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  1. Anodyne

    I'm high on life...

    ...and crystal meth! When I mention to someone that I take psychoactive drugs and hear “I’m high on life”, my brain usually translates it as one of these: I’m high on life (psychoactive drugs scare me) I’m high on life (I watch porn &/or play video games 6 hours a day - I don’t have time in my busy schedule for another potentially-addictive hobby) I’m high on life (I train 6 hours a day - I don’t have time in my busy schedule for another potentially-addictive hobby) I’m high on life (that OD really scared me) I’m high on life (workaholic) I’m high on life (Ritalin doesn’t count) I’m high on life (still breastfeeding, ask me again next year) So I find that people often just use it as a euphemism for explaining why they don’t take drugs, as opposed to actually expressing an interest in “natural highs” (excepting perhaps the exercise junkies). But I’m curious whether many of you out there are interested in altered states in general as I am, i.e. not exclusively the drug-induced kind. I’ve been interested ever since I was a little kid and first grokked that other people experience the world differently: some people don’t like this taste! My parents can’t hear that high-pitched noise! That blew my tiny mind. When I learned a decade or so later that you could evoke perceptual changes using drugs, that was a great thing to discover as well, but I never lost interest in the other kinds. They all represent manifestations of different parts of our body/brain/consciousness. And since that is how we experience the world, anything that gives us a deeper understanding of that apparatus & how it works - even if only by showing what happens it all goes wrong - is fascinating to me. So what are these natural altered states, and how to find them? Here are just some of the ones I have noticed: Migraines (with mild aura) are one that I get occasionally - it used to be I was too busy whimpering with my eyes closed to notice much else, but ever since my doc gave me some of those nice triptan meds I can experience some of the non-headache parts of migraines, and they are quite interesting. I don’t get strong visuals, but all of my senses are turned WAY up. I remember walking home as one was hitting - it was a warm day & I could feel every individual drop of sweat on my skin like hundreds of tiny cold pinpricks. There was a forgotten pack of peppermint gum in my backpack & at one point I had to stop and dig it out & throw it away because the smell was so overwhelming it was getting difficult to focus on things like crossing the road. The similarity to the sensory effects of psychedelics was striking - the feeling that I wasn’t really hallucinating, just experiencing reality in a less filtered way than usual. Another example is the AIWS and other kinds of sensory-processing weirdness that I sometimes experience. It’s been a long-standing theory of mine that the idea of HPPD(“flashbacks”) can be traced to stuff like this. People experience sensory weirdness all the time - for some of us that’s rare, for others not so much - and sometimes we don’t even notice, because our brains are so good at integrating sensory input. And if we do notice something weird happening, how do you even describe it? But people who have taken psychedelics have a point of reference - a similar experience that they can point to and say: “this sensory disturbance that I’m experiencing now reminds me of that time I took LSD”, and worry that they have broken their brains with drugs. Whereas people who haven’t taken psychedelics just say “well, this is a bit weird”, and then forget about it. But there are no stray drug molecules lurking in our brains, and no permanent drug-induced neurological damage. These things happen whether you have taken psychoactive drugs before or not. Interestingly, people doing deep meditation practice sometimes report similar sensory/proprioceptive distortions. I’ve never gone deep enough with meditation to the point of getting any drastic changes in sensory perception, but even the little CBT work I’ve done has been life-changing - just learning that you can *decide* how to react to things. More recently I was changing my diet and observing the changes from that. I’ve never been good with fasting but I’ve discovered that a ketogenic diet gives me most of the benefits of fasting, without the low-blood-sugar, feeling-like-rubbish part. Of special interest for the altered states discussion was reintroducing non-keto foods and observing the effects they have, which can be pretty drastic. I used to think the phrase “sugar addiction” was stupid & sensationalist, but altering my carb intake and paying close attention to my body’s responses has forced me to re-evaluate that, and decide that it’s actually a pretty apt description. I’ve also learned that much of my daily aches & fatigue are caused by my diet (which, by the way, is one that would be considered quite healthy by normal standards), and that some simple changes give me more energy & better mood. So if the CBT work helped me to see how much mind influences body, the diet experiments showed me that the reverse is true as well, and our physical state influences our mindset more than we usually realise. It’s a two-way street and there is no clear divide between mind & body - you can’t take care of one without the other. Drugs generally work by mimicking/boosting/blocking our natural neurotransmitters. But there can be other ways to achieve the same end. After all, we’ve evolved each of those intertwining systems for a reason - to stay alert when we’re in danger, to remember useful information & forget useless stuff, to reward survival/reproductive behaviours like eating & fucking, and so on. And because so many of these processes are geared to respond to basic stimuli (food/water/sleep, emotional/immune reactions), we can manipulate them to a degree, simply by consciously controlling those inputs. The whole “set & setting” idea applies just as much to everyday life as it does to tripping.