Peak States of Consciousness and Quality of Life (Article 2)
by Grant McFetridge from The Institute for the Study of Peak States
"This article was written in the July, 2004 issue of New Connexion: A Journal of Conscious Living. It briefly describes peak states and the new techniques to acquire them that are now appearing. I particularly like it, because I wrote it for a skeptical, practical audience." - Grant McFetridge, 2006
I want to share my excitement about recent, really radical developments in the study of what most people assume is just ‘new age’ wishful thinking - the so-called ‘higher’ or ‘peak’ or ‘spiritual’ or ‘shamanic’ states of consciousness. Before you roll your eyes and turn the page, I encourage you to use your skepticism and life experience to judge what follows. Most people are unaware of the discoveries in the last decade that have created whole new ways to understand, study, and induce these states continuously in many people in reasonable amounts of time.
Rational study in an irrational field
I want to start by agreeing that skepticism is well founded. Eighteen years ago when I first started actually doing the potpourri of practices available, I noticed some glaring inconsistencies. Each tradition I tried implied or outright said that all the others were working towards false goals. Obviously they couldn’t all be right about that. Too, there wasn’t a clear definition of what the goals actually were. It was like meeting salesmen each saying that the competition’s product was junk and theirs was the best, without telling me what the product was. Secondly, I encountered groups who were run by charismatic people who had some pretty disturbing behavior. I often heard that it was all “just part of the teaching”. Finally, some of the groups were just downright delusional by any rational standards.
Yet, there was something there - but what? Discussing my experiences with professional colleagues was often embarrassing because the topic was viewed with suspicion. I also became familiar with the anomalous data from humanistic and transpersonal psychology that often didn’t fit any classical model. I eventually realized that I was approaching this question in the wrong way. Instead, I decided to apply the Western scientific approach. I was intimately familiar with it as a Stanford graduate in electrical engineering who consulted and taught the subject at the university level. Many believe that ‘spirituality’ is not possible to study in this way, but fortunately for my peace of mind this turned out to be false. In 1996, I co-founded the Institute for the Study of Peak States in Canada, and became its first research director. Much of what you will read here we discovered, although the same conclusions are being reached independently by people throughout the world in an amazing display of parallel development.
Spiritual and shamanic practices confer different peak states
The idea that there is a hierarchal ladder to ‘enlightenment’ just doesn’t match the data. Instead, we found that there are at least 17 completely distinct, unique and non-sequential peak states of consciousness. You can live in these states permanently, and in general you can accumulate peak states as if they were beautiful marbles that you put in your pocket.
What are some of these states? One gives a permanent underlying happiness no matter what else you might be feeling. Another gives a permanent underlying peace regardless of what else you might be feeling, along with the absence of any emotional pain to past memories. Another makes everything feel effortless, and gives the sensation that your body is made out of air rather than flesh and bones. Another makes you feel ‘whole’. Another gives a sensation of ‘aliveness’ and a knowledge of ‘spiritual truths’. Another gives a continuous feeling of joy. Another gives the ability to manifest your desires in the world.
Clearly, these peak states are not ‘altered states’ which they are sometimes confused with. Living in any of these states makes our quality of life, sense of wellness, and ability to live productively in the world much, much better! It’s not the absence of pain that makes life feel worth living, but rather it’s the presence of the qualities and feelings that these states confer that makes life feel exceptional. The famous phrase “the pursuit of happiness’ well describes our unconscious yet usually futile search for peak states in our work, relationships, and activities .
Bruce, an electrical engineer, talks about his lifelong peak state:
"...It's hard to describe, but it is an unshakeable serenity that does not depend on anything external, or internal for that matter. It enables me to feel compassion for real human challenges, yet not to be stymied by them. Most of the time I'm able to feel a concern, do what I can to remedy as appropriate (respond wholeheartedly), and then move on to the current situation..."
I’ll briefly mention some of the more overtly ‘spiritual’ peak states: one that makes you perceive that your body is brightly illuminated from the inside; another makes your surroundings feel like they’re inside your body, and enhances your creativity; another makes your flesh feel radiantly sacred; another puts you in direct connection with the ‘plane of light’ that is so well described in near-death experiences; another dissolves any sensation that you have a skin boundary; and there are others.
Peak states are everyone’s birthright
Some people are born with and keep one or more peak states. Looking at the list above, you can almost certainly think of some people you know who have those qualities most if not all of the time.
Obviously people born with peak states didn’t get them by doing spiritual practices. It turns out that peak states are everyone’s birthright. To understand this, I’m going to talk about breakthroughs in pre- and perinatal psychology. In the last two decades, a number of techniques were developed that allow one to recall trauma that happened while still in utero, or even earlier as a sperm or egg. To most people’s surprise, when regressed to these memories they find that they were self-aware. People also find that their fetal consciousness is quite different from their everyday consciousness. This is because the fetus has most of the peak states. Simplifying a complex subject, it turns out that we acquire different peak states during specific developmental events as our organism grows more complex. If these events are experienced without trauma, after birth we have the states. If these events are experienced with minor trauma, we can move in and out of the states to one degree or another, particularly when using spiritual practices. If they are experienced with major trauma, almost nothing can evoke the states. There are other mechanisms that also block peak states, but this one dominates.
To summarize, in the past the people developing methods had been asking the wrong question. “How can I work towards getting a peak state?” makes the problem virtually impossible to solve. They should have been asking “What do I have to eliminate to get peak states?” This change in approach is why the new techniques are so successful.
The newest techniques are fast and effective
Most of us have assumed that even if peak states of consciousness exist, we’d have to dedicate our lives to getting and maintaining them. The image of oneself sitting in lotus position captures this feeling. Now comes the really exciting part of this article - in the last few years, partially due to breakthroughs in methods for healing trauma, our blocks to having peak states can be eliminated more directly and quickly. A number of techniques, all invented independently, have appeared worldwide. They’re typically fast - hours to days - and any given technique works on more than half the people trying them. Some require maintenance, some don’t. Like in the early computer days, these newly invented peak state processes are being improved at a rapid rate.
In my opinion, currently four of the best of the new peak state techniques are: ‘The 15-Minute Miracle’ by Jacquelyn Aldana; ‘Resolving Dualism with PEAT’ by Zivorad Slavinski; ‘Biocybernaut Brainwave Training’ by Dr. James Hardt; and my own ‘Inner Peace Process’. However, this field is in rapid change with new techniques appearing and old ones improving, so be sure to shop around.
Jenny, a workshop participant, describes the changes with her new peak state:
"...I can concentrate at work even with noise going on around me (cubicle hell). I am not irritated by noise like I used to be. I recently played the piano and was able to read the music and play and even ENJOY playing (it sounded beautiful). It was such a chore when I was taking lessons. I can stay on task at work, am calm and patient...."
Will the new techniques will work for you? The bad news is that they’re not sure things, albeit a huge improvement over the old approaches. The good news is that they’re relatively fast and generally inexpensive. Different techniques give different states. As any peak state is usually a drastic improvement over ordinary consciousness, go ahead and try them all.
For the next few years it's going to take some effort to find the books or people to help you through one or more of these new processes. Since these are 'first generation' techniques, most of the technique developers are busy improving and testing their processes on workshop volunteers. If you enjoy the excitement of becoming involved with a whole new field of human endeavor in it's initial growth, by all means jump in. However, it will probably be 10 years or more before most people can reasonably expect to find a local specialist with whom they could simply schedule an appointment.
Grant McFetridge is the director of research for the Institute for the Study of Peak States in Canada (www.PeakStates.com). He is the creator of the Whole-Hearted Healing regression technique for healing trauma, and a pioneer in prenatal trauma work. His first book, Peak States of Consciousness: Theory and Applications, Volume 1: Breakthrough Techniques for Exceptional Quality of Life was published in 2004.
Copyright 2004 by Grant McFetridge