really strange and it took me a long time to understand how she did it. This is how.

We all usually have signifiers in our appearance, things that make us stand out. It can be our big red hair, a special scarf, odd sneakers, colourful details on our clothing or a way of walking. Often we have several such signifiers. When we look for someone in a crowd we are actually looking for their signifiers and if we can’t find their signifiers we assume they are not there.

The woman I was watching was both skilful and clever. Her outfit had several signifiers that were easy to notice, but what I came to understand was that they were also easy to hide. With a few quick moves she would cover her signifiers, assume another body posture, a little limp and as it would appear – vanish into thin air.

Photo: HOLI – THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS by Diganta Talukdar on Flickr

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Quitting by doing it

I found a wonderful talk on TED today where the psychiatrist Judson Brewer elaborates on using mindfulness to break bad habits.

He uses the example of smoking. When building the bad habit of smoking we have propped it up with positive feelings, such as the feeling that we are cool when we smoke. As the habit progresses the rewards that we initially gained become all the more subconscious. It becomes an automated behaviour; a habit.

What I found was really interesting was the way he suggested to break the habit. He didn’t tell his clients “You need to stop smoking”. In fact he did exactly the opposite. He encouraged the client to smoke BUT to do so consciously. Since the habit is an unconscious act bringing in consciousness makes all the difference. When the clients began smoking consciously they themselves found all kinds of nasty things that they were not aware of. Smoking mindfully they began noticing how their body reacted, how they felt, how it smelled and many other things that they had been totally unaware of before. That in turn motivated them to quit or made them loose interest all together, sickened by the insight of what they were doing to themselves.

So next time you want to break a bad habit you might want to try something very different from what you usually do. Instead of trying to cut it off, bring in consciousness and go into the habit. You might find that the key to solving it is right there in front of you.

Photo: Smoke and Steve by Liza Agsalud on Flickr

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10 questions about drugs

1. Which is the most common rape drug?

2. Which drug is associated with the most violence?

3. Which drug kills most people?

4. What kind of drugs are responsible for the most overdose deaths?

5. Name two drugs that have never killed anyone.

6. Name two drugs that have no or very little addictive properties.

7. Name two drugs that break addiction.

8. Name two drugs that are used to cure depression, trauma and abuse.

9. Which drugs are legal?

10. Which drugs are the most illegal?

 

You’ll find the correct answers below the picture.

Photo: Drug questions by Ano Lobb on Flickr.
Photo: Drug questions by Ano Lobb on Flickr

 

There are obviously legal, country and time specific variations to these answers, but this is the general picture.

1. Which is the most common rape drug?
Alcohol is the most common rape drug. Many think that they need to be wary of people who want to spike their drinks with other drugs, but in the overwhelming majority of cases it is the alcoholic drink itself that is the rape drug. Victims and offenders are often drunk and even when there are other drugs in the mix, alcohol is almost always the main drug.

2. Which drug is associated with the most violence?
Alcohol is involved in most cases of violence. 70 to 90 percent of all violence (wars excluded) is directly linked to alcohol. This is as true for domestic violence as it is for violent encounters between strangers. There are a few other drugs (mainly ego enhancing and consciousness decreasing drugs) that are also associated with violence, but even in cases when other drugs are present alcohol is usually the main drug.

This diagram gives you a hint at how many deaths are attributed to different drugs in the UK 2011. It is however misleading since the tobacco part of the diagram only shows England, while the other circles include all of the UK. In other words, the tobacco circle should be far much bigger than it is in this picture.
This diagram shows you how many deaths were attributed to different drugs in the UK 2011. The very large circle represent deaths due to tobacco and the next biggest one is alcohol. In third place we find opiates and opiate substitutes, which are mostly found in legal medications. In fourth place are legal anti-depressants and in fifth are legal benzodiazepines. In other words, all the big killer drugs except for heroin are legal.

3. Which drug kills most people?
Tobacco is by far the most lethal drug. Tobacco kills more people than all other legal and illegal drugs combined. Alcohol is the second most deadly drug and in third place we find prescription medications. Science is having a hard time putting these in relation to each other, but estimates are that tobacco takes somewhere between two and fifteen times as many lives as alcohol.

4. What kind of drugs are responsible for the most overdose deaths?
Pharmaceutical drugs/prescription medicines are the most commonly overdosed with a deadly outcome. One reason is of course the availability but another very important reason is that medications often are highly toxic.

5. Name two drugs that have never killed anyone.
LSD, cannabis and magic mushrooms are a few non-lethal drugs, but there are certainly more. The doses needed to die from them are simply so ridiculously high that it is physically impossible to consume such quantities of cannabis or mushrooms. In the case of LSD it is probably possible to take that much, but you would need to take thousands of doses and as far as I know that still hasn’t happened. It is of course possible to die in an accident or such while on these drugs, but even so these are not drugs that typically make users accident prone. Science rather suggests that people using these drugs are usually more careful and considerate.

6. Name two drugs that have no or very little addictive properties.

Photo: Hícuri by Mierdamian Rondana on Flickr
Photo: Hícuri by Mierdamian Rondana on Flickr

Psychedelics generally have strong anti-addictive properties and are therefore fantastic for breaking addiction. Some such drugs are LSD, magic mushrooms (psilocybin), San Pedro/Peyote (mescaline), Ayahuasca, DMT, Iboga (ibogaine) and Salvia Divinorum. Another thing that several of the psychedelics have in common is that the user’s tolerance towards them increases rapidly, so even if a user would want to use it several days in a row it would quickly become meaningless to do so because the effects would vanish.

7. Name two drugs that break addiction.
LSD, magic mushrooms and Iboga are all well known in the treatment of addicts, but psychedelics of all kinds can be helpful. Before being made illegal LSD was among other things used to cure alcoholism. AA co-founder Bill Wilson was an advocate of using it specifically to treat cynical alcoholics by giving them a spiritual experience. Ironically LSD had a higher success rate of curing alcoholics than AA or any other program has ever had.

8. Name two drugs that are used to cure depression, trauma and abuse.
Again, psychedelics are fantastic tools for curing depression, trauma and abuse, especially LSD, magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca and San Pedro/Peyote. They make the user more aware of his/her situation and give insights and experiences that help the user deal with past trauma. Within a spiritual context the plants are especially helpful since they actually speak to the user in a way that an isolated substance cannot do.

Western chemical based medicine often uses medications such as anti-depressants but these medicines most often only put a lid on things and sedate the person. These medicines are also highly addictive and toxic, which makes them very dangerous in comparison.

9. Which drugs are legal?
Alcohol and tobacco are legal, although you need to be of a certain age to buy them. Prescription medications are legal as long as you have a prescription.

10. Which drugs are the most illegal?

Contrary to what many think today's drug laws are not based on science but on politics. For example, did you know that the push to make cannabis illegal was mostly based on racism?
Contrary to what many think today’s drug laws are not based on science but on politics. For example, did you know that the push to make cannabis illegal was greatly based on racism?

Class A drugs are defined as drugs that are especially harmful, have a high abuse potential and that have no medical value. Among these you will find heroin, crack, cocaine, cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms and mescaline. Which class a drug is placed in is however a political decision, not a scientific one. From a strictly scientific point of view this classification is utterly absurd. Heroin and crack would definitely fall within the definition of a class A drug, but so would the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco since they obviously are extremely addictive, harmful and lack all medical value. The psychedelics and cannabis on the other hand are proven to have huge medical value and do very little harm, so they would be stricken if the list was based on science. It appears however that drug policies are among the least scientifically based policies today.

Main photo: fififififiesta! by Adriano Agulló on Flickr

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Hate mail and fan mail

I once listened to a well-known radio journalist who gave the following tip on how to handle insecurities and hubris.

– I have two boxes on my desk. I sort all of the fan mail into one and all the hate mail into the other. It would be easy to feed only from one, but that would make things quite unbearable in the long run. So what I do is that when I feel hubris coming on, when I feel like I’m too big for all of this, then I bring out the hate mail. That takes me down a few notches and sets my head straight. And then of course there are days when I feel very small, insignificant and worthless. That’s when I bring out my fan mail, which also sets me straight. I am good and I am loved. But you see, feeding only off of one of those boxes would be detrimental. I need the balance, not the one or the other, because it is the balance which is true.

Photo: entrevue radio by Andréanne Germain on Flickr (the person in the photo is not the journalist above)

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Someone who takes care of you

The widow lived alone in a town house. Her late husband had left a small savings account which was now a buffer in her old age.

Her neighbours, however – they had no buffer. They were a family with several children who always barely seemed to survive. If it wasn’t the car malfunctioning, then one of them lost their job or the other fell ill. Expenses rose while income dwindled for them.

And while the widow was old there was nothing wrong with her memory. She clearly remembered what it was like when she was young and tried to make ends meet. She helped the family as often as she could, and when things really looked as they would fall apart completely, she was there and helped them get back up again.

So finally one day her bank account was empty. She had lent every penny to the neighbours and they had no way of repaying her any time soon. And now she was the one needing money, but there was none.

In another part of the town a Christian business man put a large sum of money in an envelope. He occasionally got divine guidance which he always tried to follow, even in the cases that he didn’t fully understand why. What he was to do with the envelope was still not clear, but he took a drive and eventually stopped in front of a house where he was told to deliver the envelope.

The widow opened the door and had no idea who the stranger outside was.
– This is for you, the man said and handed over a thick envelope.
Then he wished her a good afternoon and said goodbye. She closed the door and opened the envelope. There was 9700 Euros – the exact amount that had been in the account when her husband passed away.

Photo: A helping hand by Matthew Cheatle on Flickr

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The problem girl

The little girl had barely begun school when the complaints from her teachers started.
– She’s all over the place. It’s impossible to have her in the classroom, they complained and recommended the family to go see a child psychologist.

The mother sternly told the girl to be on her best behavior when they stepped into the psychologists office. She sat on her hands so that she wouldn’t be an annoyance while the grown-ups talked about her problems.
– Can you stay here, the psychologist asked the girl after a little while. I just want to talk to your mother in private.

As the psychologist and mother left the room the psychologist turned on the radio. There was music and as soon as the grown-ups were out the door the girl could no longer sit still, so she started dancing. After a minute the grown-ups opened the door a little and peered in.
– You see, said the psychologist. There is really nothing wrong with your girl. She is a dancer.

So it was that Gillian Lynne came to attend a dance school instead. There she flourished when she met other children like her. Eventually she became a ballet dancer. She became an actress, theater director, choreographer, and more. Among her most famous sets are CATS and the Phantom of the Opera.

Photo: Katka balet dancer by Jozef Turóci on Flickr

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Empty your cup

A professor sought out the Zen master Nan-in to ask about God, nirvana, meditation, the meaning of existence and many other things. The master listened in silence to the professors many questions and then asked:

– Would you like some tea first? You have travelled so far, so let us drink some tea first.

The professor could barely mask his eagerness and impatience as Nan-in made them tea.
– Relax. Don’t be in such a hurry, the master said. Perhaps a cup of tea can hold some of your answers.
– Give me the answers I seek, thought the professor. This person isn’t a master, he told himself. He is stupid. Tea doesn’t hold any answers. But I have travelled far to meet him, so I can at least have a cup with the crazy old man.

Nan-in put a cup in front of the professor and began pouring the tea. He filled the cup and kept pouring. The professor cleared his throat to make the professor aware of what he was doing. But he kept pouring and soon the tea had filled the saucer and was making a mess on the table.
– Stop pouring, yelled the professor. Are you out of your mind? The cup is long full and now you’re just making a mess of the place.

The master Nan-in looked the professor in the eyes and smiled.
– Exactly. And you are the cup. You come here filled up with questions and thoughts and knowledge and beliefs. Even if I were to give you the answers you seek they wouldn’t fit, because you are full. Go and empty your cup before you come back here.

Photo: Tea Time by Catherine on Flickr

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