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