Back in 2010 or 2011 I received an email from Neil Slade. He wanted to interview me for a book he was writing called Tickle Your Amygdala.* I was happy to oblige and was thrilled when he sent me a signed copy after he published the book in 2012. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found this quote at the top of Chapter 1, Amygdala Tickling Fun-da-mentals:
RS (me): …But anyway, one day I was driving along, thoroughly depressed, and I did a little amygdala click and became completely blissed out.
NS: (laughs) You weren’t taking any drugs, correct?
RS: No. No drugs whatsoever, but it was as if I had taken a very strong one — it was that big a change. That feeling persisted for a good six or eight months I guess. A permanent high. Every time I clicked forward I’d get on a big high. It was simply that flip, that simple little flip of the amygdala. This is what is so extraordinary to me, that it happened, and that there wasn’t anything subtle about it. It was just a complete change of outlook.
The chapter goes on to explain in simple terms how amygdala tickling works. Neil calls the amygdala (there are two, but they both do the same thing so he uses the singular) works. He calls it a Master Compass. “This brain circuit computes: Pleasurable Emotions as Reward and Unpleasant Emotions as Deterrent,” he writes and it really is as simple as that.
Traditionally, the amygdala was thought of as the “flight, fright or freeze” mechanism in the brain. Neil Slade’s crusade (if that’s the right word) is to teach us that while it is a mechanism, it is a mechanism we can control. I proved it to myself on the day I flipped the switch while driving to work and have proved it again hundreds of times since. When there is genuine cause for alarm, like a car bearing down on you or a fire breaking out around you, the amygdala will do its job, but so many of our fears and worries are imaginary. Learning how to control the amygdala can prevent us from getting sucked into our imaginary fears. It can also do much, much more. As Neil writes:
Brain Radar is the application of ‘Whole Brain Power’, a powerful combination of logic and reason combined with extraordinary intuitive perception.
Brain Radar provides you with seemingly ‘magical’– but completely real means for arriving at
The Right Place at The Right Time with The Right Solution
I can attest to that. In 2004, my life was turned upside down. Unfortunately, I let anger and fear take over for awhile. Then I took a trip to Bali. My brain told me a “spiritual healer’s” shop I passed every day was for New Age suckers. Then one day when I wasn’t quite as lost in cynicism and negativity, a little voice told me to give him a try. In one short session, he made the anger and hollowness that was plaguing me disappear. I was able to “click forward” to the frontal lobes again. Things went more smoothly after that even though I stopped trying to reconstruct my life. Everything just fell into place. Yes, I had to take advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves to me, but they came out of the blue. My only job was to recognize them.
I’m not the only one who has experienced the transformative power of amygdala tickling. Neil’s book is filled with stories and testimonials by people from all walks of life. One is a massage therapist, another a racing car mechanic, another a neurosurgeon, and the list goes on. What they all have in common is a belief that amygdala tickling (or their personal interpretation of it) works.
Meditation versus Amygdala Tickling
When I was 20, I stumbled across Autobiography of a Yogi in a bookstore. It was odd that I was drawn to it, because I’d heard of Transcendental Meditation, but was unimpressed and wasn’t really interested in learning to meditate. The book seemed to call me to it. I joined Self Realization Fellowship and started their correspondence course.
The meditation technique I learned involved focusing on the Third Eye, a point between the eyebrows. At the same time, you were to watch your breath using a two-syllable mantra — one syllable on the in breath, one on the out breath. Within two weeks of learning the technique, my outlook on life changed from selfish to peaceful. I quit my summer job as a delivery boy for a liquor store, one of the most coveted jobs in town because of the tips, and started working in the bookstore where I’d bought Yogananda’s autobiography.
The downside to meditation is that I became addicted to it. I didn’t know any other way to get into “frontal lobes bliss” but to meditate. Years went by and life got in the way. I stopped meditating, but never quite returned to the level of selfishness I’d been in before I took it up.
The experience I had on my way to work was exactly like a deep meditation, but I remained functional and it didn’t take half an hour or more of meditation in an ideal environment to achieve it. It happened instantaneously and remained even after I went to work in a boat factory where working conditions were so bad, even “work for the dole” counselors told their clients they didn’t have to apply for a job there to keep getting unemployment benefits.
In retrospect, I think the reason amygdala tickling worked so spectacularly well for me was possibly because of the years I spent meditating. Meditation “primed the pump,” so to speak, for the experience. In more pseudo-scientific terms, I had already established the neural pathways to the bliss center of the frontal lobes.
There was a cultish aspect to meditation that eventually got to me. As years went by, I learned that the technique taught by Self Realization Fellowship was a fairly common one and was based on traditional meditation techniques. There really was no need for the guru worship aspect of it. There was no real need for me to meditate for three or four hours a day, either. I should have learned that at the time, when I would suddenly feel a current go up my spine and strike me between the eyes while driving or just when sitting still doing nothing. I’d been taught that my back had to be bolt upright and my legs crossed in the lotus position, though, for it to be “valid.”
Tickle Your Amygdala makes it clear that “tickling the amygdala” is NOT the only way to turn on the bliss switch in your brain. I rarely use the feather imagery anymore. Sometimes all I have to do is step outside of my thoughts and feelings for a moment to have the experience. At other times, an external event or just a random occurrence will do it. Once it happened about 10 seconds after I sat down in a cafe and started waiting for my cappuccino to arrive. I had a lot of weighty thoughts on my mind, but when I sat down, I thought, “I can set my worries aside for 10 minutes.” At that instant, I was bathed in peace. Sure enough, the problems sorted themselves out, so all that worry was unnecessary anyway.
I’m a fan of the technique because it is so easy and doesn’t cost a thing. You don’t have to join an organization or think Neil Slade is the incarnation of Jesus, Rama, Buddha or any other deity. It’s a finger pointing at the moon. It’s up to you to take your eyes off the finger and look at the moon.
*Link takes you to a page where you can buy the book. I DO NOT receive a commission of any kind. I’m just a fan of the technique and think Neil explains it best.