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“Psychedelics: A New Understanding” panel discussion audio

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Mazdak Bradberry, Diane Pasley, and Geoff Gilpin at “Psychedelics: A New Understanding”

For those of you who weren’t able to attend “Psychedelics: A New Understanding,” here’s an audio file of the panel discussion with myself and two other volunteers from the UW psilocybin study, Mazdak Bradberry and Diane Pasley. Our guide Dan Muller makes an appearance during the Q&A at the end. Please note that the audio quality is variable.


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The Badger Herald covers UW psilocybin study

The Badger Herald has a feature article about the UW psilocybin study. “‘Magic mushrooms’ study challenges stereotypes of psychedelic drug use” quotes me, fellow volunteers Mazdak Bradberry and Diane Pasley, and our guide Dan Muller.

Geoff Gilpin, an area author, said this study changed everything for him.

“It’s like going through a door,” he said. “You can’t go back the other way, but it’s a completely different life. I gained a strength, an inner peace and a sense of perspective that made it possible for me to survive what turned out to be the hardest year of my life.”

Gilpin said he still thinks a lot of misconceptions are held from the ’60s and the war on drugs. As study volunteers, he said they have a unique experience and perspective to share, especially to people in the public who might be hesitant about supporting psychedelic research.

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Meditation, Psychedelics, and the Hall of Maya (Part 1)

Meditation and psychedelics are the most powerful tools I know for busting out of ignorance. Both have a unique ability to dissolve boundaries and open up our perspective on ourselves and the world. Both offer hope to people trapped in fear, depression, or self-destructive behaviors.

Nobody really knows why meditation and psychedelics work so well. There’s a lot of research and speculation about their effects in the human nervous system. I’m not qualified to have an opinion on those issues, but I can report on the subjective effects which, to me, feel very similar.

My experience of both was like a reprieve from a prison sentence. It felt like I’d been stuck in a small box forever until somebody opened the door and I stood up and stretched and walked out into the daylight. It was a powerful experience of liberation followed by a lasting sense of freedom.

Like a lot of other people, I’m extremely grateful for the help I’ve received over the years from these uniquely valuable tools. I think I’m pretty well acquainted with their benefits by now, but I’m also getting a sense of their limitations. In some cases, the limitations may be a consequence of the benefits.

Both meditation and psychedelics shine a light in the darkness. The light is indiscriminate, however. It shines on all things good and bad, on eternal truths and shiny baubles.

I wish that there was some innate wisdom in human nature or meditation or psychedelics that would have us choose eternal truths over shiny baubles, but it just isn’t so. If you spend any time in spiritual communities you’ll meet plenty of individuals—intelligent, compassionate, enlightened folks—who insist they can read minds or travel to Alpha Centauri or live forever because of quantum mechanics.

I try to speak up for reason when engaging my brothers and sisters on the spiritual path, but I haven’t changed many minds and I don’t expect to. However, I don’t think our paradoxical beliefs have to end at an impasse. I sense an opportunity to work together for our mutual benefit.

I think we can all agree that spiritual practices—including meditation and psychedelics along with plenty of others—open up new areas of the mind.  When I learned to meditate forty years ago I was amazed by the new insights and experiences that bubbled up from the depths. I took it all pretty much at face value. For instance, I had an experience of controlling a traffic light with my thoughts. It was unusual, sure, but I believed it because it was one of my own experiences, qualitatively not much different from putting on my shoes or eating a peanut butter sandwich.

I understand now that experience isn’t neutral. It has an agenda. It comes out of a mind programmed by thousands of years of human evolution for survival and not truth. Our minds show us whatever will keep us alive and help us procreate, truth be damned. We see illusory patterns in random events and hear phantom tigers in the dark and it all seems as real as our minds can make it.

Our inner environment is booby trapped. All humans live with this danger, but spiritual people take extra risks. The deeper they travel through the inner realms, the more likely they are to set off a landmine. The techniques that free us from bondage to illusions can also create new illusions. Round and round.

But now we know. We understand that meditation and psychedelics shine a light on all things good and bad. We know that the choice is up to us, and we can remind each other to choose wisely.

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Psilocybin documentary in Madison

 

You’re invited to the Madison premiere of A New Understanding: The Science of Psilocybin. From the press release:

The compelling and touching story explores cutting edge research that uses the psychoactive compound found in ‘magic mushrooms’ to dramatically reduce anxiety of death in terminally ill cancer patients. Over the past decade, government-sanctioned, human psychedelic research with psilocybin has been conducted at Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and UCLA. The research serves as the narrative backbone for the documentary.

The film presents an intimate look into the lives of several terminally ill cancer patients participating in the studies, and opens an intriguing discourse of the dying process and our role as a society in that process. By informing current misconceptions about psychedelics, A New Understanding utilizes a collection of accomplished minds to discuss psilocybins’ role in culture, evolution, mystical states, and even life itself.

Join us for this important film at the Marquee Cinema at UW Union South at 5:00 PM on Monday, April 25th.

In addition to the movie, the program includes appearances by several people from the psilocybin research study at the UW School of Pharmacy. Guides Karen Cooper and Dan Muller will present “Trusting the Medicine,” a report based on their experience working with research volunteers during the psychedelic journey. Five participants from the UW study will appear in a panel discussion moderated by yours truly.

I hope to see you at Union South on April 25th.

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WPR interviews UW psychedelic research team

Here’s an interview from Wisconsin Public Radio with two members of the team that conducted the research study on the effects of psilocybin. (See this blog entry for more on this study and my participation.) The host of WPR’s “Central Time” program interviewed Paul Hutson, the lead researcher, and Karen Cooper, the head of the training program for psychedelic guides.

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The right stuff

I’ve received a bunch of interesting reactions to the Wisconsin State Journal article about the UW research study on psychedelics. One of the senior members of the research community compared me and the other study volunteers to the early test pilots who first broke the sound barrier.

It’s fun to take this metaphor and run with it. NASA test pilots and psychedelic test pilots both “earn their wings.” They both have “the right stuff.” Both have the occasional hard landing. However…

When NASA test pilots crash, they have a team of doctors to put them back together. When psychedelic test pilots crash, they have to put themselves back together.

Come to think of it… maybe putting yourself back together is the whole point.

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