A roundup of this month’s intriguing lessons and viewpoints.
Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal came out on February 21, 2017. I quickly requested it through my local library, and was lucky enough to receive a brand new copy in the book’s first week of release!
Stealing Fire is about the current state of FLOW in our lives, in our times, and with our current scientific approaches. It gives us a view about the state of ecstasis.
When we say ecstasis we’re talking about a very specific range of non ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC) – what Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Stanislav Grof defined as those experiences “characterized by dramatic perceptual changes, intense and often unusual emotions, profound alterations in the thought processes and behavior, [brought about] by a variety of psychosomatic manifestations, rang[ing] from profound terror to ecstatic rapture… There exist many different forms of NOSC; they can be induced by a variety of different techniques or occur spontaneously, in the middle of everyday life.”
-Kotler & Wheal, Stealing Fire, Page 23
I first stumbled upon Flow in a conscious state when I began a commitment to writing and meditation in 2013. The intention was two-fold. I wanted to pro-actively heal the grief I was feeling and did not understand and I also wanted to provide understanding for others (and myself) about why and how my life transformed from 350 lbs of self destructive catastrophe to 199 lbs of productive contribution 10 years prior so that I could impart some wisdom of the process for others.
Something happened when I reflected deeply on these aspects of my life, when I allowed emotions to arise through these deep reflections, and when I contemplated steps, actions, and the discernment of current and future movements.
I felt a sense that was beyond myself further than any other objective perspective I’d ever experienced and quite frankly it scared the shit out of me. I had never allowed myself to be so open, be so unequivocally receptive, or travel to these lengths at anytime during my teens or 20’s unless it was in a completely reckless or destructive manner. I had been quite closed during those years as I was extremely afraid of everything coined “life”.
After I experienced this newfound state of Flow I began researching the description of the feelings and effects. What was happening to me? What had I allowed myself to do? And furthermore, where could I safely take it… The research landed me in various corners of religion, spirituality, some science and plenty of woo woo.
But then I stumbled upon a guy named Jason Silva. Silva is a philosopher, media artist, futurist, keynote speaker, TV personality and creator of the hit YouTube Channel ‘Shots of Awe’. His unique and charismatic offerings gave me a direct correlation into another persons experience of this vibrant feeling and his descriptions gave words to that which I could not yet quite describe, FLOW.
Through Silva I was able to link into The Flow Genome Project and begin listening to and researching through podcasts with it’s founders Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal (also the co-authors of Stealing Fire). It gave me some scientific background and understanding as to what was occurring in these states. My original article on Flow can be read here.
“Flow is the peak performance state where you feel your best and you perform your best.”
Stealing Fire picks up where the science of Flow currently is and also investigates where all of this may go. One of my favorite things about Flow is that it is not just for the elite, it is an attribute that either lays dormant within or can be acquired, but is most certainly for the every day person and the every day life. I may write up a deeper review in the future. But let’s just say I am stoked this book is out now.
OTHER BOOKS ~
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza
Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali As interpreted by Mukunda Stiles
Each week I listen to podcasts while I’m walking, working out, or driving. A friend of mine recommended listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast after a conversation we had about breathing, finishing manuscripts, and the discernment of what to do with finished creative projects.
Rich Roll Podcast Episode #267 with Guru Singh was an absolute delight to listen to and directly correlated to some current experiences in my life! As described on Roll’s website Guru Singh is a Master Spiritual Teacher on the power of cultivating awareness to awaken your highest self. I can relate to Roll on many levels. He conveys feeling the magnetism of exploring his limits. Roll describes an extreme nature that has led him into and out of alcoholism, his current participation in ultra endurance sports, and just a deep natural drive within to always go to the edge of everything. He admits his ‘innate nature is still pushing me to be out of balance’.
It’s a tricky feeling to navigate and one that I’ve noticed has some similarities to the aspects of being in a Flow State, whether that is conscious, unconscious, or proactively induced. I have deeply felt the effects of this same pull and have only found in recent years through continuous and arduous amounts of direct research and experience that living a balanced life is the key to maintaining a productive engagement with this feeling.
Roll asks Guru Singh, “Should I be trying to…, Should I just own that about who I am [the pull to be out of balance] and try to channel it in the best direction for the best results? Or should I try to deny that aspect of myself or progress out of it to a more balanced state? Because I am struggling with this idea myself and part of me wants to just accept that this is baked into my personality and that’s ok. To not exert violence or self-judgment on myself for being that way…”
48:35 Guru Singh: The one that you said, the approach that you communicated before you used the word deny. Is the approach that you should walk forward with. And that is that you incorporate this nature. And the nature of being extreme is an advanced nature. Those who are plagued by addictions are not less fortunate than those who aren’t. They have a more extreme version of the human psychobiometry that is actually going to give them, if they can get on, a great teacher of mine during a portion of my life called it, ‘Riding the Steed’. Riding the wild steed. That if you can actually get on and stay on rather than having it throw you off through the inappropriate natures of that extreme then you can ride it to become a very powerful tool. As opposed to a weapon that gets used against you. For example, take for example gasoline. Gasoline if on the ground and combined with fire creates an explosive nature. Gasoline when fully contained and you add the fire creates an engine. So that same thing that took you into alcoholism is also the power that can take you into an extreme sport. It can take you into doing what you do right here. There is a great deal of focus and enthusiasm that is required for you to truck this equipment around and interview people that are going to inspire others. You’re doing so much good by channeling your energy into these, let me just use the word that you used, extreme activities.
“Gasoline when fully contained and you add the fire creates an engine.”
Roll and Singh go on to discuss the length of the podcast and Roll admits he could go on for hours interviewing people.
51:33 Guru Singh: That’s the nature, that’s the beauty of what you called that baked in condition of your extreme nature. So in direct answer to your question. You should not try to deny it. You should channel just like gasoline channeled inside of an engine. You should channel the power of your extreme nature into production. Into producing things but then also you used the word balance. You must also learn to balance it with extreme relaxation. So balance is a big part of kundalini yoga. In fact we have many asanas, many postures in which you are balancing on one leg. And the balancing on one leg and holding the arms and the other leg in a particular way, this is very important to sort of acclimating the psychometry, the psycho emotional somatic, the mental, emotional and physical nature so that you align them. You get them so that they’re working together rather than working against each other.
Balance is not stillness… It is a constant ebb and flow.
Roll: So in other words the pendulum can swing. It just has to swing back. So it’s swinging all the time.
Singh: It’s swinging all the time.
Roll: Instead of just in the middle and stationary.
Singh: Don’t burn out, don’t burn out.
Rich Roll: Ya, I definitely do burn out.
Singh: You’ve gotta balance… So, don’t deny your nature but also balance it with the extreme relaxation.
53:12 Singh: Sound and really really joyful and meditative sounds. The joyful on one way and meditative on another are extremely important to the body. And rhythm is extremely important to the body. So, sounds with rhythm, sounds with sustained ambient natures, these are part of the ways with which you balance out your body as well.
The entire conversation that these two had together was extremely profound and hit home on a few major points for me. The absolute importance of a very healthy and balanced physical, emotional, and mental life, how that directly correlates to a healthy spiritual life and how it all is intertwined.
Sometimes I feel like I am chasing my tail trying to keep each area of my life balanced, healthy and vibrant. It’s been a lifetime of discovery really trying to figure out what works the best for me. And then, the kicker is, the phases of life change, and what used to work does not anymore… So what really works to sustain a healthy vibrant life? At this point I am leaning towards learning how to truly listen fully with one’s whole self, adaptability, resiliency, and consistency and then adapting once again.
Kotler, Steven & Wheal, Jamie. (2017) Stealing Fire. New York, NY. Harper Collins.
Roll, Rich. (Host). (2017, January 9). Rich Roll (podcast). Episode #267. Title: Guru Singh: A Master Spiritual Teacher on the Power of Cultivating Awareness to Awaken Your Highest Self. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/guru-singh-master-spiritual-teacher-on-power-cultivating/id582272991?i=1000379752683&mt=2