A world at once familiar and unimaginably strange exists all around us, and within us – it is the vast realm of consciousness. In The Head Trip, science journalist Jeff Warren explores twelve distinct, natural states of consciousness available to us in a twenty-four-hour day, each state offering its own kind of knowledge and insight – its own adventure. The hypnagogic state, when our minds hover between waking and sleeping, can be a rich source of creativity and even compassion. Then there’s the Watch, an almost magical waking experience in the middle of the night that has been all but lost to electric light and modern sleep patterns. Daydreaming and trance, lucid dreaming, the Zone, and the Pure Conscious Event – from sleep laboratory to remote northern cabin, neurofeedback clinic to Buddhist retreat, Warren visits them all. Along the way, he talks to neuroscientists, chronobiologists, anthropologists, monks, and many others who illuminate his stories with cutting-edge science and age-old wisdom.
On this trip, all are welcome and no drugs are required: all you need to pack are a functioning cerebrum and an open mind. Replete with stylish graphics and brightened by comic panels conceived and drawn by the author, The Head Trip is an instant classic, a brilliant and original description of the shifting experience of consciousness that’s also a practical guide to enhancing creativity and mental health. This book does not just inform and entertain – it shows how every one of us can expand upon the ways we experience being alive.
Warren, a Canadian science journalist, combines the rigorous self-experimentation of Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open with the wacky self-experimentation of A.J. Jacobs's The Know-It-All in this entertaining field guide to the varying levels of mental awareness. Beginning with the mild hallucinogenic state that comes just before true sleep, he tries to hone his skills at lucid dreaming, subjects himself to hypnosis and joins a Buddhist meditation retreat, among other adventures. Along the way, he begins to realize that "dreaming and waking are equivalent states," and that we can learn how to induce the subtle gradations of consciousness within ourselves. This could come off as New Age psychobabble, but Warren is well versed in the scientific literature, and he provides detailed accounts of his own research. (During one three-week period, for example, he goes to bed at sundown to recreate a period of wakefulness before returning to sleep that used to be common before electric light reconfigured our sleep schedules.) His self-mocking attitude toward his inability to achieve instant nirvana, along with a steady stream of cartoon illustrations, ensures that his ideas remain accessible. More important than the theories, though, may be the basic tools and the visionary spirit that Warren hands off to those interested in hacking their own minds. B&w illus.