i n t e g r a l   c o u n s e l i n g   i n s t i t u t e

                        e n e r g i z i n g    t r a n s f o r m a t i o n    t  h r o u g h    i n q u i r y ,   i n s i g h t ,   a n d   i n t e g r a t i o n


              November 2004 Book Review and Quotes Archive

                                                        Deep Play  by Diane Ackerman

                                                         Published by Random House 

                                                              ISBN 0-679-44879-9, 1999


Deep Play is Diane Ackerman's exploration of  transcendent states of mind.  Other's might characterize them as

experiences "in the zone".   Self described as a nature writer and "Earth Ecstatic", she stalks the essential experience

in its many locales, descriptions, and nuances with the honed skills of a master tracker on the path of her prey.  The

precision of her naturalistic observations flows in passionate,  evocative, even epigrammatic lyricism.

In Deep Play, she draws together the experiences of  creative artists, athletes, scientists, adventurers, and mystics. 

She is artful and provocative to lift these states out of the context of religiosity:  "The problem is that core religious

experience has nothing to do with formal religion, or for that matter with a supernatural being.".."The most religious

people I know are nontheistic.  They experience many transcendent moods, and sometimes even use religious

terminology to describe such peak moments."  From the endorphin rushes of dangerous encounters to extreme sports

and  serene contemplative absorption she provides a cultural map, descriptive syntax, and inspiration for each us to

pursue our own deep play. (Reviewed 11/2004)


                                        November 2004 Weekly Quotes    


"At the heart of Deep Play is a form of meditation favored by westerners: people who tend to prefer bustle to inactivity,

people who meditate in motion.  Meditation requires concentrating on a field; a rhythmic motion (usually deep breathing);

clearing the mind of distractions; withdrawal from the world; almost a mental cleansing or emptying; a release from

previous knowledge.  In Deep Play, one also finds physical and mental sensory alertness, the ability to ignore pain.  Both

provide integration and power; and both contain elements of bliss.  With one's senses heightened, one enters "the zone"

or "cocoon of consciousness," in which one feels a strange detachment from the relationships and trappings of such. 

Detachment is what we call it in the West, because we keep on clinging to people and material things that we cannot

stand being violently wrenched away from. But Buddists call it nonattachment, a state in which craving to be elsewhere

or otherwise in possession of anything simply doesn't happen with two views of the same mental sanctuary. "

Diane Ackerman, Deep Play


"Many forms of play can sweep one along on gradual waves of laughter and ingenuity, while others - religious mysticism,

sports, composing music, adventuring - can swiftly become elevating, of cosmic importance, deadly serious, and thrillingly

addictive.  "At the peak of a tremendous and victorious effort,"  Russian weightlifter Yuri Vlasov told a reporter, "while the

blood is pounding in your head, all suddenly becomes quiet within you.  At that moment you have the conviction that you

contain all the power in the world, that you are capable of everything, that you have wings.  There is no more precious

moment in life than this, and you will work very hard for years just to taste it again."

Diane Ackerman, Deep Play


"What if Darwin's principle of natural selection were merely a tiny fractal embodiment of a universal life-giving principle that

drives the evolution of stars, galaxies, and the cosmos itself?  What if the universe were literally in the process of coming to

James N. Gardner,  Biocosm


"For a pensive person, to be fully alert but free of thought is a form of ecstasy.  Being ecstatic means being flung out of your

usual self.  When you're enraptured, your senses are upright and saluting.  But there is also a state when perception doesn't

work.  Consciousness vanishes like the gorgeous fever it is, and you feel free of all mind-body constraints.  Suddenly so free

of them you don't perceive yourself as being free, but vigilant, a seeing eye without judgment, history, or emotion.  It's that

shudder out of time, the central moment in so many sports, that one often feels, and perhaps becomes addicted to while doing

something dangerous."

Diane Ackerman, On Extended Wings as quoted in The Moon By Whale Light



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