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Jamie Wheal is the author of the global best-seller and Pulitzer Prize-nominated Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work[…]
  • For our own mental health, we must occasionally disconnect from the world and reconnect to ourselves and to each other.
  • This leads us to some of the most powerful and often taboo things that humans have ever experienced.

  • They include: breathing, sexuality, embodiment, substances, and music — what Jamie Wheal calls the Alchemist Cookbook.

Check out Jamie Wheal’s latest book Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death in a World That’s Lost Its Mind.

JAMIE WHEAL: How many of us are just suffering micro-PTSD all day, every day, that is just accumulating from the stuck in traffic or the held on customer support, or the family squabbles, or the social media flame wars, social injustice, or relentless news feeds of people suffering around the world. The sheer grind of it, the repetitiveness of it, and the questionable point. If we're only stuck down in the world, then the mundane will crush us. We need tools to mend our trauma, tools to reconnect with inspiration, why we're here and what it all means, and tools to better connect with each other. Well, how would we do that? Start with our own bodies and brains. On the one hand, it seems very low-tech, and on the other hand, leads us right to the doorstep of some of the most potent, controversial, taboo-laden, and powerful psycho technologies that humans have ever assembled. 

I'm Jamie Wheal, Founder of the Flow Genome Project and author of "Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex, and Death in a World That's Lost Its Mind". 

The collapse in meaning that I think you can at least argue we're in the midst of right now is complex and multivariable. Things are likely to get harder before they get better. Give me some sense that there is something more in this mortal coil beyond life's a bitch and then I die. If you want to do things that everybody has access to that are effective and zero to low-cost, start with our own bodies and brains, because our own bodies and brains shape our ability to access inspiration, healing, and connection, like breathing. We are all strongly, strongly, strongly encoded to breathe. In our nervous systems, there is all sorts of reinforcement of respiratory rate, rhythm depth, and it has a profound impact on our consciousness. We can alleviate stress. We can affect depression. We can even remove or lessen PTSD all just by teaching people how to breathe better. That's amazing. So respiration is one example. 

Another one is sexuality. For tens of thousands of years, humans figured out how to reproduce without an instruction manual. We think about the "Kama Sutra". We think about certain sort of iconic things, but in general, no. Humans have fumbled their way through it and figured it out anyway. Researchers have found that it's actually maps one-to-one with our ecstatic circuitry. Our procreation drives are the foundational neurological wiring. All of the hormones, right, the neuroelectricity, all of the incentives that just prompt us to instinctively procreate can also be used to hot wire consciousness. Dr. Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, he said, "Hey, look, these groundbreaking results we're getting with MDMA and trauma sufferers, feelings of safety, security, connection, the closest we've come to this is the post-orgasmic state. We could be helping people reclaim their natural physiological response to shed trauma, alleviate pain, lessen depression, heighten connection. So, breathing is one. Sexuality is another.

Embodiment is a third. We have a vagus nerve that goes from our brain stem all the way down to our root. We have an endocannabinoid system that actually is the metronome and regulator of everything from inflammation to memory extinction, to feelings of wellbeing. Our nervous systems and our bodies can actually be profoundly potent tools to unlock and discharge trauma, and to prime and prompt peak states and inspiration. 

And then the final two you could almost kind of see as amplifiers, substances and music. While substances could seem like an outlier, you're like, "Well, wait a second. What are those about?" Ron Siegel at UCLA has gone as far as saying that it's not even a human drive for intoxication. It's not even a mammalian drive. It's even true for birds and all sorts of different species. The desire to seek altered or non-ordinary states of awareness or consciousness is so pervasive that he even goes as far as calling a fourth, basic survival drive. Our desire to shift states meaningfully is pretty hardwired. Nevermind what our particular cultures, customs, or taboos might be. We can make use of widely available substances and we can combine them with other skillful protocols that we understand how our bodies and brains work to reliably deliver us to peak experience. 

And then the final one is just music. There's a strong case to be made that music even preceded language. All of our stories where we're like, "And then man discovered fire. And then man discovered language," you know, man might've discovered a funky ass backbeat. If you think about sex, drugs, rock and roll, and oh, no, Elvis, and the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles are gonna destroy civilization, you're like, "Actually, no, no, no. These are the things that created civilization." For all of human history, moving, singing, clapping, dancing, playing where it's seamlessly integrated into the community, and everybody was expected to be a participant. Over time people would get into an entrained peak state together, an non-ordinary state, which they then found was healing, and essentially sort of reset the Etch-a-Sketch. 

If you take those five elements, respiration, sexuality, embodiment, substances, and music, and you put them together, you end up with something that you know you can kind of playfully call the Alchemist's cookbook, which is a nod to the 1970s infamous book "The Anarchist's Cookbook", which was this little tiny manual that then became the most stolen library book of all time. Once you realize how powerful these five tools are, especially in combination, you can use it to support alchemy, or the process of human fulfillment or transformation. It doesn't promise an out or an escape. It doesn't promise a happily ever after that is structurally different from right here, right now. But it does provide us a way to remember what we forgot, to patch our bones, and to find our brothers in the systems. And if we can help each other do that, then we stand a chance. We stand a chance of reclaiming our deepest inspiration.