There is a major opportunity for the wellness industry to become part of the flow state movement, as it already holds the keys on how to attain those states.
An opportunity for the wellness industry
The age of enhancement is here, and with it the hunt to crack the code of peak performance states is on. By these states I mean the zone where everything comes together and you problem solve creatively at warp speed. Finding out how to put people in those states is a goal in fields ranging from science to success, as the potential is limitless. There is a major opportunity here for the wellness industry because this trend is about to become a movement, and we already know how to attain those states.
I’ve been reading some great books lately, including Stealing Fire and The Rise of Superman, on peak performance and ‘flow’ states and, although they don’t specifically address wellness, they highlight what the new well-being market would demand. Stealing Fire cites studies in neuroscience discovering that our conscious mind can process 120 bits of information per second, but the subconscious can process 4 to 6 billion. Harnessing the processing power of the subconscious is like accessing quantum computing. From the business perspective this means increased productivity (executives are 500 per cent more effective in flow) and the competitive edge of lightning-fast creative solutions. In therapy, this is territory already outlined in Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra and other energy medicine texts, but new scientific research will start informing new mainstream healing modes, and the wellness industry could be left behind.
What is the ‘flow state’?
The author of The Rise of Superman, journalist Steven Kotler, defined flow as “an optimal state of consciousness where action and awareness merge and there is no concept of time or self”. He investigated the mechanics of extreme sports, as athletes operate in this zone. Their lives depend on their ability to make instantaneous correct decisions while they are zooming towards the ground in a wingsuit or surfing down the face of a massive wave. To do this they have to access and process vast amounts of information at speeds much faster than the conscious mind is capable of. This eventually led Kotler to the concept of ‘deep embodiment’, and into the territory of yoga, tai-chi, and martial arts.
Stealing Fire by Kotler and Jamie Wheal (an expert on the neurophysiology of human performance) is an overview of peak performance and flow research in psychology, neurobiology, technology, and pharmacology. It discusses the long history of using mood and mind-altering substances to achieve flow. The authors saw this as such a powerful desire that it is forming the basis for a new ‘altered states economy’. New drug statistics showing the normalisation of drug-based enhancement in the general population support this. In the USA alone, where 24% of the population have problems with illicit drugs, 25% of school children are on medical stimulants purely to enhance performance.
Psychedelics: the new wellness hack?
A new professional drug-using demographic seeking flow via microdosing LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) is also on the rise. The tech magazine Wired suggests that microdosing psychedelics is being used widely (unofficially) as a success tool in Silicon Valley but quickly spreading to other industries. Psychedelic drugs are now the subject of articles in mainstream business journals because users want a boost of information and inspiration, and microdosing makes them feel smarter, more productive, and happier. They are often health-conscious and some consider microdosing to be a ‘wellness hack’.
Even I didn’t see this association of recreational drugs with wellness coming. But the concept of a ‘wellness hack’ along with ‘consciousness hacking’, ‘extreme performance’ and ‘life upgrades’, describe what the wellness industry could deliver via real wellness hacks and systems to achieve peak performance and flow states. This is the future because none of us are going to hit flow states by snowboarding down a vertical cliff with an avalanche at our heels anytime soon. And you can’t ever rely on psychedelic drugs such as LSD or mushrooms. All drugs have side effects. What’s more, the altered states they create are virtual, not real and they hijack the resources of the body to deliver the goods and this increases body/mind separation. This is the opposite of flow. It might be a slow path there, in the case of microdosing, but drugs eventually separate who you could be and who you are.
The above-mentioned books concluded that flow is elusive, that there is no reliable way to reproduce the experience with enough consistency to radically accelerate performance. Kotler identifies 15 to 17 factors required to achieve these states and many are external, environmental, or social. One of these, ‘deep embodiment’, a kind of total physical awareness, requires a combination of ‘difficult, challenging and strenuous’ with risk and fear thrown in, like surfing an 80 foot wave. He did propose that tai-chi, yoga, or martial arts (if they were difficult, challenging, and strenuous enough) could take ordinary people towards a flow state. But he doesn’t understand the system behind tai-chi practices so couldn’t expand on that, and it goes without saying that you can’t do Bikram yoga in the office to enhance your creative problem solving.
The shift towards embodiment
Stealing Fire outlined Google’s Mind Gym, which tries to train for ‘ecstasis’, the state in which the subconscious mind takes over. The book also introduced ‘embodied cognition’, the idea of using particular postures to enhance mood. This is connected to a development in cognitive science – the once marginal idea that the mind is connected to the body and that the body influences the mind (yes this is a new breakthrough for them). In a recent article in Scientific American ‘embodiment’ is described as the new paradigm that cognitive science is shifting towards.
This ‘new’ science-based understanding of the body/mind connection is old news for most LivingNow readers, but significant because it will impact on mainstream modalities such as counselling in which the focus on the mind means that clients can get trapped in ‘storytelling’. They can go over and over what they did and why, how they feel and make other people feel, and it can take years, if ever, to resolve anything. It’s only a matter of time before the mainstream looks to ‘cognitive embodiment’ – to using specific exercises designed to improve well-being and then takes that territory.
The wellness industry holds the edge
This is where the wellness industry holds the edge. We already have the practices, techniques, tools, and skills that override the stories and could train people for altered states. Although every chi practitioner, energy-medicine therapist, or yoga or tai-chi teacher out there is entitled to an ‘I told you so’ moment here, the way forward is to cater to new accelerated demands by combining modalities specifically to deliver peak performance and flow states. To create what I’d call a ‘zone therapy’ and to own that territory. Mainstream research might reunite the medicine of the mind and the medicine of the body but the missing link will always be the medicine of the spirit.
Reverse engineering to identify the common factors underlying the flow state that extreme sports or magic mushrooms create is the way to zone therapy. Using traditional Chinese medicine I would see ‘flow’ as a combination of a rush of chi, the optimisation and enhancement of organ functions, and the enabling of a conscious access to the subconscious. This can be recreated on demand by working with chi, as it is energy, information, and consciousness, and aligning lifestyle with the chi cycle, the ultimate ‘flow chart’. Enhance your organ function and you are permanently and automatically happier, more productive, more creative, and more soul-satisfied.
Combining modalities is the key
Initially sequentially and then simultaneously. Start with orthomolecular psychiatry, using nutrients to heighten emotional states. If you feel good, options open up. Nutrient saturation creates flow. Add acupuncture and remedial massage to create flow and reduce blockages in your energy field. Then, add a chi-practice (yoga or tai-chi) and meditation (the medicine of the spirit) to access flow states and download information (via cosmic consciousness links).
In flow states, organ function is enhanced and information comes forward, so your story naturally comes up too. This is how it is. We all experience this. To test yours, just ask yourself what is stopping you from pursuing your dreams.
This is where therapy, via embodied cognition, comes into play, and the use of specific postures that are the antidote to specific psychological issues. The benefits of yoga or tai-chi cut in now because you can draw upon the flow skills to get past the story. If new information is received but there is no story to stop the flow, you will do what you perceive, follow up without interference, and you can realise your dreams. This is peak performance.
I believe that ‘extreme well-being’ should be the new wellness movement – to live in a way that accelerates the uniting of body, mind, and spirit and taps into cosmic consciousness to create peak performance and flow states. This delivers everything that people chase via drugs and extreme sports.
And it’s the end of the story, so everyone really will live happily ever after!
Bonus: how to microdose chi in ten minutes
1. Find a secluded spot and put yourself into the chi-gung posture of hugging the tree.
2. Feel the chi intensify in your power centre (the lower belly, also called your ‘dan tien’).
3. After three to five minutes lower your arms and initiate a shaking movement from your core, like a fishtail, where your limbs naturally follow the impulses generated in the centre of your belly. Get really vigorous with this until you feel pulsing waves of energy moving through your body. Make your movements as wild and uninhibited as possible.
4. After three to five minutes of shaking slow it down. You have got chi moving, have shaken off some of your old blockages and conditioning and accessed new information. Now return to your problem solving and see what happens!
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