Psychedelics + Meditation

There is a lot of exciting research into psychedelics happening right now. Depression, end of life care, PTSD are just a few areas where psychedelics may have a big positive impact.

Podcast link – Dan Harris with Michael Pollan: Psychedelics + Meditation

YouTube link – Roshi Joan Halifax, Michael Pollan, Dacher Keltner: The Power of Awe

Both the podcast and the video are excellent. Check them out.

In the summer of 1978 I lived near the beach on Phuket in Thailand. In those days the island had not been developed yet and there was only one hotel. I never looked at the hotel because I found something I liked better. For $1.50/night I stayed in a hut by the beach for several weeks. Several people I met told me to order a mushroom omelet at the little cafe on the beach. They smiled when they suggested this. One morning I decided to order this mystery omelet. The rest of that day I spent on a rock in the surf and in my hut, meditating. It didn’t occur to me that I had taken a drug because to me, after three years of daily meditation, it didn’t feel different.

Recently, neuroscience has confirmed a connection between meditation and psychedelics in that MRI brain scans taken of people meditating and of people taking psychedelics look very, very similar.

In fact I felt that the trip was simply an extension of my meditation practice. What I mean by that is that the experience was somewhat like riding an e-bike. I am still riding the bike and I am still pedaling, but the e-motor helps me get up to speed quicker and makes the climb a little easier. And it is true that many, many people turned to meditation after such a psychedelic experience. In fact, American Buddhism might not have happened without people who, after psychedelic experiences in the 60s and 70s, traveled to Asia to learn meditation and brought back what became Western Buddhism. Or take Dr. Alpert as an example, who became Baba Ram Dass. In any case, that day I laughed so much that my whole mouth was tired the next morning. Smiling so much can wear you out… :-)

Here is a selfie I took in my little hut on Phuket.

Here is a quote by Michael Pollan – from the above-linked video.

I mean the two biggest problems we face as a civilization I would say are the environmental crisis and tribalism. Both come from the objectifying of the other and therefore the willingness to exploit the other whether the other is people of a different faith, people of a different race, or nature, and so a solvent for this kind of thinking is exactly what the culture needs right now.

Wednesday in Santa Fe

A day filled with mundane tasks, dealing with garbage and recycling, cleaning, doing dishes, putting fresh armor on my nails (((I gave my nails a rest after Jon and I returned from the private performance in New York and took a week off of guitar-playing))) and playing guitar… all the while thinking about Bella, my Tibetan Mastiff.

The old girl, born in 1997, has a nasty open tumor on her back and we will soon have to decide what’s best for her.

Maybe inspired by Bella’s fate, I have had great conversations with Roshi Joan and others about end-of-life. Surely death is as big a deal for any life as birth is, but we don’t seem to talk about it much and most people would rather forget about it.

Anyway, I won’t go into it because, well, you signed up for music, not for my writing about death, which you might find morbid.

Here is another happy-Bella-pic:

Tuesday in Santa Fe

Overcast with rain now and then. Dug a hole for the little three foot tree that was a gift from the school we did the benefit concert at the Lensic in June for. The soil around here is mostly sand and rocks and digging even one to two feet down takes a lot of effort. Well, it’s got a new home now and the drizzle-rain gave it the perfect welcome.

Went back to the Canyon Preserve and took a few photos. Colors looked incredible in the muted light of the overcast sky.

Minimal Mac
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
— Leonardo da Vinci

In the evening I made dinner for Roshi Joan Halifax, who I had not seen since we met in Soho, Manhattan, in May (((we were playing at the Blue Note, she was doing something at the U.N.))). Interestingly we knew that we were both in Manhattan via Twitter.

From the New Yorker. This is the article, but you need to subscribe to read all of it.

Molchanova uses a technique that she refers to as “attention deconcentration.” (“They get it from the military,” Ericson said.) Molchanova told me, “It means distribution to the whole field of attention – you try to feel everything simultaneously. This condition creates an empty consciousness, so the bad thoughts don’t exist.”
“Is it difficult to learn?”
“Yes, it is difficult. I teach it in my university. It’s a technique from ancient warriors-it was used by the samurai-but it was developed by a Russian scientist, Oleg Bakhtiyarov, as a psychological-state-management technique for people who do very monotonous jobs.”

That’s hardly a new technique or something invented by the Russian military. In Zen, this is called just sitting, or shikantaza. In fact, I think it was preceded by a hunting technique that may be thousands of years old, whereby hunters learned to sit still and use panoramic attention, that is, attention that is distributed all around the body instead of focused on one particular spot.

It is curious that I started practicing this technique on my own as a child. I would sit down somewhere and just de-focus. I would hear everything around me, I would see things that moved in the field of my vision, and my awareness was just like a spehere radiating from where I sat. It was just a game I played by myself.

What bored engineers can do with an automated console:

The Moon Reflected on the Water.

A photo from this weekend.

Upaya Blog: Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass,or even in one drop of water.
– Zen Master Eihei Dogen

Continue reading the exchange between Roshi Joan, George Dreyfus, Al Kaszniak, John Dunne, and Evan Thompson regarding attention/awareness in concentrative meditation and receptive meditation.