HEALING FROM TRAUMA WITH PSYCHEDELICS

Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, is an advocate for healing from trauma from psychedelics. Currently a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD, he shares his insights into a very human way to heal …

When we think about trauma, we often go straight to war, physical, or sexual abuse. But as important, are the traumas of neglect, of feeling un-safe, of feeling un-loved. People think: “I don’t deserve to say, ‘I’ve suffered trauma’. But that’s BS. All of us have suffered numerous traumas in our lives.

When this trauma is unhealed and unresolved, this manifests as suffering—in our bodies and in our beings. And so we find strategies to cope. Depending on our genetic make-up, our family history, and our place in society, this might look like a cluster of symptoms that we call OCD, PTSD, or addiction. I don’t think about these as disorders. They are simply what our body and mind are doing to try to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with us—these symptoms just show us that there is a trauma to be healed.

We’ve been throwing medication at this for years, and it doesn’t work. When it comes to mental health, Western medicine has seen most success with SSRIs like Prozac for treating depression, for example. But they only work slightly better than a placebo. It’s silly when physicians say this is the answer.

In contrast, the data from trials on MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin for alcoholism, psilocybin for end of life anxiety, and MDMA for social anxiety, is better than anything else we’ve seen for mental health. But there’s still a lot of resistance to integrating these therapies, which I believe stems from a fear of these being dangerous or addictive drugs.

I also want to emphasize that the studies being done are using these substances to facilitate the psychotherapy process. It’s not the molecules themselves that are doing the healing. Rather, they are assisting the interpersonal healing process that we call “psychotherapy.”

When it comes to healing trauma, I think of the concept of “catharsis”—and old psychology term for the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. And three things need to happen for our bodies and our minds to release us from our traumas. There is a need for the intellectual memory of the trauma to be coupled with the emotional memory of it, and for this to happen in an empathic setting. Empathy is different from sympathy, when we might hear: “oh, that must have been hard for you.” It’s about really feeling that the person in front of you understands your experience. In many cases with empathy, there isn’t even a need for words.

What you’ll notice in my recipe for catharsis is that psychedelics are not in the equation. That a therapist is not in the equation. That a shaman in white linen a warehouse in Brooklyn is not in the equation. This is because we’re capable of doing this work by nature of us being human. Not that these things can’t be helpful, but thinking that one or more of these modalities themselves is going to heal you, is a mistake.

I believe that because of the way that Western culture has developed—with the breakdown of community, the breakdown of family—we’ve created the need for mental health professionals. It is possible to do this work on our own. When people are trained, there is a higher chance of healing the deepest wounds, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are people who’ve been doing underground therapy for a long time—not that everybody does it well, including people who are trained to do psychedelic therapy. The key is to trust yourself and the way you feel when you are working with someone.

A psychiatrist named Stan Grof, who was friends with Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, has said: “The full experience of a negative emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” This is an important way to think about healing from trauma. With psychedelic therapy, we’re talking about enhancing “negative” emotions and memories, whereas the Western approach has focused on suppressive therapies. Look at the categories of medications we use: anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety meds. We’re really doing the opposite of trying to feel every emotion through to its “funeral pyre.”

Western medicine and psychiatry are not to blame for this. It’s also an approach that represents our culture and where we are as a society. The emotions that we tend to suppress are sadness and fear. Interpersonally, and in self-help memes on social media, they’re thought of as signs of weakness. Something to be ashamed of, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or expressing them. I think the way we treat them medically is a result of this cultural treatment of them. Emotions like joy and anger, meanwhile, are very, very acceptable. We need to shift this if we’re going to do any real healing.

Using psychedelics as part of the Western medicine approach in doing this work is also going to take a change in society. These are evocative therapies. They’re the opposite of suppressive therapies. They evoke emotions, they evoke memories, they evoke physical symptoms. Hopefully in an environment that is conducive to healing. The term “set and setting,” coined by Timothy Leary in 1961, speaks to where you’re at personally, who are you with, and what is the physical space like. All of these elements have an impact on your overall experience.

Of course, some of these consciousness altering molecules can also be used to escape from our problems, including ketamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, and nicotine. Again, it comes back to set and setting as to whether these things can be helpful or harmful. I’m also not saying these substances can’t be used for recreation, for fun, for creativity. We just need to not be fooling ourselves when we’re trying to do healing work with them.

The final piece I want to mention is integration. People aren’t focusing enough on this part of psychedelic healing, which I think of as the work that is done in the days, weeks, and months after the experience itself. In my opinion, the majority of the long-term benefits of psychedelic therapy is in the sober work that follows.

Real bravery doesn’t come from taking a third of fourth cup of ayahuasca, or five or six tabs of acid. It’s really about going back to work the following week and seeking to make peace with the coworker that irritates you. It could be calling a sibling you haven’t spoken to in nine months because you felt they aren’t as “enlightened” as you, and choosing to love them anyway. These healing interactions are truly where we find the long-term benefits of this work.

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Will Siu, MD , DPhil, studied medicine at UCLA, the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, and Oxford University. In addition ton addition to his private practice in NYC, he is a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD. Learn more about Will and his work HERE and follow him on Instagram.

DIARY OF AN EGO DEATH ON LSD

Facing a major life meltdown, Sam Lam was ready to turn herself inside out. Little did she know, her first LSD trip would lead to the experience of ego death …

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

I’d majored in philosophy in college, studied metaphysics, epistemology, and even endured a stint in theology. But despite the multitude of theoretical expeditions I’ve taken into human consciousness, nothing could have prepared me  for the acid trip that led to me experiencing the much-documented “ego death.”

By age 30, I’d burnt out in my career as a Business Development Manager for a multi-national oil and gas company. So I did what any self-respecting women worthy of her prized Louboutins would do: I jacked in that job, packed my (many) bags and boarded a flight to ‘La La Land’ to pursue a career in fashion.

As if this identity crisis wasn’t enough, a couple of months prior I’d discovered that my now ex-husband of almost 10 years was having an affair. Needless to say, I was a total emotional-fucking-wreck. A 30-something divorcée with a fresh “Monroe” lip piercing, I soon found myself trying to heal my shattered heart by reliving my hard-partying youth.

Cut to me raging it up at a major music festival. I’d never taken LSD before that night, but in the sweltering heat of the desert, as the hot, orange sun began to dip, I decided to drop.

I felt very little at first. Twenty, maybe thirty minutes passed and by this point I was eager to rush to the front of the main stage and offer my metallic flash-tattooed body as a sacrifice to the music now engulfing me. I just wanted to dance. Dance all my life’s pain away.

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This was death, I felt certain of it … 
It’s not really possible to describe what happened next. Before I could even begin to move in the direction of the stage, I took one glance at the illuminated festival Ferris wheel swirling ahead and the acid hit my brain like a bolt of lightning.

In that instant all of my senses merged. I could taste sounds, smell the music, and literally see my feelings.

This was death, I felt certain of it. The world as I knew it disappeared, and while I could no longer feel my body, my mind got busy imagining my demise in vivid, graphic, Technicolor.

Gory, violent, blood curdling. Vicious ends that felt oh too real. At one point I was hit by a steam-train in the middle of the desert. The next I was being eaten alive by rattle snakes. Next, I was a victim to the desert sun as its rays pierced my skin and melted my flesh to the bone. I then tried to write an (imaginary) letter to my family to apologize for giving up and going out in such a shameful way, but I literally couldn’t find the words to express how deeply sorry I was.

Then came a silence. A complete and utter black quiet in my head. It was a peaceful moment where I was truly thinking “nothing” at all (if that’s possible). A temporary respite from that torment that followed.

Photo: Kelly Malloy

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I could feel the world weep … 
Nothing can prepare you for “Ego Death”—the term is used in various, intertwined contexts to describe a fundamental transformation in the psyche, where we lose the self entirely. The words “I,” “me,” “myself” lose all meaning whatsoever.

This is what I experienced next, and it altered my life forever.

I could feel the pain of the entire Universe. Immense and immeasurable, agonizing torture. Quite literally, I felt for both a split second and an eternity, the utter, agonizing grief of every single man, woman, child, animal, tree, the oceans, and the skies.

I felt the Universe inside of me and all of its desperate misery. I could feel the world weeping.

A the Universe sobbed, my sense of self had completely and utterly vanished into it. “I” no longer existed. “I” no longer related to anything. It was as if I had become “dark matter,” as theorized in quantum physics—”I” was empty space. Nothing.

I woke up the next morning on the floor of my hotel room, with my festival uniform intact (bikini top, denim shorts, misappropriated tribal feathers). The desert was still in my hair and I had no memory of how I’d gotten home.

As my eyes slowly opened and the speckles of light danced into my retinas, I realized I was still alive. “Samantha” had survived her first (and probably one and only) acid trip. But something fundamental had changed …

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Had I melted my brain? 
The trip had been so intense, I was left fearing the worst. For months I worried that I had in fact melted my brain. I was no longer draw to “partying” as a way to dance out my demons. What can I say, the world just isn’t the same after you’ve “died.” Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.

Four months after the trip, I was severely depressed and still trying to make sense of my marriage breakdown, my scattered career choices, and this extraordinary experience. One afternoon, I found myself all alone in my apartment.

I was lying on my bed ugly crying, with blood-shot puffy eyes and chapped lips, and the what felt like the weight of my woes making it difficult for me to breath. I was then gripped with an urge to step out onto the balcony of my pokey apartment to get some fresh air. As I stood out on that balcony staring at the cloudless blue expanse of sky, I could have sworn I heard a voice in my head:

“You have felt my pain, now let me take yours,” said what I can only sensibly identify as The Universe.

In that instant I felt a warm calmness encircle me, as if I’d been injected with a large dose of MDMA. Yet this was an instant, drug-free Nirvana. The voice signaled that it was going to take away my suffering and pain, and transform it into something positive, pleasurable, maybe even beautiful.

In that moment, everything in my life just seemed to make total and absolutely succinct sense. I understood that I was designed to contain light and dark energy—to be the embodiment of Yin and Yang. I wanted to kiss my pain. Without it, I wouldn’t have embarked on this journey. I wouldn’t have had the courage to push my body beyond its physical and mental limits. I would have remained spiritually asleep.

The author

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The comedown … 
My life has since returned to “normal.” But my Ego Death experience has led to notable changes to my outlook.

I’ve drawn relationships into my life that are supportive and calm but also fun. I laugh more. My current partner lets me fully be myself. And I’ve found friendships circles with likeminded creatives and artists who are interested in alchemy and alternative modalities.

After these experiences, it’s been hard to return to the corporate world. Climbing the ladder no longer appeals to me. And though I haven’t quite found my niche, I’m figuring it out. I know somehow I’m supposed to be here in L.A … that something drew me here.

Most importantly, I’m more eco-conscious and aware of how my choices are impacting the future of the planet (after all, I had felt the whole world sobbing). I still love fashion, but I am no longer her slave, and have lost the desire to consume in the way I used to. And while organized religion is still not something I identify with, I’ve become intrigued by esoteric and alternative spiritual modalities.

What learned about a connected global consciousness is well documented elsewhere—an open-minded outlook that’s especially relevant in our current era of regressive, right-wing politicking.

After all, in the words of ethnobotanist and mystic Terence McKenna: “If the words life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the ‘Declaration of Independence’ isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”

I certainly don’t believe that drugs are the only path to experiences such as mine. But surely to muse and ask “why?”—or to protest “WTF?”—is an innate part of the human experience. How else can we pursue the kind of evolutionary advancements I may have accidentally stumbled on during my long, bizarre, and deadly dark night of ego death?

Born and raised in the North East of Scotland to an Irish/Scottish mother and Chinese father and having travelled the world in her previous career, Sam Lam is an L.A based creative who spends her time writing, consulting, styling, modeling and collaborating with brands to produce visual content.

GODDESS TRIP: DIARY OF A PSYCHEDELICS ADDICT

And almost ten years sober, her experiences inform her work as a healer to this day, says former psychedelics addict Jesse Heid.

Jesse Heid celebrating her 39th birthday earlier this year

My six siblings and I grew up in what I can only describe as a mellow and small Christian cult, created by my parents. Their worship centered around a Buddha-Christ figure and I took it very literally when they taught me, ‘Jesus lives in your heart.’ To me, Jesus was the most gorgeous, the most beautiful hunky guy. I had that classic ’70’s portrait of him on my bedroom wall, the one where he’s sexy Jesus with the beard.

I had always felt that I was Christ’s favorite kid. I really thrived on the sense I developed early on that I was sacred and Beloved to the Divine. He did everything with me, ballet classes and tea parties. He also was also the compassionate witness to all my childhood traumas. As a result, I had a very intimate, loving, and positively romantic relationship to the Divine.

But when I first altered my consciousness with marijuana around age 21, I started to hear a new voice guiding that Divine dialog, and it was the voice of a woman. This Great Feminine presence was the raddest experience of my life. Beyond words, beyond what I could describe as Love and Wisdom. When I started using various psychedelics and entheogens this Divine female voice took on a great authority – such authority, it made Jesus look like your super casual, chill best friend.

Goddess I call her, and her voice commands deep loving RESPECT. And, while in hallucinogenic and other altered states, I was in constant dialog with her. Mostly her talking to me while I tripped on this miraculous communion with her.

Although I certainly partied, I was intentionally using psychedelics and plant medicine as sacraments. I didn’t necessarily differentiate the “party” from what others call “temple” or “ritual.” Basically, I was in it for the transcendent, mystical experiences. And while I experienced deep healing on my adventures, of course this way of exploring consciousness can have tremendous consequences. Especially in a culture where as a trippy young healer, I had no mentors or sacred container for this unusual path.

For seven years, from 1999 to 2006, I tripped often, and was rarely truly sober – the time I was “landing” from one trip I was getting ready to take off on another. It’s important to note that I believe I was able to carry on like this for so many years because I was generally micro dosing – imbibing very small doses – of the highest quality substances. This enabled me to function well in my daily life, but still get Divinely freaky. I also think my severe allergy to alcohol has been a blessing really. I’ve never been able to drink, so I was never taxed physically that way.

But I was a psychedelics addict. I ate mushrooms almost every day for over a year. I would pop them in my mouth like people pop breath mints. I did psilocybin until they stopped having any effect, a tragedy when it happened. Other years, the pattern went something like: Molly on a Monday, Tuesday, some pot cookies and coffee, Wednesday, maybe a day off, LSD for Thursday, and bit of Foxy on Friday. The weekends would be a surprise mixed bag.

During this period, I was also running a Pilates studio in the East Village of New York City. I had a very robust clientele with a waiting list. I was a very popular teacher, and was frequently teaching while on psychedelics. Beyond surviving as a young women in the City, I was thriving.

And all the time, I felt the Goddess was teaching me the nature of the Universe. What I saw was a matrix of loving energy weaving through everything, and how the negative space between objects is perfect. That everything is whole, and also interconnected. Whenever I laid hands on my client I was able to see the matrix inside of us, the fascia system, and the way this extends outside of us to connect us to everything. That these filaments remain unbroken, and cannot be broken.

Jesse Heid today

If this sort of Divine Matrix can be an abstract concept to even the most dedicated “believer,” I could visually see this in a psychedelic state. And this is really what I was working on with my clients all day.

People would come to the studio to get a Pilates lesson, and then they would tell me their neck hurt. So I would put them on the Pilates Cadillac and work on their fascia, in a psychedelic state, and then tell them it was “Pilates.” And even while they were talking to me about their stressful lives, the Goddess was whispering instructions in my ear the whole time about what they needed for healing. It was all very mysterious and magical, and it really worked for me for a long time.

Goddess also revealed to me everyone’s true voice. That was consistent on every trip, no matter what I was on.  No matter what medicine I was dosing with, everyone I encountered spoke to me as an extremely vulnerable, innocent five-year-old. It even seemed like the more serious someone was, the more of a heartbreakingly precocious child they were inside.

I was working with CEO’s, neurosurgeons, film producers and their stars, and all I could hear was the innocent child, just trying to navigate and negotiate the suffering of this world.

Now remember, I am completely, 100 percent, not a rebel. I am a good girl, a product of my environment. I was doing what I was taught; “you talk to God. You do loving kindness and make art. You take responsibility for your Divine nature, as Jesus lives in your heart.” And I was never criticized by my family for doing drugs of any sort.

But I don’t think they knew how much I was doing. I don’t think anyone could conceive of how much I was doing because I was so highly functional. But in the end, I started mixing in cocaine. Not because I ever liked cocaine, it was never my drug of choice. But I rarely slept from doing psychedelics, and I had to go to work in the day, so it became like coffee to me. Plus, people were giving me coke for free. The East Village of NYC was different beast back then, and it’s how my clients would tip me sometimes.

With this harder substance in the mix, my lifestyle was finally taking its toll physically, and very quickly. I went down to 95 lbs. I also started to lose any and all respect for society’s rules. Everywhere I went, I was smoking a huge, fat joint.

I started to see a Jungian psychoanalyst, and it was clear to him, I think, that here was a talented young healer, going too far on her mystical trip. He was like, “Are you smart? I think it might just be the drugs that make you feel smart.” Soon I wanted to know if I WAS talented, if I WAS creative, if I had any value, if my friends even liked me (which it turns out they didn’t really), without drugs.

At the same time, the Goddess was telling me; “I’m bringing the hurt if you ever do cocaine again. And by the way, you have to take THIS much acid because it won’t work anymore…” I couldn’t do Molly anymore. Everything was just giving me a headache. When it finally ended, I had taken drugs for 92 days straight, just a few days over 3 months.

That last trip, I mixed a lot of cocaine with acid. Do not EVER do cocaine and acid. I felt as if every single fiber of connective tissue in my body was having a migraine. For days, I could feel my nail beds. I lay on my back for about seven hours to protect my spine. I was in full head to toe spasms. Every single part of me was throbbing with the message; “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” And I needed that brutality. Pain is my greatest teacher.

When I quit drugs, I went through the terrible loneliness of feeling disconnected from the Divine. I went from a Universe that was beyond Technicolor and blissful joy, to a world that was grainy, fuzzy black and white. Food didn’t taste good. Music sounded like shit. People lost the innocence in their voice. And my friends were very, very angry at me. Very angry at me for quitting drugs, because, I realized, they had lost their best curator for trips. I had curated fantastic trips.

Jesse in her psychedelics heyday

I felt like I had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and kicked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore, and had abused the sacraments. But I also had faith that things were unfolding as they should. I quickly figured out that not only did I have a drug addiction, but almost an addiction to spiritual epiphanies. Now I needed time to digest, to integrate the massive insights I acquired. The Jungian analysis was really fundamental to this. I saw my therapist three times a week for six years.

Physically, I went from one hundred to zero by myself. I swore off absolutely everything that could alter my consciousness, including several years without caffeine. I was being penitent. And there was no 12-step group for psychedelics. I would piggyback on Cocaine Anonymous and AA, but that didn’t work out for me very well. I was dropped by every sponsor, predominantly because they weren’t a psychedelics addict. They were alcoholics, and it’s just a very different vibe to recover from.

I feel very blessed that my body had an easier time dealing with withdrawal than most, and that I was able to fully quit on my own without medical assistance. But my mind and spirit was in hell. I also had to get over the shame of being a psychedelics addict. It was hard work to do that, and it was hard work to participate in life and to show up for people.

On another level, I also had to participate more spiritually. I couldn’t just take the medicine and have Goddess come to me. I actually had to do the work to get into a mystic state. I found myself studying meditation, ritual, and ceremony to try to integrate the wisdom I sourced on my trips into my daily life, but also simply because I missed my communion with Goddess. This period of recovery was a cocooning stage really, where I withdrew from the world to work on myself.

I consider it a miracle that my ability to understand spatial relationships on a very deep somatic level, my understanding of inner space, remained with me through sobriety. Psychedelics taught me everything that I use in my career as a healer now, and these days I just tell my clients the truth when they ask about my methods. That this is something I developed when I did psychedelics regularly, and explored inner space. I often say that once you peak behind the curtain, you can’t “un-see” what you found there. However, integrating that wisdom into daily life is a whole other trip!

I also know that for my spiritual evolution, I needed to know the real darkness of addiction. I relate so deeply to the path of the Wounded Healer, and so many of us are battling addictions of every sort. I’m much more of service as a healer having had to heal myself from my addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I look back, and rather than deny that part of myself, I feel blessed I got experience it. But I’m far more grateful I got to recover from it.

I do not recommend MY path to anyone else however, and I consider myself very lucky to be here. But witnessing the renaissance for psychedelics unfolding around me now, and the healing aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general being celebrated, actually makes my heart sing. I’m also thrilled to see real support for the appropriate research into the healing properties of these substances, as well as social support for people exploring consciousness through hallucinogens.

For anybody who is choosing to experiment, I’m also beyond stoked to see all the resources out there for people to educate themselves and stay safe and healthy. Check out the awesome organizations below that are helping us evolve towards cognitive liberty and safer inner explorations.

As a healer, teacher, and artist, some of Jesse Heid’s most passionate work is introducing people to their fascia connective tissue and exploring the tensegrity of the fascia matrix throughout our entire form. Jesse holds a BFA in modern dance and composition from CalArts and has been a popular NYC Pilates teacher since 2000. Find out more about her and her work at Alignedspiritpilates.com, and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

For more information about the safe use of psychedelics for healing:

MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Women’s Visionary Congress

The Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Congress

ESCAPE TO EDEN: IS BURNING MAN A SPRITUAL GAME CHANGER?

Is making the pilgrimage to Burning Man a spiritual game-changer, or can that change only occur within? The conscious party scene can be a portal for sure, but there’s no fast track to enlightenment, says David H. Wagner. Homepage image: Elena Kulikova via Behance.net 

Recently, I shared an email exchange with a young seeker in our community. She was considering making it to Burning Man this summer. I have to preface this whole thing by saying I have nothing against BM. I have dear friends and colleagues that go every year, I think it’s actually pretty cool. Overall, I’m glad it exists.

This could just as easily be written about a South American Shamanic Retreat, or a hot new weekend workshop, or someone signing up for a Yoga Teacher Training. It just so happens it’s about BM. That aside, I think there are valuable points in here about the cross pollination between yoga, spiritual disciplines, partying, and consciousness expanding drug use. Here’s a snippet from the email:

“As an elder in this spiritual scene I’ve seen so much of this over the years. I’m not against partying – and the kind of partying at Burning Man is probably a lot more positive than other party scenes you’ll find. But if you choose to go – just be clear what you’re getting into. Many people will talk about it like it’s a spiritually ‘game changing’ experience – but in many ways it’s just a slightly spiritualized party.

You might experience a little anarchy, or get naked in public, or take some E or some acid, or smoke some weed, or dance all night, or have ‘deep conversations’ with people while doing any of the above. And if you were TOTALLY closed before that, or TOTALLY uptight or TOTALLY un-awakened then it’s true that any of these experiences could be profound…”

True. If I could send my conservative Kentuckian cousins to Burning Man, they might come back transformed. But the young seeker I was writing to was already very open-minded and in the process of awakening, and looking for training and a deepening of her experience. Here’s some more:

“Anyone can FEEL free taking E and dancing naked at Burning Man. But feeling free and learning to BE free are two different things.

And…too much of the former actually can hinder the experience of awakening. In all my years working on a spiritual level with people, there have been only a handful of people I really couldn’t help. Among them the ones who’ve burned their neurotransmitters out on E, or built up a whole quasi-spiritual identity based on these external experiences. In my experience, getting high prevents people from learning to be high.

These sorts of experiences are good doorways – if the doors are stuck. But the idea is to then walk through them. You don’t hang around the doorway, or deify the door, or the openers. You move forward, you find your vision for life. You live your vision.

Ram Dass has awesome teachings about all this. Once he asked his guru Neem Karoli Baba about using drugs as a spiritual means. The Maharaji said; ‘You can use it to see Christ. But you can’t use it to become Christ’.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all into experiencing new things. The thing is, when people rave about the experience (pun intended), I think that’s more about the raver than the rave. People can have deep experiences even at super hokey things. It’s the same when people have been in the presence of great masters and have been exposed to great practices and teachings, but only a handful get the deep benefits. It’s what’s going on inside that counts.

More from the email:

“A sincere seeker will get benefit from even the stupidest bullshit. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you haven’t already, you’ll hear about ayahuasca, and Ecstasy, and all sorts of substances that people have found to be the key to their awakening. Or you’ll have people try to enroll you into some new coaching method, or a radical health approach they found to be the ‘answer.’ And often times you’ll hear about these things from really goodhearted people. And for them, in this snippet of time, it may have been the answer.

But over the years I’ve seen that things come and go. Even if, in the moment, they are THE THING for a group of people, like all things, they then move on. What remains, hopefully, are the seekers and their sincere intention to live in wisdom and freedom. All the long-term yogis and path-walkers I know have cycled through dozens of different ‘game-changers of the moment.’ And as we have, we’ve seen countless good people get swept up and lost in these things when they lost their sense of self and perspective.”

On the spiritual path, we need to know what we’re after. And know ourselves well enough to know whether or not we’re on the right track. It also helps to have some elders around. People who have some seasoning and can offer some perspective. Even after 26 years on the path, I feel like I barely qualify – but none the less, when someone like this person has a question, I feel it’s our duty to answer, even if I sound old and lame.

As a young seeker, your beauty, your sincerity and your light are all qualities that people are going to lust after. And not just in a sexual way, I mean organizations lusting after your enthusiasm and your brightness. I mean “scenes” lusting after your awesome energy and vitality. If you’re getting into all of this at a young age, you will likely have a lot of different ponds to swim in.

It’s all good. Swim in them.

But listen to your gut before you dive in, heart first. Just know there are a lot of blind people out there leading other blind people, and some straight up jackals too. So stay alert. Stay in touch with your heart. And you’ll be good.

Read more from David and learn about his work at Davidhwagner.com