By Bryan Gray
So recently I have been confronted with this new term I see everywhere called Neurohacking. And thinking that it sounds rather cool, I decided to look into it. Little did I know what an expansive and sometimes nebulous concept this could be. I also could not have predicted that I had been involved in Neurohacking, albeit unintentionally, for the better part of a decade via floating and that one of the most prolific Neurohacking advocates (The Neurohacker Collective) would be right in my backyard. The following is a summary of what I have discovered and why you should be interested in this “new” concept.
For those new to floating here is a brief description and what to expect based on the Float North County location. The whole idea is to reduce sensory stimulus (depriving our senses – aka sensory deprivation). The best way to describe a float tank is to imagine an oversized bathtub that is fully enclosed with a door on the side with 11 inches of water saturated with over 1,000 lbs of epsom salt and brought to the same temperature as your skin. Once you lay back in the water and turn the light off you are floating in an environment reduced in sensory stimulus (think floating in space!). Time has a way of standing still; stress hormones drop; the muscles relax and your brain waves slow down, giving you access to theta (one of the most productive neurohacking tools available to man).
“Floating for 90 minutes is a great means to develop new pathways in the brain and to stimulate mental development outside of rational, linear thinking. The sensory deprivation and sense of weightlessness allow you to surrender completely to the experience and access extended flow states. The experience brings all the benefits of an extended meditation practice without the frustration most people endure, making the float the ultimate neurohack tool.”
So what is neurohacking exactly?
Turns out that depends on who you ask. From the Wim Hof breathing techniques to the emerging field of nootropics, many things can be considered a neurohack provided that the overarching principle behind the method is elevated performances across the board. Basically,neurohackers focus on how to get the best out of this life specifically through a holistic approach to health, fitness and increasingly more, mindfulness. This essentially means that Neurohacking, in my opinion, is simply the most hip way to describe the emerging movement of holistic health with the inclusion of mindfulness and nootropics. Self proclaimed neurohackers (and I’m now including myself in this group) are outright obsessed with well-being. We eat right, exercise, meditate, take supplements both conventional and unconventional, make sure to get high quality sleep and increasingly more so, are incorporating technology into this regimen. Although the term “hacking” implies some sort of cheat or shortcut to a better you, the Neurohackers themselves do not view things this way. Take it from Daniel Schmachtenberger, one of the geniuses behind the Neurohacker Collective and prolific advocate of this brand of health and wellness.
“. . .if you are neurohacking to become smarter, or get better at your job, or find happiness, you are confusing means for ends. These are all aspects of one’s full humanity, parts which can be “improved” in isolation, but which must ultimately hang together in some kind of coherence with the rest of you. Make one of these an end-in- itself and you are confusing a fragment of yourself for the whole. The result will be negative externalities and diminishing returns from efforts. Get smarter and you may quit your job. Get better at your job and you may become unhappy. Tinkering with parts in the short run backfires. The neurohacker has his eye on the whole and the long run, not some short run gain like “productivity.
This long term, full spectrum approach is what is leading me to fall in love with the Neurohacking movement. Much like floating, Neurohacking is a practice, a discipline, a way of life, a way of viewing and interfacing with the world through constant improving of the self. It’s not a miracle and it’s not a shortcut. To quote Wayne Shorter, jazz legend and devout Buddhist, the long road is the short road and that is something I’m sure many of you out there can identify with, which predisposes you to becoming neurohackers yourselves. Put in the work and the results will inevitably follow. The caveat here was best spoken by Ben Cote, my first contact at the Neurohacker collective who was nice enough to sit down and speak with me for a while. In speaking about their flagship product, Qualia, possibly the top nootropic on the market, he said, “It’s definitely not a quick fix for anything. If you’re not sleeping well, if you’re not living a healthy lifestyle, if you’re not eating right, if you’re not moving your body, you are definitely not going to get what you could from this product.” I think that the word product can be easily replaced with the word life in this instance and be just as applicable. It just so happens that neurohackers are very interested in supplements and substances that elevate their performance.
Qualia – it’s like if caffeine could run in the background
During that initial conversation with Ben from the Neurohacker Collective (the manufacturer of Qualia), I was asking him about what he experienced as the results of taking Qualia. It turns out that every result he detailed I had also experienced as well only through floating. These include, but not are not limited to, increased emotional resiliency, less procrastination, increased access to flow states, the ability to organize and complete tasks, increased energy, being generally happier and a dramatic increase in the ability to focus. I told Ben that it sounds to me like you managed to stick the post float glow in a pill. While that isn’t entirely accurate from my experience with Qualia (the post float glow has a physical element that is indescribable and unbeatable) there are definitely some overlaps.
Is Floating a Neurohack? Of course it is.
Floating in and of itself is a holistic act to improve mental and physical well being. Suspended weightless in the extreme buoyancy of the Epsom salt water allows you the necessary time to unplug from this hectic existence we’ve created for ourselves, and decompress from the physical stresses we endure every day, both being key components to neurohacking in general. Unplugging, whether by sleep or meditation, allows the brain time to organize information and down regulate the nervous system. One of the many areas of study around floating has been the float tanks incredible ability to drastically reduce cortisol production in the brain. This ultimately leads to the emotional resiliency that we experience as avid float enthusiasts. Since I’ve been floating, my ability to take and analyze criticism has skyrocketed. We all know that during the post float glow we are the immovable object, incapable of being deterred or upset by the trivial things that previously annoyed us and where the neurohackers take that a step further is by saying, through diet, exercise, sleep and supplements, you can become the unstoppable force as well. While no one knows what happens when the unstoppable force and the immovable object meet, has anyone considered what happens if they exist simultaneously in one person? This is the type of outside the box thinking that folks like the Neurohacker Collective want the world to embody. Because no problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it. So we must care for ourselves and optimize our performances and behaviors to solve the world’s current issues. These sentiments I can assure you are shared by the neurohacking community and float tank community with equal vigor.
Floating provides the added benefit of swift access to flow states, basically inducing the Theta brainwave in all who jump in the tanks. There is simply no way to get to this deep level of meditative states outside of the float tank without 10,000 or more hours of intense practice. The flow state has been coveted throughout time by human beings of all walks of life, the feeling of being “on” or “in the zone” is something that we do not get to experience without serious concentrated efforts, practice over long periods of time, chemical and oftentimes illicit substances, or sheer blind luck. Now with the improvements of technology, the access to information and an emerging enthusiasm for holistic health, we are provided with access to these states more readily, a SENTRI pass to enlightenment if you will. The benefits are numerous and necessary to improve not only the self, but society at large, a sentiment shared by both the neurohacking and floating community, which I have learned are one in the same. And though I might be biased, I believe that the physical benefits of floating are just something unobtainable by any supplement out there. The weightless sense of decompression is an element that you have to see to believe and that those in the neurohacking community would categorize as the ultimate mindful component to their methodology. Well I’m gonna flip it on them and say that things like Qualia, clean eating, exercise etc, are the ultimate compliment to floating. Perhaps the mindfulness and the physical-ness of the world we live in are inextricable, but to me, when your mind is right then so to will be your body, even if it needs a little work, because you will be ready and prepared to put in the effort.
Again though, there are no quick fixes. You have to put in the work and treat yourself right, around the clock. I would challenge those of you who have made it this far to make floating a consistent part of your balanced lifestyle and observe how your efforts, health and overall sense of well-being improve dramatically. A lot of our clients start out floating to help with a physical issue, but the ones that get it, stick around because of the way the tanks empower their mind. See for yourself what floating can do for you.
Bryan Gray / Float North County