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Apr022013

Drop And Give Me Zen - (How To Cheat Your Way To Enlightenment Part 1)

Meditation. Religious rituals. Chanting. Fasting. Psychedelic drugs. Tantric sex. Alas, not my holiday itinerary. This is a list of practices with a common goal - the creation of altered states of consciousness.

The delivery of "Enlightenment.”


I'm an uber-rationalist. I believe in reality you can stub your toe on and the merest whiff of new age is enough to send me into a grand mal seizure of eye rolling.

But a scorn for new age bullshit doesn't preclude me from being fascinated with altered states. And there's only so much philosophising and pontificating you can do, eventually you've got to put your money where your aura is.

It’s like travel in a way. People say you should visit Las Vegas, or India, or the pyramids at least once in your life. Well, I feel the same about catching a glimpse of the infinite cosmic consciousness. Given the micro economy of methods promising to deliver psychic tranquility - sweat lodges, meditation retreats, flotation tanks and so on, and given the fact that the real goal of so many religious and cultural rituals is the inducement of that elusive state, I had to admit there was probably something to it.

Two Things Fascinate Me…

Thing 1- There's a part of your mind that's much smarter, funnier and more creative than you are. Most of the time the best you can do is glimpse it. The limbo moments before sleep where a brilliant solution pops into your head unbidden and fully formed. The precarious, golden half-hour when you've had just the right amount of booze to lubricate your thoughts and lower your inhibitions but not so much that you're drunk, and in that languid state you are at your wittiest, your most confident and urbane. Who is that guy and why can't you be him more often? We always contain the potential to be our best self, but our brain’s hardware tends to reign it in. For example - all moments of creative insight are preceded by a suppression of frontal lobe activity. That's why a solution often occurs when you're washing the dishes or going for a walk instead of actively thinking on it; the repetitive and simple task down-regulates frontal lobe activity and allows creative alchemy to occur. That frontal lobe is the gatekeeper of creativity, it keeps your genius self in check.

Could access to higher conscious states grant me power over that oppressive cortex and let me be that guy more often?


Thing 2- Not only is this state the common goal of everything from meditation and religious rituals to LSD use, there's a remarkable uniformity to the experience people describe when they achieve it. Without fail there's talk of a connection to the universe, of "oneness."

Ok, so far so boringly new age. And honestly the language of spirituality leaves me cold, relying as it does on a supernatural higher power in which I have precisely zero belief. But when smart, rational people take psychedelic drugs they without fail report the same sensation almost word for word. Why is that? Evidence of a shared dimension of human experience or just a weird cognitive illusion? just the psychological equivalent of those magic-eye 3D pictures, taking advantage of our brain chemistry to cool effect but ultimately banal and explainable ?

I want to find out.

In part two I’ll I try to remove my mind from my body through sensory deprivation.

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Reader Comments (1)

really warming article thanks !

April 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersophie

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