I have been a fan of Tim Ferriss since he wrote The 4-Hour Workweek. I admire his zest for life and his willingness to try new things to improve the quality of his life. I also appreciate his generosity in sharing what he learns. I would love to have a conversation with him about the understanding of the Principles and innate mental health. I think it would reduce his suffering from depression and be a valuable understanding to share with his followers. Currently, he is providing significant support for psychedelic research, donating at least $100,000 to research on the use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of major depression. He believes Psilocybin may have the potential to revolutionize the treatment for this diagnosis.
I have never taken LSD or psilocybin but when Ferriss recommended Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, I was intrigued. On reading the book, I am struck by the powerful insights people had that resulted in sustainable changes in their lives. A Johns Hopkins researcher reported that from a 2006 study 70 percent of participants said they had one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. The research from this study published in the journal Pharmacology states:
…psilocybin, when administered under comfortable, structured, interpersonally supported conditions to volunteers who reported regular participation in religious or spiritual activities, occasioned experiences which had marked similarities to classic mystical experiences and which were rated by volunteers as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance. Furthermore, the volunteers attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior that were consistent with changes rated by friends and family.
This research points to the healing benefits of encounters with our spiritual essence. When we connect with our true nature, we have fresh thinking that helps us see beyond our conditioned, habitual thought patterns. This quality of thought is transformative and changes the way we see life. Once seen it can’t be unseen. Psychedelic experiences are not the only way to have these encounters.
While reading the book, I reflected on the peak spiritual experiences I have had in my life. When looking at the Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire used as part of the John Hopkins study, I realized that my non-psychedelic experiences met with many of the criteria used to indicate a mystical experience. I am very grateful for these experiences and the insights I’ve gained from them, but I am also aware of how I became attached and wanted more of them. I found myself feeling greedy. Knowing peak experiences were possible, I yearned for them. I saw them as better than regular ordinary life.
I remember one workshop I attended and the speaker’s presence had an impact on me. I entered an altered state. All of a sudden I left the room. I felt expanded — one with the universe. A sublime feeling of love pulsed through my body. I was no longer sitting in the dimly lit meeting room of a yacht club with fifty or so other people and faint sounds from the bar outside intruding into the space, tinkles of laughter, clinks or glasses, the odd booming voice. All of the nautical trappings of paintings and signal flags that adorned the room disappeared. I was no longer confined to my blue jeans and red sweater. I was not in my body. The speaker’s voice disappeared from my awareness. I was the vastness of the universe. There was no separation. There was no “I”. And then I noticed there was no “I”, and I got scared. As soon as I felt fear, I was rudely catapulted back into my body and into the room. I lost the sublime feeling I had been experiencing. I felt short-changed. I wanted it to last longer. I was mad at myself. Why did I get scared? If I hadn’t got scared I would have stayed there. I wanted more! When I asked the speaker about this, about how to have more, what I took away was to stop being so greedy and be grateful for what I had. This felt very unsatisfying at the time.
It wasn’t until I was at another training eight months later that I understood. I saw that I was attached to spiritual experiences, and recognized any attachment to experience creates suffering because experience is always changing. I saw that my experience is part of the world of form. No matter what experience I have, no matter how sublime it is, it is still part of the illusion of form because it changes. Seeing this I felt relief. I relaxed. I stopped trying so hard. I felt a deeper level of acceptance of what is. It was another reminder that there is nowhere to go. No matter what I seek, it is always going to be part of the illusion of form. And that takes me away from who I am. It has me looking in the opposite direction from impersonal consciousness that is unchanging.
My peak experiences were beautiful, but they were not helpful when they became distractions from the truth of who I am. They were like glittering fools gold, and I was like a magpie trying to gather them to feather my nest. The gift was not the glitter. The gift was seeing something I hadn’t seen before and having a sense of a being beyond form that I cannot explain, but I know. Tha is what changed me, the understanding, not the experience. And the understanding can come in any form.
Understanding is not limited to the package of spirituality. It does not have to be cloaked in a peak experience. Truth is ubiquitous. It is present in the mundane and the ordinary as much as the sublime and extraordinary. There is no better than or less than other than to my limited personal preference. Seeing this was liberating. I no longer felt compelled to seek the next better and best spiritual experience. My ordinary life and my changeable humanness seemed fine after all. And ironically this had me feel more connected with the permanence of who I am not less. Experience, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is all the changing dance of form. We get to enjoy, or not, the ride of that, but in the knowing, the glimpse, the taste of what does not change, it makes it so much easier to enjoy the ride with more lightheartedness.
This shift really stood out to me in my different reactions in two dreams. Ten years ago I had a dream that I was going to be executed. I felt distress over this, mostly because I did not want to leave my children. In that dream, one of my teachers, Mary Hulnick said to me, “Rohini, it is okay. Don’t look back. Where you are going is magnificent. It is a gift.” I could not see it that way in the dream. I was deeply attached to my life. A few years ago I had another dream where I was going to be killed by terrorists. I was being transported on a school bus to a plane, and the bus was intercepted by terrorists. They were systematically killing everyone on it. When it came to my turn, I lay down on the floor of bus. I was the only one left alive. I curled up into a fetal position. It felt surprisingly comfortable. I was wearing loose fitting yoga pants tied at the waist and a burgundy tank top. I could see the layer of dust on the floor and an open safety pin. I felt immense peace and tranquility. I surrendered to the execution. I woke up as soon as I was shot, but I was not filled with adrenaline or fear. I felt the same peace. I was not afraid of death in that moment. It felt good to be free of that fear. I can’t say I won’t ever experience attachment to my life ever again, but it is good to know that level of freedom is possible. I can open to the divine unfolding of life including death.
This experience was of great practical benefit to me. It helped me to show up more fully each day, to be less absorbed in my personal quests and more open to the impersonal promptings that occur to me. I have less fear and second-guessing when ideas come my way and more engagement in following the next step. Not because I have to, not because it means anything about me, but because it makes sense and feels right.
I am not promoting or discouraging the use of entheogens to experience greater wellbeing, but I am encouraging you to look beyond your experience psychedelic or otherwise to where it comes from. Look in the direction of what is permanent and see what the mystery reveals to you. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
There is freedom in going beyond our personal philosophy and into the unknown. This is the realm of infinite potential and not need to be relegated to infrequent or elusive mystical experiences. It is always available to us and can be helpful in the most practical of ways.
Rohini Ross is excited to present The Soul-Centered Series in Santa Monica starting October 2018. She is passionate about helping people wake up to their true nature. She is a transformative coach and trainer, and author of Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1). She has an international coaching practice helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, watch her Vlogs with her husband, Angus Ross, and subscribe to her weekly blog on her website, rohiniross.com.