Tuesday, 31 July 2012

August Holiday

This is a short message to say that there will not be any updates in August 2012.The reasons being that I’ve recently started a job that keeps me very busy at the moment. Also, it’s holiday time and although I have a number of projects in progress – I will not be making any updates online. The month of August is reserved for reflection, fun and kick-starting some top secret projects.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Making It and Defining Success



“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”

RO recently wrote about Greatness. Go read that blog post now, no really! The rest of this post is a built on the ideas of RO’s. OK, so if you’ve not read the RO’s post – here is my paraphrasing summary. “It’s not about trying, it’s about achieving success.” In my in-law’s family they have a concept of first winners, second winners, etc. and last winners. In my family, there are winners, losers and those who chose not to take part.

There’s a statement by the sages in Megila 6b which is:

"I toiled in torah and did not find (success)" - Don't believe him. "I did not toil and I found" - Don't believe him. "I toiled and found" - Believe him.)

In other words, you have to put in the effort to have a chance of success. No effort and still get success? There is no instant solution. Why do you think the dieting industry is so large (pardon the pun), if there was a quick fix there would be very little for the marketing and sales people to do.

“Defining Success”

So if success is really all that matters and it requires a lot of work, what is the definition of success? Is it getting initiated? Is it recognition of one’s peers? If so, are you in comparison to your peers “like the tail of a lion or the head of a fox”? I.e. are you leading the B-team or at the back of the A-team? Is it tangible results?

success-cubby-demotivational-poster-1234409911.png

In project management success used to be defined as delivering a project (i.e. a service or product) within an agreed upon scope (requirements), schedule (end date) and budget (cost). That was known as the iron triangle of constraints. Whichever was fixed, the others could be adjusted. If all were fixed then that was a death-march project doomed to failure from the start. However, I’ve project managed a number of projects that delivered on time, budget and scope. Yet no one used the end product. Which from a business point of view meant that the product provided no value and hence no revenue.

So now the conversation about project success has shifted from the iron triangle of cost, scope, time to include value. In fact, it’s gone the other way and some projects that are massively over cost, time and don’t deliver all the scope promised can still be considered a success… as long as they are perceived to deliver value.

For example, someone who’s house is built late, cost more than estimated and does not have all the electricity working may still be delighted with their new home because it looks exactly how they imaged it would.

Summary:

There are winners and losers. You have to put in effort in order to win. By not entering the race, you have no chance of success. Winning though is something that is not clearly defined. Another thing that is hard to measure - in particular in magical and spiritual development that does not involve grades – is progress.

success-pregnant-nobody-times-demotivational-
posters-1329314848.jpg
Hence why I believe that project management has a useful skill-set to add to the repertoire of a magical and/or spiritual seeker. It’s a way of defining stages and shorter “sprints” of activity that can be used to measure progress. Also, it can be used to determine what you consider to be success.

On a personal note, having tried and failed several times in the past few years to read & translate Hebrew commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), I discovered last week that I could now read and understand (some of) what Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Rabbi Abraham Abulafia have written in their commentaries. It was a combination of Hebrew Immersion training and learning how to connect to the authors by understanding and practicing getting a maggid (spiritual guide) and ibbur (soul impregnation).

Do I consider myself having achieved Greatness? Far from it… hence my self-appointed title “Trainee Golem Builder”, emphasis on the Trainee part. Have I made some progress on the way? Some. Am I a winner? I’ll let you know when the lottery results come in.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Looking for the Source



Here is a brief idea that I’ve shared before in another forum. It revolves around the issue of the evil inclination. Kabbalists believe that we each have an inclination for good and evil, they inform the choices that we make. In the films this is sometimes portrayed as a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other.
There is a story told of a king who wants to test his son. He instructs a prostitute to try to tempt him. She goes off to tempt the son. The prostitute tries every which way to tempt him as this is what the king wants. In her heart she knows that the king does not want her son to give in to temptation, but she has a job to do and she’ll do it to the best of her ability.
The son, recognizing that this is a test, reminds the prostitute for whom she works and returns home. The king is delighted and rewards both his son and the prostitute. The former for passing the test -the latter for succeeding in doing her best. Had the son failed the test, the prostitute would still have been rewarded. 
That in my opinion is one of a number of reasons why it is important to look for the source. Whether it is interacting with things external or internal, look for where it comes from and what lessons is there to be learned. If you only look at what is in front of you (something that requires actually a lot more time, concentration and skill than you might expect), then you may miss the larger picture.

From: F0036332-Woman_sleeping_in_bed-SPL.jpg
In closing, here’s another even shorter story.
An elderly Rabbi wakes up one cold winter morning. His yetzer hara [evil inclination] says to him: “Why not have a lie-in? Just this one time. Do you really have to start work so early?” To which the Rabbi replies to the yetzer hara : “If you’ve started work already by tempting me to sleep in late, surely I should also start work early!” 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Theatre of the Mind

My phone rang in the theatre whilst I was enjoying a musical in just around the corner from Covent Garden in London. There is a special place in hell for people like me. Horrified that my phone was ringing, I leapt out of my seat, past the angry ushers bearing down on me and escaped in to the almost empty bar.

“Hallo?” a familiar voice shouted down the phone. “Dis is Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion. Am I speaking with Shimon Tomski?”

“This is Simon Tomasi,” I replied in as calm a voice as possible whilst trying to get my breath back. “How may I be of assistance?”

“You know dat question that I sent you last week by the email, the one about the quote from Sotah that a heavenly voice announces 40 days before the birth that the soul of such und such will marry the soul of such und such. “ He paused to make sure that I was keeping up with his rapid flow of words. “Well, how does that fit with people getting divorced, nu? If we all have a beshert, that special someone we’re destined to marry, where does it go wrong?”

I thought about it for a moment. The music from the show came through in a muffled fashion and it was a terrific show. Also, my wife had looked none too pleased that on the one occasion in over a year that we’d gone to see a show – I’d been foolish enough to answer a call. Particularly a call from Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion.

“Can I answer this another time please Rabbi? I’m in the middle of watching a musical?” I tried not sound too much like a boy who’d lost his homework.

“A show?” he asked sounding rather excited. “How wunderfull. Please Shimonele, go back in and watch the show. Meditate on how the people on the stage are like the voices and images we see in our meditation. Make a theater of the mind that mirrors what you see in the show.”

With that he hung up and I went back to watch the remainder of an excellent musical about a little girl who was much cleverer than her parents and head mistress.

Later that night I called the Rabbi back with an answer to his first question.

“The explanation that I’ve heard about why people don’t marry ‘the one’, their soul mate, is because they have not lived up to their full potential. If they were the best that they could be – then when the two souls meet it all works out for the best. But if people fail to reach their full potential then they end up with the person who is more suited to their current level.” The Rabbi chuckled. “Ah, I see you’ve been reading about shidduchs and such a like. Yes that is de reason people are told. Dis is not always what they want to hear, but you must understand that the choices you made to be where you are at – that determines what opportunities are available and who you will encounter.”

I waited for him to explain further. Creating awkward pauses worked on most people but Rabbi Tzion was no fool. He waited me out too.

“OK,” I said after a lengthy pause. “How does this relate to the meditation you asked me to do in the theatre?”

“Acha!” He exclaimed in delight. “You are wundering, are the people in the theater of your mind parts of your conscious and unconscious mind. Or are they spiritual entities, malachim or shedim [angels or demons] that clothe themselves in the forms that your mind generates? Dat is the shailah! [question]”

It no longer surprises me that Rabbi Tzion can read my mind. I hardly notice it these days. “Yes,” I answer carefully. “And what are you?” I start to visualize the four letter name of the Divine referred to in literature as tetragrammaton. The theater in my mind dissolves. The two dimensional image of the letters feeling more real than any imagined three dimensional image ever could.

The phone line has gone silent. Rabbi Tzion is gone. I look at the screen on my phone, there are no active calls.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Perspective

“Did you get what you wanted out of that meeting?” my boss asks me.
“Did I get what I needed?” my inner voice echoes back. 
“What did I learn from that experience?” my second thoughts ask. The thoughts that spy on what the rest of my conscious mind is doing, making sure in the heat of the moment no irreversible decisions are made or actions taken. “Having separated out the things I want from those I need, the next question is if I’ve grown and learned from what has gone on before.” 
“Do you understand?” projects my unconscious mind. It’s a familiar question and feels like metaphorically being hit over the back of the head with a wet haddock. Not a frozen haddock, that’s reserved from when I’m being particularly slow in grasping what life-lesson is being taught. 

Whether it’s following a magical, mystical, other path or no path in particular… stuff happens. Some good, some not so good.

Hopefully the you coming out of those experiences is a better person, although what “better” means is something you have to figure out for yourself. Also… sometimes it can take a long time to understand the lessons that are there to be leaned. The conscious mind can take decades coming to terms with the past; the unconscious mind doesn’t always see time in such a linear manner.

So what is the benefit of following a path of development focused on magic or mysticism over say mastery of martial arts or cookery? The simple answer (in my opinion) is that it provides you with a unique set of tools, techniques and most importantly way of viewing & interacting with the world.

An old man walking along the street is knocked over by a punk. Bystanders rush over and make sure the punk is ok. What’s wrong with the picture? Perspective. The punk deliberately knocked down the old man as there was no other option to stop him having a fatal collision with a moving vehicle. If you’re watching the old man fall down, would you also notice the speeding car?

It’s a rhetorical question based around a fictional example. But it hopefully highlights that as a witch, wizard, priest, initiate, golem builder, or whatever you are constantly developing a more nuanced magical view of the world that defines things in a context that others do not look at. It does not necessarily make you special, it makes you different.

What can make you special is how you choose to respond to any given situation. My wife has recently been teaching me in a loving but stern way about patience. When I get frustrated by what the kids are doing she gently prompts me by asking: “Who is the adult in this relationship?”

My challenge to you is to constantly view the world from many viewpoints, one of which is a magical or mystical viewpoint, and ask the question “What have I learned from this experience?” and “How do I as a (insert title) best respond in this situation?”

Friday, 6 July 2012

Project update 06 July 2012



It's been awhile since the previous project update, it was on February 28th to be exact.

Here is a brief summary of ongoing and recently completed projects:

Hebrew Immersion;
The Torah study is going well, I'm in to my second year of reading through it with Rashi's commentary translated. Whilst my Hebrew has not improved much in the past year or so, my knowledge of the Torah has and this foundation will help advance my studies in Kabbalah. The Nach studies (Prophets and Writings) on the other hand has ground to a complete halt. On the plus side, I'm reading 1 to 3 Mishnah(s) per day.

Sefer Yetzirah Readers Club;
A friend and I sat down every 2 weeks to study Sefer Yetzirah, practice meditation to gain experiential learning and then share our experiences. The project was very successful but is currently on pause whilst we research other topics in Kabbalah such as “shortening of the way” and maggidim,

Here are some posts generated from the research and pratice done in the SYRC:


Messing with the Weather
Drought Mitigation Strategies was an attempt to bring about rain. On the whole it could be argued that it was a success. The problem is that when I then tried to pray for sunshine it was pretty disastrous. It's been a very wet summer in London this year.

Other Projects: Finance and Finding a Teacher

Aside from a relatively (and rare) attempt to improve my financial position, the next big project between now and the start of September** that's been kicked off is to try to make contact with a maggid, a spiritual messenger which is either part of the higher self, an angel or an a soul of a righteous person whose teachings remain alive today.

** - In September the next set of American Football games start for the NFL 2012 regular season. Again I'll be doing my best to boost the Detroit Lions. I expect that in time, the regular season will be a testing ground for all the ideas and techniques that I've learned in the off-season.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Synchornicity confusion

At the weekend, the Rabbi gave a lecture during which he cautioned what a person should blog about. That's a fairly reasonable message you may think. But I'm not sure that the Rabbi actually knew what blogging was. The example that he gave was uploading photos of family members to Facebook without consulting with them first.

Anyway, whilst pondering this curious message from the Rabbi whose congregation has an average age of 65, I turned on the TV after nightfall to hear Frank Sinatra sing about Witchcraft. To be specific, the verses that he sang were:

'cause it's witchcraft, wicked witchcraft
And although I know it's strictly taboo 
I'm a bit of an oddity in my community in having an interest in witchcraft and being fortunate enough to have several pagan friends. The synchronicity of the two events, a warning "be careful what you blog about" and song about withcraft have left me quite perplexed.

What do you think the Universe is trying to tell me?