Ecstasy: it ain’t just a drug.
Ecstasy is the joyful experience of being outside of one’s habitual, conditioned self. The term “ecstasy” comes from the Greek word ekstasis, which literally means “to stand outside.” The habitual self (also know as the “ego”) is often fearful, tense and alienated – so the experience of being outside of it feels great.
Sadly for us, our society as a whole is very afraid of ecstasy. This aversion likely stems from the fact that ecstatic people aren’t all that interested in buying non-essential stuff. If we all became ecstatic tomorrow, our consumer economy would flatline. And capitalism just can’t let that happen.
Our society’s fear of ecstasy means that growing up, we generally don’t learn any means of inducing ecstatic states apart from illegal drugs (which are fine – but you know, illegal) and maybe large-scale dance parties and concerts (which also often involve illegal drugs).
I want to change that. I’m interested in the question of how to generate ecstasy cheaply and easily without drugs or giant parties.The ecstasy of St. Theresa. image: scazon on flickr.
Ecstatic communication and connection
This question of how to generate ecstasy interests me not just because ecstasy feels really damn good (it definitely does) but also because ecstasy experienced with other people makes possible a mode of communication and connection that is deeply empathetic, vital, and healing.
So what is it that usually prevents us from communicating ecstatically?
Well, if ecstasy is the condition of being outside our habitual selves, it stands to reason that our habitual selves are what commonly prevent ecstatic communication.
So then I ask – what, exactly, are our inhibiting habits?
Hooks and shields
We keep ourselves contracted and miserable mostly on the basis of two very ingrained ideas:
1) “I have to get what I want.”
2) “I have to protect myself.”
These are the mechanisms of clinging (attachment) and defending (aversion).
For short, I like to call these mechanisms “hooks” and “shields” – because we’re always trying to hook what we want (a hot partner, a raise, an idea of ourselves as cool and smart) and shield ourselves against what we don’t want (undesired attachment hooks put forth by others, loss of any kind, an idea of ourselves as uncool or weak).
This means that any interaction is usually a kind of battle, or at best – a game. In our conversations, we’re most often trying to get what we want. We usually want, at the very least, an image of ourselves as valuable and important people.
We’re willing to send out manipulative hooks of all varieties in order to insure that we get this.
This kind of interaction can be fun, as long as the people we’re interacting with are willing to take our bait and we’re willing to take theirs. It can be a nice exchange in which we make each other feel good and enforce our habitual selves.
This kind of interaction can also be be super-not-fun when the people we’re interacting with are not willing to take our bait and / or we’re not willing to take theirs.
In this situation, shields go up. Iciness. Insult. Alienation. Our habitual selves feel diminished or wounded, hurt and angry.
Communication without limits
All of this dodging of hooks and putting up shields is exhausting. It reinforces our limited idea of who we are – a small, separate and suffering self who can never get enough of what she wants and needs to feel okay.
In order to communicate ecstatically, we need to suspend – if only for a few hours – our habitual practices of grasping after boosts to make ourselves feel good and protecting ourselves from other people’s potential aggression.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done.
But it is possible. And I’ll have more to say about that soon. In the mean time – try this: the next time you talk to a friend, pretend you have no need to enhance yourself or protect yourself throughout the conversation. And notice what happens.
Want more? Well, then it would be a very good idea for you to join the Dreamer’s Tantra. Click the image below. It’ll take you to Facebook. Then hit “request to join.”