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A Follow-up on X, after 12 years
Dec 1, 2019, 10:19p - Life

Man, it has been almost 3 years since my last blog post. Having a kid sure does make time scarce in a way I had never experienced.

I found myself writing a long email response to a stranger on an important topic, so I figured that could be a blog post.

He wrote:
I came across you while considering the BOSS survival camp. And in doing so, I came across your old blog and was very intrigued by your experience at BOSS and your quest for "X" after the fact. I see you have sponsored some students in the past for BOSS and even done your own experiments to re-capture "X". I am curious to know your findings and if it was possible to re-capture for an extended period of time. With "X" being so amazing and creating a euphoria, is knowing what it is like and now not being able to obtain it a bad thing (making things now mundane)? Or still worth it knowing what it is like/what is possible?

I have been considering the 28-day BOSS class for the past 3 years, but have not fully committed yet due to financial and time-constraints. I'm not only interested in the survival skills learned, but also to become more self-aware and appreciative of life and daily occurrences. This "X" is very intriguing to me.

Thank you for your time and I hope me reaching out isn't an inconvenience.

So here is my response:

Thanks for the email. Yeah, X was never something I expected to experience post-BOSS, and it was the most significant effect of BOSS. It is difficult to describe to others who have not experienced it, and even if you understand it on a cognitive level you don't really understand it until you understand it at the experiential level (which I guess is true of most important things in life). X is also an ambiguous term, as I've talked with several friends post-survival school about X, and for a moment I think we are talking about the same thing, and then after more discussion I learn that maybe we aren't - or maybe we are. The phenomenon/experience itself requires further defining and articulation, but I've done what I can with the blog post. Here is a little more:

Post-BOSS, after returning to civilization, I had an experience of X that lasted from August to October, or about 1-2 months. X is multi-faceted and it at least involved the absence of all anxiety (which I had never experienced before) and a sensitization to the everyday pleasures of life: Love (seeing people hold hands made me feel warm - I had never experienced that before); Food (every flavor was a novel, savored experience, and my stomach had shrunk, so both features together meant I ate everything slowly; as an example, over 1 day of a road trip I ate just 1 cookie my girlfriend had baked; also, food was so amazing that I didn't want to talk to anyone while I was eating, as talking distracted from the experience in front of me - now, I can barely eat without having a conversation in parallel); and the Basic Comforts of shelter, a bed, a shower, and not having to walk everywhere (driving truly is marvelous).

Note that X happened when I came back; it was not present during survival school. During survival school I was mostly in a state of deprivation - hungry, cold, wet.

When X was gone, I wondered 1) if it could be recreated outside of survival school, and 2) if it was a 1-time thing or could be experienced over-and-over. I never went back to survival school, so I don't yet know if it was a 1-time thing. But I tried a couple experiments to see if I could recreate it outside survival school. In the first experiment, while in grad school, over 28 days, I ate the same diet as in survival school and walked 6 miles a day (to simulate the hiking done in survival school) to and from the lab. I lost the same weight I had lost in survival school (about 20 pounds, dropping from 160 lb to 140 lb), but I barely had any X after I was finished. So that was a big disappointment. In the second experiment, my friend who had also done BOSS and I went on a 7-day BOSS-style trip to Yosemite. We took the same limited supplies and rations. My friend was smoking a lot and in very bad shape, and it was so easy to quit, so we only lasted 2 nights before we bailed. Suffice it to say that we again did not experience X.

The real test for me is to go back on another 28-day trip. I have a son now so this is much more difficult, so it probably won't happen for another 15 years or so. Perhaps sooner. But my need to go back has also waned. I think part of the reason might be some of the long-term effects of BOSS and other changes in my life since BOSS (which was now 12 years ago).

Knowing what X is like and not being able to attain it again has not been a bad thing for me. Just knowing it exists perks me up. But this will likely depend on your personality. My friend who did BOSS (and who I went to Yosemite with) got very depressed after X went away. So I can't tell how one might respond to its loss. My friend has said that being at Burning Man has elements of X in it - I have not been yet but am very interested to go one day to see this for myself. This might also be a clue as to why I was not able to recreate X in my experiments, and I have more to say about this, perhaps at another time.

Read comments (2) - Comment

cptobv - Dec 3, 2019, 4:53p
i experienced x with lsd. no anxiety, food was better, etc

nikhil - Dec 3, 2019, 5:03p

Does X occur every time you take LSD? How long does X last - only while you are on LSD, or after?

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