Yo! Bryan Bayer here -- I want to share a question I’ve been cooking with for a while:
How can Authentic Relating tools and practices help us drop into ecstasis, or "flow state"? And, how can this inform our role in ushering in the next chapter for humanity?
Who cares? Well, the world challenges we face today are impossibly complex -- multiple interdependent, global variables, changing rapidly. No one person can solve these; it’s pretty clear it requires a new level of collective intelligence. And as my good friend Jamie Wheal, founder of the Flow Genome Project says in his new book Stealing Fire, “Wicked problems demand wicked solutions”.
He asserts that we can address these issues if we can learn to drop into to a state of deeper knowing, or “ecstasis” -- a Greek word meaning “to move beyond oneself”.
Also known as "flow state", ecstasis allows us access to a richer, deeper understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us. As you can imagine, I and many of our friends here at the Integral Center have been drawn to Jamie's work.
In fact, Jamie recently invited Kelly Larson and I to facilitate Authentic Relating practices at an upcoming "Flow Camp" in Utah later this month. As part of prepping for this, I studied Jamie's work more closely and started to map it to my understanding of our work here at the Integral Center, specifically, exploring that question: How can Authentic Relating tools and practices help us drop into ecstasis, or "flow state"? And, how can this inform our role in ushering in the next chapter for humanity?
What follows is my brief overview answer, which I thought you might enjoy-- an exploration of some of Authentic Relating's parallels, overlap and access points with flow state and ecstasis.
I've organized it around the four different aspects of ecstasis that Jamie lays out in his book: Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness (STER).
Jamie characterizes flow state, or ecstasis, as a time when we shut off the inner critic, our inner “Woody Allen”, and self-conscious dialogue goes quiet. The subjective self who we think we are suddenly becomes an object in our awareness. This creates more flexibility, openness to holding multiple and paradoxical perspectives, and relaxing the ego identity.
Circling and Authentic Relating at it’s best does exactly this. By offering feedback and reflection in a space of love and acceptance, we can bring awareness to our “selfing” blind spots and explore these fixations as “objects” in our awareness, rather than fixations that we are identified with. And instead of needing this attention to defend and manage our ego needs, we are freed up to hold broader, deeper perspectives and apply our energy towards contribution and connection.
Jamie observes that many of us are in a chronic experience of “time poverty” -- scarcity and stress around having enough time. Or else, we’re fixating on the events of the past, or worrying about the future.
Accessing ecstasis and flow states can offer a welcome break from these temporal fixations, dropping us into the timeless “deep now” -- enhanced awareness of the present. Without the cognitive load of tracking past and future, our attention is freed up to fully open to our moment-to-moment experience. In this state we take in more data per second, more accurately, and process it faster.
Faster Situation Evaluation - We often speak of Circling as a “hologram” -- the thin-slice of what’s showing up in our Circle can reveal an accurate, reliable microcosm of our entire life, of the whole. These moments of deep presence can bypass the need for years of “pattern matching” experience to discern what’s going on. So Authentic Relating can accelerate our ability to suss out a situation more quickly, as we learn to trust the information we get as we drop into the “deep now”.
Accelerated Connection - In every Authentic Relating games night I’ve ever facilitated, inevitably one of the participants comments that after an evening of practice, they feel more connected to the partners they practiced with than friends and coworkers they’ve known for many years. These “bubble moments” of deep connection where time and space seem to fall away seem to create a bond that transcend linear “get-to-know-you” time.
When we hone these capacities, we can collapse the typical time needed to “get to know” someone, and can accelerate our ability to know, like, trust and collaborate with the people we meet. It’s a near-instant experience of “Ah! I ‘get’ you. And I feel ‘gotten’ by you. There’s a lot of shared reality here -- let’s build something beautiful together!” I see this acceleration as a critical capacity for us to quickly form the network of relationships we need to address the challenges facing us in today’s world.
Neurobiologically, the states of flow and ecstasis induce a cocktail of pleasure chemicals. When an experience like ecstasis is intrinsically rewarding, it can unlock new levels of motivation and passion to flow.
One of the most exhilarating experiences I have in my life is in discovering something new in myself, or in another -- a blind spot, a new awareness, some place where one of us has been “sleepwalking” that’s now front-and-center, and will inform how we live going forward.
Discoveries made together in this way can be exhilarating and effortlessly fun in a way that keeps us coming back for more. While the same gains could be made through solo meditation, for many sitting alone often feels like work. By contrast, relational practices can tap us into an effortless and energizing exploration of the moment. We’re coming more alive, together.
I see this this aliveness as a critical component for addressing today’s challenges -- Howard Thurman’s old quote says it best: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
The fourth aspect of ecstasis is Richness. Ecstasis opens us to receiving a rich and deep channel of new information, which, while it might seem like it’s coming from “outside of ourselves”, is more likely a simple relaxation of the typical filters we use to navigate our day to day experience.
Jamie says the Greeks referred to this capacity as anamnesis -- “forgetting the forgetting”; a powerful sense of remembering. Hearing this immediately evoked for me another Greek word we refer to as a key emergent of Circling, Aletheia, meaning “truth revealed”.
Aletheia is the awakening to the truth that is always occurring, always unfolding. It’s the blast of recognition of the universe discovering (remembering) more of itself, opening to realize, “Ah! There’s more here now!”
In Circling, Aletheia is the moment of revelation when we become aware of unconsciously held perspectives, habits of thought, and/or assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world. When someone reveals more of what’s actually always been here, it shows up as the electric chills that buzz through the whole room…a deep richness that transcends the finite dimensions of our limited selves. Moments of Aletheia are what I love most about Circling.
How People Listen To Us Evokes Our Richness
How people listen to us can draw out the worst of us, or the best of us. One CEO I’ve been working with has been generating game-changing innovations for his company that have kept them ahead of all competitors for 8+ years in a volatile, fast-moving market. The only trick? It’s impossible for him to come up with the ideas sitting by himself. Someone (usually his cofounder) has to engage him with the right questions to draw these ideas out of him. Jason Silva, the “Ambassador of Ecstasis” as he’s known, discovered his gift to riff on the ineffable through a Friday night philosophy salon he and his friends regularly attended. His gift for channelling richness emerged through the listening of his friends.
Authentic relating teaches us how to listen to people such that their richness and genius emerge and are seen, the “Aletheia” moments where what has been concealed is revealed. Adopting the Circling precept of “Assume Nothing, Welcome Everything” allows us to quiet the “I already knew this, let’s move on” voice of our inner critic and be fully available to richness and depth of being we’re experiencing in front of us, moment to moment.
So, there are a few parallels, overlap and access points to flow state and ecstasis via authentic relating I’ve been musing on through the four facets of ecstasis -- Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness.
As with anything, accessing these states require practice. Be it playing a sport or a musical instrument, starting out is usually not when the grace of flow descends -- it's when we've practiced enough to riff and let go of the structures that got us to this point of competency.
So it goes with authentic relating-- we can't expect that we will drop into flow state in every interaction. On the other hand, it can be one of the most accessible places to release self and play in the flow of ecstasis. You don't need hours of practicing scales or a flying squirrel wingsuit -- just a willingness to be vulnerable, welcome what arises in relationship, and keep practicing.
I hope you found some value in this little breakdown, I definitely had fun putting it together. Feel free to add your thoughts in the blog comments below!
Cofounder, Integral Center & Authentic World
P.S. Last I heard there were only 2 slots left, but if you want to join me, Kelly Larson and Jamie at Flow Camp, check out the link here -- Jamie’s offered $500 off for anyone who comes through Authentic World / Integral Center - use offer code “authenticworld”. For more info on ecstasis and flow state, check out Jamie’s badass new book Stealing Fire, here.