We understand it may be difficult to look at the current state of the world and try to imagine the world that we believe is possible. Anarchy and Spiritual Awareness seem far off, considering the unsustainable practices of the world’s governments and industries. We do not deny these realities.
We understand that humanity must go through deep personal healing on an individual level before the ills of the world will begin to transform. All the negativity we see manifested in the physical realm is a result of our own internal fears and pains. Once we are ready and willing to face ourselves and begin the healing process we will see an increase in compassion, cooperation and creation.
By choosing to reflect on our doubts, fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams, we can come to know ourselves more deeply and begin to understand the ways we are limiting ourselves. Thus, our knowledge and application of freedom is more full. How can we truly know what freedom means to us as a people if we do not understand ourselves? The truth is we cannot. We may educate ourselves on the failures of the state and maybe even overthrow that state through competition and peaceful resistance, but we will find ourselves facing similar conditions within a couple hundred years or so if we continue to operate on the same level of consciousness. If we do not deal with the root causes of humanity’s pain, then we are only applying band aids to a gaping wound that desperately needs healing. Imagine a post-revolution world without a spiritual transformation– educated groups of Anarchists running around battling each other’s egos due to lack of empathy and unresolved internal conflict. The revolution without healing is a recipe for disaster. We need to evolve forward– not continue to go in circles.
In light of the need for spiritual healing, we would like to offer several methods that we, through our research and experience, have found extremely valuable. These include techniques that are not typically considered by the strictly rational, materialist individual. As we will discuss later, Shamans and healers of all sorts have long known the potential of the ecstatic transformation created in altered states. Plant medicine, psychedelics, repetitive drumming, flotation tanks and deep states of meditation can all induce altered states. In these altered states we are able to access information that may have been hidden in the recesses of our mind and unavailable to the daily waking mind.
As we explore these paths to self-reflection, note that we are not concerned with proving or disproving any other human experience in the pursuit of healing. Why should we care if someone’s wild vision of facing down a demonic representation of his or her pain is real? It does not affect our paths if another free mind describes an experience beyond our current understanding. If the experience is of value to your path and produces healing while respecting the rights of other free humans, then we have no place to condemn your journey. David Nichols, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at Purdue University, elaborates on this point when discussing psychedelic research on terminally ill patients.
“If it gives them peace, if it helps people die peacefully with their friends and family at their side, I don’t care if it’s real or an illusion.”
Indeed, researchers of the effects of psychedelic medicines such as Psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and MDMA (ecstasy), are currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, studies were conducted on alcoholics and terminally ill cancer patients, to study the effects of MDMA on depression. By the 60’s, LSD and psychedelics had broken free from the laboratory and entered the mainstream through the counter-culture’s free love movement. The human psyche was greatly expanded by the reintroduction of these tools.
As many people know, our species has a long history of using psychedelics for self-healing, meditation and the achievement of enlightening experiences. Our ancestors would take psychoactive substances in group settings, often while playing music and dancing around a campfire. Today’s rave culture could be considered a modern form of this type of shamanic activity. While some cultures still carry on these practices the old fashioned way, the western world has manifested shamanic culture in a way that is uniquely fitted to its society. Under the influence of psychoactive substances, our ancestors danced in the woods around a fire playing primitive musical instruments, while we in the present day dance in clubs with flashing lights and loud electronic music. If you think about it, it’s really the same idea, just a different generation.
This idea is important in the times we are facing today, because in so many ways the oppressive traditions and culture we have inherited from the dictators of our ancestors are still causing us to act in irrational ways. Psychedelics allow us to think outside the cultural boxes we have spent our lives inside, and often help us recognize the irrational nature of our own actions, allowing us to properly manage and overcome them.
That being said, it’s important to remember the big picture when dealing with self-healing and empowerment. We need to share what we learn from the psychedelic experience, with others and use that knowledge to brainstorm workable solutions for the problems going on in the physical world.
While we believe in the potential of the psychedelic experience, we cannot deny the early modern history of the tools and the culture. Therapists were not the only ones interested in these medicines. In fact, the US government spent millions of dollars studying the effects of Psilocybin and LSD. In one of the most famous cases, the government attempted to use LSD as a mind control drug. As part of Project MKUltra, the CIA and the US Army manipulated peoples’ states of mind with LSD, hypnosis, sensory deprivation and more. The project was officially exposed in 1975 by a Church Committee investigation of CIA activity within the United States. Other programs such as MKDelta, Project CHATTER, Project BLUEBIRD and Project ARTICHOKE were aimed at mind control and behavior modification. MKULTRA , which was later renamed MKSEARCH, focused on the development of a truth serum for interrogating spies. Many of the documents related to MKULTRA have been declassified. However, Richard Helms, director of the CIA at that time, destroyed the majority of the documents in 1973.
The introduction of psychedelics ripped conservative America from its comfort zone as many people began freely expressing themselves for the first time. However, it is important to point out that the federal government introduced many elements of the 1960’s counter culture; Even the celebrated LSD guru and Harvard professor Timothy Leary stated that the CIA was involved in the funding of the dissemination of LSD. It is an incontrovertible fact that the state infiltrates creative movements by attempting to subvert influential leaders in music, arts, politics and philosophy. Agents of the US government who had a hand in the initial release of LSD, Psilocybin and other medicines quickly discovered they could not control them. Whether the funding came from the CIA, the FBI or independent sources doesn’t matter. The experience and enlightenment gained through altered states are invaluable regardless of the source of funding over 50 years ago. Earth-shaking revelations provided under the influence of external medicines should not be discarded simply because of the state’s attempts to manipulate these beautifully empowering tools.
With the growing acceptance of the use of medicinal Cannabis, psychedelics are experiencing a revival in academic research. In 2006, Roland Griffiths, a psychopharmacologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a team of researchers published an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology entitled, “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance”. The paper concluded,
“psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.”
Two-thirds of those involved in the sessions said they were among the most meaningful experiences of their lives. After that, Griffith’s lab conducted a pilot study examining the possibility of treating nicotine addiction with psilocybin. In this study, the participants had three psilocybin sessions and three cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions to diminish cravings. 80 percent of those who received the psilocybin treatments abstained from nicotine for over six months, while less than 7 percent of those who received traditional nicotine-replacement therapy were successful for more than six months. Those who reported a mystical experience had the most success in breaking their addiction.
Some describe the mystical experience as the ability to step back and view one’s life path and decisions as an observer. Imagine a camera pulling back and showing you your life in the grand scheme of existence. Griffiths believes this therapeutic experience leads to long lasting-change in individual behavior following a psychedelic session. Terminally ill patients involved in a New York University study reported a renewed thirst for life as well as less fear of their impending death. Under the right conditions these tools can be guides for healing and transformation.
There is also great danger in not respecting the potential within these medicines. One should be wary of individuals who claim an external substance will lead to everlasting enlightenment. Despite the great opportunity for growth and the fact that the medicines can open “the doors of perception” and facilitate deep healing, we should not rely on them as a cure-all. Ultimately the healing must come from a personal decision and the determination to face all that waits within your mind.
The enlightenment gained from these transformative moments is part of the reason the State has condemned psychedelics and those who promote them for so long. As Griffiths notes,
“There is such a sense of authority that comes out of the primary mystical experience that it can be threatening to existing hierarchical structures. We ended up demonizing these compounds. Can you think of another area of science regarded as dangerous and taboo that all research gets shut down for decades? It’s unprecedented in modern science,” (The New Yorker, February 9, 2015, The Trip Treatment).
When it comes to healing from addiction and trauma, Psilocybin is not the only alternative to standard psychotropic drugs. MDMA has also been studied by psychologists for its many potential benefits. In 2012 the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) sponsored a long term study on the benefits of MDMA. As recently as April 2014, researchers with the University Of Connecticut’s School Of Pharmacy concluded that MDMA assisted psychotherapy could be useful for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Also growing in popularity in the modern western world are the medicines Ayahuasca and Ibogaine. Ayahuasca, or yagé, is a medicinal brew made with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other plants that contain dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. Shamans of the Amazon have long used the brew to enter into a psychedelic state for deep healing and communion with the spirit world. First introduced to the west in the 1950’s, Aya has since inspired a massive tourism industry created around the thirst for a night with the healing medicine.
Although modern Internet educated chemists have learned to synthesize and smoke DMT in the comfort of their homes, the brew is not known as Ayahuasca without the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. Drinking Ayahuasca and smoking DMT produce a similar experience, but are different in intensity and length. Ayahuasca produces an intense trip that lasts several hours and often involves throwing up. Smoking DMT will produce a short trip of around 3-5 minutes with after effects lasting around 20 to 30 minutes.
Studies have found that the human brain produces DMT during dreams, near-death experiences and death. This connection between a random plant medicine in the Amazon and a naturally occurring chemical in the human brain has caused some to believe humans are meant to ingest these medicines. Indeed, when the indigenous peoples of the Amazon were asked where they learned to combine these two random plants from the pharmacy of the rainforest, they said the spirits of the plants themselves instructed them. Both versions of the medicine can produce powerful visions, including contact and conversation with spirits, entities or alienlife forms. No one can say for certain what they will endure, as it is a deeply personal experience, but there are some common threads. Users often report a mystical transformation and renewed vigor for life.
Ibogaine, or Iboga is another plant medicine that is quickly gaining popularity. The Bwiti people of Africa have long ingested the plant for healing ceremonies. With modern medicine, we have been able to isolate Ibogaine from the plant and use it to help treat opiate addiction, depression and PTSD. Per usual, Ibogaine was studied by the governments of the world and then banned, supposedly for having no medicinal use. If you are interested in healing from deep traumas and addictions you must escape the clutches of the State and seek out an Iboga retreat center.
There is also much strength in yoga for spiritual growth and healing. In the study “Breathing-Based Meditation Decreases Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in U.S. Military Veterans”, University of Wisconsin Madison researchers found that a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can help those with PTSD better manage their symptoms. The idea behind this is that breathing affects the autonomous nervous system, so a consistent breathing practice as seen in yoga can help manage symptoms of PTSD, such as hyperarousal.
Despite the apparent differences in the practices, meditation, yogic breathing and the trance produced through Shamanic exercises seem to create a similar state of mind. Meditation itself is a practice as old as human life. As long as human beings have been conscious we have come to Nature for quiet contemplation and reflection. Over time a great number of meditation practices have been developed, each with its own instructions and insights. While we value and respect these individual methods, we note that nearly any experience can be meditative. There is something to be said for a balanced posture and proper breathing, but a bike ride, a walk under the stars, writing poetry or any practice that offers individual quiet time within your own heart and mind can be considered a form of meditation. The consistent application of bringing one’s attention to the present moment is key to any form of meditation. Remaining in the present moment, either through counting breaths, mantras or contemplative thought, allows long-dormant emotions to rise to the surface. From that point an individual can assess how best to deal with the new data.
In the same way that meditation reinforces the endless Now, certain Yogic breathing practices allow an individual to become cognizant of the subtlety that is breathing. Although Yoga is more known in the western world for yogic postures, or asanas, the original intention was a system of healing that involved deep states of mind to protect one from external distraction. Patañjali first recorded the yoga sutras as a guide for those seeking enlightenment and a path towards true liberation. Through meditative practice, physical movement and control of breath, or prana, one can achieve internal peace.
Flotation therapy is an alternative healing method that involves spending time in flotation or isolation tanks. American neuroscientist John C. Lily was the first person to develop what was known at the time as a “Sensory Deprivation”, or isolation tank. An employee of the US government, Lily developed the first isolation tank in 1954 at the National Institute of Mental Health. He and his colleagues became the first test subjects in their research of the tanks. Eventually the experience came to be known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST).
In float therapy (REST), you are suspended in a dark, bubble-like tank. Earplugs prevent you from hearing much of anything while you float in complete darkness. The tank is filled with 12 inches of salt-water set to a temperature of 93.5 degrees, the temperature of your skin. The matching of temperatures causes you to forget where your body ends and the water begins. A typical float session lasts an hour to an hour and a half. Within that time span, your brain may be racing in worry about what exactly you are supposed to be feeling, or it may remain in thoughts of mundane everyday activity. Typically that goes away after the first ten to fifteen minutes and, as with traditional meditation, you are able to relax more easily with repeated floats.
With no external stimuli to focus on such as light or sound, you are free to float without gravity or restriction of thought. After a period of ten to fifteen minutes you may experience auditory hallucinations, swirling lines or visions, or you may simply find yourself in a deep state of relaxation. This form of meditation has been shown to facilitate great healing and insight.
Military Veterans with are now pursuing float therapy as a way of coping with PTSD. A veteran at an Austin, Texas flotation facility reported,
“[Flotation therapy] allows me to not be distracted by everything else around me and purely focus on what’s going on with me,” (Cody Austell, “Float therapy helping veterans with PTSD”).
Scientists have studied flotation-REST for a number of years, many concluding that the therapy reduces stress, anxiety and depression while improving sleep quality. For those seeking further study of flotation therapy, we recommend The Book of Floating by Michael Hutchison.
There has also been interest in the potential benefits of gardening therapy treatments for PTSD. Obviously escaping the busy life in the city or the suburbs for a weekend of nature is a common practice for many of us. We yearn to be close to something organic, more connected than manmade structures often allow.
Music also plays a powerful role in facilitating healing experiences. Indigenous cultures that predate modern musical instruments have long understood the power of rhythm. The drumming and shaking of rattles produce the same effect that pulls meditators and yogis into deep trances.
In his essay “Shamans, Yogis and Bodhisattvas”, Gary Doore refers to this as “entrainment,” or “the induction of altered states of consciousness by the fixation of attention on a regularly repeating pattern of stimuli.” (Shamans Path, page 217)
When Patañjali writes of Pratyahara he is speaking of removing the effects of external stimuli on the senses. This withdrawal from external stimuli allows one to bring their attention inwards, moment by moment. A meditative practice that focuses on centering one’s attention allows for states of entrainment similar to the Shaman and the Yogi. Ultimately, these three practices offer their own unique paths toward healing.
Other powerful tools worth mentioning are Creative Visualization, Positive Affirmation and Manifestation. For some, these words represent the latest fad for the “New Age” crowd or simply the denial of a bleak reality through the repetition of uplifting statements. However, these practices, which seem most effective in conjunction, are a very simple way of creating the reality that you seek. Firstly, creative visualization reinforces the power of imagination and the importance of remaining connected to your inner child. By creating “vision boards” with words and images that represent our desired goals, or by simply meditating on what we would like to see in our lives, we remind ourselves of the steps we must take to achieve those goals. By sitting in quiet reflection and allowing our minds to clear of distraction we can achieve all we desire. Through visualization we can see, smell, taste, hear and touch the ideal situation we are trying to manifest and work through the difficult problems we may be facing.
Once you are comfortable with visualizing your path, it is important to affirm the path. This is where positive affirmation comes into play. Positive affirmation is a highly effective method of programming oneself. We face external programming every day through the corporate media, the government and those we communicate with. One way or another, whether by our own doing or some external force, we will be programmed. The mind is much like a computer that can be loaded with a variety of programs. Many of us buy into cultural and environmental programming that does not empower us as individuals, but rather teaches us to doubt our potential and capabilities. We must take steps to deprogram ourselves from such destructive thinking.
With daily affirmations we can create a positive, compassionate view of ourselves and of the world around us. By using affirming statements such as “I AM…” we allow our minds to let go of negative habits and begin to rewrite the pathways our thoughts take. For example– perhaps your insecurities are a constant prison, a paralysis that limits your social life as much as your internal world. By changing your internal self-talk that says you are incapable of certain tasks or that other humans view you in a negative light, and affirming, “I am capable, I am deserving of love and compassion,” you can overcome a lifetime of unnecessary insecurities and doubts. Over time this reprogramming of your mind becomes habit. Rather than buying into the limiting thoughts when they appear, you are able to say, “No, Thank you, I no longer need you!” and instead tell yourself, “I am capable, I am loved, I am becoming stronger every day in every way.” This simple act can have long-lasting, life-changing effects. Through creative visualization and daily affirmations, we are not only changing our state of mind and the way we look at our world, but we are energetically altering the course of our lives.
Manifestation is the power of watching an idea go from a seed in your mind, to a daily focus, to a physical reality. Manifestation is the culmination of an empowered individual understanding what they want, making a conscious choice to pursue that goal, calling out to the universe for assistance and taking steps in the physical world to bring that idea into reality. These tools are not simply a method of praying or wishing away the problems we face. We must remember that the power of the mind is assisted by actions taken by the physical body. Through personal responsibility, determination and a focused work ethic we can produce the results we seek and have everything we desire.
As previously mentioned, we are all faced with external programming from a number of sources. Without breaking through that propaganda, the tools we have mentioned will lack their full potential. If you are trying to clear your mind for meditation and all you can think of is how silly you feel, then you won’t get very far. If you find your inner voice continuously berating you as you attempt to visualize your way through an emotionally damaging relationship, the likelihood of success is greatly decreased. To combat our internal tyrant we must learn to change our subconscious thoughts. This can be done through consistent application of Conscious Language.
In his book, Conscious Language: The Logos of Now, Robert Tennyson Stevens outlines the power of carefully choosing words that empower, rather than hurt. Stevens explains how it is possible to upgrade the “Human Operating System” through words. One method is to catch yourself thinking or speaking limiting thoughts and then transform the words into powerful tools for growth. One example of this is to do away with actions that do not fulfill your highest good. For example, you may always have trouble being punctual and say to yourself, “I am always late.” With Conscious Language we learn to put those behaviors where they belong – in the past. We then affirm what we want to create in the present moment. Rather than saying, “I am always late”, you might try,“In the past I have been late often, however, in the future, I will be on time.” Maybe you often feel rushed, like you never have time for all of your daily pursuits. Rather than stressing yourself out and focusing on how limited your time is, you should instead affirm, “I have time and energy for everything I need.”
These are two very simplified examples of using Conscious Language. We encourage each individual to pursue his or her own research of the topic. As with anything, practice makes habit. By learning to speak compassionately and consciously to yourself you can create a more positive and fulfilling physical reality. It is important for our spiritual well-being to create the world we want and express gratitude through our words. In the study “Gratitude and Depressive Symptoms: the Role of Positive Reframing and Positive Emotion”, researchers with Brigham Young University confirmed that positive thinking is related to lower signs of depression. As always, you are the master of your reality and experiences.
When maintaining a conscious mind it is also important to maintain a healthy and well-nourished body. Among the average peoples there is a culture of poor eating habits. This is usually the result of ignorance and financial disadvantage, as well as propaganda from state and corporate media. However, since this information has broken through to the mainstream in recent years, there are now a variety of alternative diets being promoted by different researchers. Our intention here is not to tell you how to eat, but rather, to tell you to be conscious about what you eat. Unfortunately, most of the food that is popular and readily available in modern society can hardly be classified as food. The abundance of processed foods has made diligent research necessary when considering your diet.
It is not our job to tell you which path to choose. That is something every individual is free to choose for themselves. It is not free choice and free will that cause problems in this world, it is when individuals are less than conscious about their choices that we see problems manifest.