Stealing Fire
The author of the bestselling Bold and The Rise of Superman explores altered states of consciousness and how they can ignite passion, fuel creativity, and accelerate problem solving, in this groundbreaking book in the vein of Daniel Pink’s Drive and Charles Duhigg’s Smarter Faster Better.Why has generating "flow" and getting "into the zone" become the goal of the world’s most elite organizations? Why are business moguls attending Burning Man? Why has meditation become a billion-dollar industry? Why are technology gurus turning to psychedelic drugs to unlock creativity?All of these people are seeking to shift their state of mind as a way of unlocking their true potential. Altered states, the authors reveal, sharpen our decision making capabilities, unleash creativity, fuel cooperation, and let us tap into levels of inspiration and innovation unavailable at all other times. Stealing Fire combines cutting-edge research and first-hand reporting to explore a revolution in human performance — a movement millions of people strong to harness and utilize some of the most misunderstood and controversial experiences in history.Building a bridge between the extreme and the mainstream, this groundbreaking and provocative book examines how the world’s top performers—the Navy SEALS, Googlers, Fortune 100 CEOs—are using altered states to radically accelerate performance and massively improve their lives, and how we can too.Ultimately, Stealing Fire is a book about profound possibility—about what is actually possible for ourselves and our species when we unlock the full potential of the human mind.

Stealing Fire Details

TitleStealing Fire
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 21st, 2007
PublisherDey Street Books
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Psychology, Business, Self Help, Science

Stealing Fire Review

  • Bernie Gourley
    January 1, 1970
    “Altered states of consciousness” conjures visions of rogue scientists hitting hallucinogens and then sealing themselves up in sensory deprivation tanks until they either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. This book may touch on such activities, but it’s about something else--something broader and in some sense, and yet narrower in another. What it’s about are the states of consciousness in which the part of the mind that is critical, cautioning, and always creating worst case scenarios fades i “Altered states of consciousness” conjures visions of rogue scientists hitting hallucinogens and then sealing themselves up in sensory deprivation tanks until they either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. This book may touch on such activities, but it’s about something else--something broader and in some sense, and yet narrower in another. What it’s about are the states of consciousness in which the part of the mind that is critical, cautioning, and always creating worst case scenarios fades into the background, allowing one to be more effective, happier, and to drop one’s neurotic tendencies. Kotler and Wheal refer to this as ecstasis, borrowing from the Greek word meaning “to get outside oneself.” They differentiate it from the Flow of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi with which it clearly has overlap. (One of the authors, Kotler, wrote a great book on the exploitation of Flow by extreme athletes entitled “The Rise of Superman.”) [I’d love to see a Venn diagram of how they see these states overlapping, but—alas—one isn’t provided, though there is some discussion of it.]The book is organized into three parts. The first part consists of three chapters and it both explores what ecstasis is and why it’s so hard to find. The story of how the Navy SEALs designs training to build group Flow states on command is illuminating as is the second chapter’s discussion of how Jason Silva found ecstasis through freewheeling philosophizing. The third of the chapters describes three prominent barriers to achieving these states of mind. These barriers are among the reasons for the rarity of these altered states even though they’re available to everyone. The heart of the book is the second part which describes four avenues by which people pursue these altered states of consciousness: psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, and technology. The chapter on psychology uses a dialogue series between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle as a stepping off point, probably more because of what it tells us about the scale of yearning for ways to get outside of one’s head than because of the dialogues’ value in facilitating that condition. Positive psychology as recipient of a mantle once held by religion and spiritualism is an important theme in this chapter.The neurobiology chapter isn’t just about the biology of the brain and nervous system; it’s about the integration of brain and body. In it, we learn about how expressions, postures, and gestures can influence our state of mind. Many apparently believe that the story of pharmacology is a much bigger part of this book than it actually is, but it’s a part that’s hard to ignore. As one who seeks non-pharmacological approaches to Flow (I’m more about yoga, meditation, and movement) I still found this chapter fascinating, and perhaps most so in its discussion of other species’ pursuit of chemically-induced highs [particularly that of dolphins.] The technology discussed covers a range of approaches from biofeedback devices designed to help one navigate one’s way into the zone, to gear to help one engage in trigger activities at lower risk. For example, the mix of defiance of gravity and high-speed gliding experienced wing-suiting seems to be a potent trigger for ecstasis. It also seems to kill anyone who keeps doing it long enough. So the question is whether one can create the sensation and still achieve the trigger without inevitably experiencing an untimely demise. The grimness of that last paragraph is an apropos lead-in to discussion of the book’s final part, which considers how one can organize one’s pursuit of ecstasis without running into the many pitfalls that coexist with it—from becoming a pleasure junky to dropping out of life to killing oneself. The first of three chapters in the final part discusses the Burning Man festival phenomena in great detail as well as other avenues by which people find themselves drawn into the pursuit of altered consciousness. The next chapter describes how both government and commercial firms have sought to exploit the bliss of these altered states. The last chapter is about how to merge daily life and pursuit of ecstasis in a balanced way so one avoids becoming a pleasure junky who runs his life aground on rocky shoals in pursuit of the next ecstasis fix. The book is endnoted, and has some nice ancillary features—a number of which are available online with the link being given at the back of the book. An appendix that I found interesting was one entitled “Notes on Inside Baseball.” This section discussed a number of controversies that were outside the scope of the book, but which readers might wish to research in greater detail.I found this book to be highly engaging. The authors use the narrative approach throughout to keep it interesting, while at the same time conveying complex ideas in an approachable fashion. They scour many disparate realms in search of this altered consciousness, and so there’s never a dull moment. I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about how to shut down that perpetually critical and gloomy part of the brain so that one can achieve one’s optimal potential.
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  • Sherrie Pilkington
    January 1, 1970
    ***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***This book doesn't really say anything. It gives a lot of anecdotes about people trying to reach ecstasis through drugs, religion, music, jumping out of planes, etc...but doesn't really tie it all together into a cohesive argument. Also, it desperately needs fact checking. For example, the authors claim that more copies of 50 Shades of Grey were sold than all 7 Harry Potter books combined. A quick Google search shows that to be false. It makes me quest ***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***This book doesn't really say anything. It gives a lot of anecdotes about people trying to reach ecstasis through drugs, religion, music, jumping out of planes, etc...but doesn't really tie it all together into a cohesive argument. Also, it desperately needs fact checking. For example, the authors claim that more copies of 50 Shades of Grey were sold than all 7 Harry Potter books combined. A quick Google search shows that to be false. It makes me question pretty much all the facts in this book.
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  • Frank Carnevale
    January 1, 1970
    Entertaining read, but lacks practical tips.Maybe I came into this book with improper expectations. I kept waiting for practical steps on how to reap the benefits of ecstasis. Aside from some suggestions on how to schedule consciousness altering practices into one's life, the book lacked practical tips. I'm already convinced that a flow state is beneficial to me. I didn't need 98% of the book to convince me of that. If you need some convincing, this book is for you. If you need a practical roadm Entertaining read, but lacks practical tips.Maybe I came into this book with improper expectations. I kept waiting for practical steps on how to reap the benefits of ecstasis. Aside from some suggestions on how to schedule consciousness altering practices into one's life, the book lacked practical tips. I'm already convinced that a flow state is beneficial to me. I didn't need 98% of the book to convince me of that. If you need some convincing, this book is for you. If you need a practical roadmap on integrating these practices (and applying them to your life pursuits), look elsewhere.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a psychologist, and I was hoping this book would build on my knowledge of how to leverage empirically based principles of behavior science to enhance performance and well-being. Although I found the "altered state" information interesting (and aligned with work I'm familiar with about group dynamics and bonding), the main point of the book seemed to be: Do some drugs.Now I'm not a puritan who casts judgment on the use of controlled substances, BUT I do think this advice is completely impract I'm a psychologist, and I was hoping this book would build on my knowledge of how to leverage empirically based principles of behavior science to enhance performance and well-being. Although I found the "altered state" information interesting (and aligned with work I'm familiar with about group dynamics and bonding), the main point of the book seemed to be: Do some drugs.Now I'm not a puritan who casts judgment on the use of controlled substances, BUT I do think this advice is completely impractical for the average reader. One reason so many of the success stories in this book are billionaires and CEOs is because they also have the power and resources to obtain and use these substances without facing the legal and social consequences your average Joe might. It was telling to me that unlike most good pop psychology books, this one really didn't offer any meaningful suggestions for harnessing the altered state techniques in your own life ("hedonistic calendar" be damned). What, you can't tell us how to obtain these miracle substances you've been touting for 200 pages?At best, this book is an entertaining way to think "what if" in terms of caring for your brain and body very differently. At worst, it's an advertisement for Burning Man and a glib assumption that anyone who's not microdosing with LSD before work is wasting her potential.
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  • Marcus
    January 1, 1970
    People have known for a long time that there are a whole lot of ways to experience consciousness outside the every day way we experience it. Every society sorts these ways that are either acceptable or “beyond the pale” as it’s described in Stealing Fire. Up until recently, Western culture has been quite wary of anything that changes our experience of the world too drastically. Lately though, maybe since the 1950’s, this has started to shift, and in the last few years in particular, altered stat People have known for a long time that there are a whole lot of ways to experience consciousness outside the every day way we experience it. Every society sorts these ways that are either acceptable or “beyond the pale” as it’s described in Stealing Fire. Up until recently, Western culture has been quite wary of anything that changes our experience of the world too drastically. Lately though, maybe since the 1950’s, this has started to shift, and in the last few years in particular, altered states have received increased mainstream interest and attention. We’re at the beginning of what might be a revival in experimentation with altered states of consciousness. A more careful, measured revival.Stealing Fire calls the over-arching feeling we’re seeking “ecstasis,” the Greek word for “stepping beyond oneself.” This is pretty good choice of word, but their acronym STER was even more useful, it stands for Selflessness, Timelessness, Richness, Effortlessness and enumerates the broad categories of reasons for seeking altered states. Of these, richness was the most ambiguous to me, so here’s how they describe it: “creative inspiration or divine madness or that kind of connection to something larger than ourselves that makes us feel like we understand the intelligence that runs throughout the universe.”If you think about it, everything we do has the goal of either directly or indirectly obtaining or avoiding a mental state. It’s why we exercise, eat well, use substances like caffeine or alcohol, and, at a more abstract level, it’s why we avoid regret and do things to make memories. So we seek states of mind. We always have, always will. Stealing Fire is about going after them in less conventional ways.In a nod to the less conventional, the authors give plenty of space to the altered states brought on by psychedelics. I suppose this is why a lot of reviews are hard on the book. What’s the point of reading about taking illegal substances like DMT or LSD for people who are unwilling to risk breaking the law to experience them? Well, I'd argue that regardless of whether or not you are willing to try them there are reasons to learn about them, but even if you disagree, the book’s central focus isn’t illegal substances, it’s a survey why people are interested in altered states and the variety of ways they achieve them.Apart from hallucinogens, they explore flow, and contemplative states like those achieved through meditation, sexuality, chanting, and dance. Within these broad categories they look at how technology, psychology, neurobiology, and pharmacology can best induce, measure, and control these non-ordinary states of consciousness and make them useful in our quest to experience novelty, form creative connections, and make meaning.Stealing Fire isn’t perfect but the complaints that the authors are just trying to push people toward their courses or seminars or whatever it is are overstated. Their courses are hardly mentioned. There is however, a clear bias toward the Silicon Valley mentality with their love of Burning Man, self-quantification, expensive conferences, and projects that only millionaires could even fathom. At times it’s a little eye-roll inducing, but don’t let that keep you away from the book. As any good survey style non-fiction book should have, there are more starting points than conclusions here. I took pages of notes and have a new list books to check out that go deeper into the topics they treat briefly. It’s well written and engaging and worth your time.
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  • Charles Franklin
    January 1, 1970
    THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS THAT I HAVE READ THIS YEAR! "Stealing Fire" is an exploration of man's journey through altered states of consciousness. The authors, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler explore thins topic from a variety of perspectives that you wouldn't expect-mind gyms, exterme sports, neurotheology, Navy SEALS, mind control as well as the stuff that you would expect, mind-altering substances. The book isn't a straightforward and boring academic book, though, it's a story-dri THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS THAT I HAVE READ THIS YEAR! "Stealing Fire" is an exploration of man's journey through altered states of consciousness. The authors, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler explore thins topic from a variety of perspectives that you wouldn't expect-mind gyms, exterme sports, neurotheology, Navy SEALS, mind control as well as the stuff that you would expect, mind-altering substances. The book isn't a straightforward and boring academic book, though, it's a story-driven, exciting adventure. that goes down different rabbit holes that eventually tie together into one big theme. I immediately intrigued by the idea of "flow" (I'm a productivity nerd) and immediately loved going down all of the rabbit holes that Kotler and Wheal take readers down. While I was reading this book, I made quite a few changes in my life (which means it was a good book!). I started to listen to bianaural beats and gamma music on YouTube, joined the free webinar about flow sponsored by the Genome Project website, and took time to devote more quiet time so that I can get into the "flow state" more often. I have a different perspective on the brain because of this book and look forward to learning more about "flow".The one area that everyday people might have trouble is applying some of the tips on a down-to-earth level. The book is full of absolutely incredible stories and there are some general principles that help the everyday reader identify the characteristics of flow state and a little bit about how the brain works while under the flow state. On the other hand, I (like many readers) don't have access to a mind dojo, tickets to the Burning Man festival, or access to any of the other cool stuff in the book. For those readers, I would advise taking the principles of the book and the tips in the last chapter (hedonic calendar) to start an exploration of the "flow state" moments in your life (meditating, listening to good music, taking a trip into nature).
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  • Emma Sea
    January 1, 1970
    this book was highly recommended to me but my concentration continually skidded away like it was Teflon-coated. dnf at p. 109
  • Scott
    January 1, 1970
    I came across this book on recommendation from podcast, and it sounded interesting - but from the cover and initial impressions, I thought it'd be another sort of self-help "using flow state or mindfulness to be a better worker bee." While I want to be good at my job, it wasn't my main interest, but when reading it anyway, this book presented so much more! Sure, it talks about efficiency and flow states, but it explores cultural backgrounds, different paradigms and approaches - from psychedelic I came across this book on recommendation from podcast, and it sounded interesting - but from the cover and initial impressions, I thought it'd be another sort of self-help "using flow state or mindfulness to be a better worker bee." While I want to be good at my job, it wasn't my main interest, but when reading it anyway, this book presented so much more! Sure, it talks about efficiency and flow states, but it explores cultural backgrounds, different paradigms and approaches - from psychedelic drugs (and their history and cultural context) to Temporary Autonomous Zones to communes to extreme sports. The personal stories and varied experiences are fantastic and engaging, and illustrate the points about the concepts, and how it may apply to various aspects of your life - job, mental well-being, spiritual well-being, relations with others - but without veering into New Age-land *or* being skeptical to the point of dismissing ideas just because they're outside the norm. That probably raises some eyebrows, but it's like this: the authors never ask you to believe in anything, they just show cases where certain things have worked, why they might have worked, and that belief in itself may have been a component of the experiences.I've been reading about these sorts of experiences for decades, and keep running into walls because so much out there is reiterations of Flow 101. This is finally a next step, in a way that doesn't fill it all up with anyone's particular fluff, but provides streamlined ways to integrate the ideas into your own mental fluff.
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  • Kenneth
    January 1, 1970
    This is about altered mental states and how they improve life. It seems a little too much like a commercial for their web site and their classes. It doesn't tell you how to make any of this help in your regular, everyday suburban life. Like you can go to Burning Man, or climb mountains on the weekend with your extra time and money and then come back on Monday and everything will just be magically improved. It wasn't bad, but I didn't get out of this what I was hoping for.
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  • Edgar Correa
    January 1, 1970
    Excepcional!!! Estados alterados de memória, a virada, a zona, flow.... Na vida, nos esportes, nos negócios etc..Como pessoas e equipes como os SEALS, esportistas, CEOS etc... estão atingindo estado alterados de consciência para atingir o sucesso.TOP
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  • Karsten Speckmann
    January 1, 1970
    One needs an Open Mind for Flow and Inspiration...A fascinating, yet controversial read.This book may inspire or offend you. If you are more on the conservative or deeply spiritual side, parts of this most interesting book you might not like. I personally also wouldn't opt for doing the riskier things. However, the collection of studies around "flow" or heightened mental states is fascinating. Group flow and meditation practice has been done for millennia, so there most probably is something to One needs an Open Mind for Flow and Inspiration...A fascinating, yet controversial read.This book may inspire or offend you. If you are more on the conservative or deeply spiritual side, parts of this most interesting book you might not like. I personally also wouldn't opt for doing the riskier things. However, the collection of studies around "flow" or heightened mental states is fascinating. Group flow and meditation practice has been done for millennia, so there most probably is something to it. I will look further into these for myself and at work. Towards further success :-)
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  • Praxedes
    January 1, 1970
    Three and a half stars, really. This title deals with the benefits of attaining a 'flow' mentality, which the authors claim has long-lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Science has already shown that many activities discussed within provide positive effects for us, such as meditation, prayer, and the liberating "rush" of performing extreme sports. Any act which unleashes an epiphanic episode provides us with a distinct and ultimately useful view of ourselves, and by extension of Three and a half stars, really. This title deals with the benefits of attaining a 'flow' mentality, which the authors claim has long-lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Science has already shown that many activities discussed within provide positive effects for us, such as meditation, prayer, and the liberating "rush" of performing extreme sports. Any act which unleashes an epiphanic episode provides us with a distinct and ultimately useful view of ourselves, and by extension of our world.What the authors here propose is that we should be actively pursue these states in life, and gives us some tips on how to do so. I particularly recommend to millennials the final chapter, which warns us that this is not about being a 'bliss junkie': exhilaration is only a first step which needs to be followed by hard work, grit, and discipline.
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  • Alin Pinta
    January 1, 1970
    An exuberant and vital study on the neurochemistry of 'flow' and 'altered states of consciousness' that brings a modern ontological perspective on what many of us still consider shamanistic mysticism.
  • Alecsandra Litu
    January 1, 1970
    It seems like this year the typical book that falls in my hands is the one that takes your beliefs and ideas about the world, laughs at them with that "Disney witch" laughter and then smashes them with a hammer into thousands of pieces. This is one of them. As most of my friends know, until recently I was your basic "boarding school" type of girl: no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no coffee… (Yes, I used to do other stupid stuff, just not those ones). So this book puts things in a whole new per It seems like this year the typical book that falls in my hands is the one that takes your beliefs and ideas about the world, laughs at them with that "Disney witch" laughter and then smashes them with a hammer into thousands of pieces. This is one of them. As most of my friends know, until recently I was your basic "boarding school" type of girl: no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no coffee… (Yes, I used to do other stupid stuff, just not those ones). So this book puts things in a whole new perspective. What if all those (and a lot more) are methods of expanding our consciousness (if applied in certain conditions)? Increasing performance? Solving complex problems? Creating a sense of community? And by the way, we used to do this for thousands of years until we became "puritans". What if there is no difference in terms of ethics between using meditation and LSD as tools for "getting there" (for example)?All in all, the case they make is logical (most part of it at least) and easy to follow. Tons of examples and approaches to help you "get there", in flow.The only two issues I had with the book were a) the touch of "conspiracy theory" added and b) the tendency to over-generalize at the end of the arguments. But still a good provocative read.
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  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    This book talks about the latest trend in using 'alternative state of mind' to make ourselves more creative, train harder or just for fun. Basically getting high, and mainly through psychedelic drugs. He explained that all the Silicon Valley elites and Davos 0.01%-ters are doing it. The author invoked Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' states of high performing athletes and artists which feels timeless and blissful, and is also a high-performance state. Similarly, Buddhist monks can enter similar state o This book talks about the latest trend in using 'alternative state of mind' to make ourselves more creative, train harder or just for fun. Basically getting high, and mainly through psychedelic drugs. He explained that all the Silicon Valley elites and Davos 0.01%-ters are doing it. The author invoked Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' states of high performing athletes and artists which feels timeless and blissful, and is also a high-performance state. Similarly, Buddhist monks can enter similar state of 'oneness with the universe through meditation. He explained that nowadays psychedelic drugs can help human beings do the same thing. This I must disagree. The athletes and monks can Control entering and leaving the state. People taking drugs can't. And even the author acknowledged that one can fall into the trap of seeking blissfulness for its own sake, or what we simply called addiction and/or dependence. I can't imagine a future when everyone would just take psychedelic drugs in class to increase their creativity. Sounds scary to me.
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  • Olena Pravylo
    January 1, 1970
    Книга є каталогічним оповіданням про наявні досвіди і можливості для змінених станів свідомості - від екстатичних релігійний переживань до психоделічних трипів і корпоративних командних проектів. Виклики та загрози змінених станів, як то секти нового взірця чи загибель спортсменів-екстрималів, не зупиняють людей від пошуку "кайфу" розчиненої самості, позачасовості, легкості, насиченості. Автори пропонують багато відсилок на різноманітні книги, фільми, дослідження у різних галузях людського і тва Книга є каталогічним оповіданням про наявні досвіди і можливості для змінених станів свідомості - від екстатичних релігійний переживань до психоделічних трипів і корпоративних командних проектів. Виклики та загрози змінених станів, як то секти нового взірця чи загибель спортсменів-екстрималів, не зупиняють людей від пошуку "кайфу" розчиненої самості, позачасовості, легкості, насиченості. Автори пропонують багато відсилок на різноманітні книги, фільми, дослідження у різних галузях людського і тваринного існування, де істоти знаходяться в пошуку екстазів. Приклади стосуються не тільки персональних досвідів, але й групових, різних варіантів впливу на свідомість - використання екстазу повного чи обіцянки екстазу (дофамінова залежність), як військовими так і комерційними структурами. Наприкінці книги навіть наводиться посилання на календар задоволення - своєрідну власну програму досягнення екстатичних станів, при збереження адекватного сприйняття світу у житті. Бо головна засторога на шляху до екстазу, що можна піти і не повернутись, як бувало з багатьма мандрівниками зміненими станами. Ось лінк на календар, а решту читайте в книзі: http://www.flowgenomeproject.com/wp-c...
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  • Lukasz Nalepa
    January 1, 1970
    Wow... I can't remember previous book that made me think so much. Very, very intriguing lecture. Personally for me, the best part was beginning of the book, where most of the ideas and assumptions were introduced. I was moved to the level of really pittying the fact, that I'm not i.e. working for Google, living in California and Rave culture with a Burning Man festival is just something I can read about in such books :)But seriously, It got me really consider meditation, mindfulness and impact t Wow... I can't remember previous book that made me think so much. Very, very intriguing lecture. Personally for me, the best part was beginning of the book, where most of the ideas and assumptions were introduced. I was moved to the level of really pittying the fact, that I'm not i.e. working for Google, living in California and Rave culture with a Burning Man festival is just something I can read about in such books :)But seriously, It got me really consider meditation, mindfulness and impact the different states of consciousness have on ourdaily life. I would gladly consider five stars, but I feel like there is far too little attention paid to the dark side of altering conconsciousness and knowledge that lays behind it. There are some chapters regarding exploiting the topic by the government and "greedy corporations", but for me there is too little, especially regarding the harm that people can do to themselves - and I'm not talking only about the drugs of course.All in all - I really, really... recommend this book to anyone interested in flow, mindfullness, happiness... life :) Very intriguing lecture!
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  • Jonathan Lu
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating book by the founders of the flow genome project on a topic that has consumed my mind for the last 2 years. This book presented greater background, context, and summaries of research (70+ pages of footnotes! this book is incredibly well researched) for me, a wannabe human performance junkie. I've dabbled heavily in meditation, lucid dreaming, and technological stimulation through tDCS, tACS, and gamma wavelength stimulation... I'm starting now to try a few nootropics, but have never h Fascinating book by the founders of the flow genome project on a topic that has consumed my mind for the last 2 years. This book presented greater background, context, and summaries of research (70+ pages of footnotes! this book is incredibly well researched) for me, a wannabe human performance junkie. I've dabbled heavily in meditation, lucid dreaming, and technological stimulation through tDCS, tACS, and gamma wavelength stimulation... I'm starting now to try a few nootropics, but have never had the guts to try any of the psychedelic pharmacological agents yet. I do have the number for a good shaman, and after reading this book, Terence McKenna's "Food of the Gods", and listening for a long time to Tim Ferriss, I'm almost ready to call him and ease my way into microdosing.A few points that I took away:- Kykeon was the original elixir stolen by Alicbiades for a 9day party in 415BCE Athens where the guests engaged in a cathartic experience of death, rebirth, and divine inspiration at Eleusis.- The state of flow which the Eleusians chemically achieved is that which high performing individuals and teams can reach, such as SEAL team six whose teams reach "dynamic subordination", where leadership is fluid and defined by conditions on the ground - multiple people moving as one connected mind. In this state they are able to eliminate the blockade of their conscious mind as Salim Ismail talks about at SU - "The conscious mind is a potent tool, but it's slow, and can manage only a small amount of information at once. The subconscious, meanwhile, is far more efficient. It can process more data in much shorter time frames. In ecstasis, the conscious mind takes a break, and the subconscious takes over. As this occurs, a number of performance-enhancing neurochemicals flood the system, including norepinephrine and dopamine." (p20)- Studies done that I have been told by my SEAL friends extending John Lilly's research on saline flotation sensory deprivation tanks combined with LSD and ketamine to amplify consciousness - now being used for accelerated learning. "By using the tanks to eliminate all distraction, entrain specific brainwaves, and regulate heart rate frequency, the SEALs are able to cut the time it takes to learn a foreign language from six months to six weeks." (p30) fMRI scans show that brain patterns of adults in this state are similar to children, who lack the sensory acclimatization bias to shut out stimuli that we have trained ourselves to as adults - i.e. why they are able to become literal sponges at an early age. This leads me to thoughts about the negatives of accelerated learning which neuroscientists and psychologists have described to me. Humans are meant to learn through trial and error - if we can learn so quickly, do we also pick up the bad habits quickly?- Kotler estimates that the "Altered States Economy" is $4T per year - including pornography, alcohol, music festivals - anywhere that people go to feel out of their own reality, or "To shut off the self. To give us a few moments of relief from the voice in our heads." (p40)- What does it take to reach flow state? STER - Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness- 2013 Red Bull Hacking Creativity Project at the MIT Media Lab concluded that creativity is essential for solving complex problems, but we have little success training creativity. "And there's a pretty simple explanation for this failure: we're trying to train a skill, but what we really need to be training is a state of mind." (p49)- Whether through Mindfulness training, technological stimulation, or pharmacological priming, the results of mental enhancement are 200% boost in creativity, 490% boost in learning, and 500% boost in productivity (from studies by DARPA, Advanced Brain Monitoring, and McKinsey)- Story of James Valentine who grew up in a strict mormon upbringing and is now lead guitarist for Maroon 5: discovered ecstasis through playing music which led him to realize that the church wasn't his only access to the Holy Ghost - as mormonism teaches, individuals are able to speak directly to god - thus eliminating the need for his dependence on organized religion.- Story of David Nutt, who I've heard about on Freakonomics - a British psychiatrist who has used MDMA to treat severe brain injuries. He found in his study that out of 60MM tablets consumed, there were 10,000 adverse events. 1/6000 as compared to 1/350 injured while horseback riding. Of course he was ridiculed for stating such facts, and they went ignored; the Parliament prohibited him from studying this further with asinine reasoning.- Interesting to understand the origin of the term hocus pocus - as stated by Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson, likely a bastardization of "hoc est corpus" - this is the body of christ.- Eastern religions progressed rapidly in the development of performance by training neuroreceptors to elevate minds. Comparison to the West, where "Judeo-Christian guilt - that our bodies were not to be trusted - and was cemented by an increasingly industrial economy, where our bodies were less and less needed." (p97)- Dr. Andrew Newberg at UPenn used fMRI and PET (positron emission tomography) to scan the brains of the devout religious, finding that extreme concentration can cause the right parietal lobe to shut down - something of an efficiency exchange. "During ecstatic prayer or meditation, energy normally used for drawing the boundary of self gets reallocated for attention. When this happens, we can no longer distinguish self from other. At that moment, as far as the brain can tell, you are one with everything." (p107) Fascinating as I've heard from EEG practitioners that this is the same for many who have suffered brain injuries - the disablement of the frontal lobe actually can be a benefit for our modern day where conscious barriers are no longer necessary for protection as in the past.- An entire chapter is dedicated to the pursuit of music to reach ecstasis; from sufi mystics such as the whirling dervishes, to trance music that is popular today in helping individuals reach an altered state. This reminds me of the biophysical impact of "omm" - the vibrative effect of this chant that can actually impact a human's physiology, causing stress hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol to drop while reward chemicals that promote forming social bonds such as dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin spike.- In the technology chapter, I also love that it features heavily Mikey Siegel, who I had the privilege to take a course in technology augmented meditation with at Stanford. I knew that he formed a company called Consciousness Hacking and organized meetups about technological stimulation, but did not know the esteem with which he leads this movement across the globe. "For the past three hundred years, there has been a split between science and religion. But now we have the ability to investigate this domain and innovate around spirituality." (p141)- Description about how achievement of altered self can and has been used by the marketing industry to sell products through campaigns that seek peak arousal through sensory stimuli then induce participants to imagine the transformation of their lives with said product. "Under those amped-up conditions, salience - that is, the attention paid to incoming stimuli - increases." (p186)- An entire chapter dedicated to Burning Man, and the culture of seeking enlightenment and removal of self in a group environment - Kotler posits that open-sourcing ecstasis is the best counterbalance to private and public coercion.- The impact of dopamine - apophenia, the tendency to be overwhelmed by meaningful coincidence and to detect patterns where other see none. Like the Baader Meinhoff phenomenon - there is a fine line between genius and psychopathy. In fact there is probably not much of a difference, just social judgement.- Describes the calculus for how to view meditation vs. physical activity vs. technological stimulation vs. pharmacological induction - a balance of time vs. risk/reward. As a basis, using research studies about the use of MDMA to treat PTSD: "A one-day session with MDMA produces a marked decrease or abatement in symptoms, but you have to be willing to ingest an amphetamine to experience it. Five weeks of surfing - potentially less risky than a drug intervention - achieves a similar result, but entails learning a new sport in an unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous environment. Meanwhile, mediation - both simpler and safer than surfing - requires twelve weeks and offers a slightly lessened benefit. These three approaches produce a similar reward (relief from trauma), but they come with varying degrees of risk and investment of time." (p201)- Great conclusion about the fine line between addiction and enlightenment. Addiction, and why many such pharmacological substances have been banned by governments, is the constant pursuit of enlightenment. The flow genome project posits that enlightenment requires still to be grounded since "it's in our brokenness, not in spite of our brokenness, that we discover what's possible". Such as the Japanese concept of wabi sabi - the ability to find beauty in imperfection (i.e. soldering a broken vase back together with gold to make the unique flaws of the piece more beautiful. I don't think I've heard a better analogy for humanity.
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  • Aurelija
    January 1, 1970
    “Some revolutions begin with a gunshot, others with a party."
  • Brad B
    January 1, 1970
    Stealing Fire opens with a story from ancient Greece, so surely that proves what an important book it is. The anecdote is about the mysterious, psychoactive beverage kykeon and its use during the time of Socrates. While the authors acknowledge the probable presence of the mind-altering substance ergot, they also claim “uncovering the ingredients of kykeon has become a Holy Grail kind of quest.” These guys should really learn about Wikipedia, or any of the many web sites that describe the ingredi Stealing Fire opens with a story from ancient Greece, so surely that proves what an important book it is. The anecdote is about the mysterious, psychoactive beverage kykeon and its use during the time of Socrates. While the authors acknowledge the probable presence of the mind-altering substance ergot, they also claim “uncovering the ingredients of kykeon has become a Holy Grail kind of quest.” These guys should really learn about Wikipedia, or any of the many web sites that describe the ingredients of kykeon.That carelessness is one of the biggest problems with the book. The authors jump breathlessly from anecdote to anecdote without ever creating a coherent narrative. The overall point seems to be that a state of “ecstasis,” a broad term that includes flow states, contemplative/mystical states, and psychedelic states, is easy to achieve through a variety of methods. Sometimes the anecdotes offer a clear connection to this point. Other times, the authors seem so eager to drop as many names as possible that the connection is lost. For example, the story of Joseph Smith and his “Book of Mormon” is included. Are the authors arguing that spirit visitations and secret religious texts are a good thing? Considering how much money the LDS has spent trying to limit the basic freedoms of millions of Americans, this doesn't do much for the authors' point.There is an appendix where the authors acknowledge that some of the research they cite has subsequently been called into question (in fact, in some cases, flat out refuted). That kind of disclosure belongs in the text, not in an appendix that many won't even read. And there are still glaring omissions. For example, they report a study claiming that “power poses” (think the Wonder Woman or Superman power stance) increases testosterone. As a former healthcare worker, this didn't make sense to me, so I looked it up. Later research fully discredited the “power pose” finding – power poses can increase one's self-confidence, but they have no impact on testosterone levels.Another name-dropping example is the Trojan Warrier Project undertaken by the Pentagon to integrate meditation, biofeedback, and other techniques into training of Green Berets. But the authors provide no follow-up! Not only do the authors not indicate if the project was a success, they don't even speculate as to what “success” would mean in that situation. Was the goal to help soldiers kill more efficiently? To train them in non-violence techniques? To reduce the future prospects of PTSD? No clue.This kind of sloppiness – going so far as to seem like deliberate avoidance at times – occurs throughout the book. The authors love Burning Man to the point of worship. They salivate over the unity and creative incubator culture but only gloss over the class separation that has become rampant at Burning Man (private camps that amount to gated communities). And they don't even mention the considerable environmental impact of this city in the dessert, temporary or otherwise. (And can we please put to rest the myth that Elon Musk invented hyperloop? He simply repackaged the work of scientists like Robert Goddard.)Meditation and mindfulness, one of the possible paths to “ecstasis,” represents another issue with Stealing Fire. We're supposed to be impressed that health insurer Aetna (important name!) implemented a mindfulness training program to employees. It's wonderful that Aetna “saved $2,000 per employee in health-care costs, and gained $3,000 per employee in productivity.” Good for Aetna! Did the employees benefit? Did the savings get passed on to Aetna's customers? (And did you know that you can experience a “breakthrough” after only four days of meditation training? Hurry now, while supplies last!)Even more problematic is the neglect of potentially significant ethical conflicts. The authors mention that they were the keynote speakers at an annual Advertising Research Foundation meeting. Then they caution about corporations (many of them members of the aforementioned foundation) influencing consumer spending with the techniques described in the book. No connection is made between this influence and the authors' participation. Similar issues exist surrounding the authors' fanboy descriptions of Google founders Brin and Page, completely ignoring the ethics of Google's eager collection and exploitation of private consumer data.Ultimately, Stealing Fire ends up feeling like just another cog in the propaganda machine that serves Silicon Valley libertarian technocrats. Of course new companies and business units will result from Burning Man – any time that many uberwealthy people get together to party, they will come up with money-making schemes. That's what they do. Except for one brief mention, the authors never connect success with effort. One reasons the titans of tech succeed (based on material standards of “success,” which are themselves debatable) is that they simply work longer hours than most of us. Hopping in and out of a state of euphoria might sound like fun, but good things really do take time. A lifetime of meditation, years of disciplined athletic training, or the seven-day work weeks of a technology start-up – time and commitment are the real sources of value.Some of the book's anecdotes are very interesting, hence my two stars instead of one, but the reader should view every page with a critical eye. And much of this is either useless to the average layperson (How many of us are really going to experiment with LSD? Not me.) or reinforces long-standing awareness (yes, you will probably benefit from a regular meditation practice). It mostly adds up to a long, and poorly researched, press release. In the end, these authors are not stealing fire so much as blowing smoke.
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    This is an interesting and quick read about how states of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness (STER) can be achieved through various means and activities. As one may expect, many of these states are either unachievable due to the absence of skill or illegal due to federal and state drug laws. If you have any interest in the boundless nature of the human consciousness, I would recommend picking this up, but don't expect to get much in the way of advice.
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  • Wojtek Erbetowski
    January 1, 1970
    As author brings Maslow's hammer: when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. I think that the author felt under this trap as well, seeing key role of extasy in too many domains.On the other hand, I've got a variety of interesting stories to share, thanks to the book (especially on Burning Man).Overall - 2 stars, as I don't really know if it will influence my life in any way.
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  • Tiago
    January 1, 1970
    ImportantThe sociocultural importance of this book far outweighs the depth or technical accuracy of its commentary. You can find much more extensive and precise descriptions of each of the fields it covers, but what this book brings together is a holistic portrayal of a movement spanning many communities and activities. I feel this is an extremely important milestone on the path to gaining widespread acceptance of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
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  • Karel Baloun
    January 1, 1970
    Flow, ecstasis, altered states.. those are very important psychological and physiological topics, since we are all deeply interested in optimizing and maximizing human potential and achievement. With the access that fame has provided Kotler, to the best and strangest as he teaches creativity and achievement workshops, and many of who are present in this book via interviews (and maximally built up for effective name dropping) he could have done something much more amazing on this important topic. Flow, ecstasis, altered states.. those are very important psychological and physiological topics, since we are all deeply interested in optimizing and maximizing human potential and achievement. With the access that fame has provided Kotler, to the best and strangest as he teaches creativity and achievement workshops, and many of who are present in this book via interviews (and maximally built up for effective name dropping) he could have done something much more amazing on this important topic.Unfortunately, he didn’t, and I don’t really know why. Instead he packed this book full of stretched analogies, tortured data, and loosely connected anecdotes. The specific history of MDMA/DMT/etc pharmacology and Sasha Shulgin was novel to me, but most other historical references are gratuitous.When Kotler loves something it is given over the top billing and lavish reviews, including Burning Man, Esalen/EST, Cannabis, AppleWatch, and many fringe startups who found his ear. I understand that the point is to write only about things that have perceived value to the author, but this lacks credibility to the degree that I already know about some of those things.It’s sad that perhaps the most memorable part of this read, will be the casual reference to the Simpsons going to burning man. I YouTube’d it and laughed out loud at Marge saying “this tea” ironed out the wrinkles in her brain as elephant trombone man saved her. ... or Nisargadatta’s “ Love tells me I am everything. Wisdom tells me I am nothing. And between these two banks, flows the river of my life.” (P217)All of the techniques mentioned here, such as psychedelic and psychotropic drugs, meditation, flow, beyond self focus, etc, are very valuable, and I would love to learn more about them and practice them. This even does happen in the settings Kotler describes in the book, and I’d love to visit those workshops, within the learning context of the actual participants. This book just gives me a distant spectator perspective on this learning, with analysis that doesn’t describe adequately those experiences and brings us no closer to them.The introduction presented here to these important ideas is neither wrong nor overtly harmful. Many times Kotler notes how ostracized these techniques and practitioners have been in “polite society” and aims to be an iconoclast.. and perhaps for those this book sways, he could be. I’m not sure whom this book aims to persuade. Having read some of his better earlier work, I felt Kotler was heavily recycling, just trying to stay relevant.
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  • Kai Fawn
    January 1, 1970
    I REALLY wanted to give this book a more positive review. But, as others have noted, it has some very basic issues... and one very significant character flaw for me as a female reader (oooo, foreshadowing). First, there is little in terms of practical applicability. Yes, hedonic calendar in the last chapter, I hear you. There is also a final page directing us to the Stealing Fire book's website for additional tools. These tools are all offered as "bonuses" to a package purchase of the book, so l I REALLY wanted to give this book a more positive review. But, as others have noted, it has some very basic issues... and one very significant character flaw for me as a female reader (oooo, foreshadowing). First, there is little in terms of practical applicability. Yes, hedonic calendar in the last chapter, I hear you. There is also a final page directing us to the Stealing Fire book's website for additional tools. These tools are all offered as "bonuses" to a package purchase of the book, so little help to those of us who may have gotten the book from our local library. Also a hint that the giant neon sign screaming "MONETIZATION" is the real impetus here. Second, holy fact check issues. In addition to the very basic "Wait, what did that say?" that can be discounted by a Google search, there are issues in contextual quoting of even the sources cited. Third, and most problematic for me: I was about 60% complete with the book when it finally struck me. It's a book full of bros fist-bumpin' bros. We hit Joan of Arc pretty early in the book. Beyond that, the modern examples and interviewees are nearly entirely men. This is not something I typically seek out when I read, but it became clear relatively quickly that I was not seeing myself in this work. Foremost there is the massively missed opportunity of the altered state of natural childbirth. From midpoint on, I started to make note of the mentions women received besides being named as someone's wife or girlfriend: Page 171: MaiTai Global, kitesurfer Susi Mai. Good content about Mai. Funny thing, the authors name VC Bill Tai BEFORE Susi Mai in the text. Twice. The name of the company is MaiTai. The interview focuses on Mai. M comes before T in the alphabet. But Tai gets precedence in attribution...Pages 206-207: freediver Natalia Molchanova. First quoted in reference to freediver Nick Mevoli's death, which is indicated was due to cardiac arrest. Molchanova is then said to have suffered a freediving death. No further exploration of Molchanova's own passing, no reason -- or lack of reason -- offered. Page 209: skier Kristen Ulmer. Great story, great interview. She's then indicated to be on the board of the Flow Genome Project, a post she seems to have vacated. In a quick scan of their current advisory board, only three of 11 members (a figure that does not include Kotler and Wheal) are women.I was already starting to feel the thinness behind this work, and this disparity was so incredibly glaring that it soured my overall experience. Now, go look at all of the review quotes on stealingfirebook.com. All men. Kotler and Wheal include their own "inside baseball" acquiescence at the end of the book. Unfortunately for me as a female reader very interested in the phenomenon of ecstasis, their roster is very demographically limited and I apparently will never make the team, brah.
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  • Margaret Lozano
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed the book. Was it a bit vague? Yes. But it was also fascinating material, peppered with lots of cool anecdotes. As someone who has never taken psychedelics, I'll definitely admit I do love reading about them. Or hearing people talk about them. One small thing: what's the deal with Burning Man? Seriously!? Clearly, given the hyperbolic language people use to describe it, in obviously missing out on something huge. Does anyone feel like it lives up to the hype? I really hope that p I really enjoyed the book. Was it a bit vague? Yes. But it was also fascinating material, peppered with lots of cool anecdotes. As someone who has never taken psychedelics, I'll definitely admit I do love reading about them. Or hearing people talk about them. One small thing: what's the deal with Burning Man? Seriously!? Clearly, given the hyperbolic language people use to describe it, in obviously missing out on something huge. Does anyone feel like it lives up to the hype? I really hope that psychedelics can be legalized. Considering the dangers of legal drugs (like alcohol), it's strange to me that there is so much fear surrounding drugs like LSD, or even mushrooms and MDMA. I'd love to see tons more research on what some of these drugs can die for people with PTSD and depression. It's crazy that as a society we've allowed a puritan fear of "people having fun" to keep us from exploring potentially life saving drugs.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    The book is a wide-ranging overview of many up-to-the-moment researches, field studies, and personal experiences about "Flow" consciousness. Included is some interesting history in the "quantified self" movement. The book's a very good summary of some of the newest topics in consciousness by the founders of the Flow Genome Project, who aspire to study and reproduce the personal conditions for an individual's flow. The book also introduces the reader to the newer packaging of the idea of "embodie The book is a wide-ranging overview of many up-to-the-moment researches, field studies, and personal experiences about "Flow" consciousness. Included is some interesting history in the "quantified self" movement. The book's a very good summary of some of the newest topics in consciousness by the founders of the Flow Genome Project, who aspire to study and reproduce the personal conditions for an individual's flow. The book also introduces the reader to the newer packaging of the idea of "embodied cognition," as well as new methods for the induction of abiding ecstatic states of consciousness, defined by the authors as "ecstasis".The authors maintain a dogma-free tone, work to democratize exalted states of awareness, and offer freshened versions of what it means to be fully conscious and alive in the context of modern times. This is a somewhat unusual book because it also discusses humankind's instinctive tendency to get high. If enhancing and expanding your own consciousness is on your list, this is one you'll want to read.The authors like the term "non-ordinary states of consciousness" and give it the acronym NOSC. They offer four (slightly cumbersome but) very useful criteria to define, measure and look at non-ordinary states of consciousness, which they define as timelessness, effortlessness, selflessness, and richness. They avoid the term, "transcendence." I'm hearing lots of new, well-researched information in this book about the newest methods to enhance and induce consciousness, especially including "Flow," the concept that one can enter and maintain a connection with exciting, elevated states of awareness. Our natural seeking of ecstasis is discussed in the context of fields including consumer marketing, building companies, and Burning Man.It's a very good, very well-written and entertaining book, recommended to me by an acquaintance whose work is discussed at length in the book. I've also been personally acquainted with other people in the book and their work. One of these people is a roboticist by training who came to embrace a search for meaning which lead him to studies on consciousness. One's currently a psychologist/researcher/professor, one is John Lilly, MD, and there are others.Had you heard that Lilly's research on implanting electrodes in mammalian brains was co-opted in the 1950s by some of the people in MK Ultra? Lilly's seminal research was weaponized by the U.S. military. The book also includes a brief discussion of two programs which were precursors to specific U.S. military spying programs. I'm listening to the audio edition and sometimes following along in the Kindle edition. Apropos of the book's sections on new tech, I've recently had my first-ever qEEG done, and was told some pleasant surprises by the psychologist who reviewed it. For people who appreciate that an observer's perspective will lend something to what you're going to read in the book about flow: I've road-raced my car at triple-digit speeds on fast racetracks in the western U.S., and I've done ropes/team training with Outward Bound, and I've flown downhill on my racing bicycle at double-digit speeds. Those *very* physical experiences induced in me the states of flow and ecstasis described and discussed in the book.I'm a meditator with decades of practice, who has frequent events in his life like those mentioned in The Yoga Sutra's third chapter, and who also has a bachelors in religious studies from a state university. I'm co-founder of a conservation telerobotics startup which aspires to produce mobile video games.
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  • Cristiana Lupu
    January 1, 1970
    They say some books come to you when you most need them. I think it’s the same with this book. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It does deal with a very interesting subject - alternate states of consciousness or extasis. Basically, it deals with the origins and implications of one of the greatest drivers in today’s society, other than the drive for food, water and sex - namely the need to get out of our minds. Whether we do it through gaming, reading, watching visual art, u They say some books come to you when you most need them. I think it’s the same with this book. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It does deal with a very interesting subject - alternate states of consciousness or extasis. Basically, it deals with the origins and implications of one of the greatest drivers in today’s society, other than the drive for food, water and sex - namely the need to get out of our minds. Whether we do it through gaming, reading, watching visual art, using psychedelics, meditating or sex, the endeavor of getting out of the mundane and reaching the higher state of extasis is a 4 billion usd business in the States alone. This should get you thinking about why this happens and what your triggers are. The book is extremely well written, very engaging and at points even controversial. I would gift it to any smart friend of mine.
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  • Phil Thoden
    January 1, 1970
    Informative read about tapping into the state of mind known as Ekstasis and harnessing the ‘brain flow’ opportunities therein. I think everyone experiences this 'in the zone' place, though in varying degrees of frequency and depth. The authors provide an informed articulation of this powerful experience and share many practical examples of its manifestation. Not as scientific as other brain books, perhaps, but very accessible and definitely enlightening.
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  • Agnė Svetnickaitė
    January 1, 1970
    This books briefly goes through story of how people try to alter their minds and go deeper into the state of ecstasy and how does it help to achieve more in life.The topic itself isn't my favorite one, but I was expecting more explanations from neurology side or some good advice how to focus without drugs. However, focus on drugs is really heavy here with some short additions that yoga or meditation can help as well.Not my cup of tea or, saying in the language of the book, not my pill of extasy.
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