Using Psychedelics to Increase Performance and Reprogram the Mind/Brain Interface

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(this post originally appeared on Neurohacker Collective)

In a previous post, we discussed the value of nootropics as a tool in the neurohacker’s toolbox. They can help get us dialed in with laser focus and get things done. They can aid with concentration, learning, and memory. But productivity isn’t the only context for the human experience, and it would be sad if we shaped ourselves solely for the purpose of being more effective cogs in a machine.  Neurohacking is just as interested in getting better at asking “why” and “what” as in building capacity around “how”.

Enter, psychedelics, empathogens, entheogens and ‘plant medicines.’ Though many of these chemicals are currently schedule-1 drugs in many countries, humans have been using them for thousands of years for healing, self-inquiry and visioning into the nature of reality. In fact, some propose that the evolution of human consciousness itself was catalyzed by the use of mind-expanding substances discovered or concocted by early man.  If neurohacking is about upgrading the hardware our consciousness runs on, we would be remiss not to mention these technologies of altered states.

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Why the World Needs Neurohacking Now

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this post originally appeared on Neurohacker Collective

 

Let’s face it – as anyone who is paying attention knows, we humans are in a bit of an ‘emergence through emergency’ scenario. Every day the people and institutions that we used to be able to rely on are falling apart; failing to do even a little part of their job. Yet, at the same time, every day, the world is getting more complex and harder to make sense of. This is getting serious – staying the course and hoping to muddle through isn’t going to do it.

Our options: evolve or die.

If we want to stay in the game, we’re going to need to seriously level up. Continue reading

The Neurohacker’s Toolbox: Nootropics

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this post originally appeared on Neurohacker Collective

Nootropics. You might have heard of them. The “limitless pill” that keeps Billionaires richer than you. The ‘smart drugs’ that students are taking to help jack up their hyperfocus (Vice). The cognitive enhancers that give corporate executives an ‘unfair advantage’. (Harvard Business Review). All very exciting. But as always, the media are way behind the curve. Yes, for the past few decades, cognitive enhancers were largely sketchy substances that people used to grasp at a short term edge at the expense of their health and wellbeing. But the days of dropping Adderall and Ritalin to pull an all-nighter are so 2010.

These days, nootropics are beginning to take their rightful place as a particularly powerful tool in the Neurohacker’s toolbox. After all, biochemistry is deeply foundational to neural function. Whether you are trying to fix the damage that is done to your nervous system by a stressful and toxic environment or support and enhance your neural functioning, getting the chemistry right is table-stakes. And we are starting to get good at getting it right. What’s changed? Continue reading

What is Neurohacking?

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illustration by Kirsten Zirngibl

this post originally appeared on Neurohacker Collective

The term ‘hacker’ has its origins in computer programming subcultures from the ‘60s, and was used to describe people who wanted to take on hard problems in a spirit of playful exploration and a resistance to ‘unearned’ authority. Although the methods, means and intentions of hackers varied widely, all seemed to share a unique ethos that mixed a deep commitment to individual autonomy and agency with an equally deep commitment to collaboration and co-creation.

Over time, the concept of hacking has traveled far from its origins, finding its way into a number of domains like Biohacking, Consciousness Hacking, Flow Hacking and Life Hacking. Each is a kind of hacking because each shares this ‘hacker’s ethos’ and a commitment to using it to find the most effective ways to optimize the human experience.

We call the common thread that links these hacking communities together, ‘empowered responsibility.’ This notion expresses the dual recognition that we are no longer able to rely on external authorities to take care of us (in any domain) but through a combination of ubiquitous information, individual experimentation and open collaboration, we are increasingly empowered to take responsibility for ourselves.

In the Biohacking community, the spirit of empowered responsibility drives the process of optimizing one’s biological health and performance. Biohackers learn from each other how they can modify their nutrition, exercise, sleep, movement, and mindset to achieve the specific kind of well-being that they individually desire.

The Consciousness Hacking community takes empowered responsibility in using technology as a catalyst for psychological, emotional and spiritual flourishing. They utilize mindfulness techniques and biofeedback tools for self-exploration, taking personal responsibility for their conscious experience in this most individual of journeys.

Emerging from within and alongside these movements, we are observing the coalescence of a new and important domain: Neurohacking.

Whereas biohacking concentrates on the body, and consciousness hacking explores the inner experience, neurohacking is somewhere in the middle, focusing on the mind-brain interface – the intersection of neurology and consciousness. Specifically, neurohacking involves applying science and technology to influence the brain and body in order to optimize subjective experience.

The desired outcomes of neurohacking cover everything from focused productivity, to expanded creativity, more restful sleep, reduced anxiety, enhanced empathy, and anything else that contributes to the psychological well-being and emotional health of whole, thriving human beings.

The technologies of neurohacking run the gamut from chemical technologies like nootropics and entheogens, probiotics to support the gut-brain connection, bioelectrical technologies like neurofeedback and transcranial stimulation, photic therapies like low level laser therapy and all the way to embodied practices like somatics and meditation. So long as there is a scientifically accessible biological mechanism for effecting subjective experience, it belongs in the domain of neurohacking.

Of course, like all emergent phenomena, neurohacking didn’t just come from nowhere. For years there have been many movements and communities out there, playing in and pioneering some aspect of the neurohacking space.

Some of these domains include:

  • Nootropics
  • Entheogens
  • Microbiomics
  • Neurotechnology
  • Experiential Technology
  • Biohacking
  • Consciousness Hacking
  • Flow Hacking
  • Quantified Self
  • Transformative Technology
  • Calming Technology
  • Transcendence Technology
  • Positive Computing
  • Neuroethics
  • Transhumanism
  • Futurism
  • Positive Psychology

We propose that it is now timely and useful to perceive the commonality among these different movements and communities as shared aspects of Neurohacking. And in an effort to make these commonalities more visible and legible to each other, in the upcoming weeks we will take a deeper dive into each, highlight some notable people and projects in each space and explore the frontiers of the community from the point of view of Neurohacking.

In our next post, we will begin this exploration with the domain of Nootropics.

when the mind hijacks my flow state

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excerpt from field notes: “the battle of slave and sovereign is underway. what is this – day three of hell? i lost my focus, my muse, my creative edge. i’m stuck in an addictive pattern, my mind is spinning and traveling down well-worn pathways. i can feel that i’m no longer in flow. the curiosity & joy that was underlying this activity has been replaced with a burdensome drudgery. i’m “trying” to say the right thing, i’ve lost the thread of purpose underlying it. there was something that used to feel exciting about this….. what was it? i was in a position of self-authority, of creative flow. things felt effortless. now i’m running on some script, caught in a repetitive loop of thinking and/or behavior. even writing this now feels false. i feel a fear and panic that everything i’ve written so far was delusional. exposed, foolish. i need to switch gears. i need to disrupt the pattern. i need to relax. but the mindset that’s even trying to “figure out” how to break the pattern is the same one that’s creating it, so that won’t do. i need to transcend the mind’s limited viewpoint. i’m trapped in a limitation, and any logic within this frame is not going to work. 1/ the mind that got me here is not the mind that’s going to solve this 2/ move to a view that opens the possibility space i can actually feel the feeling of tunnel vision like a pressure on my temples that’s squeezing my view of reality into a narrow slice. i no longer feel connected to that spark, that essence, that feeling of “wholeness” that made things seem effortless. i’ve entered a state of separation. i can feel when it’s authentic creativity, being generated moment by moment, and i can tell when i’m forcing it, and it feels stale, regurgitated, uninspired. the mind that “tries” to be creative is slightly embarrassing. it wants to be clever & impactful, but its approach has no heart, and no matter how clear its message, it somehow doesn’t ring true. it despairs and feels frustration, & seems to hang on even tighter even as it acknowledges its own inefficacy. there’s a control pattern at play that’s preventing spontaneous creativity. the mind has an expectation of what it wants to do, and what the result is supposed to look like. it wants to manage the process. there can be no self-governance if the mind lays down those control structures.” *** Continue reading

what mental slavery looks like: repressive & reactive patterns

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a big part of my work over the past year has been to transition from an emotional and intellectual dependence on external authority to a strong sense of living life from an inner authority.

this was a challenge.

it was unclear to me what it would mean to not rely upon something outside myself for guidance or validation. frankly, it seemed like more accountability than i was prepared to handle. who could i blame for things not working if i was responsible for all my choices? what would it mean when i inevitably failed?

when the concept of responsibility was reframed for me as “response-ability,” a sense of enthusiasm and resolve began to replace what otherwise felt heavy and overwhelming.

in the simplest language, to be “response-able” is to have the ability to choose the way you respond to a situation.

seems straightforward enough. or is it? Continue reading

Constructing the New Narrative

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/eyes-of-the-imagination-omaste-witkowski.html

Constructing a New Narrative

We are in the process of trying to cultivate a new world. This is a daunting process and oftentimes it seems absurdly ill considered. Yet, reflection consistently indicates that it is our task whether we like it or no. And so . . .

The discussion thus far has identified the central importance of “sensemaking” to the formation of effective communities. In a (potentially futile) effort to break this massive task into bite sized pieces, I’ll try to separate it into a series of “smaller” posts. In the present post, I’ll try to quickly sketch out more fully the nature of sensemaking, how it develops and how it fails. In the next post, I’ll attempt to map out the parameters of what an optimal (or at least “much better”) sensemaking environment might look like. And then in the third, I’ll begin proposing concrete initiatives that have a reasonable chance of implementing some of this optimal sensemaking environment in the near term.

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i am a consciousness with a society of personalities

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i used to identify with the competing voices in my head. i used to think the seat of my consciousness was in my thinking mind, and therefore that insane asylum of characters must be me. they represented all the conflicted forces within me.

some more in charge, others cowering and obeying. some told me what to do, some mercilessly beat me up, some sat in a defeated pile in the corner, some were children wistfully dreaming.

as i’ve traveled through the process of awakening, i started to bring sharper awareness to these entities. i wanted to get very clear about their patterns of behavior, the principles and beliefs they ran on, the emotions they triggered within me. i wanted to see who was in there running the show. Continue reading

on the forcing of willpower & the art of relaxation

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When embarking upon a journey to the unknown, it is wise to equip oneself with the tools to face the unexpected. To dig deep and locate the source of one’s inner strength, so that when a challenge arises, we may respond from our core: open, flexible, relaxed, and present.

There is a tendency in life, however, to lose touch with this place. We inadvertently take on other people’s stories, and behave as if we were a supporting character in their drama, instead of the lead in our own. In so doing, we lose our center of gravity.

It behooves us then to identify those stories and their origins, to understand the parts of us that are running on someone else’s script. When we can shine a light upon that, we create the possibility of moving past it and reclaiming ourselves.


*** Continue reading

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