Life after Ayahuasca, integration and employment

symbolika-dmt

Art by Symbolika.com

 

Hallelujah!
Praise Jesus, praise Buddha, rejoice, you’ve seen the light!!! You just finished a 10-day retreat in the rainforest and have a new perspective of life. For the first time you see beyond the veil of illusion that has been obscuring your vision for all these years. You purged toxins that have been in your system so long that you forgot what it’s like to feel healthy. After living in a crowded concrete city for decades you gained a new appreciation for the color green and the abundance of life that is the rainforest. You experienced a sense of peace forgotten long ago and realize this is how life is supposed to be. And in a few days you are catching a flight to Lima before connecting to that long international flight back home… then what happens next?

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Leaving my job for Ayahuasca

debernardi-essencial-love

Art by Debernardivision.com

 

American Dream
Some would say I had it all. Certainly not wealthy by American standards, but by world standards I was quite successful. A stable and permanent job with the federal government; known for offering generous benefits including retirement, health insurance, paid leave, sick time, and holidays. I lived in a city with a high quality of life, including easy access to nature, many organic food stores nearby, and a population of educated people. My apartment had a beautiful view of the bay, and I owned a reliable car for trips that were too far to bike. I also had a loving girlfriend and a close friend. Yet I gave it all away for a trip to Peru. Was it a foolish decision? Perhaps, but before you answer consider my reasons for leaving.

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Coming out of the psychedelic closet 

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The Peyote Way Church comes out in Arizona. Photo by Sattvic Planet

 

Civil liberties
It’s time to add users of psychedelics to the list of minority groups that have been denied their basic rights in America. That list obviously includes Native Americans, women, and African Americans among others. More recently the homosexual community that we often associate with the phrase “coming out of the closet” has achieved major legal victories, and cannabis consumers are now able in some states to come out of their secret grow closets to openly buy a few grams down at the corner store. One thing I assume all of these groups had in common is that they were never going to make any progress hiding in a closet. The first step to earning a right must certainly be to stand up and say “I exist and I’m not afraid to admit it”.

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MDMA and the Power of NOW

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Amitabha Stupa, Sedona Arizona. Photo by Sattvic Planet

 

The present

Like many seekers on the spiritual path, I recently discovered Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. Admittedly I’m a little late to the show as the book was published years ago but at least I finally got the message. In case you haven’t heard the primary message is that in this modern society we have developed our rational minds to a level that has become more harmful than beneficial. Our rational minds are constantly turned on and as a result our presence is usually turned off. Our lack of presence is evident in the priority that past and future events take over the present moment. We often dream of the good times from our past and constantly anticipate a distant and better future without appreciating the current moment. According to Eckhart the ego is directly related to the mind and as a result of over developing our minds we have falsely identified with our egos. We believe that we are our professions, possessions, clothes, status, emotions, likes, dislikes, etc. Of course there’s much more to his message than this, but that is the foundation.

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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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Spirit Plant Medicine

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Amazonian ceremonial maloca. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

Destination Peru

As I mentioned in my last article about Kambo poison frog medicine, I am currently visiting Peru for the primary purpose of improving my health. If you haven’t already heard, in recent years there have been increasing numbers of Americans traveling here in search of plant medicines that can’t be found in the US. Much of Peru is covered by the Amazon rainforest, regarded by many as the plant pharmacy of the world. Some Americans come here as a last option when they face a serious condition that western medicine is unable to treat. A couple nights ago I watched the documentary Sacred Science which shows the results of bringing eight westerners with various diseases to the rainforest in search of relief from their suffering. While some of the people did have life threatening diseases, I don’t think this is a requirement for coming to the rainforest seeking better health. In one way or another even the best among us have some sickness, it is nearly impossible not to in this society, and there is always room for improvement. In my case, my intention was to eliminate some challenging food allergies that had been bothering me recently. In addition, I wanted to work on some trauma that I accumulated during my military years.

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Kambo, poison frog therapy

Focus!

Focus!

 

Alternatives
Many people turn to alternative medicine for one of two reasons, they are either suffering from a condition that western medicine is unable to treat, or they are simply opposed to a pharmaceutical and surgery dominated approach that primarily treats symptoms rather than eliminating the cause of disease. In my case the opposition came first, as I believed there must be a better way of managing people’s health. Next came my realization that the experts were unable to treat my condition; as evidence of this they diagnosed my allergic reactions as idiopathic angioedema, which translates to swelling caused by an unknown origin. In Canada I met an excellent Ayurvedic medicine practitioner who helped me to manage this reaction through a highly disciplined diet, but was unable to eliminate the reaction entirely through diet alone. As a result, I now find myself traveling to Peru in search of some relief from this condition. This condition was not my only motivation for visiting Peru, though it was definitely a driving force behind my decision to try Kambo therapy.

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The Spiritual Carnivore

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

I’m writing this post from a small village in the Peruvian Andes where a community of spiritually focused foreigners have either visited or settled over the years. Having arrived only yesterday I obviously have much to learn about this community, though a couple of my observations seem very clear to me already. First, they seem to gather their practices from a wide array of disciplines such as Ayurveda, Buddhism, and indigenous Shamanic culture. It seems to be a true hybrid of global spiritual philosophies. My second observation, which is the inspiration of this post, is that vegetarian and vegan diets are the preferred choice at their hotels, restaurants and retreats. I’m talking about the foreign community here and not the locals when I refer to the choice of diet, as the locals appear to eat chicken, beef, trout, alpaca, eggs, and cheese.

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Just say NO, to pharmaceuticals

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

I’ve done it, during the entire month of October I did not swallow a single pharmaceutical, and as of today it has been 7 weeks since I last needed the help of a synthetic pill. To put this into perspective I am defining pharmaceuticals as not only the more powerful type prescribed by your doctor, but also the over the counter types available to anybody at the store. Seven months ago I shared with you a personal account of my monthly pharmaceutical consumption. Despite being a student of Ayurveda and a huge advocate of preventive medicine, I was still taking an average of 5-10 pills per month. The message I tried to convey back then was that nobody is perfect, but with some awareness and a little effort we could move towards a life of better health with a reduced need for pharmaceuticals.

Why is this important?

As I’m typing this, the question of whether this is a significant achievement arises. Considering the US pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars every year, these corporations wouldn’t be making such huge profits if a majority of the population wasn’t frequently consuming the pills they produce. In other words, I assume that going 7 weeks without taking any pharmaceuticals is uncommon in the US. Another reason I decided to share this with you is to demonstrate that saying no to pharmaceuticals required me to change my lifestyle. Rather than doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and ignoring the messages my body was trying to send, I had to be mindful of my lifestyle and avoid situations that might require the relief offered from a pill. One of the defining traits of preventive medicine is to remove the cause of disease. Contrast that with modern reactionary medicine, which typically treats the symptoms but rarely attempts to remove the cause. Symptoms are messages from your body saying that there is an imbalance occurring somewhere. Symptoms should not be thought of as minor annoyances that need to be muted through the use of pharmaceuticals. Sure, symptoms interfere with our busy lives, but if you suppress a symptom for long enough it could manifest to a more serious and difficult to cure disease. Finally, this achievement is significant because quite simply, many pharmaceuticals have harmful side effects. If the long list of potential side effects listed in a pharmaceutical advertisement doesn’t alarm you then consider herbal medicines, healthy diets and natural lifestyles, which rarely have any harmful side effects.

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Drugs versus Medicines

I can still remember being exposed to the propaganda from the War on Drugs when I was a child during the 80’s. First Lady Nancy Reagan led the Just Say No campaign from the White House. And who could forget the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, DARE, which originated from the Los Angeles Police Department? The Partnership for a Drug Free America created a famous commercial that said, “this is your brain (an egg), this is drugs (a frying pan), this is your brain on drugs (a fried egg), any questions?” Yes, I do have some questions. How powerful these messages must have been for me to remember them decades later. Despite being ingrained into my childhood memories, as an adult I find the messages to be disturbing and hypocritical. One question I have is, would the same people who told us to avoid Cannabis also tell us to avoid Percocet, Vicodin or other pain relievers? Or what about Psilocybin Mushrooms versus Prozac? I doubt it, and therefore two classes of drugs exist in our society, those that are good/accepted, and those that are bad/illegal. I would also ask you to think twice about the language involved here. Pharmaceuticals are now considered to be forms of “medicine”, while powerful plant medicines that were actually used by native cultures for thousands of years are now given the derogatory term “drugs”. How is it that pharmaceuticals derived in an industrial factory are accepted in our society despite sometimes being created so recently that the side effects are not yet understood, while plants such as ayahuasca, cannabis, iboga, peyote, psilocybin and huachuma, which have been traditionally used for healing, are deemed to be so worthless that it is nearly impossible to conduct a scientific study demonstrating their effectiveness?

Which will you choose?

Which will you choose?

DARE to be open minded

In the previous paragraph I contrast legal pharmaceutical drugs with illegal plant medicines to demonstrate the extreme and unexplainable policies adopted by the US government. However, we don’t need to look at such a controversial example. Instead consider Ayurveda, which advocates for the use of plant medicines that are already legal to prevent and treat disease. I totally understand that there are situations where it may be necessary to use pharmaceuticals for difficult disease, extreme pain, or for survival of the patient. I wouldn’t advise somebody who was just in a serious car accident to use Ayurvedic herbs for survival, likewise I wouldn’t advise somebody with minor depression to take an antidepressant for happiness. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of new developments in technology? The answer is that we should, when we need to, but we should also be shifting towards a lifestyle that avoids the cause of disease so symptoms don’t emerge that tempt us to consume a pill. In this busy, stressful modern world it can be difficult to consistently practice a healthy daily routine. Pharmaceuticals seem so convenient to us, swallow a pill and your are done, no need to change your behavior, an easy choice, right? But what happens when you need a second pill to treat the side effects from the first pill? What happens when the symptoms worsen, and you need to take a stronger pill with potentially stronger side effects? Or worse, what happens when your doctor says the pills don’t work anymore and now you need surgery? We don’t need to imagine such grim scenarios, instead we can be comforted by knowing that we have access to safe and effective traditional medicines such as Ayurveda, and it all begins right here, by becoming aware of options that you may not have known existed.

Related Articles:

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 3, Pharmaceuticals

18 months since I was sick, without flu shots

Want to know the #1 place in town to eat?

 

 

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