Eureka Moment: How to Get the Life Changing Effect of LSD, Without Drugs

Inside the weird, trippy world of drug-free psychedelic therapy.

August 25, 2015

An esoteric group of therapists think they’ve cracked the code for Eureka moments. Have they?

Can you use breathing exercises to go on a drug trip? We found someone who says you can.


“I’m getting hot flashes. My limbs feel heavy. Gravity is sticking me to the floor. I’m not sure if I’m hot or cold, I’m sweating, and my limbs are shaking and trembling. Shocks and spasms travel up and down my body.

The music is loud, pounding, and tribal. It begins matching with my body’s sensations, and they seem to synchronize. I can feel a type of energy building up in me.

Out of nowhere, a scream erupts from me. It’s uncontrollable. I can hear other people screaming, which is very annoying, and I yell at them to shut the fuck up, I remember my father yelling the same thing at me, and I’m young and I’m crying, and I’m crying and thinking of the pain of the entire universe — not logical steps, but associative ones.

I’m beginning to wonder what I got myself into. Why’d I pay so much money for this? If it’s like doing drugs, why didn’t I just buy some like a normal person?”

Let’s rewind a bit. This post is about those moments — call them Eureka moments, a-ha moments, epiphanies, whatever — where everything seems to come together. When inspiration strikes and changes everything.

Epiphanies happen to everyone on occasion. But how do they work? What causes them? And can we do anything about it?

Previously, we talked about how the creative geniuses of the past have attempted to court inspiration. Today, we’re investigating Holotropic Breathwork, a type of alternative therapy designed to induce altered states of consciousness — without drugs. The goal? Achieve new heights of clarity… and a Eureka moment.

photo via stanislavgrof.cz

Developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof, the therapy combines intensive breathing exercises with music and creative activities to produce the hallucinogenic effects and dreamlike state of mind typically associated with psychedelic drugs like LSD, Ayahuasca, or psilocybin mushrooms.

We talked the talk with Balázs Rákóczi, a Hungarian therapist and practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork. That’s his crazy-ass story you read above. We talked with Balázs about what goes down at a breathwork retreat, what happens in your mind during a Eureka moment, and how to achieve insight in your own life, too.

Balázs Rákóczi, a Hungarian therapist and practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork

Step One: Take a deep breath

“My first retreat was in a small town a few hours outside of London.

It began with an opening circle. It felt a bit like a special event, people milling around and making small talk, speaking softly.

After registration, we go into a big room illuminated by soft, warm light. The floors are covered in mats, colorful sheets on the wall. There are some candles and elaborate pillows scattered around. Relaxing music is playing. It’s like going into a temple.

The setting seemed designed to evoke an air of significance. What happens here will be important, the surroundings told me. Here — surrounded by excited people, vivid colors, dramatic lighting — I already felt sort of removed from reality. Safe, but hyper-aware. The atmosphere was tense, the place practically humming with anticipation.

To do breathwork, I laid on a mat and breathed deeply and continuously, with no gaps between the inhale and exhale. The breathing exercises are accompanied by extremely loud music, techno or shamanic music, something extremely rhythmic and fast, 120, 130 bpm.

I did this for a half hour or more, and eventually I started slipping into a type of trance. Then stuff really got crazy, and I started having visions.”

Basically, Holotropic Breathwork is a way for people to enter a state of altered consciousness. Depending on how you get there, this state can be variously described as transcendence, religious ecstasy, tripping balls. But the important part is this: this is a state where Eureka moments can happen.

Holotropic Breathwork is a kind of group therapy, so people assemble for Holotropic Breathwork retreats that last a few days. Aided by the breathwork facilitators, they pair up and go on what is essentially the modern version of a spirit quest: a search for insight.

Step Two: Abandon your preconceptions

According to Balázs, the goal of the therapy is to bring you face-to-face with these often uncomfortable parts of your personality. He calls them “submerged structures” within your psyche, and the idea is that by confronting your baggage, you can finally leave it behind.

Immersed in the heightened existence of the breathwork, people can deal with their issues and move past them. But it can have another function as well.

“Our perception of reality is an extremely complex thing because it’s a combination of what’s real and how you experience that. We experience only a small sliver of what’s around us. It’s necessary — reality is a billion trillion bits of information coming at you all the time.

If you noticed and paid attention to every sight, sound, and sensation you could detect, you’d go crazy, so your brain has filters to reduce the inputs that it needs to process. If you want to make sense of the world, you have to filter much of it out. But sometimes, these filters can lead to gaps in our perception.

This happens with our senses and memories, but it also happens with our ideas, how we understand, interpret, and think about things. Our understanding and analysis of the world is filtered and framed by our preconceptions before we experience it. When we perceive something, we classify it into a mental frame based on other things we know.

During the breathwork, your mind’s filters and preconceptions don’t work the way they usually do. You’re wide open to see where your preconceptions have prevented you from understanding something.”

Step Three: Approach it from a new angle

These Eureka moments often happen when someone approaches a problem in an entirely novel way. Most of the time, when we attempt to solve a problem, we implicitly accept the framing of the problem and attempt to solve it from within the terms of that frame.

It’s a kind of mental economy, but it can also backfire, restricting our thinking. Many great discoveries and inventions have been accidents: think about penicillin, microwave ovens, slinkies, and Teflon.

This idea — that insight comes only when you forget what you already know — is an important part of Holotropic Breathwork. But the logic can be applied to your everyday life as well.

Holotropic Breathwork isn’t for everyone. It’s not a good idea and can even be dangerous to try it without proper training or outside of the organized retreats. But understanding how breathwork functions can teach us about the limitations of our own minds, and with that knowledge, we can attempt to overcome them.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the official policy or positions of Grof Transpersonal Training or its facilitators

“If you can look at reality differently — shed your preconceptions and filters — you can change your life, you can invent something, you can make new observations, you can do things you were afraid or unable to do before. You have better access to the full spectrum of what exists.”



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