Immersion Metastate

Pascal J. Gambardella, Ph.D.

“While we are asleep in this world, we are awake in another one.” –Salvador Dali, painter (1904-1989)

I want to write!! But saying that is not enough. There are a million other “desired projects”, large and small, begging for attention with associated needs, shoulds, and musts. How can a mere “want” survive?

I use writing as the example of a  “desired project”, however the project doesn’t have to be about writing. It could be about anything you want to do, but rarely find yourself doing. This difficulty can exist for many people, including those who primarily view the world as providing many options and who often have trouble deciding among them (i.e., options side of the options/procedure metaprogram). Of course a common strategy for the person with this view is to follow a procedure like writing at 6 am every day. However, this may not be practical for everyone. Another strategy is to consciously manage your a states within a procedure through the use of   “metastates.”

The concept of “metastates” is the most significant recent development in the field of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). It was significant enough to be the foundation of the new field of Neurosemantics. Here are a few metastate concepts (for more details see the references listed below):

·       Primary state. A state that is the direct reaction to something in the world outside of yourself. For example, feeling angry when someone calls you a nerd.

·       Metastate.  A state about another state.  A metastate brings with it associated beliefs, decisions, understandings, and new frames. For example, while driving along the edge of a high mountain I could bring a state of calmness (by accessing a state of holding a sleeping child) to bear on a fear of heights leading to a metastate of calm fear. This process of “bringing to bear one state on another state” is called “metastating.” The target state could be another metastate or a primary state.

I do a lot of writing for my employer but found it difficult to find time to write for my personal projects.  After taking Michael Hall’s Prolific Writing course, I experimented with applying metastates to writing so that I could as easily write for my avocation as for my vocation. These experiments led to exploring a new metastate, which I called the Immersion Metastate. To identify this metastate I noticed something I did (and I am sure others do), named it, and started exploring the frames around it.

This noticing, naming and exploring is illustrated by the following John Grinder anecdote that Robert Dilts told at a training on Sleight of Mouth Patterns:

“It was an assignment where he (Grinder) said: Find something that you never really paid much attention to before and name it. And notice how it changes your perception.”

Dilts went to Grinder after class to ask him more about the exercise. Dilts continues:

“At a certain point my eyes shifted over and to the left. And he (Grinder) said: “what about that”? I said about what? He said “your eyes just went over”…I tried to figure out what was going on. I kind of felt that I had gone inside – into almost into a little trance state. So I named it minimal cues, trance cues of how people put themselves, anchor themselves … into a little bit of trance. And began to go out and suddenly the most amazing thing happened. It was like scales fell from my eyes. And there I was sort of seeing this whole world in front of me that had always been there. I never noticed it until I gave it a name.”

Before launching into the Immersion Metastate (IM) in general, I want to discuss another metastate, which is a principal component of IM. Neurosemantics describes many characteristics and states associated with “genius.”  One state, called the genius state is a highly focused state of commitment. When in this state you can lose all sense of time and be focused completely on your writing. You can cleanly go into and out of the state. So if you are interrupted and leave the state, you can easily get back into it. To me this seems like a state that is focused in time and place: I sit at my desk and write for an hour, deeply absorbed in the activity, hardly noticing the time go by.

Here is a recent example where someone appears to access this state. On May 10, 2004 Diane Rehms (a local talk show host) interviewed (1) Jim Lehrer (author of Flying Crows) and his wife Kate Lehrer (author of Confessions of a Bigamist). Kate said that Jim, unlike her, could easily go into and out of a writing state. In fact, he could write a few paragraphs during a break in the interview and go back to the exact point he had left earlier. Iraq, come to a dead stop, and then begin writing material for his new novel. He said he could do this because he was trained as a journalist. It would be interesting to explore how training in journalism would support access to a genius state. On the other hand, experience with the genius state could certainly enhance that training.

For me being able to access just this genius state was not enough. I would also need a stretch of time to put it into practice. Time I had never seemed to set aside. Of course there are other NS/NLP techniques to use for slaying inner dragons, dealing with procrastination, and following your highest intentions. These techniques are important and support the approach we discuss in this article. However here, to simplify the discussion, we focus on just the Immersion Metastate.

The Immersion Metastate has three principal components (we can make it more elaborate later once we practice eliciting it and installing it).

·       Focused State. This is just the “genius state” described above.

·       Diffused State. This is a transitory state with a shorter time frame than the Focused State. It occurs when you are thinking about the project without being deeply absorbed in it. You are likely multitasking with other activities, like driving.

·       Executive Function. The executive part of you that selects one desired project and gives you permission to enter into and leave an Immersion Metastate.

One of my personal projects was to explore the Immersion Metastate and use it to write this article. Another project was to provide a system dynamics model of my company’s program for rewarding quality papers. One week I used the IM for the system dynamics project. The next I used it to think about and write this article. I discovered it worked well when applying it to one personal project at a time. It keeps it clean – no choice involved.

So my Executive says – access the Immersion Metastate for the desired project. It will modulate my entering and leaving both the Diffused State and the Focused State to think about and work on the project. I will enter the Diffused State when driving, before I go to sleep at night, when I wake up in the morning, waiting on the grocery line, in-between meetings at work. While in this state, I may jot a note on a pad or talk into a tape recorder. This is usually not a highly focused state, but it can lead to one. When the intensity of involvement is great enough – time is found for those highly focused states. The results of the focus states provide the fuel for initiating the diffuse states. This feedback process is illustrated in Figure 1.

Immersion Metastate

IM comes with it’s supporting frames and beliefs like many other metastates.  These need to be elicited for the particular project and person. For example, having the belief that writing can occur in bits and pieces (not just while sitting at a desk for long periods) is important for applying the IM to writing projects.


The Immersion Metastate is a complex metastate consisting of a Focused State and a Diffused State, which are managed through your inner executive. Accessing this state can provide a way “find the time” to work on desired projects.


(1) This interview is available at the URL: The authors discuss their different writing styles within the first 10 minutes of the interview.


Dilts, Robert (1987). Sleight of Mouth Patterns (Video), Southern Institute Press, Inc.

Hall, Michael L. (2001). Prolific Writing Workshop: Accelerating Your Writing Excellence, Training Manual. NS Publications, Clifton, CO.

Hall, Michael L. (2000). Secrets of Personal Mastery, Crown House Publishing, Wales, UK. This book introduces the “Inner Executive” and its relationship to managing your states.

Hall, Michael L. (2003). The Sourcebook of Magic, Volume II: Neuro-Semantics Magic. NS Publications, Clifton, CO.

Hall, Michael L. (2002), Living Personal Genius, Training Manual. NS Publications, Clifton, CO.

Bodenhamer, Bob G., and Hall, L. Michael L. (1999). The User’s  Manual for the Brain: A Comprehensive Manual for Neuro-linguistic Programming Practitioner Certification, Crown House Publishing, Wales, UK

Hall, Michael L., Bob Bodenhamer (2003). The User Manual for the Brain Volume II: Mastering Systemic NLP, Crown House Publishing, Wales, UK. Chapters 5 and 6 provide background material for metastates.


Pascal Gambardella, Ph.D. is a Solution Architect and Methodologist for Computer Sciences Corporation. He is also a Neuro-Semantics and NLP Trainer. He contributed a chapter and many of the graphics in the book Mindlines by Michael Hall and Bob Bodenhamer.

This article on the Immersion Metastate is an updated version of an article that appeared in the Learning Unlimited Newsletter (May 2004), which is an occasional newsletter sent to an NS/NLP Study Group that he conducts each month.

ã 2204 Pascal J Gambardella, Ph.D. – All rights reserved.