The other night I was sitting around a fire with a friend, discussing the influence of psychedelics on our lives, when she uttered this statement, “after three years of working with these mushrooms, I love life. I just want to be and do the best I can. All the time. Now. Urgently. For myself, for others, for Earth.”
Is this not, in the simplest form, what we all hope for humanity?
Such a statement and life orientation becomes all the more inspirational when you learn of her backstory. My friend, whom I'll call Janet for privacy, had a 23-year alcohol and drug addiction that was threatening both her physical and mental health. This was combined with—and in large parts caused by—complex, unprocessed trauma, abusive relationships, self-harm, isolation, and always feeling as if she was stuck.
The Healing Journey
At the age of 33, Janet found herself in a hospital bed with a ruptured tubal pregnancy and near-fatal internal bleeding. She was four months pregnant but hadn’t recognized the symptoms due to her alcoholism; vomiting had already been a daily routine and her attitude on the weight gain was “my body is deteriorating and I don’t care. Drink, drink.” It was here—alone, ashamed, and facing death—that she resolved to change.
The first year of her healing journey was spent "dry drunk,” no longer drinking but still maintaining the qualities or patterns of addiction, until, in her words, “joy started pushing at my seams.” This joy was found through a blend of psilocybin mushrooms (taken in group ceremonies, at home, and as microdoses), somatic experiences, multiple forms of therapy, and meditation. The mushrooms, which she highlights as the defining mechanism of healing and personal growth, allowed her to experience and develop a sense of community, confidence, surrender, magic, and meaning.
Three years in, she is now experiencing a strengthening of her memory, increased acceptance, freedom from fear and mental traps, a sense of truth, and a revival of her senses—which she attributes to not being so distracted by cyclical or spiraling thoughts and the pulls of compulsive addictions. In her words, “bliss is attainable with the blink of an eye now that I remember where it comes from. And when it’s dark, I trust, love, and have faith. Mushrooms gave me the clarity to get here and an opportunity to reset my defaults.”
From Research to Practicality
Sometimes we get so bent on research as a society that the beautiful simplicity of a personal story gets pushed aside. We talk about how psychedelics can heal addiction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety related to terminal illness; that they lower the functioning of the default mode network in the brain, which leads to the formation of novel neural pathways, ego-dissolution, and shifts in cognition, perception, memory, and meaning; and that this results in increased well-being, empathy, openness, sociality, nature-relatedness, etc. But in story, we relate human to human. And here, we are talking about someone healing and regaining the fullness of their life as a result of psychedelics. Sometimes it’s that simple.
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It’s Janet’s belief, as well as mine, that natural psychedelics—when used safely with preparation, support, and integration—can help us become better humans and Earth inhabitants. A belief that is generated and supported by nearly every indigenous culture that has used these plants and mushrooms and is now finally being re-confirmed through modern research.
This is not to say that psychedelics are for everyone or that they’re the only tool for the job, but as we continue to struggle with collective crises and trauma as a direct result of human activity and indecency, the healing and transformative potential of psychedelics takes on higher levels of relevancy and importance, amplifying our natural right to grow, possess, consume, and share these plants and mushrooms and the call for legalization in a way that provides access and information to all who seek it.
What Do Psychedelics Have To Offer Us?
So what, exactly, do psychedelics have to offer us in this moment of our collective story?
I discuss this topic extensively in my book Psychedelic Consciousness: Plant Intelligence for Healing Ourselves and Our Fragmented World, but in light of current events, I’d like to provide some additional thoughts on the matter.
In a time of so much polarization, inequality, racial injustice, and ecological destruction, their ability to provide experiences of unity through ego-dissolution can help us bridge the increasing divisions between each other and the natural world. While such experiences cannot solve these problems on their own, they can orient us in such a way that we desire to work through them, together—integrated empathy, openness, sociality, and nature-relatedness leads to respect, communication, cooperation, and pro-environmental behavior.
On the specific topic of racism and psychedelics, a recently released documentary by Horizons Media called Covid-19, Black Lives & Psychedelics has been a great source of teaching for me. The two quotes below really stood out.
“There’s an opportunity for a shift that can happen but that shift happens because both parts of the equation are having a moment where they are meeting each other, quite possibly for the first time, in a boundary dissolved space. But so long as we are all looking from the outside at the other sides, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity for that which is organizing us to create a moment where we can be together in love, without all the cultural baggage.” —Sensei Kevon Simpson
“As we press, as we move for more justice, more freedom, more peace, more love, more experiences of liberty and abundance for black lives, the most important thing that we can create is to get out of these concepts of black and white. These are concepts of oppression that actually don’t allow me to see your multifacetedness. They don’t allow me to see who you are. This is one of the most beautiful things that I believe the transgender movement is bringing in, a really fundamental understanding of how categories create trauma. When I talk about healing race related trauma it’s about healing a trauma of thinking of yourself in the categories of race and that includes for white people.” —Mellody Hayes, M.D.
Mellody and Kevon help us realize that it’s not from the outside in, but from the inside out that this deep healing begins. That we must first see each other as primarily humans, without categorizing, in order to appreciate the fullness and diversity of every individual: our respective cultures, ancestries, and histories. And it is only from this place of fullness and heart that we can truly feel into and attempt to remedy the oppression, injustice, and trauma placed on groups of individuals as a result of societal categorization.
Cultivating this ability to feel, especially when it is difficult to do so, is another area where psychedelics can help. The transcendent and sometimes challenging nature of the experience tends to imbue its practitioners with an increased capacity to work with and accept emotional fluctuations, the unknown, fear, and even death. In other words, an increased capacity to interface with the totality of reality without shying away from the more challenging or difficult aspects of life.
Robin Carhart-Harris and a team of scientists recently conducted two studies of psychedelic use in ceremonial and non-ceremonial settings that support this claim. In both settings, they found a decrease in suicidal ideation, depression, and experiential avoidance—“thoughts or behaviors that are intended to avoid or suppress aversive states.” Their research article, published by Frontiers in Psychiatry, can be found here.
Dreaming of a New World
As we move into deeper levels of societal and ecological collapse, decreasing experiential avoidance becomes increasingly important. We will need every tool possible to help us accept this troubling reality in its fullness, to not fall complacent as the world falls around us, and to help us realize that the systems that created this storm will not get us out of this storm. From here, we can begin to dream of a new world and act with the urgency and energy that is required.
This is no easy feat, which leads us to our final mention of psychedelics. Their well-known ability to generate creativity, revelation, and thinking that transcends the status quo is the ultimate boon for a civilization in dire need of systemic change. To survive, we will need to re-imagine every aspect of our collective existence—food systems, health and medical systems, economic systems, policing and prison systems, political systems, what we define as a good and meaningful life, and what it means to be individuals as a part of the whole—and begin to align it with the life-bearing and regenerative sustenance of the natural world, with heart and humanity, respect and dignity.
The Earth is calling for this, every living being is calling for this, and our souls are calling for this. We all sense the immensity of what is happening, the challenges at hand, and what’s at stake. No longer can we turn a blind eye.
The time has come to reach out to your neighbors and rebuild community resilience and adaptability; to grow your own food and medicine and sharpen your survival skills; to examine every single action of your day and make sure it aligns with your values; to live in integrity and move away from anything that’s not serving you, us, or Earth; to tap into your imaginative spirit; to re-wild yourself and our ecosystems; and to interrelate with authenticity, vulnerability, and radical honesty in order to see each other as fully human, appreciate our differences, and move through conflict when it arises.
Existence Is A Gift
Who will have the will power and energy to give it a final shot, to dig deep and take action instead of letting complacency dig our collective grave? You will. We will. We must, in order to adapt and survive. This is the imperative of life, of existence. Find it in you, in all the living beings that surround you. Grasp it, breath it, savor it, revere it, and seek to protect it. Existence has never been guaranteed, though it has always been a gift. A gift that we get to experience so long as we appreciate, understand, and orient ourselves as an ever-changing part of it.
Every single one of us bears a personal responsibility to perpetuate and protect this gift of life and we each have a sphere of influence that surrounds us. It will not be a single event, technology, or policy that solves this crisis. It will be an inner transformation that instigates a trillion acts and choices. A transformation that Janet expressed so clearly to me around that fire, “to love life, to be and do the best we can. All the time. Now. Urgently. For ourselves, for others, for Earth.”
The time has come.
©2020 by Daniel Grauer. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission from
Book by this Author
Psychedelic Consciousness: Plant Intelligence for Healing Ourselves and Our Fragmented World
by Daniel Grauer
Our ecological, social, and political issues all stem from the ideologies that drive our collective actions. In contrast to our innate humanity, which is rooted in unity, these ideologies have led us to believe that we are separate from each other, separate from nature, and separate from the results of our actions. Such a worldview encourages individuals to maximize self-interest, which then causes fragmentation, conflict, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources. Offering practical steps that we can take to heal ourselves and our fragmented world, author Daniel Grauer explores the use of sacred tools and technologies, such as natural psychedelics, meditation, and yoga, in order to reestablish an ideology of unity, work in symbiotic harmony with the Earth, and restore our world as a sustainable and prosperous whole.
For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.)
About the Author
Daniel Grauer is a writer, teacher, and speaker who explores individual and collective transformation through the lens of philosophy, psychology, spirituality, and ecology. He teaches workshops on the transformative potential of psychedelics and is the cofounder of Marble Blue, a community-based think tank striving to harmonize human systems with ecosystems. He lives in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains of New York. Author's website: DanielGrauer.com/