The high cost of finding & losing yourself
The high cost I am referring to is the $4 trillion spent annually on seeking an altered state of consciousness. An "altered state" is created by anything that you experience or ingest to give you an altered state of mind brought on by a release of some pretty potent hormones. It's also known as an "alternated state" or a non-ordinary state of consciousness. This is straight out of this bookwhich I couldn't put down just a couple weeks ago. The money is being spent on the following (and in no particular order):
Psychedelics (LSD, Mushrooms, Iowaska, etc.)
The "happiness-inducing" marketing (Coaching, therapy, psychiatry, self-help, retreats, etc.)
Immersive Experiences (IMAX, Binge-television, Virtual Reality, etc.)
Basically, twenty-plus ways to get high on serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, norepinephrine, and oxytocin. To find a way to get outside of ourselves. And we're totally hooked.
It's a blurry line - does meditation bring us closer to our truth or does it alter it? Does binge watching Netflix shows (um, hello Stranger Things addict right here) bring us to a state of heightened awareness or depressed awareness?
Both experiences bring you out of the thinking mind and into a different state of consciousness, but which do we judge as acceptable? Now, I am not comparing the two to be silly. I know the benefits of meditation far exceed that of binge watching television but to the brain, we're hooked on the same thing - to get out of our heads.
We spend $4 trillion annually to feel better and/or feel nothing at all. Oftentimes it's both. Are we drawn to wanting more depth of experience or to escape the pain of experience?
The high-level of stimulus available just by walking through a grocery store let alone being on your phone, driving down a highway, or walking through a city has created an addiction masked as entertainment. Everything your smartphone can do feels like entertainment, but what it's really doing is keeping you hooked into being asleep or unaware.
You think binge-watching Netflix just feels good, but marketers know that you are chemically addicted to the open loop created by a serial drama series, and that if you don't consume it all at once it will cause a depletion in the brain which physically hurts. It's that feeling you get when a show ends on a cliffhanger and you react with an, "Ah! I have to know what happens!" feeling. This is why their shows are released entirely at one time.
And in truth, it does feel good.
It feels good when you peruse Instagram. It feels good when you do yoga. It feels good when you watch your favorite show, drink a cup of coffee, go to the gym, ride roller coasters, surf, meditate, ride a mountain bike, rock climb, and whatever else you like to "lose" yourself in.
Does entertainment take us outside of ourselves or does it take us into the deep end -- and can we even tell the difference? Can an increase in perception (typically brought on by an altered state of consciousness) connect you with a higher state of consciousness, or does it lend itself to a one-way ticket toward the illusion of awareness masked by being high on life?
I think I've misinterpreted these things as numbing us out, but what if they're connecting us to something far greater than our pre-frontal cortex is in the way of?
In the book, they argue that these things that take us "outside ourselves" are really a gateway or doorway to heightened awareness, joy, empathy, transformation, and achievement. That in these "lost" states of mind we can solve complex problems, we feel more connected to ourselves and others, and the ego that we've formed for a sense of self dissolves.
As a species, we've been micro-dosing for thousands of years in pursuit of expanding the human capacity to think, feel, move, perceive, and achieve greater things. We've chosen everything from ingesting coca leaves (cocaine) and poppy seeds (heroin) to all-night dance circles around the fire and transcendent meditation practices. So where is the line between addiction and peak human excellence? And who decides?
I don't have the answer, and I present these questions to get you thinking for yourself. I appreciate that in an altered state of consciousness we have greater access to insight, clarity, "a-ha" moments, and are less susceptible to negative thoughts and limiting beliefs propagated by our very brain that created them in the first place.
I think what we're attempting to do is escape ourselves AND find ourselves at the same time. But why?
As someone who encourages that we move out of our thinking mind and into our intuitive mind, I can't help but wonder if it's even possible without moving into an altered state.
Isn't moving into our depths, listening to our intuition, and seeking answers from our higher self the very definition of an altered state of consciousness? And if so, is it less important that we're hooked on moving out of the mind and more important that we appreciate how wired we are to do this?
Think about it - we are hooked on exploring the ins and outs of ourselves. Perhaps the brain, knowing what it needs to do this, sought more and more ways to create that altered state. More and more ways to flood the body with our happy-inducing hormones and with it the instant access to higher self-awareness. And in self-awareness, we have access to more acute feelings of perception and intelligence. Is this addiction or evolution?
Can it be that a heightened level of perception and expanded self-awareness has us choosing experiences that liberate our joy and give us access to solutions to the seeming complexity of daily life? In other words, go lose yourself, perhaps by reading the book. Plus, euphoria simply feels amazing.