Monday, April 11, 2016

Exploring Psychedelics Conference!

Exploring Psychedelics Convention @ Southern Oregon University, 
Ashland, OR:  4/7/16 and 4/8/16 
Below is the unedited text of my presentation, which I have been working on for the past month (and for those of you who are following me, my apologies for not being better about communicating that!)  All of the info can be found (and is referenced) somewhere in this blog. 

Hi my name is Harmony Sue Haynie.  I am a mother of two adult children, an ex-middle school teacher, a free spirit, and... an entheogen user!

It is nice to be back here at my alma mater, Southern Oregon University, speaking for the first time since I received my Master’s Degree in Education in 2000.  

For the past 11 years I have been part of an entheogenic tradition from the South American Amazon. My elders have requested that our tradition remain private, including the name and location of their tribe and any and all information about ceremonies held here in the US.  I believe this is due to the example that can be found in Iquitos, Peru, where ayahuasca-based tourism has caused an explosion in monetary potential from seekers looking for healing, and a subsequent lessening of the integrity of many of the offered experiences.

What I CAN say is that the tradition of drinking yagé goes back in the cultural memory as far as anyone can remember.  It is a normal and revered part of community life, contributing to the health and well-being of the entire community.

Why I am Here
As Dennis McKenna said, “Wake up you monkeys!  You are really screwing things up!”                                                                          
 “ No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Albert Einstein

But really…
I am here today to speak to you about my upcoming book, entitled Medicine Children: Parenting and Entheogen Use in an Imbalanced Society.  I am writing this book for several reasons:
1.      To be a part of the conversation challenging the current drug schedules, including redefining the words ‘drug’ and ‘medicine,’ to create a discourse around substance use and abuse that is sane, informed, and current;
2.      To help educate parents and others around our culture of addictions, how we got here as a society, and what is behind this epidemic
3.      To name and then help dispel the cultural taboos and misinformation surrounding the use of entheogens, and to get behind the motivation for their vilification;
4.      To share current legal information around parenting and the use of entheogens;
5.      To share personal stories of healing and transformation occasioned by the use of entheogens;
6.      To help define, create and promote a coherent substance education program for our youth that includes a) actual education instead of fear and propaganda, b) honesty, c) acknowleddgment of the physiological “4th drive” to alter consciousness inherent in humans, and d) the possibility of creating a safe, legal container for youth who are interested in entheogenic exploration involving the guidance of genuine elders, rites of passage, and follow-through and support after the experience

1.      Drug Scheduling
Sacred plant medicines – entheogens - have been used  - and restricted, outlawed and vilified - throughout the world since before recorded history through to the present time.  We in the West have not grown up within these traditions, so our culture has a deep fear, prejudice, mistrust and unease around altering consciousness with psychedelic “drugs,” mostly based on the hysteria following the 60’s experimentation with LSD, which was purposefully manipulated by the government and media.  Yet the wisdom and intelligence of these entheogenic medicines are undeniably finding their way into our Western culture.  My book deals only with the plant-based entheogens such as peyote, the DMT-containing brews alternately called ayahuasca, yage, hoasca and daime, and psilocybin mushrooms, which, because they have the power to alter consciousness, are all listed as Schedule One controlled substances: “Drugs with no currently accepted medical use, and a high potential for abuse; the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”  Other Schedule One drugs include heroin, Ecstasy, and bath salts.

I spoke to a lawyer, anonymously, who called this drug scheduling arbitrary and capricious.  Every one of the statements defining these entheogens as Schedule One CAN be refuted; the government put them in this most restricted category not based on evidence but out of fear.  Throughout history, the use of these substances has been outlawed, vilified, called satanic, and more, for the ruling elite to retain power, control, and financial dominion.  More on that later.

Finally, the words medicine and drug are used interchangeably in our culture, and I think this is confusing.  I would like to redefine them as follows: Medicine: Something you take to get better from what ails you, to consciously cure yourself.  Using medicines requires effort.  I also like Webster's "Something that affects well-being." Drug: Something you take to escape, to numb, to get away from your self - from stress, from pain, from symptoms.  Using drugs requires minimal effort, like taking a pill.

2.      Culture of Addiction
Which is a perfect segue into the next topic, our culture of addictions.  We teach our youth to “take a pill to cure every ill,” to treat the symptom, and eliminate the discomfort, even at great cost (side effects).  Those who go the holistic approach, to look for and address root causes of the dis-ease, are by far the minority.  I will not go into this at length, as you can go to my blog at for more information, but just a few stats to wake you up:
·         We are addicted to just about everything.  Top US addictions include sugar, tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, and screen time. 
·         There are 23.5 million americans addicted to drugs and alcohol.
·         In a recent study by the Mayo Clinic in 2009, nearly seven out of ten Americans were prescribed at least one prescription drug, and many more than one.  
·         Over seventeen million children worldwide who have been prescribed psychiatric drugs. 
·         Nearly eleven percent of American kids are labeled as ADHD - meaning about one in ten kids. Of these, about two-thirds are on some kind of prescription medication
·         Average screen time use for 8-17 years olds has increased by 2.5 hours in the past 5 years, up to over 7 hours of screen time daily.                                        
     Side effects of these behaviors may include depression, brain damage, stunted growth, liver damage, hallucinations, paranoia, cancer, hostility; violent behavior, heart attacks, and sudden death.  And it gets worse… but I will leave it at that.

The “war on drugs” is selective: there are many substances - and behaviors - that could (should?) be classified as Schedule One, but which are not.  Television, computer gaming, internet porn, sugar, and more... all of these things alter our brain chemistry, have a high potential for addiction, and can cause the user serious harm.   But the government does not feel the need to regulate their use.  Why then do this to entheogens?  Why vilify these plant medicines?  Why label them 'drugs' when so many cultures throughout humanity's history have revered them as sacred?  Why treat humanity as incapable of regulating their personal use of entheogens, when these substances have shown minimal to no potential for abuse?

Mainly, my contention is that our governmental system that regulates 'substances' is blind and deaf, and more than likely has some kind of hidden agenda.  Alcohol is probably the most widely used mind-altering substances known to humans.  And it is by FAR the most dangerous, in terms of the numbers of deaths, violent acts, accidents, and serious health problems it causes each year.  YET IT IS COMPLETELY LEGAL, and expected, normal behavior for adults.

Television watching and excessive screen time for children may cause hyperactivity, poor school performance, difficulty concentrating, obesity and health problems, an increase in violent and bullying behavior, and a higher likelihood of teenage drinking which can lead to increased risk of death, serious injury, impaired judgment, and brain development problems.  YET THIS IS COMPLETELY LEGAL, and expected, normal behavior. 

Prescription Drugs have been linked with an absolute plethora of side-effects ranging from mild to severe to catastrophic, as in the case of antidepressant use being linked to school shooting incidents in a majority of the cases examined.  They are also poisoning our water supply.  Yet taking them IS COMPLETELY LEGAL, and expected, normal behavior.

One blogger summed it up well:

"Drugs that help people work, fight wars, buy stuff, ignore the pointlessness of their consumerist lives, or numb the pain of oppression are all fine. 
"Drugs that make people generous, cause them to abhor violence, or expose the lies behind power and ideology are the dangerous ones.  This is why psychedelics are illegal."

Terence Mckenna said this: “I believe that what we really object to about "drugs" is that we are alarmed by unexamined, obsessive, self-destructive behavior. When we see someone acting in this way we draw back. That is what addiction to a drug such as cocaine or morphine results in. However, psychedelics actually break habits and patterns of thought. They actually cause individuals to inspect the structures of their lives and make judgements about them.... they inspire examination of values, and that is the most corrosive thing that can happen.... I believe that a reasonable definition of drugs would have us legalize psilocybin and outlaw television!

Why are we addicted?
Bruce Alexander, in The Globalization of Addiction: a Study in the Poverty of the Spirit, believes the roots of our addictive behavior can be found in the fragmentation of society, which causes alienation, disconnection and dislocation. 
"Dislocation refers to the experience of a void; the absence of connections between individuals and their families, nations, traditions, and nature;  the absence of vital feelings of belonging, identity, meaning, and purpose; or poverty of the spirit.  Addictions can provide some relief for the dislocated person.  

And, so can the spiritually-minded use of entheogens!

Dr Gabor Mate says that all addictions come from wanting to get away from pain that came from our childhood.  He says that in order to help the addicted person, they have to be able to feel a compassionate presence, which can help them experience their pain without being overwhelmed.  Feeling alienated, disconnected, and dislocated are the opposite of feeling this kind of compassionate connection.  As the saying goes, the only way out is through... but for many without the proper support, the only way out is to self-medicate, numb the pain, and then deal with the downward spiral of health issues that result… luckily for those of us who have found these sacred plant medicines, we have found a way to go through the pain, and come out the other side…

As Gillian Maxwell, author of Keeping the Door Open, states: “These substances – medicines – are the antidote to the lack of meaning in our culture.”  

3.       Legal information
Jonathan Thompson, from the Psychedelic Parenting online forum, said : “Those Americans who subscribe to a personal spirituality involving entheogenic plants often fear to even pass on those values to their own children,” for fear of legal repercussions, of the “wedge that the law has put between them and their children.” 

In my interview with the lawyer, she affirmed this: according to existing law, your kids could be taken away for even a single use of “drugs.”  (meaning illegal substances).  To take a child to a ceremony would be even worse, as any ‘drug’ use in front of a child would be a very strong factor in proving the parent unfit.   Allowing a child to actually participate in the ceremony, and take the ‘drug,” would be universally conclusive of being an unfit parent. 

Yet, parents have a constitutional right to the care, custody and control of their children, and a Supreme Court argument states that “a parent has an unhindered right to inculcate their children in their spiritual practices.”  Unfortunately, ALL drug use is grouped together equally.  In the eyes of the law, taking mushrooms or drinking yage with your child would be considered the same as using heroin with them.  The only way to change this would be to get ‘caught,’and then challenge the ruling, because the system can’t take kids away based on allegations of harm – there would have to be a test to prove danger to the child.  This has not happened yet, as far as the lawyer knew.

Despite all of this, the lawyer, a mother of two and a long-standing professional in her field, participates in entheogen ceremonies in private: if she were to reveal to her ex-husband, or to her children, or to her legal community, she would risk losing professional respect, trust, and possibly employment; the potential loss of her children in a custody case;  and would put her children in the position of either having to be her secret keeper or having to turn her in for illegal ‘drug’ use.  This is why she will remain anonymous!

One other legal issue I will mention briefly is direct spiritual experience as an inalienable right.  Martin Ball, one of the organizers of this conference, writes, "When one considers the legal issues surrounding the sacramental use of entheogens, it is easy to see that the significance of cultivating direct spiritual experience is nowhere taken into consideration.  Rather, we are confronted with issues of "belief" and "practice," and rather narrow definitions of what characterizes freedom in the pursuit of a religious or spiritual practice."   He calls for an amendment protecting the right to direct spiritual experience, which would include the use of entheogens.

Terence McKenna once said: "Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States as inalienable rights. If the pursuit of happiness does not cover the psychedelic quest for enlightenment, then I don't know what it can mean."  I am looking forward to the day when it means exactly that!

4.        Taboos and reasons
“ In order to use these medicines, you have to be rebel enough against the taboo to look at the taboo, and the whole nature of a taboo is that it’s an area of culture where we are told ‘don’t look there, it’s not good to even look there.’” ~ Kathleen Harrison, Botanical Dimensions

Culturally we face a broad array of cultural taboos if we “come out of the closet’ as entheogen users. We can lose status, respect, employment, our children, and possibly our very liberty.  But WHY?  

Remember the list of side effects that were caused by prescription drugs and screen time?  Here is my (partial) list of side effects from taking entheogens:
Profound healing, the clearing of generational dysfunctional patterns, the clearing of the roots of addiction and addictive behaviors, an expansion of my consciousness and ability to be more fully present, the evolution of my capacity to feel joy and self-love, a permanent and evolving lightening of my vibration, and a deeper connection to God. 

 Why aren’t the gifts from these medicines being fully utilized?  Why are they so vilified?  

Besides from the propaganda campaign of the late 60’s, there is one major reason: money.  Tragically, there is a lot more money to be made from an addicted, unhealthy population.  Big Pharma – the top 11 companies - made over 85 billion dollars in profit last year.  The addiction-support industry made about 35 billion.  This represents over a trillion reasons to stamp out an effective alternative to using pharmaceutical drugs and curing addictions.  

(I will NOT go futher into conspiracy thinking here.  But really, just follow the money… I encourage you to do the research yourself!)

5.      Stories
The medicine I use, similar to the more well-known ayahuasca,  but called yagé by my elders, has changed my life, healing deep, previously un-healable wounds and offering me more internal presence, peace, and happiness than I have ever experienced in this life, after years of chronic depression, addiction, and drug use.  I decided from the first to be open with my two children, ages 9 and 13.  I let them know, in language I thought they could understand, that they were welcome to come to ceremony with me and experience (take) the medicine any time they wished – “a plant medicine that helped my heart feel better after years of not feeling very good.”  I let them know that as they reached their teen years, if they were 'typical' teens, tempted to experiment with 'substances' - things that changed their normal conscious state -  that this was another way to go: to experience this changing of consciousness with a seasoned guide and elder who could help them navigate through unknown territory with clarity and wisdom, in a safe container, as opposed to experimenting with substances in the company of other youth, in unknown and sometimes unsafe circumstances.

My kids both decides to participate in ceremony, in their own time – and you will have to go to the blog for more on that subject!  I will be interspersing personal stories of healing and transformation throughout the book, so if you or someone you know has a story to share, especially if involves parenting, youth, healing, or families, please contact me to schedule an interview!

6.      Education Program – next book! 
“With the help of two concepts which are traditionally opposed – science and spirituality – we humbly reintroduce psychedelics back into the cultural dialogue.”  ~Jeremy Narby, PhD

I already have plans for a second book which will discuss alternate drug-education programs such as the Safety First model, as well as connecting with teens through ceremony and practice, including both entheogenically- and non-entheogenically-based ways of altering consciousness, rites of passage, elders and eldering, and psychedelic mentoring.

My premise is this: Our society would benefit enormously from the establishment of - and I do mean this in every sense of the word - healthy forms of addressing our innate drive to alter our consciousness.  We need to acknowledge this drive as a reality, and as a healthy part of being human, and then stop moralizing, judging, and fear-mongering and look at the facts:  entheogens are among the least habit-forming substances in the entire pool of mind-altering substances.  I have not read of a single case where a person was physically addicted to ayahuasca, mushrooms or peyote.  You are more likely to develop an addiction to chocolate (mostly due to the sugar...). 

If the establishment of these healthy ways to alter consciousness was accomplished through the use of entheogens, with careful attention to set and setting, the added benefit would be individuals' ability to address some of the root causes of both their personal and the collective insanity, in combination with experiences of Unitive Consciousness.  

I see the immediate need to declassify these medicines as Schedule One and to start telling the truth about their amazing benefits.  Of course, there are reasons for caution, so that needs to be part of the discussion.  I believe that these medicines are the medicines of our time, substances which, when used with respect and intention, can counter the feeling of dislocation and alienation we have, filling the missing space inside with a positive sense of Unity and Oneness; I want to be a part of the discussion that enables parents to be honest with their children about their use of these sacraments, and help create a cultural context for psychedelic mentoring of those youth who are (already and without guidance) choosing to experiment with these substances.

I want to bring up my grandchildren in THAT world.

I will leave you with a quote:
“In an American society obsessed with alcohol and tobacco, and where relief from all manner of problems is only a pill away, rational consideration of entheogens is replaced by hysteria and banishment. A home environment of honesty about drugs and the law puts the parent in a social minefield, but there are ways to get through it.  Consistency, sincerity, and love are the parent’s allies. The daily example we present to our children helps them to process all the baffling contradictions of our society and form a balanced worldview.” - Rev Anne Zapf, Peyote Way Church – “Parenting the Peyote Way”