Spoiler Warning: I’m completely sane 😜
I recently read Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. I compliment them and on the outline of research by the Flow Genome Project and extended research by the US Military. I found the research interesting from a couple different theoretical perspectives. First, flow is a state of consciousness called ecstasis; inducing hyper human innate abilities. It can be accessed through various every day activities such as art, meditation, yoga, dance, surfing, running, etc. During states of ecstasies, time and self fall away, the individual becomes intensely focused on the activity (especially true in meditative states), so much so everything else falls into the background. It is not a biochemical ability everyone has or is able to access. Your brain probable needs to be predisposed genetically in order to attain ecstasis easily. I’m unsure if it can be taught, but it can be practiced and perfected if the individual can access it.
In the past I have studied Theory of Mind (TOM). Coined by Simon Baron Cohen, this is the ability to see another persons mind and make accurate guesses about their thoughts and intentions. This is usually accessed through the reading of facial expressions and body language. These are typical innate skills that most human beings have. Some populations have extreme deficits in TOM abilities, but are still likely able to access flow and ecstasis. TOM might be connected to ecstasis and flow, as TOM skills are not deflected during flow. However, TOM can be accessed without changes in consciousness or biochemicals.
Flow and ecstasies are a bit like TOM, in that when in “the flow,” with another individual we read their thoughts and intentions, much like when we access minds with TOM skills. Another similar theory is the theory of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons give us the ability to model another person’s behavior. They are especially useful during crisis to calm someone. For parents and children to “read,” or take cues from one another to protect offspring evolutionarily.
However, ecstasis and flow are very different from these theories. TOM and mirror neurons allow us to interact and communicate with other human beings. We use them when communicating with strangers. Flow and ecstasis require a level of internal communication between human beings that is intimate and chemically connected. Think too how this can affect relationships outside of flow. How difficult it would be to compete with this level of focus, concentration, and intimacy. This level of telepathic communication extends other works and theories by leaps and bounds psycho-biologically. Flow and ecstasis are a whole new level of human telepathy, thus a whole new ball game for communication and yet a very very old one.
I think too there are doorways to ecstasis that can be accessed through the use of other theoretical perspectives. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR), also used by the military to treat trauma, may be a doorway to ecstasis. I’ve never had an EMDR treatment. I’ve studied it extensively. Generally speaking the premise for EMDR is the use of blinking lights to induce an alternate consciousness in which to process psychological problems, It is especially effective with victims of trauma or anxiety.
What is great about EMDR? It’s not talk therapy. It is not necessary to spill your guts. The individual need only focus on the problem during treatment and the therapist focuses on when, how long, and which sequence of lighting to use. The therapist will also focus on reprocessing with a bit of talk therapy after the light treatment in order to monitor progress and make treatment planning.
How it applies to ecstasis? It’s a processing theory I use on myself during meditation. Usually I use the sunlight which I can make blink by synchronizing my hand mundras. There is also an eye to hand tracking sequence to these meditative yoga movements. That’s a lot of information… probable only an EMDR therapist would “get it,” (aka Andrew Archer lol) but how it is relevant to flow; my theory is that EMDR can induce ecstasis and flow for short periods of time. It may actually be the basis for why EMDR works. A doorway into the alternative state of consciousness, aka ecstasis.
Anyone having ever been in flow knows that time falls away. Our senses become more acute and we preform optimally. Your flow activity becomes about something bigger than yourself and your ego disappears. If I had to give a sense of what it “feels like,” I’d say you meld with the universe. It’s a deeply moving, overwhelmingly spiritual experience, in which you reach optimal wisdom and understanding. Some may feel a levitating, sort of out of body spiritual experience. They may visualize a shadow version of their inner self. Like dancing with your shadow or “the synchronizing of self.” However, this is less common. It might sound as if I’m describing a “high.” Except that this experience, unlike a high, brings you a sense of empowerment and is very controlled. It is not the uncontrolled feeling of substances, but a logical use and profound focus enhancing your natural abilities. You must already possess these abilities in order to access them. Essentially ecstasis is an enhancement of a selective biochemical mind, that can be achieved with an everyday activity.
What intrigues me most about ecstasis and flow are the extended capabilities of the mind in flow. Have you ever watched a ballet dancer or a gymnast make their way across an open space, moving and bending flawlessly? Or a Buddhist monk in a deep meditative state? This person is most definitely in a state of ecstasis causing flow. What I find more compelling, is that this is a consciousness I’ve always had the ability to access, I have always accessed. Yet I never knew of it’s existence. I’d never practiced and attempted to perfect it until I began practicing methods of meditation and relaxation from my youth (dance, art, meditation, nature activities); in an attempt toward improving my holistic wellness.
As it would be easy to see, ecstasis and flow improve productivity and quality. Flow and ecstasis are used by US Military Navy Seal teams. They are useful to them in that flow can extend these hyper human abilities from individuals to groups. Thus allowing military teams to synchronize their attacks and drills. What I find mind blowing about flow and states of ecstasis extended to teams, is the near super human abilities to “read,” and not guess, but know their team members thoughts and intentions. I coin this relationship “flow mates.”
Have you ever thought of a “soul mate” as being someone you feel deeply connected to? Someone you have chemistry with, as if you’ve known them in another life and would somehow know them again in subsequent lives. Well a soul mate feels a lot like a “flow mate.” My definition of a flow mate would be; two (or more) minds that move in such precise harmony with one another, their physical forms become precisely synchronized; bending time and space. I’ve only felt this level of flow with one other person and it was not practiced or perfected…or maybe even realized at the time. It is only since reconnecting with these activities and thus abilities, that I realize I have experienced it before.
Flow could be compared to diverting and redirecting all of your physical and psychological energy into both the head of a pin and the entire universe simultaneously. I’m not sure how reconnecting with ecstasis and flow will effect my health or my life. I do know that generally I am healthier and happier since reestablishing this connection. I feel a sense of empowerment and optimism I’ve not felt in a long while. Some might claim that prayer and enjoyable activities would improve overall health and happiness. So maybe reaching a bit beyond the borders of sanity is a good thing 🌲 I wrote the majority of this blog on my iphone lol. For the record, it is a collection of thoughts and experiences, more so than research.
When meditating tonight this was the verse He sent to me. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2