“And it’s that dialectic between, “it’s all good,” and “we could use a little work.” It feels like it’s between those two banks that that’s the path to hyper-accelerated growth.” –Jamie Wheal
Jamie Wheal @Flowgenome is a leading expert on the neurophysiology of human performance and has been researching and investigating the flow state for more than a decade. He recently wrote a book called “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, The Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work,” with co-author Steven Kotler. He and Commander Divine talk both about the high-tech methods that are being used, and how ancient wisdom and techniques are making a resurgence. Find out what you can learn from him about peak performance and the flow state.
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Discussing the Flow State With Jamie Wheal
Hey folks. Welcome back. This is Commander Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining me again today. Do not take it for granted. Really appreciate your time and attention in this distracted world as we develop our skills to tap into an Unbeatable Mind.
And I’m super-stoked to have Jamie Wheal, again, on this show. Actually, I was pretty certain, Jamie, that we had done a show before. And we couldn’t find it. So maybe I was just imagining that.
Jamie Wheal: You know what it was? We had an extended, probably hour-long conversation that could have been recorded and I just don’t think we did.
Mark: That’s right. It was so long and so engaging that I could have sworn that we had done a podcast. So Jamie along with his co-author, Steven Kotler, are the authors of the upcoming book “Stealing Fire,” which is all about a subject that’s near and dear to our heart, which is the flow state. How do you access flow state? What’s it all about? And how is it used in performance and in Special Ops.
It’s going to be so cool to talk to Jamie about this new book and his research. And because you guys know that’s something that we are very, very tuned into with Unbeatable Mind.
So let me give you a little formal background on Jamie. So Jamie, you’re an expert on peak performance and leadership. I imagine you’ve trained a lot of people and talked to a lot of people in those arenas. You specialize in neuro-science and this application of flow. You’ve advised folks from the US Navy and Special Ops command. Red Bull, I think I know some of the folks you work with over there. Some major league sports teams. NFL, NBA etc. And also big corporate executive teams like Google and YPO and Deloitte. Some of the same people that I’m starting to talk to. I think we have a ton of intersection. A ton of really cool things that are going on in this arena, so Jamie, thanks for your time today. Really appreciate you making the time to come on the show.
Jamie: Absolutely, Mark. It’s truly an honor to be here.
Mark: Yeah. So I’ve known you now for a couple of years and last time we talked you had recently launched the Flow Genome project. Is that right? Is that still kind of the umbrella for your work with Steven around flow? Or is that…
Jamie: That is the sort of big house in which all these things live. And really, the reason it has that name is literally, how can we map and measure the genome or the building blocks of peak performance states? And then, how do we reverse engineer them? So instead of them being kind of magical and mystical, how do we understand their mechanisms? And then, how do we train into those mechanisms? So that we can have more access to them for greater impact and greater consistency in our life and work.
Altered states and Definitions[04:51]
Mark: Okay. So let’s just really, really start out with some fundamental basics and maybe some definitions for the listeners. What would you say that flow is? Like how would you define that?
Jamie: Sure. Well our kind of standard working definition is it’s a non-ordinary state of consciousness, meaning it’s different than regular waking state. And it’s a state in which you tend to have heightened focus, pattern recognition, reaction time, and a host of other performance benefits. So you’re kind of kicking ass and taking names. And it also tends to feel deeply rewarding. Not necessarily in the moments you’re in it. In the moments you’re in it, you might not notice feelings or sensations at all. They can literally a moment of selflessness. But afterwards you can look back and they’re almost like the beacons by which we kind of build a life. And so that’s the personal almost psychological definition. The slightly more technical is… and certainly the point of “Stealing Fire” was flow is what we look into. We’ve been studying it for over a decade, but what we realized was there are a lot of additional states. A lot of additional, non-ordinary states that people are starting to cultivate with increasing frequency and precision these days. So we thought we’re kind of stuck with two choices. Either we kind of stretch the definition of flow almost to the breaking point, to where none of the academic researchers who coined the terms and work in this field would recognize it or acknowledge it. Or we have to create a bigger category. To include all these other states that people are starting to tinker with these days. And as I’m sure you know, it’s hard to use language that’s already been used. That has a whole lot of baggage, cultural assumptions, etc. So we kind of walked it all the way back, and we took it back to the ancient Greeks and we said, “Well their original definition–Plato, as a matter of fact, he coined the term ekstasis–and it’s the antecedent of ecstasy that’s in our vocabulary. But it literally means ex-stasy–to move beyond oneself. Now that’s a functioning definition. That’s an interesting thing. Isn’t it strange, that we are at our best and we feel our best when there’s no we there anymore? And so that’s kind of the bigger umbrella. And that includes meditation and mystical states, smart-tech and biohacking enabled states. Yogic and sexually prompted states. Psychedelic states. And flow states
And so it’s just a bigger tent. But the neuro-biological mechanisms are all remarkably similar.
Mark: Right. Now you’re particularly interested in flow as it pertains to performance. Am I right?
Mark: So that kind of assumes that we’re talking about the flow state being a waking state. Cause an altered state would be dream-state. And you can experience flow or horror in a dream state.
Or let’s say, a drug induced state. You’re not going to necessarily perform at your peak in a drug-induced altered state even though you might be experiencing ecstasy. So even to just narrow the definition a little further, it’s an altered state that leads to cognized peak performance, right?
Jamie: Yeah. I think that’s a great sort of distinction and clarification. Is that as much as… cause people will often say, “Well, hey, how does this compare to meditation?” And the super-quick answer is it’s meditation in action, or meditation in motion. So it requires real-time decision making versus removing myself from all decisions and choices. And that’s a huge part of what makes it really powerful. But then also, Mark… and I know we share this background in adult developmental theory, integral theory, some of those kinds of elements. And as much as anything else, other than real-time performance boost, is for me… You’ve come at it through the massively dedicated military traditions. “Embrace the suck.” “Do the hard thing.” And you help so many people access that in themselves. Which, again, I mean, the last chapter of our book is about the Stoics. You know, and how the pursuit of all this easy stuff is actually not easy. And you really have to lean in. And the other part of it is the self-propelling nature of these experiences. The technical term is “autotelic.” It just means we do it for its own reward. And my hope was that if we can help people gain more access to the things that make them come alive. The things that they can effortlessly, endlessly do and pursue, that we might be able to help people in their path of adult development. We might help people in their cultivation of altered states be able to develop some altered traits as well.
Mark: I love that. And you know I’m a big fan of Wilber‘s and my current book I’m actually picking up on this theme of waking up and growing up so that we can show up. And in a way, what we’re saying is that a peak state–especially if it’s your first one, let’s say as an athlete or a human being, even–where it’s a deeply ecstatic, out-of-body very connected and intimate experience, where everything does feel effortless and time kinda slows down. This can be a radical awakening to the notion that there’s more than what’s going in my life and my story and my day-to-day, mundane existence. And that radical awakening tend to propel you toward wanting more, right? Becomes a self-fulfilling growth mechanism. And so it kind of kicks you off on a growth curve. So the wake up is naturally followed by a grow up. This is where we step in at Unbeatable Mind, is how do we grow up?
Well as you’re aware and you alluded to, the Stoics said hard work. Well, that’s great. But how do you do the hard work, you know? And so that’s where the SEALs and the traditional, ancient yoga, warrior yoga, as well as the martial arts step in and say, “Well here’s a developmental path. It take many, many years, but it’s a developmental path that leads to integration.” And integration is essentially a permanent state of flow. And it’s very difficult to access, but it can be trained for. And I think that’s where you and I have so much interesting things to overlap and to talk about. I have this strong belief that flow can both be a state and a stage of development, right? And that is what we experience when we tap into the whole mind and the whole life experience. And then you can turn it on and off at will. You can turn the different experiences on and off at will depending upon what you’re trying to achieve, and what your goals are in the outer world.
So, anyways, I went on a little bit of a dialogue there, but I just thought it would be important to kind of frame it in this sense that you reference the Navy SEALs in some of the work that the SEALs have done in using the tools to trigger flow states. And I’ve kinda picked up on that theme. Not necessarily with the hope of just triggering a flow state, but developing people to that highest state of integration. And I think that… I’d love this book to provide maybe some additional resources. I don’t really have a ton of connection with some of the technical or, let’s say, you talk about neuro-feedback and neural biology and float tanks as well as iowaska and mushrooms, you know what I mean? Let’s go through kinda of the different things that people are tapping into to try to trigger growth and flow.
Jamie: Absolutely. And I mean, my running monologue right now is “How do we not be in such violent agreement that we have a thoroughly dull conversation for your listeners?” It’s just “Hell yes, hell yes, hell yes. You took the words right out of my mouth.”
So, there’s a couple of things. One there are 15,000 words of endnotes in this book. Which represents over a decade of solid research. And we’ve tried our level damnedest to keep it to blue-chip research. Ivy League–Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge kinda research on the academic side. Journals of record on the periodical side. And really try and keep this as high grade credible as possible for people, precisely because this content had been so trampled and so muddied.
So on the notion… you were just mentioning that wide range of ways that people are trying to get into these states of… these non-ordinary states of what we’ve been terming ekstasis. And it really… the 2 almost sort of like Scooby-Doo kinda clues for us that were like “Wait a minute. What is going on here?” And is there a there there. Is there something for us to investigate? Was our visit to DEVGRU Vision New Beach followed really shortly, probably 3, 4 months later, by a visit to the Google plex. And the first one, we had been invited by the commander of the teams to come and see if we could offer any insights. And we’re like, “What the hell on earth would we have to teach these guys? But we’ll do our level best. And so we showed up there and we were toured around the “mind gym” facilities. So it was all the most interesting bio-tech. A lot of tools we’d seen. A lot kinda academic and research grade. Heart-rate variability. EEG monitors. And things from Nike and things from other brand that people are familiar with. And it was just always to help those guys recover from deployment. Enhance learning. Increase cognition. All the things we’re talking about. Train their inner game.
And it was a moment I’ll never forget. It was an L-shaped facility. And we walked the whole big side of the L and we turned the corner to the short side, and I see these 4 sort of space pods, sitting there in a row. And it was like, “What are those?” It looked like something from “Mork and Mindy” And I was like, “What are those? Are they what I think they are?”
And we walked over and sure enough he popped the lid and they were Samadhi float tanks. And, if folks aren’t familiar… and they’ve kinda made a huge resurgence lately, but sensory deprivation tanks… you can find them in most major cities these days. They’re filled with buoyant Epsom salts and you can float suspended in complete blackness. And no other sensory input. And they were designed in the 1960s by Doctor John Lilly, and he initially did his research just to figure out… he was interested in consciousness, and he was interested in all these things. He said, “Let me create this thing that shuts off all visual stimulae and let’s see what that does to our consciousness. And then he began combining it with LSD, and this was all NIH backed, federally approved studies. Then that avenue became shut down. He then moved into Ketamine, which is just a dissociative anesthetic. It’s used with pregnant women and children and those kind of things. And so it sort of went increasingly off the deep end. And into the counter-culture to the point where he had called up President Ford and telling him that there was going to be a machine… matrix like takeover of the nuclear codes. Like way the hell off the deep end. So it became really just the domain of hippies and misfits.
Mark: (laughing) He might be right, by the way.
Jamie: (laughing) Yeah. You just never know. And so we thought, “Well isn’t this fascinating.” That in the sort of red hot center of the military industrial complex you have a tool that was sort of a forgotten tool that was the domain of hippies and freaks and the counterculture, being brought back around. And as it happened, colleagues of ours had also been hotwiring the tanks. It wasn’t just the same old, same old. They had added audio and visual inputs. They had added heart-rate variability and EEG feedback. And just as an example of what that can do. So you create a technically induced state of ekstasis, of selflessness. I’m in the pitch-black, I’m floating in sort of womb-like 97 degree or 100 degree water. And my heart rate is becoming entrained, my brain waves are being dropped and optimized from agitated beta into maybe alpha and theta. I’m getting nice coherent cardiac rhythms. And then, oh by the way, you’re also getting Rosetta Stone books on tape. And learning a foreign language. And they were able to reduce foreign language acquisition from 6 months to 6 weeks. So a quarter of the time. Just by creating these designed and deliberate states of selflessness.
So that was step 1. So we thought, “Wow, isn’t that strange? Those are some strange-ass bedfellows. What’s going on?”
Mark: Yeah, no kidding. You know, let me stay with DEVGRU, and if you’re listening and you’re like, “I’m not sure what that term means,” that’s the SEAL teams tier 1 force. Tier 1 counter-terrorist force. So they have something called the “mind gym.” I wanted to tell you that I just had breakfast with a SEAL team commander who’s taken over a phase at BUD/S. He just left DEVGRU. And we were talking about the “mind gym.” And he said, it’s wickedly cool, but the unfortunate part is the guys are so freakin’ busy with their train-ups and their deployments that he said very few people use it. Very few of the operators use it unfortunately. And it kind of brings up a question for you, and I think we know the answer here, but this stuff is… the tools are only as good as your use of the tools. And if only the most elite athletes who are in a stable training program like NFL or maybe Olympians where you’re not always gone like a Special Operator or like a corporate executive. I mean, you just don’t have access to these things in the frequency that you need them for them to have that impact.
So for me I always say, “Okay. We gotta fall back on the old tried and true”. Breath control and meditation and the things that have been used for thousands of years. Wherever you go, there they are.
Jamie: Yes. Yes. Exactly.
Mark: Until you have a virtual reality headset that you can carry with you everywhere to help you trigger these states. Right now, it’s like… the tools are still pretty basic, aren’t they? Or can be?
Jamie: Yeah. And funnily enough, I mean, yes to both those things. We have some colleagues that are coming out of MIT media labs that are now teaching at Stanford that are basically… what are they calling it? “Enlightenment Engineering” is what they’re calling it. So there’s a group, Palo-Alto Neuro-science up north in the valley. And those guys have created this intersection and then it’s Doctor Jeffery Martin, and Mikey Seigel are 2 of the guys who are pioneering this as well. And these guys are doing some incredibly sophisticated stuff. They’re not just taking static biometrics. Meaning, “Oh. I’m doing whatever I’m doing, and here’s my brain wave, or here’s my heartrate, or here’s my skin response. How sweaty am I or that kind of thing. They’re actually creating feedback loops to steer people into desired states on demand. So on the one hand, the high tech era and basically inserting that into VR experiences is here. It’s already happening. It’s the consciousness hacker space, so there’s not necessarily high form-factor, production value stuff out yet, but next 6 to 18 months there will be.
Tech and Independence[20:21]
But to your point, we agree wholeheartedly. It’s like, “Look, what’s your jail cell workout? What can you do in 6′ by 8′ patch of carpet or ground, wherever you are?” Breath is the cheapest, most potent and portable tool for shifting consciousness we’ll ever have. And how do we strip it down to that stuff, you know?
Mark: Even if we had the Matrix to jack into, or the holodeck to go train in. Even if we had them, the fundamental tools of how you use your body and how you organize your mind, and your breath and tap into those things, those are still important. You have to learn those. What we’re saying is technology can enable in accessing that if you don’t have the tools. So sitting in a float tank, listening to calm music with a brainwave entrainment, is going to take you there very quickly, without you knowing how to do it yourself.
Having said that, you can learn how to do that yourself fairly easily, and so one of the questions I have for you, is that is it possible that reliance on all these external devices, whether it be a mushroom, a micro-dose of a mushroom… or a float tank, or some sort of device like muse–is that preventing us from actually training ourselves how to do this so that we don’t need those devices? Cause they’re not always going to have them.
Jamie: (laughing) Well, once again. Preaching to the choir. I mean I think we may be of a certain generation that hangs on to those old school notions.
Mark: (laughing) Let’s not let those go! We want them. We need them. We can’t hack our way to enlightenment, I don’t think. Honestly…
Jamie: Exactly. I mean, I turn my nose up at… the last ski guide training I did with the AMGA, the American Mountain Guides Association, which is a pretty balls out organization in that space. And there was a bunch of millennial, hot-shit, ice-climber guys and they all just had GPSs. None of them knew how to read a topo map. None of them knew how to shoot a bearing on a compass. And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” They couldn’t dig snow caves, they just popped up their ultra-light carbon fiber tents and called it a night. And I was like, “You guys, you haven’t earned these turns.”
Mark: Well, they’re going to have to experience a little hardship before they learn that lesson, I guess.
Jamie: Well exactly. What happens when stats go down and then you’re like, “We’re all lost. We haven’t been paying attention.” So I would agree with you but I think that there is a potential at both ends. So I remember when I was gosh, what… in elementary or middle school, being taken to one of those big Rand computer company organizations. And we were shown the punch cards. And this is how you code stuff. And you realized, okay, so that was a total ball-ache back in the day. And you had to know it every soup to nuts. The entire process. And there was a lot of just brute forcing stuff to get to the payoff. And these days you can drag and drop and you can do all the things that kids do, programming far more complex stuff on top of a layer of software. So all of this smart-tech, I think in its best expression, it’s training wheels. In its best expression it gives us somatic markers. It gives us a lived, felt experience of that thing we’ve been trying to shoot for. That we can hopefully then bring into ourselves and fully own the entire experience.
At its worst, they’re crutches and diversions and distractions, and all we’ve done is kind of… like Jim Collins used to say, “Technology’s just an amplifier.” And all we’ve done is level up to create a new set of more complex problems.
I just saw a study last week that was saying people are getting… there’s been a lot of talk about when you got into VR, people got motion sickness. But now that there’s enough people using it, they’re actually saying the opposite’s also happening. When you get used to that, it’s like getting onto a pier with your sea-legs and so you know when people are taking off VR…
Mark: (laughing) They can’t stand up.
Jamie: They’re feeling not just their equilibrium is off, but they’ve done some scans and they’re realizing its starting to affect cerebellum processing, so it’s actually starting to affect brain activity. And the classic Matrix idea that the world is flat and dull, and there’s a degree of depression or hangover.
Mark: Of course. Makes total sense.
Jamie Like is my life is Finding Nemo, you know?
Mark: It’s greatly or dramatically expanding that same effect that people are feeling with addiction to Twitter or to YouTube, right? Cause if you’re always on the device, it’s just a less immersive experience. And so if you make that experience more immersive, and your brain gets in tune with that intense activity and the vibrancy and everything like that. And then you go back to reality, and all of a sudden reality seems less real than virtual reality.
That scares me a little bit, Jamie. That scares me just in terms of what it means to be human, down the road.
Jamie: Yeah. Yeah.
Mark: There’s some dangers to this stuff and I had another thing and because I got so intrigued with what you were saying, it kind of bounced out of my head…
Jamie: Well, you mull that and I’ll just share another helpful, hopeful counterpoint, which is we were at the UN last summer, and you may have seen this in the press, they’ve started pioneering some VR. So just like a float tank is a relatively crude way to create a moment of ekstasis, outside myself, cause I really don’t know where I begin and end, then VR is another moment of ekstasis. I’m stepping outside of my physical self, into this world. And they’ve been doing basically humanitarian immersive VR, and they were having people sit and view refugee camps in Syria, and being able to explore and move around and integrate. And their empathy and their connection to those experiences and their connection to other people’s sensations and feelings, all have gone up. So my sense is… I hate the cliché, “Technology is neutral.” You know, but what we’re going to be doing, we’re going to be amplifying the human condition as we move into the virtual world. I don’t think they’re going to be fixes. We’re going to create tons of new complicated problems, and we’re also going to create some additional solutions. The question is which ones win in the balance. I don’t know.
Mark: Yeah. The vision I have is in the future, is like cities full of people sitting inside on the virtual reality and the streets are empty. And you’re going to have an Uber or a robot deliver your meal. And nobody’s gonna actually participate in the real world. I guess it’s good for the environment.
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, who the hell knows? We’re going to run out of those precious metals that run the batteries and run all the laptops and screens. I definitely think the iPhone hunch, what Amy Cuddy at Harvard calls that posture we all have. Like, us with our heads bent and our hand in front of us as we walk and navigate life, that is gonna be as telltale a signature of this decade as bell-bottoms and handlebar moustaches were the 60s and 70s. Cause clearly it’s going to contact lenses, it’s going to glasses, it’s going to whatever else it’s going to be, it won’t be that. This is such a clergy middle ground, and yet it’s just the way we are these days. So to your point, will we just voluntarily jack ourselves in? Neil Postman, who was at NYU… he was a sort of literature critic and social commentator. And he said, “In George Orwell…” the 2 great dystopian novels of the 20th century, 1984 and Brave New World. And he said, “Well look, George Orwell feared that our fears will imprison us. And Aldous Huxley feared that our pleasures will imprison us.”
And so totalitarian states, real and present danger. But elective compulsive distraction, feels as much as anything else. We make the case, we wanted to track all this movement down. We wanted to see who was engaging and hacking our ordinary states of consciousness of performance gains. And it was everyone from Special Operations community to folks like Google. To Richard Branson on Necker Island, to this kind of amazing global network of incredibly inspired and influential people. Name-checking everybody from Elon Musk to all these folks… And you think, “Wow. This is fascinating. No one’s necessarily talking about it. The research is increasingly pronounced on the performance gains, whether it’s flow, whether it’s meditation, whether it’s psychedelic research. They’re all congruent in the benefits, the healing trauma, the increase in creativity, learning, and all these other benefits. You’re like, “Wow, this is really monumental.”
Risks with Altered States[29:54]
But, this is not unicorns and rainbows. These states have always been closely guarded, fiercely contested and there’s at least 3 ways that we can put it in the ditch. Which is the first and obvious is hedonism. If it feels good do it, and if it feels really good, don’t ever stop. So our own wayward tendencies.
And the other 2 is commercialization and militarization. And how do we prevent this?
Mark: Both of which are already fairly prevalent.
Jamie: Extremely prevalent. And without putting on a tin foil hat, you can just kind of document, and just say these are… this is actually what’s been going on. And these are the skills…
Mark: We talk about some of the military applications in terms of remote viewing… you have to be in a flow state to remote view. By its very nature you’re tapping into and you’re using aspects of your mind that are non-ordinary. And then telekinesis. The Russians were successful in breaking a spine using telekinesis. Just extraordinary.
So one of the things we talk about is the power… really what we’re getting at here is the power of the human mind is little understood, and what you’ve alluded to is that it been kind of bottled up in spiritual traditions. Tibetan Mahamudra, or Zen, or…
Jamie: And the martial traditions. You know, monks and martial seem to be the 2.
Mark: Right. And that’s where I’ve had my experience in both of those traditions. Through yoga and the martial arts. Some incredible, really cool peak experiences and also a developmental process.
And what I want to… the thought I had before that I wanted to bring out here is that the… in particular, the ancient yoga tradition struck a very cautionary tone about having a guide and also having a progressive process for developing the whole mind and the skills of the whole mind. And they warned quite emphatically against being too attached to some of the skills that you evolve or you develop in these altered states. Cause they tend to really side-track you. And one of my yoga teachers, a guy named Gary Kraftsow, I recently finished a 500 hour training with him, and he said, “The mind is like a mirror. It’s going to… meditation clarifies your thinking, it clarifies the mirror of your mind, which allows you to both see more clearly inside, as well project more clearly what you’re seeing on the outside. So if you can visualize or you can access flow, then you can project that into a performance state. Or you can accomplish something powerful that you see in the inner domain. He goes, “However, it you are an asshole when you start meditating, and you meditate for 20 years, you’re going to be a much bigger asshole.” Unless you also do other things that help evolve your consciousness, help evolve your character, help develop humility and non-attachment to some of these more egoic things. So I think there are some dangers involved, aren’t there?
Jamie: They are substantial and unavoidable. I mean, a lot of the hermetic traditions, the western yogas, one of their maxims was “make haste slowly.”
Mark: Yes. I love that.
Jamie: And the Chinese, the Taoists would say, “It’s a path best never begun, but if begun must be completed.”
Mark: That goes back to what I said earlier. Once you wake up, it’s part of your daily drive to continue that growth. You can’t go back.
Jamie: Yeah, and I mean literally that’s the last chapter of our book, that’s how it ends. So the last section of our book is to say, “Okay. We’ve established the cases. Why now? Because of these intersecting trends that are happening.” But so what? And really, I don’t know if you’ve come across Tim Wu. He’s the law professor at Columbia, who coined the term “Net Neutrality” which is obviously, sadly, back in the news cycle again. But he also wrote a book a few years ago called the “Master Switch” which made a case that any information technology from telegraph to radio to TV, film to the internet, starts out utopian and democratic. And everybody thinks it’s going to change everything. And they end up hegemonically, centrally controlled.
And we make the case in the book that being able to hack or access ekstasis on demand, which is pretty much available these days, is now a perceptual information technology. Right? We use it to access higher level of cognition, insight, and information. It’s big data for our minds. And so, if that were true, if you’re willing to make that leap, then we should presume which the very same dynamics which seem repeated time and time again with all other practices, will happen again. And his idea is who controls the master switch for the platform? And sort of like, is he who controls the space, controls the universe. He who controls the switch, controls it all. Right? And so our last chapter is about the cautions.
Mark: Yeah. And if we’re all enmeshed and connected to a neural network as a global hive, and then the artificial intelligence takes over the code, then they’ll control the switch.
Jamie: (laughing) Aha. Now you just slipped down a rabbit hole there, didn’t you?
Mark: (laughing) All right, sorry. Let me bring it back. I’ve been…
Jamie: Yeah, I just don’t know how many conversations you’ve had with your readers and how far along this particular thread we are…
Mark: Yeah, I won’t go there. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the whole last 90 days with the election cycle and everything I’ve been… And I’m a big fan of Peter Diamandis and his work with technology is just really opened my mind about where we’re going in the next 30 years. And so that’s why this conversation… to me… let me throw this out… to me one of the urgent drives for me with my training with Unbeatable Mind is to get people to realize the vast potential that they all have. Everyone has. The vast potential of the mind when we can train it to open up these altered states, and then, as I said earlier, to grow up, clean up our emotional pasts, open up to our full intuitive power and show up powerfully. And lock that in as a permanent stage of development. And integral stage of development where we can make good decisions.
And one of those decisions that we’re going to have to make is how to navigate and dance with technology as it grows more and more complex and sophisticated. And maybe even become self-aware down the road. And rather than just blindly plugging in, and losing our sense of self, and what it means to be human. A lot of talk about the human race essentially on the verge of becoming a new thing. Like Homo sapiens AI. You know, if we can evolve ourselves quickly, then we can kind of dance with that and keep pace with technology, you know what I mean? And make better decisions.
Jamie: And we make that case. We’re like, “Okay. There’s slow and steady, and there’s fast and loose in terms of paths to waking up. And slow and steady is obviously exactly that, so why would you ever do anything else? Why would you take on any of the additional risks of these very fast, but low success rate alternate options, including ekstasis? Right? With all of the known issues that we’ve talked about? And my sense is that it’s two time frames. One is just human developmental time frame. The sooner we wake up in these bodies of ours with thumbs and pre-frontal cortices to deploy for good, the better. It was one thing if I suddenly switch on at 75 and I’m toothless in rocking chair on the porch. That’s nice. My grandkids might enjoy it, but my arc… I’m out of my power band, you know? So waking up as soon as we can in these life and times, because no matter what our metaphysical beliefs are, when we flat line it’s a cold reboot on all that information.
So the idea of waking up sooner to do more, faster is one potential argument. And then the other is the time frame globally. And obviously, there’s been… everybody who said the end is nigh, walking around with sandwich boards, has been wrong. You know? Up ’til now. And the question is how interesting are these times we’re living in? And how close to true novelty are we getting?
If either of those 2 questions of timing… it’s important for me to access my full potential as soon as possible, and the world may need me, now. Those would be the reasons that can validate or justify, “Hey I’m willing to walk a knife ridge to get to the summit sooner.”
Mark: And dance with some of those risks. And so you’re providing people full disclosure on the risks, as well as some of the tools.
Practical Flow State[40:35]
Now, because we’ve gone off way, way, way into the ethereal and metaphysical, let’s bring it back down to the ground for the listeners. And let’s talk about… for some folks who still maybe not a hundred percent sure what flow feels like. You talk about 4 different aspects of flow. Selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and richness. So let’s talk about those. What are those like for an individual in flow?
Jamie: Sure. Well, you know, I mean there’s both the psychological, and then there’s the neurobiological, what’s happening under the hood. But if you use that as a helpful acronym to describe all of these non-ordinary states. STIR.
The first is selflessness, and that happens when, because we shift states through whatever mechanism we do. Meditation. Action. Sports. Pharmacological intervention. Smart-tech. You name it. And literally, super-smart-tech. Like magnetic pulses go across your brain and just kinda knock out the waking cells.
Either way, my pre-frontal cortex which houses my executive function. Who I think I am and all those sort of things goes offline, and my inner critic tends to go with it. So I experience inside my head, silence. That’s the selflessness.
Timelessness tends to happen again because different parts of my brain are activating and deactivating. Time is calculated all over my brain. It’s a bunch of little nodes all pinging each other and coming up with an average. So when you knock out a couple of those nodes, your ability to calculate time actively goes down.
And then we also tend to have a lot of performance enhancing neuro-chems coursing through our brains. So norepinephrine. Good old fashioned adrenaline. Dopamine, the reward chemical. “I just solved a crossword puzzle, or I just got laid,” right? So reward yes.
Endorphins, right? Internal opioids that basically create a sense of euphoria and lessen pain. All these things are happening, and so I am perceived… my inner critic and my filters are knocked down, my pattern recognition and attention is jacked way up, and basically my frame rate increases. I’m paying more attention to more of the bit stream or more of the data that’s around me than I typically do. And that has an impact of giving us a perception of the faster everything’s going, the slower time feels as well.
So I don’t have an inner narrator, and time appears to stretch… and this is true for any athlete, anyone in combat, anyone who’s experienced that. It’s time dilation. It’s a known subjective phenomenon.
And you have those two experiences. No inner critic, I’m effortlessly doing this thing and I’ve got all the time I need. That creates this feeling of effortlessness. All those neuro-chemicals are high reward. Like, do this more, you’re right in the money spot. And so there’s a sense of… and it’s not always just skipping down the garden path. In the sense of that kind of effortlessness. But it is, “I know what to do next. I know what must be done, and I can execute it.” So the gap between thinking and doing collapses to almost nothing.
And there can also, depending… and this is depending on cultural interpretations and your mechanisms and everything else, a sense of not my will, but “thy will.” A sense of being picked up on a swirl of intention or emotion or intention that’s bigger than me. Or not me.
And so you take those 3, the selflessness, the timelessness, and the effortlessness, and that is how we typically experience it. But the overwhelming piece which we alluded to earlier is the richness.
And that is… the fact that we in some respects… these are just working concepts and we’re really reluctant to like reify or codify these, because then they just become another “-ism.” But what I would…
Mark: It’s experienced a little bit differently by everybody, you know?
Jamie: Yeah, exactly. And so let’s preserve that. But what we would call almost the cosmic browser, you’re just surfing the information layer. And you can make patterns and connections, you can experience insight. And so we would basically say, done right, information becomes inspiration becomes integration becomes transformation. And so if you can go out, and that information, at least in my lived experience and it seems like a number of other folks, it’s a twofold thing. On the one hand, it’s like that old Zen thing, “you’re perfect as you are,” said the teacher. So it give us a sense of our wholeness. How everything is exactly as it needs to be. There is nothing else to shift or do. The perfection of this moment.
And we could use a little work. And so invariably it highlights… it’s almost like running electricity through the circuit, and it shows every place in your circuitry that you’re banged up, bruised, broken, out to lunch, kidding yourself, etc. And it’s that dialectic between, “it’s all good,” and “we could use a little work.” that feels like it’s between those 2 banks that that’s the path to hyper-accelerated growth.
Mark: Nice. I love that. Very well said. So, someone who’s listening to this podcast and they’re driving and they’re like, “Hey, this sounds fascinating, and I’ve been wanting to get into doing something. But I don’t have access to a float tank, and I’m not gonna go to the Peak Brain Institute for a week and hook myself up to electrodes.” What are some of the most creative and simplest ways to… that every man, woman in the USA, or wherever you are in the world, can begin to train/leverage technology or… not even high tech, but low tech to do the flow genome thing?
Jamie: Yeah. Well, I mean, we certainly do programs based on exactly this kind of stuff. We do them online and in person. I would also say that I think your work is some of the most comprehensive and integrated and balanced of any we see out there. So for people out there in the world, pick your sort of narrative, or the story you like around your work in practice. And if you resonate with the code and the ethos, and you just always wanted to see if you could, Kokoro’s… and I said this Mark on our last call, I’m holding a spot in my mind and heart for my son to join you. As soon as he is able.
And then, on a simpler level… we talked about this, it’s not complicated, right? And anybody that says it’s complicated or anybody that says it’s in a little handy pill of vitamins that they happen to sell, or whatever it’s gonna be, is probably distracting you. The simplest is, you know, sleep more. Move often. Eat cleanly. Be grateful. Make love. All right, and breath. And that’s not packable and it’s not patent pending, but it’s just central to the human experience, as we can find. I would say respiration and dedicated, conscious sexuality, just as far as us being human beings. Are probably 2 of the most powerful, both alone and together. And we all have access to that.
And beyond that…
Mark: And I would add to that, just some sort of practice of silence. Sacred silence. Doesn’t have to be any special form of meditation. You don’t have to join a cult. You just literally have to spend more time in silence, unconnected from the busy-ness of life.
Jamie: Yeah. And the natural world, right? They’ve done studies on… obviously, that’s where I’ve always gone to mend and to be inspired. And they’ve done interesting studies. Water. Water even more than rugged mountains and other stuff. And find it wherever you are. Like, some connection to nature is a good old fashioned human thing. And we start there, so you can do that. Those are the bottoms up ones. What can I do every day? What can I do around me?
The top down ones are how do I blow out the pipes, and give myself an incontrovertible sense of the suchness that may be. And all I can say to that is don’t die wondering. If you’re still chasing that white whale, go hunt him down. There are more ways today than ever to create incontrovertible experiences of ekstasis or stepping outside ourselves.
And it’s not that we go and live there. We can’t. That’s above the treeline. That’s in the death zone. We come down and we live in and do our work in the valleys. But if you’re wondering, and the combination between “I’ve poked my head above the clouds, now when I get back down onto the trail, I’m clear and confident in my direction.” And I can move faster.
Mark: With new insights and you’ve got a trail marker to get back there.
Mark: I love that. And so some of those experiences could be like you reference Burning Man, or an iowaska journey, or Kokoro camp is a good example.
Jamie: Kokoro camp would be a phenomenal one. A 9 day retreat. An ultra-Marathon. There are so many ways to push the limits of who we think we are and what we think we can do. And go do them. Have a… we talk about hedonic calendaring, which is the idea of how do you balance my daily practice with some of these more shoot-the-moon things. And we talk about your daily practices, your once a week sort of Sabbath practices. Your once a month, seasonal and annual. And you can basically sort of balance left and right hand paths.
For listeners that aren’t familiar with those terms, right hand path is kind of the orthodox, kind of straight ahead “thou shalts, thou shalt nots.’
And the left hand paths are typically the more risky, sex/drugs/rocknroll contra kind of path which is basically, like, “It’s all good. Everything is workable.” And they’re very powerful paths, but they’re also very tricky for all the reasons you said earlier, right? As you go down them, you can get deluded and lose your way. So hedonic calendaring is basically saying, pick the daily ones you want to create rituals and habits that are helping you build your foundation. You really can’t floss too much, or stretch too much or meditate too much. Within reason. The more the merrier.
And then the other ones, you’re saying these are little spikes to bigger and bigger spikes, and I put them in those categories to ensure I don’t do them too much.
Mark: That syncs up 100% with Unbeatable Mind where we have a 5 mountain training plan, and we seek to train ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally and spiritually. Those are the 5 mountains.
Then we have a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and then 12 to 18 month battle rhythm we call it. And so, of course, the 20x challenges like Kokoro camp or the… I did a 6 day silent retreat as one of my challenges last year. Those are done annually. But then every quarter, there’s something that you’re gonna do that’s gonna take you out of your comfort zone significantly. So it’s the same… very similar. And I’ve never heard the term “hedonic calendar,” but I like that.
Jamie: Yeah, and then we also throw in… If we didn’t have this last step, it would just be putting your left-hand stuff on the calendar. Cool, but we’re going to trick ourselves. We’re going to become codependent. We’re going to enable all the normal shit people do.
So have a season of 4 barrens. Have a Lent or Yom Kippur or Ramadan. One month, cold turkey. None of my pleasures. And then the practice is: how do I notice what’s itchy, what’s sticky and also… and the idea of cultivating altered states as a tool for growth? The only reason they’re valuable is cause they’re altered. If I’m always high, drunk, Zenned out, sexed up, adrenalin jacked from crazy pursuits. If I’m always those things, I’ve lost all the contrast in the data feed. So we want to balance them.
And then, after the abstinence, you’re like, “Okay. What was sticky?” And instead of getting wrapped around guilt, should I or shouldn’t I? Just as things are heating up and the alchemy just starting to happen, you say, “just left or right.” Do I make this more often or less often? So it provides you with a steer in the thick of it… It’s basically like shooting compass bearings in a whiteout. How do I make sure I can navigate when all my landmarks are gone away?
Mark: Mmm-hmm. Awesome. Wow. Well we could keep going, and going, and going. But we’ve already been at this for about an hour, so I think people are… We’re either going to break this into 2 podcasts or they’re getting a little bit bored. So we’ll save something for next time. And maybe I’ll see you out in Eden when you work with summit folks next week. That’d be a lot of fun. We should try that…
Mark: So your book is… the website for your book I think you told me earlier was “stealingfirebook.com?’
Jamie: stealingfirebook.com. We’re also inviting the first 500 folks to join, to become “pyros” The same way Lady Gaga has her “Little Monsters,” we’re going to have our big “Pyros.” People who want to spread the fire, spread the story. This is about cognitive literacy. Knowing how our minds work and who else is seeking permission or not to get inside them. And cognitive liberty. Our right to choose who we are and what we do.
Mark: Sweet. Awesome. So go to stealingfirebook.com and get on the list. Be one of the first 500. I’m gonna go do that myself, cause I wanna be a “Pyro.” And people can learn more about you at Flow Genome Project? Just Google it right? Or what’s the best place to find out more about you.
Jamie: Absolutely. Flowgenomeproject.com. And there’s free flow profile, a big diagnostic that lets you know how you get into flow and the best ways for you to tune that in your life.
Mark: Awesome. Jamie, great work. I can’t wait for the book to come out and I’m excited to read it myself, and I look forward to having this conversation multiple times, and doing some work with you guys. And it’s definitely, extremely important and timely. So let me know, and let us know here how we can support you.
Jamie: Thanks Mark. Really appreciate it.
Mark: Hooyah. Appreciate it Jamie.