Getting High

I guess it’s a generational thing. I like to get high. I am always on the lookout for anything that takes me out of ordinary reality, ordinary time.

Today, I did a lot of deliberately heavy breathing, which in yoga-speak is called pranyama. I forced air into and out of my nose at a blistering pace for over 2 minutes.

Then I exhaled every scrap of air from my lungs in a big vomit of breath, and held that air out until I thought I was going to pass out.

At the precise moment I thought I would faint, I sucked in a death-denying gulp of breath just in time. I held it inside my lungs until the point of near explosion.

Then I let go.

I floated free of time for the next 20 minutes.

Scary roller-coasters have the same effect on me: I get off and don’t know where I am in space or time.

I can also get sucked down the intellectual rabbit hole through reading and constructing complicated word-things.

I love these “high” states. I love feeling free and unshackled from time.  And it is such a relief to be done with  my complicated little personality and its neurotic quirks for awhile.

So what does this have to do with the Project-Driven Life?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.

But soon you’ll be ready to come up with your first Project.

You’re ready now, actually. If you’ve done all the exercises, and have tended a streak for a month or longer,  you now have a pretty good idea who you are, what you stand for, and what you like to do.

From your streak, you’ve proven to yourself that you have the chops to persist, even when the thing that was so sparkly to begin with, is now stale.

The best moments of our lives always come when we’re  pushed to our limits.

The best moments of our lives come when we’re high; when we’re in that state Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.

Tomorrow I’ll explain more about how to select a good Project, one that has a chance to produce Flow for you, to get you high.

My Recipe for Transcendence

I have had moments in my life, “openings, “ if you will, periods out-of-time where I have been able to transcend my small self,  break free of my conditioning, and see new and thrilling possibilities for living a more expanded existence.

These moments have been few, but they’ve been profound.

They have happened

  • On the cushion during meditation retreats
  • During (or more accurately, after) intense yoga practice
  • During “wave work” (a guided pranayama practice)
  • At the top of high mountains

Some of these experiences—like the mountain climbing ones—might be attributed to brain chemistry changes (endorphin rushes).

Certainly pranayama practices (“wave work” being an intense form of this) are reliable vehicles for attaining mind-altering (read: blowing) experiences.

It is harder to explain how cushion sitting works.

The cushion is, for me, a place where the engine (my brain) is allowed to idle until it runs out of gas.  Once all the fuel is used up, it has no other choice but to stop.  When it stops, there is an astonishing clarity that I can only describe as “transcendent.’

Do I live most of my life in this “transcended” state?

I wish.

But no.

But if I wanted to get there, do I know how?  Yeah, I do.

But this is what I try to do:

I try to organize my day, every day, so that I can spend some time “getting high,” (i.e. transcending my ordinary, rat-racey, goofbally, time-obsessed, to-do list-driven, whackadoodle life) by

1) breathing fast many times in a row,

2) moving my body in crazy ways that I think it ought to be able to move, but doesn’t

3)watching the shit storm that rises up in my brain when my body doesn’t move the way I think it should, or want it to

and then

4) sitting very still on a cushion and letting the whole drama, the whole storm die down in my brain.


And that, in a nutshell, is my Recipe for Transcendence.  Try it for yourself.  Feel free to substitute local ingredients and monkey with the proportions.  It’s kinda foolproof.

(So, do I get to add that to my 100 Recipes category,… or not?)