LSD, Lilly and me, floating in a tank

Float pod, photo by Sattvic Planet

Float pod, photo by Sattvic Planet

 

“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits”

-From The Center of the Cyclone, written by John C. Lilly, M.D.

 

Literature cited
Isolation tanks, or float pods, are increasingly popular these days and can now be found in large cities throughout the US West. Celebrity Joe Rogan deserves some credit for spreading the word as he often raves on his podcast about the benefits he enjoys from owning a tank and floating regularly in his home. However, the person who deserves the most credit is a scientist named Dr John C. Lilly who invented the concept during the 1950s. You may have heard of Lilly if you ever listened to The Joe Rogan Experience, and you can usually find one of Lilly’s books for sale at a float studio. Lilly did much more than pioneer this meditative therapy, he took the concept further than any of us can imagine. Lilly was fascinated with exploring the human mind, and unlike most scientists today he was willing to experiment with his own mind rather than the minds of his test subjects. One such experiment involved taking LSD and then entering his isolation tank on multiple occasions to learn more about human consciousness. Since I was interested in having a similar experience I decided to read his book The Center of the Cyclone prior to my first journey. The book is a personal account of his LSD influenced float tank experiences along with other stories of mind exploration. Lilly seemed to be writing the book not only to document his pioneering efforts, but also to provide assistance and warnings to others who might follow his path.

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LSD made Steve Jobs “Think Different”

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

This weekend marks the anniversary of Steve Jobs death, and for me it marks my day of birth. Three years ago, on what I can only describe as a serendipitous day, I celebrated my birthday with the purchase of the first Apple computer I have ever owned, and on the exact same day learned that the man responsible for creating my new computer had just died. Prior to that day I had never once taken the time to think about Jobs, yet since then I have discovered much about the man who is arguably one of the greatest inventors of modern times, culminating last month in me listening to his autobiography audiobook.

Think Different

Apple ran an advertising campaign in 1997 called Think Different, and based on some of the following quotes Jobs really did think different following his consumption of LSD. In the Steve Jobs autobiography written by Walter Isaacson, Jobs is quoted as saying:

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could”

In John Markoff’s book, What the Dormouse Said, Jobs describes his experiences with LSD as:

“One of the two or three most important things I have done in my life”

Jobs is also on record with the US Department of Defense as having admitted to using LSD 10-15 times and describing the experiences as:

“A positive life changing experience”

 

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

World’s most valuable company

What exactly can we learn about these honest confessions describing some extremely personal moments from his life? Many people suspect that psychedelic substances have the potential to enhance creativity in people, and Jobs said that taking LSD was a positive, profound, life changing experience that altered how he saw the world, so naturally there is some speculation that LSD played a role in the enormous success of Jobs and his company Apple. Just how successful has Apple become? It is considered to be the most valuable company on the planet with a valuation of approximately $600+ billion dollars during 2014. A few years ago Apple took that title from the reigning champion Exxon. It is important to note that Exxon is a company that exists simply to extract resources, a process that leads to the destruction of the planet in forms such as ocean oil spills, climate change and air pollution. Unregulated resource extraction for the past few centuries has been one of the most common ways to generate wealth in America; coal, lumber, and seafood are only a few examples. Perhaps we are seeing a glimmer of hope that the most valuable company is now one that exists to create and not to destroy.

 

steve jobs locus

Meditating on a Mac in the lotus pose.

 

The war on drugs

If you think about it the connection between LSD and Apple’s success is really quite fascinating. Apple is an American company, and America’s political system is dominated by capitalism. The leaders of this country would like to see nothing more than the birth of a hugely popular, market dominating investment opportunity like Apple. At the same time the leaders of this country have decided that nearly all psychedelics are illegal and have no medicinal purposes despite a massive amount of traditional knowledge supporting the opposite. Medicines like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, san pedro / huachuma have been used by indigenous people for thousands of years. Steve Jobs took LSD even though it was illegal, and it is very possible that his psychedelic experiences played such a major role in altering his consciousness that he was able to create products that were innovative enough for his company to be the most valuable on the planet. Jobs had a vision for his products that left most of his competitors scrambling to keep pace with him. Where did this vision come from and why were his competitors unable to see what he saw? The US criminalizes people for simply trying to alter their consciousness and is a fiercely capitalistic country, yet it is entirely possible that psychedelics helped Jobs build the world’s most valuable company, so I wonder what the investors on Wall Street would have to say if the war on drugs had actually succeeded in deterring Jobs from LSD.

India, Buddhism, Meditation, and Diet

It is important to note the many other factors that made an impact on Jobs and likely played a role in his success, including his trips to India in search of his greater purpose in life. Jobs was also a Buddhist, known to practice meditation, and nearly obsessive about eating healthy food which to him often meant being vegan. Psychedelics may not be for everyone, but they seemed to have changed Jobs life, and to imagine him not taking them because of their legal status, and perhaps not having the vision to create Apple would be a great loss to our culture. I know some people are critics of Apple and they will argue that the world would be no different whether or not Apple ever existed, but if you stop and look at his long list of pioneering efforts even the greatest critic has to admit that his accomplishments were impressive. It is impossible to know how much of a role psychedelics played in Jobs life, and it is impossible to know what the world would be like without Apple, but judging by his quotes on LSD I’m willing to say these substances hold much potential for technological innovations and spiritual advances in our lives.

 

Related Articles:

The Temple of Chavin and the Huachuma Sacrament

Psychedelic Science Conference 2017

Integrating entheogens, from mystical highs to cynical lows

Life after Ayahuasca, integration and employment

Leaving my job for Ayahuasca

Just say NO, to the war on psychedelics

Coming out of the psychedelic closet

MDMA and the Power of NOW

MDMA, Mercury and my great release

LSD, Lilly and me, floating in a tank

Spirit Plant Medicine

 

 

Weapons of Mass Distraction

You are what you watch

You are what you watch

WAKE UP!!!

Last week my yoga instructor said the American society has been attacked by Weapons of Mass Distractions. I think he was referring to things like TV, advertisements, video games, casinos, professional sports, smartphones, mainstream media, and the everyday culture you experience at the office, grocery store, and even in your neighborhood. The WMDs are exploding all around us, and we are all the victims, so how do we wake up from these distractions? It’s not an easy question to answer. I know we all think that we are awake; there is a Starbucks on every corner, but that is not the type of awake I’m talking about. If you’re not one of the fortunate few who wonders if there is more to life than the next episode of America’s favorite TV show then perhaps you need to be blasted into consciousness. Many people have profound experiences while experimenting with various chemicals during summer music festivals with their friends, though I don’t think that is the ideal scenario. If you really want to get serious about this then you may even consider participating in a medicinal plant ceremony with an Amazonian shaman. Of course chemicals are not the only way of being awakened, though they can be fast and powerful tools. A less intense method might involve beginning the practices of breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy. Another option might be to substitute your daily mind numbing activities with something more stimulating, such as listening to these episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast…

JRE498

The Joe Rogan Experience

I know the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast is not for everybody. For example, as a martial artist and a commentator for mixed martial arts, often times professional fighting is discussed on his show; which is probably a turnoff for some people. What I find fascinating about the JRE is that he is one of the most famous people I know that openly discusses taboo subjects with his guests, and there are thousands, if not millions of people listening to him every week. Joe’s guests often include fighters and comedians, as you might expect from a man who is a fighter and a comedian, though they are not the guests who I normally listen to, but if you know what to look for there are some real gems in his archive of podcasts. Among my favorites are the episodes with Amber Lyons and Aubrey Marcus discussing in great detail their trips to the Peruvian Amazon where they participated in traditional Ayahuasca healing ceremonies conducted by a native shaman using plant medicines. There is no place else on the internet that I know of where you can find such lengthy and highly detailed conversations about these subjects, led by such a well known moderator, and listened to by so many people. He may not be the best choice for academics or the spiritually advanced, but I see that as his strength. Because Joe speaks in a language that appeals to the common person he reaches a wide audience of people that normally wouldn’t be exposed to his message. Though it is difficult to measure, I imagine that Joe and his guests are responsible for waking many people from a life unconscious. One of my good friends owns a float tank studio, and many clients report on their first session that they first learned about floating from Joe.

JRE-amber lyon

Conscious Consumption

When I talk about being awake, or attaining consciousness you might think of some mystical eastern religious concept that is difficult to relate to, but I’m simply referring to the act of being aware of your surroundings and considering the consequences of your actions. Life is really just a long series of decisions and the choices we make constantly shape our bodies and the world around us. What should I do with my free time, watch TV, or read a book? How should I go to the store, in a car, or by bike? What should I do with this waste, compost it, or throw it in the garbage? Should I sit down to eat my meal on a plate, or order it to go in a disposable container? What should I eat for breakfast, a donut, or some whole foods? Do I need to buy the newest smartphone or does my old phone still serve me well? Do I feel good about my career, and does my job make the world a better place? Taking a look around I think it is safe to say that a majority of the American people are distracted and unconscious. Our consumption is high, our health is poor, and we are killing the planet we depend on for survival.

In Ayurveda

Everyday, we are surrounded by a constant stream of distractions. The billboards on the side of the highway, the commercials playing on the radio, the incoming messages on your phone, and the big football game Sunday afternoon. Some of them are desired, and others are annoying, but they are both distractions. They are a source of constant noise that prevents us from listening to our bodies, observing our natural environment, and focusing on the things that really matter. With advancements in technology, and the increased sophistication of capitalism it has become more difficult than ever to escape these Weapons of Mass Distraction. This is why including breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy into your routine is beneficial. I can’t recommend psychedelics from an Ayurvedic perspective, but I know they are extremely powerful, and can quickly cause people to examine their lives and ask why they do what they do. In some cases they may be appropriate when used responsibly.

Related posts:

0 Easy Steps to Consciousness

Today I floated in a sensory deprivation pod

 

 

0 Easy Steps to Consciousness

Red_and_blue_pills

“You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”

-Morpheus from the movie Matrix

Mind Body Green Approach

A couple weeks ago I submitted an article to Mind Body Green (MBG), a popular healthy living website that accepts work from freelance writers. According to their website to increase your chance of being accepted it is best to submit articles that resemble others already published. After a quick review of their website I immediately noticed a trend; nearly all of the articles had a title that involved either 5 tips, 6 exercises, 7 principles, 8 foods, 9 steps, or 10 reasons; you get the idea. My first reaction was that I don’t want to write in that style, though I did want to get published so that I could reach a wider audience. While I applaud MBG for attempting to introduce easy remedies to improve people’s lives, I struggle with this approach to solving problems, and here are my top 3 reasons why (irony intended):

  1. Without your health you have nothing, and if you don’t have time for your health then perhaps you need to reexamine your priorities if you want to maintain a high quality of life. Of course this advice is easier to adopt for the young who have not yet made the decisions that commit them to busy lifestyles. Regardless, this is something we all need to consider because I don’t think quick tips are adequate to achieve meaningful change.
  2. It takes more than quick tips, and easy steps to bring optimal health into your life. Healthy living advice shouldn’t be comparable to lists we see for buying a new smartphone, or investing for your retirement. Having a healthy lifestyle is a continuous process that never ends. Besides, imagine how many lists you will have to remember after just one month of visiting the website; you will need lists to keep track of your lists.
  3. What we really need to achieve planetary and personal health is consciousness, not rules, tips, and tricks. Yes education is essential, and I understand that MBG is attempting to inform their readers, but what our society suffers from more than anything is a lack of consciousness. Consciousness has an amazing ability to fill in the gaps when information is missing. Sure, you may not have memorized what to do in every given situation, but if you attain a higher consciousness then you will probably succeed in making healthy choices when you need to make a decision.

Red pill or blue pill?

In summary, MBG never did publish my article, though it did receive a warm reception on this site. I compromised and made a list as all the other authors seem to do, but maybe a one item list wasn’t enough for them: Want to know the #1 place in town to eat? Better luck next time. As for you, ignorance may be bliss, but I highly recommend taking the red pill. Waking up to the ugly realities of our industrial agriculture-food-health complex might be disturbing, but having access to that knowledge will allow you to navigate your way through the maze towards optimal health.

If you swallow the blue pill…

In honor of MBG, here are the Top 7 signs you may be living an unconscious lifestyle, in my humble opinion. A couple of these are probably fine, but hopefully they don’t all apply to you!

  1. You often watch TV
  2. You don’t eat healthy whole foods
  3. You are bored, scared or annoyed by quiet / alone time
  4. You are extremely busy
  5. You don’t consider the environmental impact of your actions
  6. You drink excessive amounts of alcohol
  7. You have never tried meditation, yoga, breath work, or psychedelics

Red_and_blue_pills

 

 

Learning to fly: tips for air travel

 

Learning to Fly with Pink Floyd

“There’s no sensation to compare to this, suspended animation, a state of bliss”-From the lyrics for Learning to fly, written by David Gilmore, and performed by Pink Floyd

 

Not just a Pink Floyd song

Traveling in good health is not easy. In fact, I regard it as one of the biggest challenges I face in my quest to be happy, healthy and productive. You may be staying in a hotel with no kitchen, experiencing insomnia in a different time zone, or struggling to find some green space in a dense urban area. Like anything in life, traveling in good health requires effort. It is already difficult enough just to stay healthy in the comforts of your home, so when you are traveling it is important to take the extra steps necessary to feel good. I know this isn’t what Pink Floyd had in mind when they made the song Learning to Fly, but I can’t resist a good play on words that combines one of my favorite songs with the topic of my article. Continue reading for some thoughts I gathered on my recent trip home.

Food, or lack of it

In the cutthroat business of air travel it seems less common to find a meal offered on a flight these days. That’s probably a good thing, for your health. In place of the inflight meal is the preflight meal as the modern American airport has come to resemble a shopping mall food court more than a hub for transportation. I recently heard accomplished fitness trainer Steve Maxwell say that he always fasts while he travels. While I doubt the benefits of fasting while flying have been scientifically proven, it seems like wise advice coming from an experienced traveler. Eating in combination with stress often results in poor digestion, so it makes sense to avoid food while flying since airports can be such stressful places. Some people do eat to reduce their stress, and this is fine, but for good digestion you really should only eat when you actually feel hunger, typically at least 3 hours after the previous meal. For those who can’t fathom the thought of a mini fast, bringing along a few snacks is not very difficult, and a much better option than the airport fast food. On my recent flight I brought some dried figs, pistachios, extra dark chocolate, and a banana in case the fast was uncomfortable.

Water

“Sir, would you like some water, a soda, or an alcoholic beverage?” No thanks, I said as I motioned to my liter sized stainless steel reusable water bottle. In comparison, it seems the little 4 ounce cup of water they offer is nearly worthless, and I find it works best to have access to a large bottle of water throughout the entire flight. As with the snacks mentioned above, it is not very difficult to bring a reusable bottle and then fill it at the fountain after passing through security. As for the alcohol, I wouldn’t recommend it, though I’m sure some people claim it counters the stress they experience. Obviously alcohol isn’t the only strategy available for dealing with stress. During my layover at the Denver airport I discovered these great private areas away from all the commotion where I was able to do some stretching and even some meditation.

Air

I normally advocate deep slow breathing, but in the confined environment of an airplane I winced at the thought of taking this recycled air deep into my lungs. People often comment on the dryness of airplane air, plus there are all the perfumes that people wear, and certainly an abundance of bacteria and viruses floating around. So what to do? Stopping short of recommending an air filtration mask, all I can say is to get out into nature and doing some deep breathing exercises as soon as possible after arriving at your destination. I’m always an opponent of synthetic perfumes, but I’m rarely an opponent of bacteria. I think we have greatly overreacted to the threat they pose, especially with our excessive use of antibacterial soaps. However, if you begin or end your travel with a weakened immune system then there is probably an increased chance of illness due to the inflight exposure. As I often say, the focus should be on building immunity rather than killing pathogens.

 

Time to get grounded!

Time to get grounded!

 

In Ayurveda

The energy of motion is called vata in Ayurveda, and it is represented by the elements of air and space. Using the concept of “similar increases and opposite decreases”, Ayurveda has a simple approach to ensuring that our mind, body and spirit stays in balance. What modern technology is more similar to the energy of vata than flying in an airplane? As you fly through the air hundreds of kilometers per hour, thousands of meters from the earth you are without a doubt experiencing an increase of vata. Since “similar increases and opposite decreases”, the best remedies for dealing with modern air travel are vata pacifying foods and activities. Examples include warm, heavy and oily meals, or perhaps some slow and grounding yoga postures. We all understand that putting hot water on the stove makes the water hotter, so by extension we can understand that adding air travel to an already fast moving lifestyle can cause further imbalance.

Summary

  • Mini fast
  • Bring snacks or light meal to avoid fast food
  • Bring reusable bottle for plenty of water
  • Pass on the alcohol
  • Go to a park or green space after landing
  • Maintain strong immunity to avoid illness
  • Try grounding activities like yoga during the layover, or after the flight if you’re too timid for airport yoga 🙂
  • End your mini fast with a warm, heavy, oily meal rich in healthy fats

 

 

Advertisements, you are what you watch

You are what you watch

You are what you watch

With Seattle still feeling the high after smoking Denver at the Super Bowl two weeks ago I thought now might be a good time to share my perspective on the big game, from a health perspective of course. While you may have been expecting another recipe from this preventive medicine blog, I want to change the subject material on occasion to reflect the major current events happening around us. More specifically I want to draw the connections between our lifestyles and our health, especially with subjects where that connection may not be so obvious.

Like most young men growing up in the US I watched the NFL. I could tell you all the rules of the game just as well as the next guy, and had no problem identifying the star players. However, I rarely watch football anymore. Perhaps it is my distaste for all the commercials, the recent revelations of brain injuries to the players, or maybe I’m just too busy floating in sensory deprivation pods. Regardless, as a Washington resident I felt compelled to watch my first game of the season in the playoff game against San Francisco. I couldn’t ignore this team anymore as the buzz around me grew louder, quite literally as they were measured during home games to be the loudest fans in the league. After a thrilling victory in that game, there was no doubt that I would be watching Seattle attempt to win their first championship in team history.

The Super Bowl was excellent, if you were a Seattle fan, as the Seahawks completely dominated the Broncos. It really was fun to watch, but in between all the Seahawks touchdowns I was exposed to a barrage of commercials, and reminded why I rarely watch TV anymore. Now I know that many people enjoy the commercials almost as much as the game. At a cost of $4 million per 30 second advertisement, corporations are certainly going to put a lot of effort into making those 30 seconds as funny, exciting, heartwarming, and memorable as possible. While the Super Bowl ads may be considered entertaining to some, I couldn’t stop thinking about the tens of thousands of commercials people watch throughout their lives.

In Ayurveda the term ahara refers to anything that we consume and includes some obvious materials such as food, water and air. It may come as a surprise to learn that emotions and information that we perceive through our sense organs are also considered as ahara. This means that we are consuming sights through our eyes and sounds through our ears, in other words not only are we consuming food, but we are also consuming TV commercials. You probably think that I smoked a super bowl before writing this, but before you judge think about what happens when you watch a comedy versus a drama. You feel different right? Watching two types of movies can make you feel different in the same way that eating deep fried onion rings makes you feel different than eating a kale smoothie. If you were trying to practice a healthy lifestyle you wouldn’t consume junk food, so why would you ever consume junk information? Everyone has heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but in this case I would ask you to consider the possibility that “you are what you watch”. Just as the food that we eat requires digestion from our gastrointestinal tract, the information we perceive requires digestion from our mind, and just as eating food improperly causes indigestion, I would argue that watching excessive TV commercials causes mental indigestion. The problem as I see it is that corporations care only about making money. They don’t care about your health, and if you don’t believe me then look at all the Super Bowl commercials for junk food and beer, and don’t forget about the car and technology advertisements telling you that you don’t have enough already. If you want style, and if you want happiness then you need to buy more, more, more. Profits are made, your health suffers, and the planet suffers from resource extraction and waste generation.

In summary, what I’m recommending is to reduce or eliminate your exposure to commercials and mindless junk information in general, from radio to magazines to TV to internet. Replace the time you spend consuming this information with silence, see my post Today I floated in a sensory deprivation pod for details. If silence is not what you’re looking for then try other beneficial activities like cooking, exercise or gathering knowledge that will make you a better person. Listen to an educational podcast, read a good book, or watch a revealing documentary. What you should really be doing is reading Sattvic Planet more often, though I am slightly biased.

Today I floated in a sensory deprivation pod (~*~)

Is it a mushroom, or a clam?

Is it a mushroom, or a clam? Click the photo to visit the Urban Float lounge in Seattle.

 

I assume that this is a new subject for many people, so allow me to briefly explain what I did and why I did it. Floating is an increasingly popular therapy similar to meditation that is used primarily for improving mental health, but it also has many physical health benefits. The way it works is you lie down in a pod or tank structure that has a shallow amount of extremely salty water inside. Once inside you pull the lid closed, lie on your back and then press a button to turn the light off. As a result of the added salt you will have no problem floating near the water surface, which I find to be a very pleasurable experience. Floating is only a part of the experience though; the sensory deprivation is what really makes this therapy unique. I think most people enjoy the feeling of floating in an ocean, lake, or even a pool, but in these situations you will still feel the inflatable mat under your back, the taste of salty waves splashing into your mouth, the smell of chlorine, the sound of kids yelling nearby, or the sight of the sun shining on your face. I’m not saying that all these sensations are necessarily bad, but they are all a form of stimulation that is difficult to avoid. In the controlled environment of a float pod nearly all of your five physical senses disappear. With the lid shut it is pure darkness inside, in fact you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. The pod is so quiet that you can hear your heart beating, and if you decide to use earplugs the silence increases further. Floating in the comfortably warm water nearly eliminates any sense of touch, and the smell of salty water is so faint that you can barely notice. Keep your mouth shut and taste nothing other than the inside of your mouth. The result of this extreme sensory deprivation is a meditation environment perfect for either a beginner or an advanced student. As a beginner there are no distractions to hinder your practice such as when an inflexible person tries to sit in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor. For the advanced student this can be an opportunity to take your practice to the next level of mind control.

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