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.