Michael Pollan just wrote a beautiful book on the “psychedelic renaissance.” He titled it “How to Change Your Mind.” And it is a phenomenally important work. He is a best selling author many times over. Many of you may remember groundbreaking books like “The Botany of Desire,” “The Omnivore's Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.” I mention these because he is one of Time’s 100 most influential people. This is what is important about this post: Michael Pollan just made “Journey Work” go mainstream.
There are so many terms. Psychedelics. Holotropics. Entheogens. Drugs. Few of them seem to capture the essence of what is here. I prefer to call them “sacred medicine.” Because that is what they are. Whether they are organic or not. These are different from the drugs that hook you. We are not talking about destructive drugs like cocaine, heroine or meth. We are not talking about the pharmaceutical compounds that turn a soul into an addict.
Pollan’s book is brilliantly researched. He offers a wealth of stories as he traces the use of these medicines in the West. Even pointing out that:
“Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous... credited his own sobriety to a mystical experience he had on belladonna, a plant-derived alkaloid with hallucinogenic properties that was administered to him at Towns Hospital in Manhattan in 1934. Few members of AA realize that the whole idea of a spiritual awakening leading one to surrender to a ‘higher power’—a cornerstone of Alcoholics Anonymous—can be traced to a psychedelic drug trip.”
Pollan and I are talking about medicine. We are not talking about enslavement. We are talking about medicine that makes you free. And journey work just went mainstream. This is a very good thing. It comes with downfalls. But it is a good thing.
I’ve been aware of this underground community for a long time. I see the way this work changes lives. It has changed my life more than once. We are moving beyond the damage that Nixon and Nancy Reagan did. The culture had the opportunity to see more. Deeper. And farther. And they decided to say it was wrong. Nixon launched the war on drugs. He equated addictive substances with liberating ones. And Nancy Reagan carried his mantle for my generation.
It is bad policy. And it has a high cost. The use of sacred medicine is a practice held and valued by original cultures around the world. We have been doing this from time immemorial. The US Congress is in no place to tell us this is wrong.
But Pollan is missing something important. As are the good folks at MAPS. As is Tim Ferriss, Aubrey Marcus and the other podcast bros moving this work forward. We live in a hyper individualistic culture. This sort of individualism is very, very new in human society. And it is not working. The most affluent societies that the world has ever seen are also the loneliest. The most depressed, anxious and medicated.
We are wired for connection. Whatever the problem, community is the answer. Your one-on-one therapist. Your one-on-one coach. Your one-on-one psychedelic journey. These are all important. They are likely to help you grow and change. To be a better person and see yourself more clearly. But they are not enough. These modalities reinforce the cult of the individual. They inadvertently support the lie that you can somehow do it alone. With a little help from a pro.
I’m not making an all or nothing statement. I am committed to my individual growth. I like having a therapist. And I sometimes journey alone. But the true medicine is the group. The group is what our day calls for. Connection is what we are missing. This is why so many of us feel depressed, anxious or alone. And it is why we have a crisis of addiction.
As our culture is getting ready to once again open up the doorways of perception. It will be tragic if we miss the point. If you are opening up to journey work (Michael Pollan said it was ok!), I encourage you to take a dive. And maybe you need to start one-on-one.
But if you want to be part of an evolutionary leap. If you are interested in change at the level of consciousness and culture. Please understand the power of the group. Set and setting are everything when it comes to journey work. Seek to do this work together. With a good guide. In the context of a group.
It is amazing to witness the emergence of a collective shaman. A shared consciousness becomes available in these group journeys. Participants become better able to support each other in the work. An authentic love emerges as we cheer each other on. The space that opens up during the journey becomes available outside of it. Even when members of the group come together absent any medicine.
You can have your mind blown and your heart expanded many times . But none of it will matter absent integration. Insight has to be brought into everyday life. You are more likely to be successful with the support of a group. With their reminders.. And with commitment to mutual accountability.
Together is how we grow. Even if we are born and die alone.
Journey together. Not just alone.
PS: It is out of this commitment to getting better together that we are now hosting Collective Consciousness Meditation every Wednesday at 9:30AM East. Sign up here to be reminded.