Some thoughts about insights and visions

I am writing this on a plane between England and Australia.

I have been in England doing a mix of work and marketing, essentially talking with a lot of people about our work and testing new ways of both articulating what we do and delivering it. As this was happening I began to get an inkling of some major new insights stirring in my mind. I emailed my partners and said what was happening and that I was confident that on the flight home these insights would crystallise. I wrote this because my experience over at least 15 such flights in the last 3 years is that this always happens, insights crystallise on long haul trips. I am writing this now after some of the biggest insights of the last 5 years have appeared, fully formed in my mind.

Coincidentally, before this flight I went into my daughter’s bedroom looking for a book to read on the flight and my daughter, like me, is an avid and wide reader. I picked up Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception” which contains two essays, one about Huxley’s experimentation with the mind altering drug mescalin and the second about how we open our minds to new thoughts or visions. At the risk of simplifying too much, he argues that our minds are open to new thoughts (amongst other conditions e.g. low sugar through fasting) when the oxygen level falls or the carbon dioxide level rises in our brains. This occurs, for example, through singing or chanting such as achieved in churches (when chanting we tend to breathe out more than we breathe in thus depleting our oxygen levels) or, as many traditions do, through meditating at the top of a mountain … or in a plane.

As a trade off between hull strength and human survivability, planes are designed to have an internal atmospheric pressure equivalent to being at about 8,000 feet above sea level once they are sealed and up in the air.

So, unbeknownst to me I have been putting myself 20 odd hours at a time in the perfect state to have new thoughts, visions and insights, just after I have had a range of new inputs, ideas and experiences. The perfect conditions to crystallise new thinking. On this particular flight everything has been enhanced as it is an old 747 with no backseat screens and, in any case, my whole audio/visual display controls are not working, including the overhead light! So I am sitting in the dark half dozing, half thinking as insights form in my head.

I wonder if this works for other people as well!

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