Part 5: The Power of Abandonment*
NOSC Pre-Flow Camp
Last updated: 8/1//2017
NOSC stands for non-ordinary state of consciousness. I am deliberately writing this blog post prior to attending a flagship Flow Camp in Eden, Utah in late August 2017 focusing on leaders and trainers (reference Stealing Fire and the Flow Genome Project for more recent discoveries in neuroscience and the consequences of those discoveries). That’s because I want a record of what my perceptions are before they become altered by my experiences there and the people I meet. Plus, I have a feeling “what goes on in Flow Camp stays in Flow Camp.” This blog post will remain a fixed record, and when these blog posts are consolidated into PDF and epub book form, I’ll add any updates there.
According to the book, there is a continuum of flow experiences, from catching a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a NOSC to - the sky’s the limit. Many people may experience a version of flow when they’re immersed in a project, creative effort, or athletic pursuit. SEALS seem to click into a hive mindset when on an engagement. The book refers to flow as having the STER properties of Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness, which allows people to perform at peak level.
As a music composer, I’ve experienced flow states. Before I continue to the true subject of this chapter, I’ll relate a story I heard during a Philip Glass interview that had a profound effect on what I think about how to achieve this type of flow, and what may really be happening.
His theory for how to achieve the flow I experience as a music composer is this: you’ve done the hard work as a musician to become as accomplished as possible, meaning all of the basics and even intermediate level skills are imbued in your automatic memory so that you don’t have to think about them, and you can focus instead on the challenging things you wish to accomplish. As you push the edges of the envelope, you begin to fire on all cylinders.
Normally, as we go about our day, not only are we doing things, but there is a little observer within us who is offering a running commentary of what we are experiencing: “Yikes, I’ve been procrastinating and haven’t had any good ideas and now that Juilliard assignment is due on Monday. I’m not sure I can pull this off. That would be bad if I did a face plant.” But as you get that creative spark, push the edges of the envelope, and begin to fire on all cylinders, the only thing your brain can focus on is the task at hand, and that observer goes away. There just isn’t enough bandwidth to handle the task and the observer.
This is why sometimes when I pop out of a flow state and look at the final product, I get a chill up my spine because it feels as if it was not the flesh and blood me who wrote what I wrote, rather, that I had become a pen for an unseen force greater than me that used me as an instrument for creating that musical work. That’s because I lost the observer when I was firing on all cylinders and therefore experienced a form of amnesia during the creation process.
I think the observer that Philip Glass is talking about is our sense of self, with it’s observations, judgments, sense of time, etc. While we’re deep in the creation process, effort is being expended, but because the observer isn’t there to track it, I think that’s why the process feels effortless. The richness occurs because when we stop observing and being judgmental, we can focus all of our energy towards dealing with the full richness of information available to us. Hence, the STER properties.
But that isn’t the specific experience I want to talk about here, I want to talk about something slightly different on a greater scale than what I mentioned, and then I’ll tie that into abandonment syndrome in a later chapter. I’ll start with my life and family history again, to give context and a blueprint for others interested in achieving the same state I’ve been tethered to since 2002. I will also list the caveats I’ve run into (similar to those mentioned in Stealing Fire). If you’ve heard people warn: “don’t make any life-altering decisions immediately after a Burning Man event”, they’re not kidding.
It may seem strange for me to agree with that since I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs; I grew up in a non-religious environment; and I’ve never attended a Burning Man event. And yet I’m hoping after you read this post, you will understand why I agree with that statement.
Because I achieved this altered state of consciousness without any aids like technologies being pioneered by the Flow Genome Project, psychedelic drugs, or organized religion, I feel as if these events unfolded as they were meant to happen, authentically. So I feel I’ve earned the right talk about my experiences, and give you clues as to what types of people may end up experiencing what I’ve experienced.
I will add to my family and life history for some context, focusing on family stories pieced together on dad’s side of the family in Taiwan. I am apparently a fifth generation real estate investor. An ancestor started an all girls school for rich families, realizing this was a way to create a match-making environment for rich families because they knew everything about the girls - their intelligence levels, social and emotional dispositions, physical health, family histories, etc.
Back then, Taiwan land ownership was organized around squatters’ rights. Our ancestor went to various squatters and offered them, say $200, in exchange for ownership of their land when they died. At the time, $200 was more than squatters would see in a lifetime so they agreed since they had both the money and their land until they died. That’s how our family accumulated an enormous amount of land in Taiwan.
There were times when Taiwan was in various states of occupation, and with the changes at one point most of the land was taken by the government, except for land out in the boondocks.
When my grandfather inherited the fortune (he was the eldest son), he was able to spend his life being an artist, living off the inheritance. All of his children had nannies, including my dad. When grandfather came home with a second wife (my dad was six) and my grandmother abandoned the family with only my dad to join the eldest son in Japan, my dad went from being a pampered child to penniless in Japan in the middle of WWII.
They hid in a farmhouse in the hills during the war, and dad remembers his job was catching fleas every day and piercing them with a needle. Had they been caught by the Japanese they could have been executed. Then the war ended with the Allies being victorious. The Allies asked my grandmother: are you with the Allies or the Japanese and of course she sided with the Allies.
The Allies put my grandmother and her two sons in a hotel where they got a few complimentary beers. Since the Japanese were being treated harshly - rations of black rice no matter how rich you may have been - my grandmother sold those beers on the black market, got money to buy more beers, and kept accumulating money. She then built businesses.
After the war, dad said he could do a 360 degree turn in the middle of Tokyo and see nothing but horizon. And yet, my grandmother was one of the first to build a house there. She had everything going against her; she was middle aged, divorced, a foreigner, and a woman, and yet through sheer will she built a $100 million fortune.
She married step-grandfather, who was seven years younger than her. Her drive came with a price - she died at age 67 basically of overwork, and step-grandfather inherited her fortune. Years later he married a woman who was much younger than him, and only a few years after they got married, step-grandfather got into an argument with a tenant, the tenant stabbed him to death, and she inherited the fortune.
From my dad’s stories, it seems he and his brother feared, admired, and respected grandmother. But instead of spending her precious time with her family, she spent her time building a fortune that ultimately went to a complete stranger.
Our family has seen massive fortunes come and go multiple times. That’s important for a number of reasons. Those who have built large fortunes generally know how to manage money, and even if they lose those fortunes, have the skills and mindset to build a fortune again. Those who inherit fortunes aren’t quite as lucky unless they do what our family did with my parents’ and our generation. My parents started off their adult lives with nothing, and were responsible for their finances. Similarly, when my sister and I started our lives as adults, we neither got nor asked for financial help from our parents.
What about those who are poor? That can be great motivation to make actionable decisions to escape poverty, if they are exposed to the right role models and education. Without the right information, they could be at risk of losing their fortune if they don’t learn how to manage it properly. For those who cannot escape poverty, I’m sure it is easy to think: if only I could win the lottery, my life would be perfect.
But our family essentially did the equivalent of win the lottery multiple times and learned that money alone can’t bring happiness, and in fact, can lead to a lot of problems.
Now take this discussion and apply it to every other external factor that people often equate with happiness - jobs, prestige, power, comfort, youth, love, health, knowledge, traveling to new places, new technology, entertainment, etc. In my case I came into this world with strong intuitive skills and had an easy time with music, and have since balanced that with decades in the technology industry doing software development, technical training, engineering management, and more.
In spite of all of the wealth I’ve gotten, because of the abandonment syndrome and PTSD symptoms, I had a void in me that couldn’t be filled. That was most effectively illustrated when I landed that job teaching at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo and Hong Kong and realized I’d physically gone as far as I could on the planet and still couldn’t run away from me.
By 2002 9/11 had happened and I was stressed enough my gall bladder had to come out, then I was T-boned by someone in a rental car. Luckily I was going fast enough he accordioned the seat behind me on the driver side, not me. That was when I hit absolute bottom - physically, mentally, emotionally. I won’t say spiritually because I grew up in a non-religious environment and hadn’t paid attention to any of that.
By then I had learned that modern medicine had two options: surgery and medication, both insufficient for me so I was looking into all different healthcare modalities. I was working for a virtual company with young employees all in their early to mid 20s, and they were into something called Landmark Education. I never had a chance to experience that, but one of them also introduced me to a group called Cassiopaea, which could be considered fringe but at the time with my background I didn’t realize this. What happened next was wild.
While I was reading through the material and talking to my coworker, at one point my whole perspective of the world suddenly shifted. The physical world I’d lived in up to that point was still there, but it was as if superimposed on top was a whole hidden universe that I hadn’t realized was there. I perceive it like a stronger version of intuition; “see” isn’t quite the right word, nor “hear” because it’s not like I’m a schizophrenic who hears voices. But suddenly I felt like I was getting two sets of messages everywhere I looked. I remember I tilted my head, blinked, and said oh, THERE you are. You’ve been there this whole time, haven’t you?
I remember a number of instances from childhood to that point where events occurred that could have gone horribly wrong, and yet somehow while I was naively bouncing around these catastrophes managed to happen near me but not completely destroy me, almost like I had a little silver bubble of protection around me. When I became aware of this second universe, I felt like it was connected to these silver bubble feelings I’d had.
Because I had no religious background, I began to dive into everything I could get my hands on: the Cassiopaea site, the bible, physics, psychology, philosophy, etc. For about four months straight, I “fire hosed” almost non-stop because I was getting so much information it was overwhelming. I would cycle wildly between euphoria when I stumbled on another piece of information that triggered a wild influx of new data, and deep depression when something I learned so completely turned my world upside down I would experience what felt like ego death. This scared both Frank and my dad so badly that I think they were in constant communication with each other trying to figure out what was going on with me, trying to figure out how to get me out of this. Frank admitted he wanted to have me committed. We’re lucky to live in modern times; throughout most of human history, people experiencing this would have been burned at the stake or thrown into an asylum.
I read the bible from cover to cover, and from the start it felt like there was someone perched on my shoulder elbowing me now and then, saying: you like that? How about that one? Wink. I was howling my head off laughing the entire time. A friend wrote a post on something I wrote about the prodigal parable: http://abiding.blogspot.com/2011/05/so-man-walks-into-bar.html
Since then I’ve had a number of amazing and head-scratching experiences. I’ve also had some experiences with the dark side of this. I won’t go into further detail here on any of it, but feel free to reach out if you’re asking on a need-to-know basis. The only thing I will say about the dark side: when I realized how deep the rabbit hole could go for those with enough hubris and curiosity, I mentally closed that door, backed away, turned, and never looked back. It never bothered me again once I made that conscious decision.
There was a lot of dark material in the Cassiopaean website, and I think there is a fine line between effecting ego death and insanity. Unfortunately I think that line is different for everyone and hopefully the Stealing Fire and Flow Genome people have a handle on this. For me, since my experience happened accidentally, it was pretty harrowing.
Because this is like a strong intuition, the information goes into my combinatorial explosion of possibilities and probabilities, and I use the critical thinking and problem solving skills I learned in the technology arena and from my physicist dad to validate as much as I can.
While the United States is a western country and has identified mostly with Western medicine and Western religions, I wonder if this is one of the better places to effect a mass transformation into a NOSC. From a material sense many of us have (or have had) everything we could possibly have wanted, to a point where we were drowning in our material wealth. And still I bet many of us weren’t happy, we felt empty. And this is the type of scenario that can be a catalyst for making a shift into the type of NOSC I’m describing. For those who are still content living on this physical plane, or looking for the grass is greener on the other side: “I’d be happy if I could just get that high paying job”, it’s possible those may be obstacles in your way to hitting the catalyst that pops you into a NOSC. If you have a tendency to be ADD and are busy flitting from one distraction to another in life, you’re not ready.
My experience in a NOSC seems more analogous to Buddhism, where I feel as if I’m tuned into an all-inclusive universe where the identity of the universe is holographic in nature, as opposed to an external God.
Take a loaf of bread as an example, and let’s say that’s the universe. If I were to slice the bread, the loaf is bread, and each slice is still bread. If I take a very tiny piece of a slice, that is bread as well. So there is the universe without, and the universe within as well.
The Stealing Fire book mentions some consequences to achieving this state of experiencing STER - Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness. Regarding selflessness, it’s not about the person experiencing a NOSC (messiah complex). It’s about giving everyone the tools and information needed to experience a NOSC for themselves.
Using the loaf of bread analogy, I suspect when Stealing Fire refers to the messiah complex (false prophet?), it would be like a tiny piece of bread thinking it’s the loaf. I also like the quote by Nisagadatta Maharaj mentioned in Stealing Fire:
“Love says ‘I am everything.’
Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’
Between the two, my life flows.”
I actually had an experience at Notre Dame in my senior year during the winter that made this clear to me. I remember I was studying late at the library and when I returned to my dorm I looked up at a clear sky and saw what appeared to be a small percent of Saturn’s ring that covered almost half the horizon in front of me, as if Saturn were just about to collide into the Earth. Not only did I suddenly feel small on Earth, but Earth felt like a grain of sand in the universe. I almost fainted, and it was 2 am and I thought about waking my roommate up but I didn’t. So to this day I don’t know what that was all about, and I don’t have a one-time sleepy cranky witness who can attest to this.
Continuing with the cautionary advisories now that I’ve told my story, I personally cannot imagine what happens to people who achieve this kind of state through technology, the Flow Genome Project, psychedelic drugs, etc. Maybe by now the Flow people are experts at handling the “fire hosing” stage of this process. If any of you are in the phase where you suddenly popped into a NOSC and you’re fire hosing and in chaos, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help you through it.
After 4 months of non-stop research, I finally started to quiet down as I wasn’t finding anything new. This was a huge relief to dad and Frank, but what they didn’t know until 2017 is that the NOSC that I popped into never faded, and has influenced my life ever since. I quietly went underground and waited 15 years for people to catch up. Stealing Fire was the clarion call to come out of the closet. Check out my music on my EileenSauer.com website as an example of what gets produced by someone in a NOSC.
Frank was concerned when I said I feel as if I’m always tethered to the universe. For me it's like having an iPhone. Sometimes that iPhone is in my back pocket, sometimes I pull out that iPhone and play a game, read an e-book, check the weather or get directions. On occasion, there may be something like a family member in a medical crisis, and I'm on the horn. Sure, the states I'm in run the gamut from being a normal Asian female munchkin to fire hosing non-stop, but I've always got my iPhone with me.
While I feel tethered to the universe, I’m still subject to programming by whatever fragments of ego are left, so I feel as if there are multiple versions of me. There is a little me that cries and screams about all of the unfair things in this world, the one that is still living in this physical plane. The big me is connected to a grander plan that transcends this physical plane, and that’s where I can get into the flow. I’m learning not to suppress either one, but to use whatever information I get from both to create a more integrated and richer view of the universe.
I find if I surrender and follow the flow, life is easy. If I don’t follow the flow, life becomes difficult because my ego gets in the way, and I generally get bitch-slapped pretty quickly.
Since I’m tethered to the universe, and I’m still finding and re-integrating fragments that separated due to past history, trauma, or whatever, I still cycle through various emotions. I not only hold a lot of conflicting information in my head, but I actually cycle through and live it. So something happens which will pop me into a particular mind set. I will deliberately dive in and live that mindset, talking and behaving as if I actually believe all of it (and it feels real when I’m in it). Then the universe starts to bend in response to my actions, and I get a lot of experiential data from doing this. I might have to take a long walk or sleep on it, and then I find my brain reconfigures itself around this new information. Then I might flip into a completely different mindset and the process starts all over again. I may even completely contradict what I said when I was in the previous mindset, which makes it confusing sometimes for people around me. My dad said when I was a child he gave up trying to keep up with me. When he thought I was in one place, he’d talk to me again and find I was in a completely different place.
It’s almost as if I’m engaging in a deliberately induced multiple personality condition, except that part of me is always outside observing, knowing that the true purpose of my swirling as rapidly as I do is to gain as much real-world knowledge as I can. I am a knowledge-seeker (a Deep Thinker based on my Flow Genome Project profile). At least, as best as I can be given that I’m still human.
When I say I feel tethered to an all-inclusive universe, this means artificial boundaries fall somewhat to the wayside, like gender differences, sexual orientation, cultural differences, racial differences, religious differences, political differences. Having said that, I still have my own personal preferences and quirks, and I work on my health, mind, emotions, and use NOSC to become the best version of me that I can be, brokenness and all. In fact, when you get to this state you begin to see the perfection in the brokenness, both within yourself and the world.
In terms of not being tied to outcomes, whatever is meant to be always happens. Thanks to a dear friend in Florida, I always ask: if I knew everything, what would it be?
So how can there be all-knowing and at the same time free will?
OK, here’s an amusing little fairy tale, which I think shows how abandonment is core and primal. God was alone, so God cloned itself and all hell broke loose.
I’m always looking for things that surprise me, or things I can’t accept. I work to accept them and rework my world (physical and non-physical) to a point where I’m OK with it. This will include learning to accept that there will be things I won’t be able to accept. Because if there is a heaven and hell, I think heaven would be finding a way to transcend what is happening on the material plane. Hell would be having to contend with what we try to suppress, or run and hide from.
So how did we end up here on planet earth? I've always felt like I was some celestial being who took a wrong turn at a critical signpost and ended up here, and initially I was horrified. Only recently have I come to terms with my place here. There is a saying: we're not humans on a spiritual journey, we're spiritual beings on a human journey. I've felt for many years that I can't think of a greater definition of hell than to be an all knowing, all seeing being.
When I first held an iPhone in my hand, it was the most extraordinary feeling. I knew I was looking at something that hadn't existed before, and suddenly it existed and was sitting in my hand for the first time. I knew would change the world, and it has, both good and bad. And from 2007 to 2017, 10 short years later, here we are bored out of our gourd. Sigh. Yet another iOS update? A "new" iPhone? Woo. Hoo. Blah. Bored bored bored.
So on the one hand when I think of reincarnation and the fact that this may be my 40,000 time learning how to walk and hold my poop Again, I find that horrifying. But the other prospect of an ever after that never changes - equally horrifying, maybe more so. This whole business of time that only goes forward so we see the past but not the future? Aging, growing old, pain, misery, death? Horrifying. And yet, what is time?
My dad the physicist says we don't know, that time is information. And he's right. Time is everything, we would have nothing without time. Without time, we wouldn't be able to enjoy sunsets, music, fast cars and bikes or the ballet dancer who floats through the air. And composing music with unusual harmonics is clearly one element for why I am here. I once read: Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms - they didn't die. They simply became their music. And so will I. Now that what I have written on this earth exists, it can never not exist again. So I don't think we came here to be mortal. I think we came here to learn how to become truly immortal.
Regardless of what is happening in this physical plane, I’m trying to lower my footprint in order to stay maximally flexible. That way I open the most number of doors to flow, so that it can reflect the universe as it is and not as I wish it to be.
Another friend once quoted: “God can move mountains, but bring a shovel.” In a NOSC, you become aware of that which is greater than yourself. But it is we who have the eyes, ears, hands and feet; it is we who can do the work.