How to throw a "high on life" party?
April 29, 2008 10:44 AM   Subscribe

The phrase "high on life" is usually a sarcastic punchline, but a recently I've been wondering: how high exactly can one get on life? More specifically: if you put your mind to it, how would you take 5 or 6 willing participants and over the course of a few hours, engineer a state of transcendental euphoria? An ecstasy party without MDMA?

Plenty of things can supposedly produce euphoria... running, swimming in a river in January, those crazy wire scalp massager things, religious-revival-type-activities (speaking in tongues, laying of hands), dancing, certain types of music, hugging, chanting, meditating...

Unload your psychological tricks for inducing a state of euphoria. If you're ambitious, block out an evening's agenda for 5 or 6 friends who are willing to work for it and look a pretty silly in the process if that's what it takes.

Limited alcohol and caffeine use is ok.

And to clarify, I'm looking for things that induce actual, honest-to-god, visceral euphoria. Not hypebolic "I read an intellectually stimulating book and it was bliss".
posted by the jam to Human Relations (37 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
The right music and dancing works for me.
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Um, is sex allowed?

Obviously that's not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but I think that's probably the closest you're going to get to drug-like effects; I can't think of any activity that produces the same type of chemical 'high' as reliably or universally. A fair number of rituals in many cultures have a sexual component (literal or figurative/suggestive), probably for this reason.

Sleep deprivation also comes to mind. If you go without sleep for long enough, you get get to an almost hallucinogenic state; under the right circumstances this might feel transcendental.

In general you might look at religious practices or rituals, especially those from non-Western traditions, and pick out some of the features they have in common. Many rituals play on our physical and psychological susceptiveness to various types of stimuli. (Sensory deprivation via darkness and use of controlled lighting, music -- especially stuff that's repetitive, fasting, thermal stress, maybe even controlled physical injury or blood loss.) I think a lot of things can be or seem euphoria-inducing in the right context, although in different circumstances they might be really unpleasant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2008

run a marathon
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2008

In terms of the goals of Buddhist practice, it's at best an ancillary side-effect, but this can happen with joy and loving-kindness meditations. But when it does, it's just as ephemeral as it is when chemically induced. Also, if you get stuck on using your practice to feel good, you habituate to it, and pretty soon you're back to where you started, just like with the chemical approaches. The other problem is, these are relatively advanced practices, requiring a solid grounding in more basic meditations, so it's not exactly the easiest way to get blissed out.
posted by Coventry at 11:21 AM on April 29, 2008

These suggestions are good, but you should really know that nothing is going to get you as "high" as the recreational pharmaceuticals you mention. If you could do that it would eliminate the whole point of peyote, ecstasy, lsd, or whatever.

So I'm not sure what you are looking for exists unless you're being extremely metaphorical when you say "an ecstasy party without MDMA".

You'll get a little bit of euphoria from extreme exertion, eating a bunch of extremely hot peppers (extremely hot), marathon sex sessions, high intensity dancing to uptempo music, and so forth but it won't be anything like the euphoria or disassociation induced through chemical means. It just won't.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2008

Sleep deprivation also comes to mind. If you go without sleep for long enough, you get get to an almost hallucinogenic state; under the right circumstances this might feel transcendental.

I wouldn't exactly call it euphoria, but I've stayed up for 48+ hours straight a few times without the aid of any drugs or medication, and I always ended up pretty loopy by the end each time. It can cause audio/visual hallucinations, and its definitely not like being in a normal state of mind. See Wikipedia for more details.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2008

believe me, i have been known to deeply (and frequently) appreciate euphoric, altered states of mind. (*understatement*)

but i have NEVER experienced any kind of rush or euphoria that compaers to what i felt while skydiving.
posted by gcat at 11:28 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

also, i very much agree with desjardins
posted by gcat at 11:29 AM on April 29, 2008

My one true "high on life" experience came immediately after I went hang gliding for the first time. Definitely affected my brain chemistry for a few hours afterwards, and the landscape, colors, flowers by the roadside, etc., (and my ability to notice such things) seemed to intensify. There's nothing like running straight off a cliff to get your endorphins pumping.
posted by missmobtown at 11:34 AM on April 29, 2008

posted by randomstriker at 11:34 AM on April 29, 2008

I get it from sex (already mentioned), and powerlifting/olympic lifting.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 11:44 AM on April 29, 2008

The two highest natural highs, real euphoria, I have ever experienced:

1. I was being strip-searched by the cops and at the last minute they decided not to press charges. The high I felt when I watched the cops pull away and leave me without incident was a complete, oh-my-god-I-survived-it body and mental high. I was shaking all over.

2. After having a really bad asthma attack, and finally getting my asthma medication. Prolonged insufficient oxygen, then re-oxygenation, will leave you with a teeth-chattering, body-high euphoria from normalizing.

So, basically, make the people at your party have an extreme fight-or-flight type of reaction and/or change the ratio of oxygen in the available air, such as a high altitude, and then give them oxygen masks.

Also, orgasms and truly uninhibited dancing are just below the states of euphoria listed above (for me at least). I seldom experience body hair standing on end, teeth chattering, shivering and mental euphoria for very long on those two things, though.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:54 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Three spin classes in a row.
posted by konolia at 11:57 AM on April 29, 2008

I hate to be a downer/devil's advocate here, but I think what makes drugs like ecstacy so popular in terms of party-euphora-induction is that they usually work on everyone, within a specified timeframe. Cos that's just what drugs do, from a pharmacological standpoint. Sure a few people might wig out, gets paranoid etc. But I'd guess more people than not will get high off of it. That's why it can be a powerful drug for PTSD patients in therapy, for instance. It's less context dependent esp if you're a first-time/casual user of the drug.

So while skydiving/extreme sports might massage the pleasure sensors of some brains, it may trigger the stress response in others, and I bet the divide is much more 50/50. On the other hand, I'd imagine 1st time MDMA use results in more of a 90/10 split. (Not sure, and would love to hear some numbers on it, really.)

Point being, I don't think drugs would be as popular if high-on-life feeling was so easy to achieve on-demand.

All that said, I agree that I've felt euphora from things other users mentioned (music, concerts, nature, thrill rides etc) but whether or not it would work for everyone at your party? I'm not so sure.

maybe just go ahead and have a meditative skydiving party followed by sex/wire head massage action/ a cuddle party... outdoors ... on a beautiful day... and maybe the ridiculousness of it all will generate high-on-life-euphoria? :)
posted by NikitaNikita at 11:58 AM on April 29, 2008

Holotropic breathwork
posted by TorontoSandy at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with skydiving. That is one hell of a rush. 5 or 6 people might qualify for a group discount, too.

I'm not recommending this per se, but I have gone without eating for a few days (not some kind of religious fasting, I was just depressed). It was an oddly peaceful, calm, dissociative feeling. I stopped being hungry after 20 hours or so. However, I was already underweight, and my doctor thoroughly yelled at me, so unless you have a few pounds to lose I wouldn't advocate it.
posted by desjardins at 12:31 PM on April 29, 2008

Flaming Lips concert.
posted by fructose at 12:39 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

NikitaNikita nails it.

There's a lot of non-drug things that can induce euphoria - I've experienced "high" states twice at concerts, and frequently with sex - but none with much regularity or reliability.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:46 PM on April 29, 2008

Oh yeah. How did I forget skydiving?
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:50 PM on April 29, 2008

Saunas! Stay in the sauna through the phase when you start to panic (within reason, don't die here). In my experience, there is a phase when your body starts going "omg omg omg omg," and then that recedes. Somewhere in there, you detach from your thoughts, get really calm and just breathe. Then, when you get out and lay on the cold grass looking at the stars, you feel a head rush, the ground spins, and the grass tickles your hands.

Another good high-on-life trick is swimming in the Pacific Ocean (north of oh, San Diego) or a cold lake. Run into the surf and throw yourself backwards into the waves. Your scalp chills and your chest clenches up like you can't breathe. Run back onto the sand, and run back and forth along the beach until you warm up. Fun to do naked with a bunch of other people (uh, when I was 19). This has a pretty bad come-down ~45 minutes later when you start to feel a little sick and sniffly, so somewhere before that point, I'd introduce some warm drinks and/or that sauna and/or the dance party.

Since from what I hear, getting high also involves getting obsessed with tiny details, I'd have on hand some fabulous fabrics and textures, or some peeled grapes and melon, or take people to the aquarium or botanic garden to trip out on the jellyfish or something.
posted by salvia at 12:53 PM on April 29, 2008

read The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Its characters try and recreate a Dionysiac frenzy... "to escape the cognitive mode of experience, to transcend the accident of one's moment of being." Essentially, to lose all sense of self and revel in the joy of being, like the ancient Greeks were said to do. wild sex & copious drinking included, of course.

They do end up killing someone though.

posted by changeling at 1:14 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, you can always get an oxygen cannister. It's pretty much the basis of life. And it gets you hella high, dude.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:53 PM on April 29, 2008

Doing something deviant and not getting caught, or getting caught and telling funny stories about it.
Viewing or creating good art
Any kind of water sport- kayaking, water-skiing, surfing, slides, swimming, scuba-diving, etc.
Going outside your comfort zone, and having a nice experience doing so.
Achieving something that you never thought you would achieve.
posted by sixcolors at 1:55 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I guess it depends on your definition of "high".

For an elevated state of well-being and increased energy along the lines of cocaine, I think the various flavors of collective religious experience are pretty tried and true. To my mind, this would involve a group, a "special" location such as a darkened room, a bonfire, or a place of great physical beauty. Activity would involve collective vocalization such as singing or chanting, and collective rhythmic motion such as drumming or dancing. Three examples that spring to mind are a drum circle, a dance club, or modern Pentecostal music-based worship. I have the most recent experience with the last. I'm a secular humanist, but after 20 minutes I was singing right along and felt GREAT. It lasted for days, not in a I'm-high kind of way, but in an elevated state of optimism.

You might also go in for touch - I think a lot of us modern folks are touch-starved. If you and your 5 friends are friendly, try combining the above activities with physical contact of whatever variety feels right. (google "cuddling party").

None of this is going to send you out of your heads, but I'm betting it will feel great and lift your spirits for days, if done in earnest.
posted by rhys at 2:10 PM on April 29, 2008

posted by thedanimal at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2008

Fighting. Of course just throwing down would be idiotic. Maybe you can arrange for you and your friends to all get an introductory boxing lesson for a couple hours.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 3:09 PM on April 29, 2008

Some of my friends swear that if you get a group of open-minded (sober) friends, and start laughing together, it goes from forced, to funny, to hilarious. That sounds pretty high.
posted by anthill at 3:54 PM on April 29, 2008

Breathwork. Deep, connected, rhythmic breathing, continued for 20 minutes to an hour (cf. holotropic breathwork, above) has gotten me as high -- and by that I mean euphoric, full-body ecstasy, hallucinating, life-changing epiphanies -- as nearly all but the most profoundly reality-altering drug experiences.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:16 PM on April 29, 2008

Interesting visuals can be induced by sitting in front of a stobe light with your eyes closed. If it's a bright one, don't sit too close.

No euphoria -- but if you're going to get high on life you gotta have some good visuals, man.
posted by yohko at 4:22 PM on April 29, 2008

Dreamachine! I just watched FLicKeR, a documentary about Brion Gysin and his dream machine, which produces a "drugless high." It is basically a strobe light that interferes with your brain waves and produces hallucinations. It CAN cause seizures in a few people.
YOU are the artist when you approach a Dreamachine and close your eyes. What the dreamachine incites you to see is yours... your own. The brilliant interior visions you so suddenly see whirling around inside your head are produced by your own brain activity. These may not be your first glimpses of these dazzling lights and celestially colored images. Dreamachines provide them only just as long as you choose to look into them. What you are seeing is perhaps a broader vision than you may have had before of your own incalculable treasure, the "Jungian" store of symbols which we share with all normally constituted humanity. From this storehouse, artists and artisans have draw. the elements of art down the ages. In the rapid flux of images, you will immediately recognize, crosses, stars and halos... woven patterns like pre-Columbian textiles and Islamic rugs... repetitive patterns on ceramic tile... in embroideries of all times... rapidly fluctuating serial images of abstract art... what look like endless expanses of fresh paint laid on with a palette knife.

Dreamachine visions usually begin by the meteorically rapid transit of infinite series of abstract elements. These may be followed in time by clear perception of faces, figures and the apparent entractment of highly colored serial pseudo-events. In other words, dreams in colour.

The Dreamachine is a Dream-Machine.

These dreams can be immediately interrupted and brought to an end simply by opening your eyes.

However you look into a Dreamachine, in a short time you will have acquired greater self-knowledge, extended the limits of your vision, brightened your perception of a treasure you may not have known you own.
posted by heatherann at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with the dancing, but it has to be rhythmic in a trance way (such as psy-trance).
But, also I've experienced a natural high doing intense yoga (led in a way that is meditative and flowy). At least 1.5-2hrs long...and with lots of awareness on the breath.

And, I think with any of the strategies, you have to be IN IT...totally mindful of the experience and your senses, and not interacting a lot socially.
posted by cloudgazer at 6:35 PM on April 29, 2008

I was a pretty unbalanced teenager, but I once got high on Bach back when I was in high school. I put on "Musical Offering", lay down flat on my back, and had visions. I had a similar experience about six months prior to that while playing Beethoven's 7th very loudly into powerful headphones.

I've definitely also been extremely euphoric from a really great concert. However, I dance like a crazy person - like I don't think I've ever seen anyone dance as hard as I dance at a concert. So it's the loudness plus total exhaustion, I think.

Also, fireworks at Disneyland. It's not just me; once I went with a friend and we wound up weeping in each other's arms.

I guess the common thread with these is overstimulation and especially extremely loud noises. I'm glad to have found out this is what I need to go a little crazy; I'm sure you have your triggers too.
posted by crinklebat at 9:03 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, heatherann's idea is interesting!
I actual remember feeling [drugged/weird] after reading Brion Gysin Let The Mice In.
posted by salvia at 9:19 PM on April 29, 2008

I am not sure if this qualifies but I read an article that says if you eat enough nutmeg it can have the same effects as pot. Only it takes much longer and last much longer. YMMV.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 9:49 PM on April 29, 2008

Playing music in front of an audience. The frisson of terror that turns into a groove with the audience swaying along to the beat - rapt on every word, every downstroke, um, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
posted by Lynsey at 10:14 PM on April 29, 2008

I am not sure if this qualifies but I read an article that says if you eat enough nutmeg it can have the same effects as pot. Only it takes much longer and last much longer. YMMV.

I would NOT try that. Seriously. Just because it's not a federally controlled substance doesn't mean it's not a drug and that it won't make you totally messed up and/or really sick. From erowid: "Its effects are long-lasting and are considered unpleasant by most who experience them."
posted by salvia at 10:26 PM on April 29, 2008

How about contagious group laughter? It doesn't even have to be about comedy, really. I'm not sure if this is the best resource or name for it, but give it a try: Laughter Yoga.

From what I know, at its most basic, it's a group of people laughing for the sake of laughing and getting everyone else in the group all riled up and laughing, too.

I don't know about you, but I love laughter and laughing really hard at something is totally euphoric.
posted by redteam at 2:27 PM on April 30, 2008

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