Part 6: The Power of Abandonment

Follow Up From NOSC Post

I want to do some clean up in aisle 9. After writing the NOSC post, I realized I should tie that information together into a SOP (standard operating procedure) for those popping into a NOSC and experiencing ego death for the first time, or witnessing a friend or loved one popping into a NOSC and experiencing ego death.

Zendoproject.org specializes in psychedelic peer counseling, and while I haven’t attended their training, based on my non-psychedelic NOSC experience I can probably take a good stab at what they would advocate in a situation like this. They seem to have some sort of harm reduction model, and based on my experience with things like Crucial Conversations and emotional release sessions, I can kind of figure out where that might go.

I wish I had access to peer counseling back in 2002; I could have used the support but the people who witnessed my transformation were in no position to help, they wanted to have me committed, and in retrospect I can’t say I blame them. This is why ***peer*** counseling is so vital.

Based on what I wrote in the last post, let me first outline situations that I think can lead to a challenging ego death NOSC experience. Previously I wrote “you’re not ready” about a few situations, but that won’t stop someone from taking psychedelics or using technology and inducing an immediate NOSC experience. So here goes. Please think twice about inducing an ego death NOSC experience if:

  1. You have a strong sense of self that fosters “us” versus “them” attitudes and beliefs. There are many possible divisions, along the lines of gender differences, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, political beliefs, class lines, cultural / racial differences, etc.
  2. You are perfectly content and strongly tied to living in this physical world.
  3. You score a 9 or 10 on the narcissism spectrum test in the book Rethinking Narcissism. I imagine as part of the harm reduction model, peer counselors may have a handle on how to deal with this, as I can see a person flipping into either extreme - messiah complex or a complete destruction of their house of cards.
  4. You have an addiction to the dark side and a curiosity that will steer you towards learning all things about the dark side, even if the end result is insanity.
  5. You are searching for that “silver bullet” where you’ll be able to snap your fingers and life will magically fall into place. You’ll be disappointed; this is when the hard work starts, where you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and dive in. That’s because after an ego death there is a lot of integrating to reconfigure a new, more authentic you that encompasses whatever brutal truths you had been suppressing. For me I’ve found the way is towards Stoicism, and I’ll talk about that more later.

I’m sure there are more caveats, but this is a good start. The previous post serves as a blueprint for the types of people who might naturally experience a NOSC and ego death without technology or psychedelics. Having said that, I suspect Flow Camp may induce for me an even deeper NOSC experience, one that can build on what started in 2002.

So let’s say, in spite of the warnings, you decide to induce a oneness NOSC and have a challenging experience. I’m sincerely hoping you and your support team are reading this blog post before you attempt to do that, so you can prepare beforehand. The first concern, obviously, is physical safety. This is especially true for me if I ever intend to become a peer counselor since I am a middle-aged, female Asian munchkin who can’t afford to be in the wrong place at the wrong time if things go south.

I once read that in halfway houses, research showed that the best way to reduce recidivism was to get an agreement up front: this is who we are, this is how we operate, do you understand these conditions? For you to be able to stay here, you must agree to abide by those conditions. If at any point you are in breach of these conditions, you acknowledge that you will need to leave. You are perfectly free to stay or go, but you can stay only if you agree to abide by these conditions.

This seems to be a much more effective system than not setting parameters up front, having people “break” rules they were not aware of or did not agree to, and trying to get people to change their behavior after the fact. I believe any SOP for peer counselors would have to follow this same spirit.

  1. Those who choose to take psychedelics or use technology must agree beforehand to read the caveats above, and if they fit any of them, either they should not go through with inducing a NOSC or they must understand they could have a challenging experience.
  2. If they choose to go through with inducing an experience, the location where they do this should be set up as a safe haven for those having challenging experiences. I have a feeling the Burning Man community is yawning already. The location should be supplied with things like:
    1. Punching bags on the ground or anchored to a bench, with rolled up newspaper wrapped in duct tape where people can let loose physically and have an emotional release, scream, whatever.
    2. Mats, towels, stuffed animals, whatever people may need to see them through a challenging situation.
    3. Areas where counselors can work with people one on one, and quiet areas (or with meditative music) if they’re needed.
  3. Agreements need to be set up beforehand. I’d recommend those wanting to induce a NOSC experience must promise, no matter what happens:
    1. They will not leave the location.
    2. They will see their experience through to some level of stabilization.
    3. They will follow up after their experience, anywhere from days to a week later.
    4. They should read through the caveats regarding the STER properties of Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness, as outlined in the book Stealing Fire.
  4. Peer counselors should be able to give NOSC experiencers space and be non-judgmental - if NOSC experiencers need a hug, they can get a hug. If they just want someone to talk to, they can do that.

This is pretty much all that I can think of for now for a set of guidelines. The alternative to this sort of a priori thinking and preparation is a harrowing experience like the one I underwent in 2002, and I have no doubt without an experienced guide, this could lead to institutionalization, calling the police, losing someone, etc. I was lucky I popped out the other side intact.

There are two other random points that come to mind, for those who have popped into a oneness NOSC:

  1. Over the years I’ve had extraordinary conversations with people that have kicked “big me” into overdrive, and I’m overjoyed when that happens. Since reading Stealing Fire and coming out of the closet, I’ve asked people if they’ve experienced the same thing I have, and their answers are no so far. In the early days I would naively bounce around and blurt out things like “you’re one of us”, but most likely, that isn’t true (unless you’re at Burning Man). So be careful about scaring people around you. Simply live your life and let them see the results.
  2. Since women generally think more holistically and men tend to compartmentalize much better than women, I wonder how gender differences play into women’s versus men’s experience with a oneness NOSC. Do men need psychedelics more than women to get back into that state? Is the male NOSC different, e.g. with the SEALS - they develop a oneness with their group, and this is a specific kind of a oneness as opposed to the universal oneness I experience? (Having said that, I still can’t say I’ve reached true oneness with the homeless, for example, so I am still affected by fragments of pre-programming.)

I think the other reason I popped into this state without technology or psychedelics is that I managed in some way to transcend my gender. I came into the world with strong intuitive skills and zero logical and analytical capabilities because I was impulsive as a child and would simply blurt things out without thinking just because I “knew” them. My dad would get exasperated and ask: why do you think this? What evidence is there? And since I couldn’t supply any, I would get shut down.

For better or worse it propelled me into technology, not because I had a love or passion for it, but because I knew if I didn’t balance out my capabilities the rest of my life would be miserable when I had to deal with people like my physicist dad. Decades later I’m much more balanced and rely on both sets of skills, I would like to think I’m able to (at least eventually) communicate often “fuzzy” concepts fairly clearly, and I think both men and women who are able to do this will have a much better chance of popping into a NOSC on their own, or managing it well if they induce a NOSC through technology or psychedelics.

In summary my recommendation for both men and women is to transcend artificial social mores around gender, get in touch with your intuitive side and feelings, as well as develop logical and analytical skills.

Eileen Sauer