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.

Sunday Reading

I am currently reading Bangkok 8 by author John Burdett. Page-turner!!

Like Eliot Pattison, who writes the wonderful Inspector Shan series, he was a lawyer in Asia before writing novels, and while Pattison writes well about the Tibetan culture, John Burdett is very knowledgable about the Thai culture. Fascinating stuff. I am reading the Kindle Edition on my iPhone.

The Bangkok series was recommended to me by the same friend who recommended Inspector Shan.

Thirty Years Ago

File under “Wanderjahre”:

Thirty years ago I was on Phuket island in Thailand. On the Trans-Siberian train in April of 1978 I had met a few young fellow travelers, an Englishman on the way to India, a Swede on his way to Thailand. We called ourselves the Semolina Club, because for vegetarians the only food options on the train were semolina gruel, peas and the occassional potatoe, baked, wrapped in newspaper and offered for sale in buckets in railway stations by old ladies. The train would stop for a few minutes and we would jump out and buy potatoes. Yes, I did sell a pair of jeans to a waiter in the train’s restaurant car. And we drank vodka with soldiers on the train.

I arrived in Japan at end of cherry blossom season. In Japan I got around by hitch-hiking, and while hitch-hiking is something the Japanese did not do themselves, they tolerated foreigners doing it and in fact it was very easy to get rides as people wanted to practice their English. Three weeks later I flew to Taipei, where I stayed for a month studying Tai-Chi. In July I traveled to Hongkong, which I loved, and in August to Bangkok, where I ran into the Swede from the Trans-Siberian train, heard about the beautiful Phuket island, and took a bus South. At the time Phuket had one resort hotel (((must be hundreds now!))), but I rented a hut about 100 feet from the beach, for $1.50 per night. I stayed for a month.

Related entries: Rockgarden in Japan, Papaya in India, Traveling in Thailand, Bombay and Goa, Eating on the Train