Thursday, December 24, 2015

Grrrr... I mean, Happy Holidays!

I say 'grrrr' because I feel just too busy right now.   No matter what I want to do and plan to do with my days, I can't seem to get half of it done - and I am not slacking, either!  So instead of tensing up and getting grouchy (or grouchier, I should say), I will take a minute here to breathe, and relax, noticing the quarter-inch of snow on the ground here in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, and thinking: of all the happy people here in Oregon who will appreciate a white Christmas; of the (for the first time in many years) deeply snow-covered peaks and the gift the return of the waters means for all life; of all the rivers and creeks that are flowing so swiftly (and wonderfully) here as we enter our third straight week of rain storms; of all the excited kids anticipating Christmas morning; of all the devout Christians preparing to celebrate the birth of their savior Jesus and the promise of hope that his life represents; of my original timeline for this project wherein I thought I would have it at an editor by now (just a little bit off on that one!); of the fact that my 'baby' boy Hoku is going to turn 25 years old in less than 2 days (yup, Christmas baby) and wow, he is a quarter of a century and I am a half a century old... and there you have it, what I thought about in less than two minutes of breathing.  And I am not even caffeinated at the moment!

I have conducted three interviews, to date, and will be getting to transcribing the salient points here soon.  I will also be interviewing my own children for the book.  All of these interviews as well as Part Two of 'Talking with your Children' I intend to complete within the next two weeks.  And then, for those of you following this journey, I want to let you know to expect a very slow upcoming month on the writing front.  I will be traveling away from home for three weeks in January, and will not have regular access to my computer.  I will however be doing some field research and interviewing as many people in person as I can.  It is exciting and a bit unsettling as I definitely am more comfortable being at home.  But here goes.

This being Christmas Eve (12:20 AM - it counts!), and the day before my son's birthday, I am unfortunately NOT going to be able to spend the day writing.  Hence the brief message here, along with my prayers and good wishes for health and happiness to you and your loved ones for the coming year.  May you find whatever makes you the happiest and do more of that!  Blessings on the return of the LIGHT.  Harmony

Friday, December 18, 2015

How do I talk to my kids about my use of entheogens? Part One

"In an American society obsessed with alcohol and tobacco, and where relief from all manner of ills is just 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 parents 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."  (1)

I start this week's blog off with this quote because this is basically the crux of the matter when it comes to parenting while also being a person who uses entheogens. HOW do we balance being authentic and bringing up our children with knowledge of our values and spirituality when part of what makes us 'us' is illegal?

The cultural prohibition toward entheogens - psychedelics - is starting to thin.  Thankfully.  One researcher just claimed in an article I read today that we are in the "...springtime of the psychedelic renaissance." (2)  But there are still legions of people out there who would want me arrested and thrown in jail as a child abuser for allowing my teen-aged daughter to attend an entheogenically- based ceremony.  I still have to weed out propaganda I received as a child and teen!  I can remember someone I once met telling me that they qualified for SSI (what they called 'crazy pay' - basically welfare for people considered too mentally unstable to hold down a job) because they had taken LSD exactly one time.  I remember reading that if you took LSD that you could suffer from debilitating flashbacks for the rest of your life.  (*Cue scary music here*)  And later, as an adult, I remember sitting through a DARE program at a school where I taught where they told the kids that their DNA would be damaged not just in them but all the way through to their grandkids if they smoked marijuana.  (I know this discussion doesn't include pot but I'm just sayin'... really?  This is an outright lie.  And, the problem of lying to kids is that when they figure out the adults are lying, they sometimes generalize and decide that all adults lie about drugs and so they discount everything they hear!)

[For those interested, here is more info about the source of that lie: "Dale Gieringer, PhD, State Coordinator of CalNORML, wrote in his article "Marijuana Health Mythology," published on the website of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) (accessed Apr. 20, 2006): "Government experts now admit that pot doesn't kill brain cells.  This myth came from a handful of animal experiments in which structural changes (not actual cell death, as is often alleged) were observed in brain cells of animals exposed to high doses of pot. Many critics still cite the notorious monkey studies of Dr. Robert G. Heath, which purported to find brain damage in three monkeys that had been heavily dosed with cannabis. This work was never replicated and has since been discredited by a pair of better controlled, much larger monkey studies, one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research [William Slikker et al., 'Chronic Marijuana Smoke Exposure in the Rhesus Monkey,' Fundamental and Applied Toxicology 17: 321-32 (1991)] and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International [Charles Rebert & Gordon Pryor - 'Chronic Inhalation of Marijuana Smoke and Brain Electrophysiology of Rhesus Monkeys,' International Journal of Psychophysiology V 14, p.144, 1993]." (3)]

There are two basic questions to look at here.  HOW MUCH, if any, do we reveal to our kids about our entheogenically-based spiritual experiences; DO we bring up issues surrounding the law and the cultural prohibition against entheogens?;  and, if we do decide to share any of these things, WHAT exactly do we say?  Another, related topic is the question of the burden on our children, something I have alluded to in previous posts.  IF we admit to our children that we participate in something which our culture deems illegal, or at least not completely legal (there are some grey areas), how much of that becomes a burden of secrecy on them?  How much of themselves and their family life do they then have to hide from schoolmates, teachers, etc?  How much more so if they actually participate in the ceremonies with the medicines? I include this thread here because I have lived it with my daughter, in particular. 

Referring to the starting quote above, it is likely that anyone who uses entheogens or psychedelics, no matter how 'normal' the rest of their life may be, is living somewhat outside of the box when it comes to our culture.  Even if they don't want to be.  I listened to the founder of MAPS, Rick Doblin, on an interview he gave for Psychedelic Frontier recently. (4)  He said, " I didn’t want to be a criminal. I didn’t want to be underground. I wanted to be a mainstream, normal kinda guy who just happened to be interested in psychedelics."  I can really relate to that sentiment.   Me too!

So I started late today and had two interviews and other nonsense come up - my excuse for the shortness of this entry.  I will be much more focused next week, when I will get to Part Two of this very important aspect around talking to your kids about entheogens.

(1) Zapf, Reverend Anne.  "Parenting the Peyote Way."  In Manifesting Minds: A Review of Psychedelics in Science, Medicine, Sex and Spirituality.  Evolver Editions, Berkeley, CA.  2014. 
(2) Thomas, Roberts. Four Stages of the Psychedelic Renaissance - Toward Mind Design.

Friday, December 11, 2015

How do I talk to my relatives about using entheogens?

Today I want to delve into something I hope will be a chapter - or two - in the book, part of the fundamental reason I am writing this blog/book in the first place: suggestions, or guidelines, if you will, on how to come out of the "psychedelic closet" to share your authentic entheogenically-based spiritual path with your relatives.  A separate section will discuss having conversations about your path with your children.

I first want to say, congratulations to all the brave souls who have already traveled this path.  I am by no means a pioneer in this arena, and in fact, had a spectrum of approaches when dealing with different family members, ranging form balls-out, straight up, full disclosure to sideways, under-the-radar, and not completely forthright "leaving the 'medicine parts'" out of the healing story.  I will weave in my own story with the following.   To begin this section, though, I want to talk about why is it imperative, NOW, to tell the truth about our healing journeys with plant medicines.

1.  We live in a culture of prohibition, the "just say no" mentality which has helped the USA become the worldwide leader in numbers of non-violent incarcerated citizens.  While there is ample historical evidence proving that entheogens (remember the definition 'generating the divine within') have been safely used as sacraments throughout human history, the current climate is still one of hysterical judgment, negative publicity, and denial.  People that have a different view of entheogens, who use them as part of their spiritual practice, especially parents, teenagers, and professional people, often keep quiet about their authentic experiences with entheogens due to fear of exposure and the potential consequences of being 'outed': loss of freedom; incarceration and forced 'drug rehab' programs; loss of custody rights and/or co-parenting agreements; loss of employment; loss of credibility and status; and more.  If these fear-based perceptions are ever going to change, regular people who use entheogens need to step up and claim the right to the sovereign choice to alter their consciousness.

2. Often in healing stories I have heard, the subject of actually being able to heal past generations comes up.  I believe a part of this healing is in learning how to be authentic with our own elders, within our own lineages.  Of course, discernment and discretion are required, especially in the way things are presented - which we will get to shortly!

3. As parents, our charge is to bring up our children to the best of our abilities, to be an example, a guide, and a foundation for our children.  I like the old quote about how we can only do two things for our children: give them roots and give them wings. What can be more important than to offer them teachings through our own example about connecting to the sacred, to the divine?
4.  World crises - plural - anyone?  Yes, we live in a time of unprecedented, multiple threats to our continued existence on this planet, most of which are caused by the modern human lifestyle: the unconscious, indifferent, and greedy way we choose to live.  If EVER there was a time for a world-wide shift in consciousness... this is the reason, in my opinion, that ayahuasca/yage has made it out of the jungle and into the western world.  This is the reason why it is imperative that we work to change the drug schedules, to create sane public discourse around the sacramental use of entheogens, to explore their medical and spiritual benefits, and even to open up the possibility of creating safe containers for our youth to explore consciousness and face their own ego deaths.  They are the ones who are going to be left with this mess, after all.

So, let's say you are an adult user of entheogens who would like to tell your (elderly) parents about your journey.   How do you go about it?  How can you even begin to circumvent decades of negative propaganda and fear-based misinformation about these substances?  I believe there are several approaches that can work, and it is up to the person to determine which approach or combination of approaches would be most effective.

1.  The personal healing journey.  This approach is part of how I told my deeply religious mother about my path with the yage, although to be honest I left out the specifics about the medicine for a long time, focusing instead on the effects (the other half is the spiritual journey: see below).  Over the years after I started drinking medicine, she definitely noticed the changes in me: that I was happier, less judgmental, and more balanced that I had ever been.  I let her know right form the start that I was participating in healing ceremonies with a teacher from Colombia, and receiving a lot of help for my life from them.  Eventually, when I started writing this blog, the truth about my using entheogens was revealed.  I will admit I was nervous about her knowing this, particularly because I did not want to cause her any stress or worry on my behalf.  She took the revelation in stride (as she has done with all the other non-conformist twists of my life) and shares her support of my writing this book and following my truth.  I am a very lucky daughter to have such a mom!

2.  Scientific/medical inquiry.  This approach is very effective for connecting with intellectuals, professionals, and rational thinkers.  I recently interviewed a very outspoken proponent for psychedelics, J, who used this approach with his parents.  He suggested they watch a documentary together on the subject of entheogens, from which there are quite a few to choose (see my blog dated 8/20/15 for reviews of three such documentaries (1)).  The results were a meeting of the minds and an open discussion about the pros and cons of entheogen use.   I like this approach because it employs rational discourse and analysis, using the tools of intelligent questioning, discussion, and sharing as equals, and has the benefit of highlighting the views and research of well-educated experts in diverse fields to lend credence to the points addressed and the changing nature of thought on the subject of entheogens.  I don't feel that I need to reiterate all of the potential benefits of using entheogens here, as they are well documented elsewhere. 

This format also can help when there is a lot of emotional reactivity present, as it can shine a different light on other very important aspects of the subject, possibly by helping a person get a different, more balanced perspective  Some degree of openness would also need to be present in a very emotionally-charged person, however, for them to be able to consider alternative points of view.

3.  Spirituality.  This was the other side of my approach with my mom.  Talking to a relative or loved one about your spiritual journey, about how you found a medicine that helps you to connect with the higher, more spiritual aspects of your being, is one possibility here.  In my discussion with my mother, which happened when I was still in my 20's, decades before I discovered yage, I started a separate tangent, around the subject of God, and how He (and I am using the gender pronoun out of convenience here - I do not believe God has a gender) created everything.  I asked her to imagine the possibility that God, in His infinite wisdom, created a certain variety of plants, put on the Earth, on purpose, on every continent, to help humans discover, or deepen, their connection to Him.  She acknowledged that this was possible, of course.  I then brought up the naturally occurring plants I knew about: psilocybin mushrooms and the peyote cactus.  I mentioned these two because they are found and eaten in their natural state, with no preparation needed to feel their effects.  (And, incidentally, I didn't even know about ayahuasca or yage at the time).  I told her that I had been able to find real help for my life through the use of these substances, which were created BY GOD.  Even with her very conservative and religious background, she was able to see and open to the possibility that these plants could have been left here for us, by God, to help us reconnect to the Divine, to the Source.  It was amazing to watch this opening in my own mother. Through the years my mother and I have not always seen eye to eye about many things (she is Pentecostal, after all, and I do not consider myself a Christian, although I love Jesus and pray to God all the time); however, I felt this sharing was the beginning of a deeper, more connected relationship, one where we maintain the ability to be open and honest about our truths.   We mostly connect around the use of daily prayer and of being of service to the world.  Both of these aspects of my life have been dynamically and dramatically improved by my use of entheogens - and I believe my mother sees and acknowledges this! 

4.  Historical discourse.  This is another shade or flavor of the intellectual/rational approach, one which focuses on a discussion and analysis of the historical and cultural use of entheogens and the ongoing, unilateral human propensity for altering consciousness.    As an opener to this approach, consider the following quote:

"The history of entheogens finds them as essential sacraments in a variety of ancient religious traditions.  In discussing these substances, we are handling artifacts akin to crucifixes and idols—though far more powerful in the experience they typically impart.  To decry these items as illicit, mind-bending drugs is to mistake their cultural importance and impose a modern stereotype upon ancient practices.  Furthermore, the near universality of entheogen usage suggests something remarkable about man’s essential nature.  In his book, The Natural Mind, Dr. Weil likens man’s pursuit of these substances to a basic instinct: “…the desire to alter consciousness periodically is an innate, normal drive analogous to hunger or the sexual drive.”(2)

In my opinion, this tangent would probably be included in the scientific/medical inquiry approach, as stated above.  But it is a completely different subject, and might appeal to intellectuals who were more anthropologically oriented..  

5.  Open dialogue.  This method can be used when there is already an open, engaging discourse between you and your relative(s), which includes a certain level of trust.  If you have this kind of relationship, you may already have felt comfortable enough to let your family know about your experiences with entheogens.  I calls this the 'balls-out' method, meaning, not hiding anything allowing yourself to be really vulnerable.  I used this method when telling my siblings about my healing experience my first weekend with ayahuasca.  I wrote them a letter and pretty much bared my soul.  I also invited them to attend ceremony with me, something which has not yet happened.  To each his or her own!

 I think it is important, no matter what our approach, to include the following in our revelations to our relatives about our use of entheogens:

*  WHY we are using entheogens - what are our intentions, goals, etc?  For me, for example, I took ayahuasca to eliminate EVERYTHING keeping me from embodying my highest self in this world, and specifically, to uncover, examine, and eliminate the roots of my ongoing depression and agonizing self-hate.  In my younger days, I sometimes took mushrooms for possibly 'lesser' purposes - to have a good time with my friends, to experience oneness with nature, to dance for 12 hours without self-consciousness, for example.   But as I got older the reasons became a little more to the point: I wanted (and still want) to be better.  Having a reason, a higher purpose, for taking an entheogen is crucial for me at this point in my life.  The reason each one chooses to alter their consciousness is an important aspect of sharing this journey.

*  WHAT we are doing to ensure our own safety - how do we takes steps to make sure we are safe when we decide to alter our consciousness?  This aspect is very important to cover when talking with entheogenically inexperienced relatives.  The scare tactics and anti-drug propaganda that many people in our culture have been fed for decades exploit people's fear that these medicines are really bad and can permanently harm you.   For me, I address this by only using entheogens within the context of sacred ceremony led by elders who have received training through a lineage passed down for generations.  This container allows me to fully surrender to the experience with trust that I am safe and that there is a guide who can offer me help should the need arise. Being able to communicate my standards for safety to my relatives helps them understand more fully that what I am doing is intentional, therapeutic work.    

WHO is doing this work?  Who is invited to this work?  What is the community like?  If we can share something about our entheogenic community with our relatives, this can be helpful for them to get a fuller, less biased picture of the settingFor example, sharing with my mother that I go to ceremony with professionals - body-workers, therapists, doctors, teachers, parents, and lawyers - helped her to better understand that this practice is legitimate.  In other words, the ceremony is not made up of drug-addled, smelly hippies, deranged homeless people, runaway convicts, or high-school drop outs (not that there is anything actually wrong with any of those stereotypical groups of people).  On the contrary, regular, functional well-adjusted people come to ceremony and receive significant help for their lives.  We (users of entheogens) are not outside the box anymore, not really.  OK, well maybe a little bit.  I mean, it takes a special kind of person to want to experience ego death, to be willing to go through pain and discomfort and sometimes even hell in order to be better.  But we are a lot more common than many might think.

There may be more on this subject.  If so, I will add more next week.  Also, next week, I will discuss talking to kids of differing ages about using entheogens.

(2) McGraw, John J.  "Hallucinogens/Entheogens," an excerpt from his book Brain and Belief (Ageis Press, Del Mar, CA 2004) quoting Andrew Weil, from his book  The Natural Mind  (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company,  1972),  p.19.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Happy December! News from 'Mission Central'...

To everyone following this blog - thank you!  Thank you for your support of this dream of mine, to write this book.  Things have been moving slowly on the writing front for me this fall, as I have been working extra long hours to make enough money to get through the winter, during which time I will hopefully be working a LOT less and writing a LOT more!  That's the plan, anyway.  We will see how it goes.

During this slowed-down time, I have been endeavoring to re-connect to this 'mission' of mine through prayer and meditation, to further open the channels, to encourage, surrender to, and give my permission for Divine Spirit to speak through this work/through these words. I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I 'saw' this book, the title and the table of contents, anyway, while working with the medicine a few years ago.  My initial response was "...but I don't know how to write a book!"  so, initially, I put the idea on the back-burner; but the sense that writing this book is a divine mission - that would not go away despite my doubts - finally made me realize that to make my best effort is all I can do.  Over the summer I got a bit far into a left-brained approach, which was good: I am happy for the research background and breakdown of some of the essential pieces of the picture.  But ultimately I am praying that this book, this conversation, can change the world for the better.  In order to do that it needs to get way beyond the head, into the Heart and Spirit of things.  Not a small order - and not something I can do on my own!  Thus, I pray for help, for Divine guidance and Divine illumination in every aspect of this endeavor.  In accordance with Divine Will, of course!

(For those of you who are not spiritual or who don't believe in God, I am sorry.  There really is no other way to phrase how I experience this project.  I guess I could talk about the Greek 'muse' or spirit of creativity working through me.  But since this book is discussing entheogens - accessing or engendering the Divine Within - I feel that some discussion of this nature is to be expected.  Please know that I will make the book as accessible to people of any - or no - faith to the best of my ability.)

Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jonathan Thompson, founder of the online community resource website Psychedelic Parenting ( see  The podcast of our interview can be heard at (1)

"Psychedelic Parenting" is a name I have a hard time with, quite honestly.  I had to really check myself to see if I was willing to go on a forum by such a name, as my real self.   I guess I have been affected by the cultural conditioning around that word more than I knew!  However, as Martin Ball put it (and which I am re-quoting):

“The State has the power to destroy your life. There’s absolutely no question about that, and so the state is incredibly dangerous in that sense. And it’s vindictive, it’s misguided, it’s built on illusion upon illusion upon illusion. The problem is that these illusions can still come to get you, even if they’re illusions. It’s a difficult call that ultimately people have to judge for themselves. But the other side of that is this: If no one stands up, nothing’s going to change. Someone’s got to do it. Personally, reality is more important than anything I might want to protect, such as my own personal well-being or comfort, so I’m not going to hide myself in any way. Although there are certain details I’ll avoid discussing on podcasts. But if they really wanted me, the data is all right there. I’m all-in at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and the last thing I want would be to be separated from them, and although prison would profoundly suck, I’m not going to edit myself in order to avoid something that I don’t have any real certainty is actually going to happen. Reality will always win, eventually.”(2)

As you can see, I went for it.  No more hiding!  Now anyone who looks me up online is liable to find that podcast.  And I stand by it, as I stand by this book project and the necessity of changing the cultural conditioning around the sacred and respectful use of entheogenic plant medicines.

However there is a good article explaining the name at  In Daphne Dawn's words: 'Psychedelic is defined in head circles as “mind-manifesting,” but, depending on your preferred translation of psyche, can also refer to the “soul made visible."'  She goes on to add:

"So “Psychedelic Parenting” is child-rearing with a focus on spiritual growth, conscious stewardship, curiosity, Truth and authenticity (see article on the Five Psychedelic Family Values). It is sharing our personal stories and influences, not being afraid to let our children know of our connection to higher spiritual authorities and realms. It is raising children in a gluttonous, selfish society and helping them stay above all the tendrils looking to pull them down into mediocrity and passiveness. It is acknowledging our connection to plants and the Earth on an energetic level. It is about knowing your children very personally, and sharing wisdom that you know they are ready for–giving them not too little, but not too much, information." (3)

I want to put a plug in for my new friends over at Psychedelic Parenting.  If you would like to support their worthy cause, including their wonderful podcast program, please check out their GoFundMe site:


(1) Interview with Harmony Haynie.  Psychedelic Parenting.
(2) Interview with Martin Ball.  Psychedelic Parenting.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I have not yet branched out into the realm of interviewing people for this book, but today want to spend some time reviewing possible questions and formats for these upcoming talks.  In addition, I have been asked to speak on a podcast for the website "Psychedelic Parenting" this coming Monday and so want to get my thoughts in order in terms of the essential info I would like to get out about this book project.

1.  Tell me a little bit about your history with entheogens/plant medicines/psychedelic substances.
2.  Why did you first take a psychedelic substance?  Did this reason change at all over time?
3.  Do you still use psychoactive/entheogenic substances?  If so, which one(s), and why?  What do you hope to gain from their use?  Are you part of a structured organization that uses these substances as sacraments? 
4.  Has taking these substances changed your life?  If so, how?
5.  Has taking these substances affected your relations, with family, partner, children?  How?
6.  Has taking these substances affected your internal life?  If so, how?
7.  Have you ever communicated your spiritual beliefs around the use of entheogens to your family, partner or children?  If so, how did that go?  Are you honest with others about using these (currently illegal) substances as part of your spirituality?
8. Have you ever discussed using entheogens with your children? 
9.  Do you feel it is appropriate to invite children/minors to imbibe entheogenic substances?  Why or why not?  Is there an age limit you would suggest? 
10.  What is your view on parenting in terms of sharing spiritual beliefs if these beliefs are non-conventional and actually in part involve ingesting illegal substances?
11.  Do you make any distinction between the terms plant medicine, drug, entheogen, psychedelic, substance?  If so, what?

Format for parents: Have person talk about their past with entheogens in general, then their specific spiritual path and beliefs about how these medicines have been of benefit, and then if/how this has impacted their families.  If their use of entheogens has impacted family, custody, or career.  If and how they have broached the topic of using entheogens with their own children and if their children have had exposure to these medicines, and what impact this has has on their family life/ relations.

Format for kids: Have kid talk about parent, relationship with parent, and then ask if parent has shared spiritual beliefs about medicines with them.  Ask if they have any experience taking a medicinal plant, if so, if they had a reason to take it, and what happened?  Ask if they have noticed anything different about their parent as a result of the parent taking plant medicines.  Ask if their friends know about all this., and if not, what that is like for them.  Ask if they have noticed any change in themselves resulting from using the medicine. 

Podcast with Jonathan from Psychedelic Parenting  
He is asking me to look within, to see if my talk would fit into one of the 5 main themes of his site, the 5 Psychedelic Family Values.  They are Spiritual Growth and Openness, Conscious Living, Infinite Curiosity, Radical Honesty, and Authentic Expression.  My first reaction - all of them! 

Here's what I wrote to Jonathan just now:

"I looked at your 5 values, and it is hard to choose which one is most aligned with my sentiments, because I really feel connected to all five!  But radical honesty appeals to me the most, because the campaign of mis-information - ie the fear and smear campaign - waged against entheogenic medicines is radically dis-honest.  The way our society tries to use the abstinence model (Just say 'no' -  to both drugs and sex) to teach our youth is radically dis-honest, ineffective, proven NOT to work, and actually harmful to the relationships between youth and adults in the long run. Also, the way people are shunned and shamed for their spiritual practices involving entheogens is a violation of radical honesty - and authentic expression - which I would like to see remedied in my lifetime."

(I took out all my 'qualifiers - ie 'I think,' 'I feel' - reads much stronger now!)

In thinking about it further, radical honesty definitely defines how I raised my kids.  I worked hard to make complex ideas understandable for their ages - and was very cognizant of not oversharing about my own traumas but talking in general about feelings and how they can get stuck inside, that sort of thing.  I did not hide the fact that I partied, for example, but shared with them that I did, why I thought I did (both then and now), and the effects it had on me, both then and now.  I shared an honest evaluation of the subject, instead of denial and platitudes or canned responses.  I trusted in my children to hear my truth, all of it, to an age-appropriate level, and to come away better informed and better able to make their own conscious decisions when faced with situations with which they would inevitably be faced.   I honestly can't say they were better off that other kids their age, although I know we had a more connected communication than many of their peers appeared to have with their parents.  I have no idea how they would have turned out if I had managed things differently.  But I wouldn't change this aspect of my parenting if I had it to do all over again. 

It is already the end of the day - 5 pm.  I can't imagine how time goes by so fast!  


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fragmentation and Dislocation, Addiction, and Entheogens

November 12, 2015.  As I write these characters signifying the idea of 'today' on the page, I remember a few years ago, in November 2012, wondering if some quantum shift was going to go down before the end of the year.  Then, the moment just passed... like Y2K... and it appears that it's just more of the same, 'business as usual.'  I have not seen the promised metamorphosis of human consciousness.  If anything, I feel more depressed as the years go by and I get older, watching all the same (and sometimes even worse) stupid human tricks and wondering why?  What is this life for, anyway?  Will we - collectively - EVER wake up?  I have a hard time even going out shopping for things I need, as my heart's desire to be compassionate and non-judgmental towards every BEING vies with my observation and absolute loathing of humanity's collective faults.  I find myself saying things like "I love people - individual ones - but hate humans," and more often than not I stay home from public events, more of a hermit than I ever thought possible.  And yet there is STILL a spark in me, for example when I am in line at the grocery store waiting to check out, that inspires me to want to lift up the energy, to connect, to reach out.  Which I do.  Despite everything.  Confirming, for me,  that the world is not completely devoid of hope.  Even if it feels that way sometimes.

Interesting way to start this all up again!  Just wanting to be real, I guess, and speak to my current moment.  I started writing this blog last week (November 5th), thinking I was ready to be back in blogging mode, but instead I got caught up reading about fragmentation and dislocation, a subject worthy of attention here, as exploring the roots of addiction and 'how we got here' as a society is part of the larger conversation of what to do about the enormous problems besetting humanity and the array of solutions offered by the spiritually-motivated use of entheogens.

According to Bruce K. Alexander, author of The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, the fragmentation of existing societies has been escalating for the last five centuries.  The basic definition of this term is hard to determine, as it has seemingly become a 'catch-all' word to describe many different aspects of the ills of modern society.  What I can glean from sifting through many diverse definitions is that fragmentation means dividing into smaller and smaller parts, a move away and apart from the concepts of unity and cohesiveness.  A fragmented society will not identify as a collective and will not share values, beliefs, social norms, etc, although each particular fragment will share these with intensity (ie white supremacists, religious sects, political parties, etc). The ultimate fragmentation is to strip all other groupings away till we just have individuals and everyone is 'doing their own thing' for their own betterment.  This is pretty much glorified by the 'me first' attitude of our culture, by the concept of 'rugged individualism' and even the 'American Dream,' and pointedly exemplified by corporations (run by individuals) who continue to destroy our Earth home for short-term financial gain at the expense of, well, everyone and everything else. 

This fragmentation of society has extreme costs to the individual, creating psychological devastation such as alienation, disconnection, and dislocation. The first two terms seem self-explanatory.  Mr. Alexander goes on to write the following abut the third term: "Dislocation refers to the experience of a void that can be described on many levels. On a social level it is the absence of enduring and sustaining connections between individuals and their families and/or local societies, nations, traditions, and natural environments. In existential terms, it is the absence of vital feelings of belonging, identity, meaning, and purpose. In spiritual terms it can be called poverty of the spirit, lack of spiritual strength, homelessness of the soul, or feeling forgotten by God." (1)

"Alexander sees this as an age of '...unprecedented, worldwide collapse of psychosocial integration.”' (2)  "However, prolonged, severe dislocation has a high price, because it eventually undermines the normal societal bases of belonging, identity, meaning, and purpose, leaving a unbearably empty and powerless experience of the world." (3)

I resonate with this.  I feel the lack of meaningful traditions, the lack of connection to 'place,' the lack of belonging to and sharing a deep connection with my extended family and community; I also feel outside of and at odds with this society, antagonistic to what I see our culture stands for.  In fact I feel our culture stands for 'no culture,' as evidenced by the gentrification of every region of America into Wal-Mart- and McDonald-Land.  Cheap, poorly made goods, with little to no aesthetic value; or cheap, poorly made 'food', with little to no nutritional value: this is how I view these hallmarks of American culture.  

In addition, I connect to the feeling of lack of meaning, especially when looking at life from my children's point of view.  They are young adults, recently out of the home - and what are they supposed to do now?  Go to college and get themselves $80,000 in debt?  Somehow find a way to pay rent and other bills while working a minimum wage job?  Not motivated by making money, they have also apparently inherited my lack of motivation to be identified by a career.  So what is the meaning of an 'undefined' life?  Does one have to have a career to find life meaningful?  What does my life even mean?  I have had a lot of labels over the years: homemaker, teacher, choir director, singer, performer, house-cleaner, office assistant - and not one of them defines me, really.  Is that what makes our lives meaningful, the labels we use to describe ourselves?

Obviously I don't think so, or I would have worked on having at least a more consistent one!  

I think it all has to do with a person's sense of purpose.  Partly it is the programming we receive from parents, family and community: the values we are taught and whether or not we ascribe to them.  In my case, I 'bought' the necessity of getting a college degree, even to the point of getting my Master's in Education - only to have the Federal laws change, making my teaching degree invalid (but not, unfortunately, invalidating my debt).  My children, despite being brought up to value education, are not making the same choices.  But honestly, their lack of choice is also a choice, and I have concerns about their futures (how mom-ish, I know - but true).

In my recent work with other youth, my children's' peers, I have been increasingly aware of a sense of lack of purpose.  These young people just don't seem to know what to do with their lives, apart from the present moment.  They know they need money to live but resent having to go do some meaningless job for low pay (don't blame them there).  From my point of view, they seem to exist for one reason only: to entertain themselves.  Feeling no connection to any tradition, alienated from this society as a whole (which to them is complete bullshit), and oftentimes not connected to their parents or family, or to any extended family, the youth turn to each other, making their social group their family, just to feel they belong somewhere.  It works, to some extent, to help them get by.  But in my opinion, and experience, the presence of - and prevalence of - addiction in the youth I know, and youth in general, speaks to the lack of purpose, connection and meaning they are experiencing.  

As mentioned before, the frequency of addiction in our modern world is increasing exponentially.  According to one statistic,"...the addiction treatment industry in the US alone has been estimated to have a $35 billion market, and to be “poised for accelerated growth” [Munro, 2015, quoted in (1)].  (I will admit to being shocked at that statistic.  Really,  wow.)  Now comes along a researcher like Bruce Alexander who feels that addictions are not just some chemical imbalance or genetic pre-disposition, but the result of a person's grasping to fill the gaping psychological void of dislocation.  "Addiction can provide dislocated people with some much needed relief and compensation for their bleak existence, at least for the short term." (3) This would be considered an 'adaptive function' of an addiction, in psych-speak.

"The adaptive function of addiction is often hidden. Many addicted people deny that they live in a state of dislocation, because they feel ashamed of their inability to find a secure social life, a sense of who they are, some values they can believe in, a place they can call their own, or a reason to get up in the morning, even though they live in a fragmented society that makes filling these needs problematic for everybody. They may deny their dislocation because it feels like an unbearable personal failure and they may be only dimly aware of the adaptive function of their addiction. (1) 

So, how does all of this relate to using entheogens in a spiritual context?  Well, first of all, and most obviously, entheogens have been shown to generate the Divine within - otherwise engendering what is known as Unitive Experiences: the experience of everything being ONE and all of it being LOVE.  "Unitive Experience historically was seen as the experience of becoming one with the Divine.  It is an experience which usually leads to a sense of clarity, inner quiet, and a new sense of being which transcends our usual experience of being a separate self." (4)

A person experiencing this state would feel immediate relief from feelings of alienation, disconnection and dislocation.   If in fact these feelings play into addictions, then the relief of such feelings should help reduce addiction.  This is, in fact, supported by research, and by my own experience.

To take it to the personal, for me, the feeling of being connected to everything inspired in me a renewed sense of purpose, and a re-commitment to living my own life, something that was not 100% before then.  Sometimes I used to wonder why I was alive, and why I should even stay here (ie stay alive).  Since I started praying with the medicine, I have been able to quit smoking tobacco, a habit of over twenty nine years, almost six years ago, and I also was able to finally quit drinking alcohol two and a half years ago.  I still have some addictions, compulsions, and other weird trips - but those two were the worst - and I view my experiences with the medicine as vitally important in supporting me to evolve past these addictions.  

If dislocation is the experience of the absence of belonging, identity, meaning, and purpose, and it is possible to safely and with intention have an experience of belonging, an expanded sense of connection to something greater than your small self, resulting in a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, wouldn't that be, like, the best thing, ever?  Too bad it is (for now) against the law!  THAT is just one more reason why I am writing this book! 

OK well it has been most of the day already.  Amazing how the time goes by!  I am excited about the next steps for this book project.  Please stay tuned for more, and share if you feel inspired!

(1) Alexander, Bruce K. "Healing Addiction Through Community: A Much Longer Road Than it Seems."
(2) Skinner, Wayne.  "Homeless Souls: Addiction as Adaptation to Psychosocial Dislocation. Crosscurrents: The Journal of Addiction and Mental Health, 2010, Volume 14, Number 2. 
(3) Alexander, Bruce K. "Addiction, Environmental Crisis, and Global Capitalism.",-environmental-crisis,-and-global-capitalism

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fall Hiatus

Dear friends,

Thank you again for your support for this book project vision. In the past few weeks, I have started to feel that this blog has been becoming a bit scattered, jumping between topics and not thoroughly exploring the ones brought up. There is a LOT of information out there, and I have been getting a bit confused and bogged down by the choices I need to make.  Then I realized that ultimately, I am not even interested in just presenting information.   I want this book to be able to impact people powerfully, especially parents who are in the same situation in which I found myself. I want it to become part of the societal conversation around the sovereign choice to use entheogens for personal, spiritual transformation and connection, and around the freedom to consciously raise our children with the possibility of direct spiritual experience superseding religion, convention, dogma, and even faith, should they choose that path.

I also feel that my original timeline (of this project being complete by the end of this year) has become unrealistic, and at the risk of losing momentum, feel the need to take a step back in this process and regroup. As a result of these reflections, I have decided to take a short hiatus from writing this weekly blog, and focus instead on the essential questions I want the book to answer. I will also be continuing my research in all areas and intend to begin interviewing parents soon. Please look for another update in about four weeks. I hope to have some greater clarity and more importantly, better writings to share with you all!

Blessings to you and happy harvest season!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Entheogens and Cultural Taboos: Part One

I have been thinking about this topic for many a week, and feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information, as well as with the intensity of my own emotional reaction to what I am reading.  I have a feeling this particular blog will be a two-parter, at the very least.

I refer the reader to my blog post from 6/4, "Forward Part 2: Medicines v. Drugs."  There I introduced the reader to this subject as follows:

    To the Western person who has heard the calling to participate in a relationship with these
    medicines - such as myself - what I have found on the one hand is profound healing, the clearing 
    of generational dysfunctional patters, an expansion of my consciousness and ability to be more
    fully present, the evolution of my capacity to feel joy, a permanent and evolving lightening of my
    vibration, and a deeper connection to God.  On the other hand I have found deep-seated fear,
    prejudice, judgment, misunderstanding, suspicion, and misinformation about these medicines.
    Because they have the power to alter our consciousness, they have been labeled psychoactive or
    psychedelic drugs, the use of which is a crime (a felony), as these labels classify these sacred
    medicines as Schedule One controlled substances, the same category as heroin and crack cocaine.
    This is, simply put, a grievous error caused by ignorance."

I am still struggling with my reactionary emotions around this topic.  I want everyone to wake up - NOW - and want the use of these medicines for the benefit of humanity and all life on this planet to be acknowledged a sovereign right.  I do see the tide turning, however.  The number of books available on this subject is astounding (see DMT Nexus at for a list of references); websites like Psychedelic Parenting, Erowid, the Lycaeum and conferences such as the Women's Visionary Congress, the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference, and more are becoming more and more common.  Psychedelic research has opened back up again, and new discoveries in treating various conditions,  as well as help for terminal patients in overcoming the anxiety of facing death - all of these reports are promises of a shift in the cultural perceptions of entheogens.  As an (impatient) Aries woman, though, this change is not happening fast enough!

I have been reading the thoughts of many of the leaders in the movement to reframe thinking around the use of entheogens in our culture.  But before getting into that, I want to address WHY these substances that alter our consciousness in a certain way are considered so dangerous: the roots of the taboos around the use of entheogens.  

As noted in previous blogs, 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?

The key to this prejudice lies in the effects: entheogens allow the user the possibility of a direct experience of the spiritual.  They can also bring a person into the mystical "unitive state," where it is possible to experience a direct knowing of the interconnectedness of all life.  This often results in a complete reexamination of values and a major restructuring in many areas of life, honing things down to what is true and essential, letting go of ego-based desires, and potentially 'upsetting the apple cart' of a person's life in many ways.  Of course this is threatening to the status quo!  
Terence McKenna had this to say on the subject:

"Where the mis-understanding comes is with the label - these are "drugs," and "drug" is a red-flag word. We are hysterical over the subject of drugs. Our whole society seems to be dissolving under the onslaught of criminally syndicated drug distribution systems. What we are going to have to do if we are to come to terms with this is to become a little more sophisticated in our definitions. 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! (1)

This brings up a good point about intentions, or why take an entheogen in the first place?  In researcher terminology, this is part of what is called the 'set,' as a person's reasons for taking one of these substances very much has to do with what they expect will happen when they do.  If we are doing something for recreation, or to escape from our reality and/or avoid the way we are feeling, then, as I said in that second blog, we are indulging in drug usage - even if it is flopping on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry's and binge-watching a TV series. But choosing to ingest an entheogen may have a different motivation behind it entirely.  As John McGraw writes in Brain and Belief: An Exploration of the Human Soul (2): "The history of many of these substances is not one of abuse and recreation, as we have seen in our own modern times,  The history of entheogens finds them as essential sacraments in a variety of ancient religious traditions... To decry these items as illicit, mind-bending drugs is to mistake their cultural importance and impose a modern stereotype upon ancient practices." (p. 207)

I know in my own spiritual culture, the intention behind ingesting the medicine is to connect with the Divine Spirit of God and to be "better" as a result.  In the culture of the NAC meetings I have attended, they take the medicine to connect with God and to pray for and lend support to the purpose of the one who is calling the prayer meeting.

But back to the effects of taking entheogens.  In common with many young people, I started on this path taking an entheogen recreationally - going to a concert (the Grateful Dead - what else?) and taking LSD, purely for fun.  What I received out of the experience was profoundly more than just fun, however.  That first time, dancing with thousands of other kids to music that I loved, I had an experience of losing my ego's obsessive fixation on what other people think about me.  I became free of my own inner critic, for the first time in my life.  My spirit experienced freedom from the horrible self-image and crippling self-doubt I normally experienced: combined with free-form movement (dance), and a community of other people whom I knew could understand what was happening to me, it was understandably a huge awakening and precipitated the start of an amazing inner transformation in my life.

(Disclaimer: I am not proposing that everyone go out and dose at a concert!  It is a very uncertain thing to do, and in my younger years I had my fair share of really 'bad' trips, too.  In fact, I only took LSD until the age of 24, and quit altogether after a particularly horrendous experience.  I do not recommend that anyone follow anyone else's lead on the matter of whether or not to take an entheogen or psychoactive substance.  It is a personal decision and when asked I always refer to the person's own intuitive capacity to answer that question.  Our own spirits and bodies know what we need - we just have to listen!)

Direct Spiritual Experience and the Law

I have some more information to add to the legal discussion of some of the August posts.  Basically what I have read concerns the wording and intention of the First Amendment, what it sets out to protect and what it actually does protect in terms of our religious freedoms.  The text reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."  This amendment was originally created to protect people from being forced to belong to a particular religion (as had been the case in some European countries), and to protect people's right to practice their chosen religion.  Unfortunately it does not define what a religion is, per se, and it also does not protect a person's pursuit of their own spiritual path, outside of an organized religion.  This rather large grey area is at the heart of the legal issue around entheogenic use in this country.

Martin Ball, one of my personal heroes in this movement, has written an amazing article on this subject. (3)  He 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." 

However, in the Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith case (1990), a man was denied unemployment benefits after being fired for using peyote as part of a NAC (Native American Church) ceremony because this violated the company's drug policy and the law.  The local court found in favor of the employer, and so did the supreme court.  Justice Scalia, who wrote the Court opinion, basically said that if an individual were free to pursue his or her religion irregardless of existing laws, anarchy would be the most likely result.  This decision of course precipitated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and there is (a lot) more to say on the subject, but that will wait until next week.

I also love what Terence McKenna had to say on the subject:

"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."(1)

In closing - for now - I want to reprint this beautiful vision from Martin Ball, in the hopes that one day soon, each person's sovereign choice in these matters will be honored.

The Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Direct Spiritual Experience
by Martin Ball (3)

We recognize the following:

Human beings are innately spiritual. The human quest for spiritual meaning and experience is fundamental to the human experience. Personal spiritual experience is furthermore understood to be one of the most intimate aspects of person’s identity, sense of self, and worldview.

While the human quest for spiritual meaning and experience can be institutionalized through the formation and continuation of religious traditions, the drive for spiritual meaning and experience is not limited to religious activity or membership per se.

Religious practice and membership is not identical to spiritual experience. Religion, as a social institution, provides opportunity for like-minded people to gather together in groups to collectively express their beliefs in the context of shared practices. Religion provides structures of ritual, ceremony, religious teachings, and a community of similarly-oriented individuals. Within the context of a religion, persons may be afforded the opportunity for direct spiritual experience, but this is not necessarily the case. As direct spiritual experience is primarily an individual matter, the locus of spiritual experience is necessarily the individual, and not a religious tradition or institution.
While religious membership and activity is universally recognized as a fundamental human right and is protected by law, individual pursuit of spiritual experiences has not been afforded the same legal protections. This act seeks to correct this omission from the list of universal human rights.
Because the locus of direct spiritual experience is the individual, protections for individual spiritual experience must be afforded directly to individuals, rather than to the institutions in which they practice. As a result, protection for direct spiritual experience is not limited to individuals who are members of religious traditions, but extend equally to all individuals, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.

All practices that contribute to an individual’s cultivation of direct spiritual experience are hereby affirmed to be protected by international laws recognizing universal human rights, with the condition that such practices do not violate any other universally recognized human rights of other persons, such as the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

In recognition of this universal human right to direct spiritual experience, it is hereby decreed that no government shall persecute or punish any individual who chooses to pursue the cultivation of direct spiritual experience in a manner that is respectful of the human rights of others.

(2) McGraw, John.  Brain & Belief: An Exploration of the Human Soul. Ageis Press, Del Mar, CA.  2004.  Excerpt found at
(3) Ball, Martin.  "Entheogenic Spirituality as a Human Right." Reality Sandwich,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parents, Children, and Entheogens

Today I will diverge from straight research mode to talk about some personal aspects of this situation.  As is usual with these huge topics, it takes me a minute to figure out where to start.  So I will brainstorm.  Here are some questions: How do you (and should you) talk to kids about your spirituality when it involves the use of an illegal substance?  What is the role of parents in raising their children according to their own spiritual beliefs?  Do parents have the right to introduce their children to traditions that use entheogens?  When is it/ IS it OK to invite your children to participate in an entheogenic ceremony with you?  Why or why not?   (At another time I also want to cover parents' legal rights - or lack thereof - in this area.) What kind of complex situations might be facing your children when they have to keep their parents' spiritual beliefs secret from their friends/friends' parents/school/community, and is this fair to them? What are the ramifications in terms of credibility as parents if your (entheogenic) spiritual practice were to become known to the wider community of parents, school faculty, employers, etc?

It is with these questions in mind that I would like to begin with my own story, right after the healing episode with the medicine I wrote about in  Blog #7.   As a true and typical Aries woman, I did what you might expect when confronted by a profound and life-changing event: I jumped in whole-heartedly, with both feet, and included my children and my spouse in every way.  Now, my kids, ages 13 (boy) and 9 (girl),  had already been introduced to the visiting shaman from Peru: since my then-husband made musical instruments, our musician friend, his translator, had brought him over to our place to check out a churango - Peruvian guitar - the day before the ceremony.  The shaman met my nine-year-old daughter, and (through the translator) told us," If she ever wants to come drink medicine, she is invited to come to a ceremony, any time."  I was a bit surprised, not being familiar with the Peruvian culture or the Shipibo medicine tradition, but assumed that in his tradition, kids were welcome to drink medicine if they wanted to.  (This is true, by the way.)  I also knew that he could see the beautiful light of my daughter's spirit, and knew that her presence would be a blessing to any ceremony.  (To be fair, my son also has a beautiful spirit, but he is just not oriented toward the spiritual/ceremonial/mystical realms, and I think that was as obvious to the shaman as it was to me!)

Anyway, a few days after my intense healing with the medicine, I invited my kids to a picnic lunch with me on our lawn.  We ate some food, and I told them I had something important to tell them.  They were curious.  I told them that the shaman who they had met at our house had led an ancient ceremony that I attended, during which we drank a special plant medicine that could help a person let go of things like old hurts and anger, sore spots on the inside, from your life, when you felt like things were unfair, or wrong, or when bad things happened and you couldn't do anything about it.  We generated some examples of these kinds of things (which sadly I don't remember after all these years.  It was a rich discussion, though!).  I told them I had been carrying some emotional things like that from when I was a kid and that as a result of the ceremonies I attended, I had been able to let go of a LOT of heavy feelings that had been keeping me down, making me feel sad and unhappy, and that I was going to be happier and be able to have more fun in life from then on.

I then talked to them about how in their teen years, it was very likely that their peers (and perhaps they as well) would become interested in experimenting with substances that change a person's normal way of looking at the world - their consciousness - such as alcohol, marijuana, and other substances called psychedelics.  My son already had friends who smoked pot, so he knew what I meant.  My daughter, not so much.  But basically I let them know that experimentation like this is normal, and that they didn't have to hide these behaviors from me.  I told them that this was not me encouraging them to use these substances, but just acknowledging  that it seems to be a normal teenage thing.  I don't believe in the 'abstinence'  model of "Just Say No," either in the realm of sex ed. or in addressing the use of substances.  I believe education and information are essential.  I knew from my own past that the lies I was told in the drug section of our Health Ed. class made me want to discount everything the adults said.  I discussed with my children the many reasons why people take and use substances, and encouraged them to really think, IF they were going to do something, WHY they were doing it, instead of just going along with the group.  In other words, to bring conscious attention to their actions.  (In retrospect, quite honestly I am not sure these talks had any positive impact on my children, at all.  I plan on asking them about this when we do the interviews.)

I also let them know that if substances called 'psychedelics' started being used by their friends, and if they wanted to try altering their consciousness within a traditional setting, with elders and within a really safe container, they would be allowed to come to a ceremony with me and take ayahuasca there.  Open invitation.

My daughter took me upon this invitation right before her thirteenth birthday.  She came to a night of ceremony that fall (2007) and has continued to attend on and off now for the past eight years (she will be 21 this fall).  It is apparent that she both gets a lot out of the ceremonies, the medicine, and the medicine community, and also that her interest in/need for ceremony goes in cycles or phases, as her attendance over the years has not been consistent.   My son has attended ceremony twice, at age 18 and age 23, both times 'doing it for his mom,' because he knows it means a lot to me.  He has no personal agenda or philosophy of working on himself or trying to be a better person, or healing, or anything of the sort.  He likes who he is and is content with the way things are, and so really doesn't see the need to do ceremonies to 'be better,' as my teacher likes to say (about the reason we drink the medicine).

So, now to address some of those questions from the beginning of this blog.

Obviously, in my life I have exercised my perceived right to include my children in my spiritual beliefs.  I had done so way before ever using ayahuasca or yagé - I had been taking my children to sweat lodges since they were born.  I do not believe that children should be 'indoctrinated' into spiritual beliefs, however.  I would never make a child get into a sweat lodge or drink medicine if they didn't want to.  I believe in talking things through with kids, somehow working to communicate within their level of understanding, and inviting them to decide what they want - allowing them the experience of asking their own intuition, of knowing that they possess an inner wisdom that can be accessed and understood - and trusting their own inner authority on the subject.  I believe curiosity is our birthright and natural state, and that it is safe to expose children to things and let them explore as their interests guide them.  This is the philosophy of Montessori schools, incidentally.

I am sure there will be people who read this who scoff and start in with the 'what if's' and 'no ways' and so forth.  All I can say is that sure, there are times when a parent has to be authoritarian, and decide FOR the child (ie: when you have to grab their arm and not let them cross the street in front of oncoming traffic).  But I am not talking about those instances.

I believe that it was not only OK to invite my children to participate in entheogenic ceremonies with me, but that it was essential, given the immense growth and transformation I have experienced on this path.  I could not have been in authentic relationship with them if I had been forced to keep this part of my life a secret.  I believe their exposure to this medicine tradition was gradual, safe, respectful, and that their own inner wisdom told them when they were ready for such an experience.  I know that I never put any pressure on either of them to participate in medicine ceremonies (although admittedly I HAVE done this with sweat lodges, especially with my son - but that's a different story).  I feel fortunate that neither of my children's' fathers objected (or would have objected, in the case of my son's deceased father) to this path, and so I did not have to worry about custody battles based on my use of a Schedule One controlled substance and the potential claim of 'unfit parent' such use would engender at a legal level.

I want to point out the obvious here - that I believe talking to our children with authenticity about who we are is absolutely essential.  This includes talking about the things we do that don't follow 'inside the box' thinking.  It helps to support our children to be their own authentic selves.  It helps us to get out of worrying about what others think of us and to live within our own moral and spiritual code, true to our known and directly experienced higher truths, not on some externally imposed set of rules (laws) founded on erroneous assumption, prejudices, and even outright deceit.  I am not advocating for anarchy here.  I am only talking about actions I take as an individual that only affect me and my own life, such as the choice to take a substance that our country and indeed most of the modern world has declared illegal and dangerous.  I am not a conspiracy theorist but I do think there is something to be said for the theory that these substances have been vilified for a reason that has to do with how we operate in the world - in blind acceptance of and within the system, or with the ability to critically examine the system and call out bullshit when we see it.  It makes sense that the powers that be would frown on - and actively restrict access to - things that promote the latter perspective.

But back to parenting and being authentic... or not.   I don't know how many Dead Heads (followers of the Grateful Dead) who took quantities of psychedelics as young people who, when they became parents, suddenly became quite conservative on the subject and would never even consider talking to their teens about their experiences with these drugs, or the spiritual openings they received as a result of their use.  "Too risky!" they would exclaim when questioned, or "I can't tell them how wild I was!" I guess I can understand the hesitation.  But I chose to be open - again to the level to which I felt my kids could relate - about my past and ongoing activities with illegal substances.  I shared with them not only the good and transcendental side of the story but also how dangerous and scary the experiences could be, and how important it is to be in a good place within yourself, with people you trust, in a setting that is safe if you are going to take something that alters your consciousness.  I also shared quite honestly with my kids that I would probably lose my job (at the time I was a public school teacher) if they gossiped about me to their friends or if the word somehow got out in the community that I had all this exposure to psychedelics in my past and present life.  AND I shared why I thought these substances are so judged and misunderstood.

It is possible that my being open like this led to my kids' being more interested in substances than they might have been otherwise.  There really is no way to tell at this point, although I plan on asking them when I get to their interviews.  However I doubt it.  I believe that they would have been exposed one way or the other, and that my contribution as their parent was to help them be more educated, informed, thoughtful, and aware of the potential benefits and dangers of the various substances (the ones I knew about!) with which they would come into contact as teens in today's world.  If I had to do it all over again I would have these same discussions with them. I think the downfall or faults in my parenting came from 1. being a single working mother and not being able to supervise them as much as two parents would have 2. wanting them to have a place (their home) where they could be safe if they were going to get 'altered,' instead of cruising around in a car, for example, and then having that safe space be taken advantage of, and 3. being a great mom, ie being loving, creating a beautiful home with healthy meals, modeling conscious communication, etc, but being a completely shitty dad, ie not being consistent with enforcing rules, not having dire enough consequences for bad behavior, not disciplining enough, not making them do more healthy things like sports, etc).  No one's perfect, and I have spent a lot of years feeling bad over my short-comings as a parent.  However I feel good about what I was able to offer my children in terms of the conversations we had about consciousness, psychedelics, medicines versus drugs, ceremony etc.  I think it has helped them to be more thoughtful and conscious people, and to make more conscious and informed choices. 

I know from talking to my daughter over the years that there were some challenges resulting from her choice (and my offer) to participate in entheogenic ceremonies as a teenager.  On the one hand, she had as an example a community of (primarily) adult seekers, all working to better themselves.  For the most part, and obviously hugely generalized, these individuals practiced honesty and conscious communication, took responsibility for their emotions (having an internal responsibility for the things that happened to them), and carried a basically positive outlook on life.  On the other hand, she went to public high school, with all of the assorted unconscious drama, judgment, bullying, stereotyping, shitty teen-parent relationships, dishonesty, distrust from adults, general unconsciousness, and more.  She told me it was extremely difficult and confusing to be straddling two completely different worlds, with different rules, behaviors, expectations and outcomes; and at the same time, she was glad to know the ceremonial world existed, despite the strain it put on her.   At the time I never considered that exposing her to the ceremonial world might make her life harder, and definitely felt more than a few moments of guilt when I realized it.  I don't know that I can answer the question 'is it fair?' to put her in that position, because I already did, somewhat in ignorance.  One of the reasons I am writing this section is to let other parents know that this could be an unintentional effect of bringing your child into the ceremonial world.  It could make things harder on your teen.  However if there is a parent or parents there to discuss what is happening, to help their teen integrate and process what they are experiencing in the two different worlds, then I think it could ultimately only be of benefit, even if painful at first to realize the normal extent of unconsciousness in our world/families/relationships.  One other side benefit of my daughter's participation in ceremony: she pretty much became the "Lucy" to her circle of friends (as in Peanuts: the "Doctor is IN"). Again, we can't say this wouldn't have been so without ceremony - there is now no way to know who she might have been without it.

Well, darn, out of time again!  It goes by so fast!!  I plan on posting some interview questions starting next week.  If you are reading this blog and you or someone you know would like to be interviewed for the book, please let me know.   And thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Entheogens in History

I have been sitting at my computer for about two hours, considering possible topics for this blog today.  I have read SO many book on the subjects inherent to this discussion, and have more to read.  My main question is how much do I discuss in THIS book what has been showing up in so many other books on the subject.  In other words, where do I draw the line and just refer people to the other books, versus going into detail about different topics and subtopics?

One such topic is humanity's collective history of entheogenic use for religious purposes.  As my friend James Joseph writes in his book Psychedelic Perceptions (1, p.5), "Long before the convoluted 'War on Drugs' lumped all illegal psychoactive substances into the same dangerous basket, the majority of ancient societies ritualistically exercised their birthright of revealing the content of their own minds by entering non-ordinary states of consciousness."  Ingesting the 'food of the gods,' ancient people could have a direct experience of abstract spiritual concepts.  From the somma of the Hindu religion, dating from 1,500 BC, to the manna from Heaven in the Old Testament, given to the Israelites in the desert as they fled Egypt, to the kykeon of the Greek 'Ceremony of Eleusis,' used for 2,000 years starting in 1,500 BC;  to the 3000-year old ceremonies in Mexico and Guatemala during which participants ingested teonanactl - the 'Flesh of the Gods' - which research and ancient art has shown to be the psilocybin mushroom: there is evidence and well-founded supposition on the part of MANY researchers that most if not all of our modern religions and philosophical systems were inspired by plant-altered states of consciousness.

In The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience(2) by R.E.L. Masters and Jean Houston, Ph.D, the authors refer to a book, Poisons Sacres, Invresses Divines, written in the 1930's by Phillipe de Felice.  Masters and Houston quote from this book, saying that de Felice "...provided considerable documentation to support the ages-old connection between the occurrence of religious-type experiences and the eating of certain vegetable substances.  He wrote that the employment of these substances for religious purposes is so extraordinarily widespread as to be 'observed in every region of the earth among primitives no less than among those who have reached a high pitch of civilization.  We are therefore dealing not with exceptional facts, which might be justifiably overlooked, but with a general and, in the widest sense of the word, a human phenomenon, the kind of phenomenon which cannot be disregarded by anyone who is trying to discover what religion is and what are the deep needs which it must satisfy.'"

These authors continue with a discussion of somma, from the Vedic or Hindu tradition: how it was seen as a deity, how it was ritualistically consumed to bring the worshiper to a state of  "divine exhilaration and incarnation," and how it has been proposed to have been instrumental in the development of Hatha Yoga practices.  It is still unclear exactly what somma was, but some researchers believe it was entheogenic Amanita Muscaria, the very distinctive red-capped mushroom with white dots.  The Rig Veda, a collection of 1,028 hymns, contains 114 songs dedicated to somma, describing it as a "...powerful method for directly obtaining sacred knowledge." (1, p. 104)

Many people are familiar with the Old Testament story of Moses, and how he, with the help of the Lord God, led his people from captivity in Egypt through 40 years in the desert.  God provided the Israelites with manna, which in Exodus, " described as being "a fine, flake-like thing" like the frost on the ground.  It is described in the Book of Numbers as arriving with the dew during the night; Exodus adds that manna was comparable to hoarfrost in size, similarly had to be collected before it was melted by the heat of the sun and was white like coriander seed."(3) These characteristics are all similar to those of psilocybin mushrooms, and many enthomycologists [including Terence McKenna (see (4)] have suggested that manna was a type of psychedelic mushroom.  In addition, the Israelites were accompanied by their flocks and herds through the desert - and psilocybin mushrooms grow very well on cow dung, making the conditions for their growth a distinct possibility (1, p.108).  Dan Merkur wrote an entire book on the subject: The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible (which I have not yet read as of this blog).  For anyone interested in the role that entheogens have played in the formation of modern religions, it sounds like this last book would be a good one to read.

The Biblical reference to plants altering consciousness goes back even father than Moses, though. In Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, most have heard the familiar story of Adam and Eve having been to told to freely eat of everything there except the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' and the 'tree of life.'  Eve of course is temped by the snake, eats an apple from the first tree, and gets Adam to eat it too.  Then they become 'self-conscious,' and clothe themselves.  So, God kicks them out of the garden before they can eat of the 'tree of life,' which would have given them immortality.  This story has been interpreted by the proponents of humanities more colorful (aka 'psychedelic') history quite differently than the traditional Christian view, as I am sure you can imagine.  In this perspective, whatever the original couple ate was a psychoactive substance that altered their perceptions; and this story is probably the first example of a propaganda campaign proposing that altering consciousness is bad and goes against the wishes of the 'Father,' (ie the boss, the one in control, the masculine).  In other words, you will be rejected (thrown out of paradise), 'daddy' will be mad, and bad things will happen to you if you alter your 'God-Given' consciousness by eating a plant that imparts non-ordinary wisdom.  In other words, this anti-mind-altering-substance campaign as been going on for A LONG TIME!!!

In one of his seminal works, Terence McKenna, in Food of the Gods (4) takes this conversation even farther, by suggesting that the original evolution from monkey to human was in fact due in part to the altering and expanding of consciousness provided by groups of monkeys ingesting psychoactive substances.  I'll just let the reader contemplate that for a minute.  I suggest reading McKenna's work yourself it this piques your interest.

Here are a few more quotes from my friend James: "The relationship between entheogens and religion is unavoidable." (p.91) and "... before the prevalent meme suggesting that accessing valuable levels of consciousness through plant substances was dangerous or evil, this method of attaining enlightenment was a deeply revered and widespread practice." (p.90).  By the way, James' book is a wonderful resource for anyone looking into the prevalent cultural taboos against entheogens.  I highly recommend it - and you will see it coming up in my research again!

One other historical context that gets many mentions in these books is the Greek Temple of Eleusis, home of the 1,900 year tradition of a mysterious ceremony involving kykeon, an entheogenic drink whose exact composition was a highly guarded secret and still not known, although conjecture is that it was probably a mixture of Amanita Muscaria or psilocybin mushrooms, ergot, and Syrian rue, all of which are psychoactive entheogens.  Initiates to the Mysteries were prepared with instruction and went through purification and other initiatory rites prior to partaking in the 10-day ritual.  More importantly, these ceremonies were occuring during the lifetimes of some of the primary founders of Western thought: Plotinus, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and Homer, just to name a few. (1, p.113)  The implied thought here is that perhaps entheogens were responsible for some of the insights brought into the world by these highly revered thinkers.

A final thought before I end for the day.  Most of the world's main religions were founded by a visionary who went against the cultural grain, so to speak, because of the overpowering inspiration and direct connection they were having with the Source/God/Creator.  The process of religions seems to be that direct inspiration comes, usually to an individual, then this inspiration is formalized (or"crystallized into form") by 'followers', and then this form turns into dogma (by the organization that springs up around the followers) which must be strictly followed.  The trajectory in most organized religions seems to be that the spiritual component of direct knowing is reduced over time, replaced by believing, adhering, behaving, judging, and condemning.   It seems our normal human tendency is to condense, rather than expand.  Maybe this tendency is an evolutionary explanation for the existence of SO many natural substances that expand consciousness.

According to Erika Bourguignon, a social anthropologist who has studied consciousness altering techniques in societies ranging from ancient to present-day, 90 percent of the 488 cultures she has studied 'possess institutionalized methods of altering consciousness.'   She says, '"It is clear that we are dealing with a psychobiological capacity available to all societies, and that, indeed, the vast majority of societies have used (altered states of consciousness)...primarily in a sacred context." (1, p.101-02).  Yet through the past two thousand years, "...there has been a movement away from direct access of the Divine and toward a relationship with a God mediated by an increasingly powerful clergy." (1, p.97).  Somewhere along our historical route, entheogens went from being allies, giving humans a way to 'ingest God' or experience Oneness consciousness, to being considered dangerous and scary, causing permanent brain and chronological damage, rampant violence, addiction, and death.  The modern government, in order to protect regular people not capable of making conscientious decisions about the use of dangerous substances on their own (except in regards to sugar, alcohol and tobacco, hardee har har), made these substances illegal, at the highest level of restriction.

Thousands of years of history, across hundreds of cultures, and NO records indicate that responsibly ingesting entheogens for the purposes of spiritual enlightenment causes insanity, brain damage, ill health, harm, or death.  There must be other reasons for their vilification and restriction - which we will get to next week.

In today's world, with serious problems stacking up in every direction and no answers in sight, I am reminded of the famous Einstein quote, calling us to have a revolution in consciousness if we want things to get better:

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

(1) Joseph, James.  Psychedelic Perceptions. Gaian Publishing, CO.  2006. 
(2) Masters, R.E.L and Houston, Jean, Ph. D.  The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience.  Delta Publishing, NY. 1966. p. 249-50.
(4) McKenna, Terence.  Food of the Gods.  Bantam Publishing, NY, 1992.