You may (or may not) have noticed that I am traveling much less these days. It is just coming up to June, and usually this time of year I am jumping on a plane to do a teaching tour in Europe, often lingering for a particularly long time in Greece. But not this year. For the first time in more than 25 years I am staying home in Nevada City for the whole summer (well… with little mini excursions here and there). The reason you might ask? Books, books, books. This year I am bringing six books home to completion. Six, you ask? That must be a typo! No, I kid you not. Four of the books I am completing are for or with other people, while the other two are my own.
How did all of this happen? Well, as you probably know, the last book I published was Radical Brilliance, which came out at the end of 2017. As the title suggests, it is all about how to be radically brilliant, to have new ideas which change the world. I am working with a variety of coaching clients. Most do not just want to talk about, or contemplate, radical brilliance, they want to create something that is indisputably radically brilliant. For four of those people, it has translated into completing a book. That is why I have ended up this year waking up every day in my own bed, with our cats, eating breakfast in my own kitchen, and enjoying the benefit of a ten-second commute to work in my office.
One of the books that I am working on this summer is about risk. It is a really wonderful idea, which takes the author’s powerful insights into adventure sports (like surfing the biggest waves in the world or skiing off cliffs…) and applies the principles of transformation through risk from adventure sports to the rest of life. Standby for this one…you are going to love it! In working on this book together, we got into a discussion about the distinction between several different terms. Here are the four things that we distinguished. I would love to hear how you understand the distinction between them, as well as the impact they have on one another.
1. Peak States
Peak states would include any sudden experience — which has a distinct beginning and end to it — that transports you into an obviously different state of consciousness. Examples would be psychedelic drug experiences, orgasms in sex, powerful meetings with a teacher, guru or shaman, extreme sports, moments of deep meditation or explorations through hypnosis, or shamanic journeys. Of course, that is just the beginning of the list. I am sure you have many examples of peak states that you got to in other ways.
2. Personal Transformation
Personal transformation refers to ways that we change and evolve over time, generally in a positive way. Becoming more courageous, loving, generous, creative, or able to manifest powerful changes in the world would all be examples of the fruits of personal transformation.
I am using this term to distinguish it from peak states simply because this distinction has been frequently drawn with good reason. Statelessness is not exactly an experience, but the temporary cessation of experience. Time disappears, a sense of personal identity disappears, the sense of anyone doing anything disappears. Frequently, if your eyes are closed, the world itself might disappear. There is just infinite space. Statelessness is sometimes referred to as “enlightenment” or “satori.” Although we may be tempted to refer to statelessness as another experience in the succession of experiences happening to a person, it actually feels more accurate to refer to it as the temporary cessation of all experience in the absence of any person.
Finally, we might add to this mix of distinctions the possibility of practice or sadhana. If we keep our ears pressed to the ground and listen carefully to the reports from others, personal transformation over time seems to be as much to do with rigorous regular daily practice as it does with peak states or statelessness.
Okay, so now it is your turn!
The first points to consider are: Do you think these three distinctions are valid? Are peak states really distinct from statelessness?
Secondly, I would like to ask you about cause and effect. We are quick to make assumptions about what causes what. Do peak states always precipitate personal transformation, or only under certain conditions?
Does statelessness precipitate personal transformation? If so, does that happen in the same way as peak states or is it different?
What impact does regular practice have on personal transformation, and how is that distinct from the impact of altered states?
I would love to hear your thoughts about this. You can write them in the comments box below, or share them with me on Facebook.