Inner Battles with Outer Space: Psychedelics and Their Potential Benefits for the Veteran Community
Hey guys, Chris here. I know I know, you’re probably asking, “why in the actual fuck is a military veteran site putting out an article about psychedelics?” First off, we at Warrior Soul neither condone nor condemn the practice of psychedelic exploration. We want you to be able to form your own opinions on the matter based on good information. That means going a bit deeper than our stereotypical views of psychedelics and psychedelics users. Certain groups like MAPS are putting significant effort into researching the effectiveness of psychedelics on treating PTSD in the veteran community, and we believe that you should be educated on the subject if and when it becomes a viable option for treatment. That being said, as with all substances that have an effect on our minds, these things need to be respected and approached with a healthy dose of fear. If you should choose to explore, we do not recommend or condone obtaining these products illegally or without proper guidance. Doing so could lead to a less than optimal experience, or to jail or prison. Additionally, we should also mention that psychedelics are a tool for understanding yourself and your mind better, not a be all end all cure for life’s problems. If you choose this route, you still need to put the work in to improve yourself both physically and mentally. Should you be interested in participating in studies that include the use of psychedelics in a clinical and experimental setting, you can get more information at http://www.maps.org. With that, I’m going to introduce you to my friend and the author of this article, Matthew Myro.
Matthew Myro is a lifestyle design and fulfillment coach. He guides his clients through mind/ body/heart/spirit transformation relying on his extensive education, training and unique life experiences. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio to two of the most supportive and loving parents of all time, Matthew was always encouraged to think freely and live life to the fullest. That freedom led him to San Francisco in order to pursue a Master’s degree in philosophy, cosmology and consciousness. Upon graduation, Matthew set out on a journey of education and entrepreneurialism. He is a certified Onnit Academy Trainer, Yoga Alliance instructor, Reiki Master/Teacher, certified permaculture practitioner, and after a two year apprenticeship under Master Kenn Chase, he now teaches dozens of students the ancient art form of Tai Chi . He has also started multiple businesses in fields ranging from horticulture to fashion. Stretching his creative freedom, Matthew has released an album of original music (https://soundcloud.com/ matthewmyro/sets/suspended-liberation), produced and starred in the independent film Catharsis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cxyGr7-G7E&feature=share), and writes for his blog Reverent Abandon (http://www.matthewmyro.com/reverent-abandon/). To learn more, hit him up [email protected] and check out his site www.matthewmyro.com.
Enjoy the article!
This damn cursor keeps blinking at me like some cruel temptress. It’s incessant insistence to pop in and out of existence on my laptop screen is simultaneously alluring and terrifying. I want to write. No, I need to write. The blank screen of endless possibility compels me to share whatever I’m able. However, the subject matter is daunting. I’ve been asked to write about psychedelics, a request and task nearly as baffling as a first hand experience with one of these incredibly controversial substances.
To accomplish this endeavor I could tell you that every continent on the planet hosts a wide array of psychedelic plants that have been used by our ancestors for millennia. Or, I could focus on the countless psychedelic ceremonies conducted by the shamans or medicine wisdom keepers of indigenous tribes the world over whose sole role is to act as a bridge between the human and spirit worlds. A quick internet search will give you a list of nearly 200 psychoactive plants, where they’re found, and what effects they have on the body and mind. Plus, an overview of shamanic traditions from Siberia to Peru to New Mexico is equally accessible on the web.
I could take the scientific route and tell you ad nausea about the chemical compounds in these plants, the dozens of newly synthesized psychedelic compounds and the neuroreceptors they act upon in the brain. If you so choose, you can look up N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), 3,4-
I could share with you information about the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the Heffter Research Institute, or the Beckley Foundation and all of the clinical studies they’ve been conducting at extremely reputable institutions (Harvard, UCLA, John’s Hopkins, King’s College, etc..) over the last couple decades to determine what, if any, medical benefits psychedelics may have. Popping any of those organizations’ names into the web browser of your choice will reveal the remarkable effects psychedelics have on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, addiction, pain, fear of death in terminal cancer patients, and even spiritual interconnectivity. But focusing only on these things would be a cop out.
Yes, it’s very important to know the history, know the facts and even experience the traditions. I’m also incredibly grateful for the brave individuals that are attempting to legitimize and decriminalize these very taboo and very illegal substances with science and medicine. But let’s be honest here folks, none of those things are what’s really interesting about psychedelics. We want to know about the life-altering, mind-boggling, soul-soaring, reality-obliterating effects they have on the user.
My first foray into these magical realms was as a cavalier 17 year old, popping a tab of acid on the DC Metro. While this is certainly not the ideal scenario for a first, or any, psychedelic trip, (seriously, I don’t recommend eating LSD on public transportation) I had an amazing experience none-the-less. Not many memories of the evening’s events have stuck around 20 years later, but I seem to recall lots of laugher and some ping pong. What has stuck with me, as vivid as ever, are the visions that revealed themselves on the inside of my eyelids. Giant, ornate, three dimensional fountains spewing viscous liquids in every direction. Thick streams of metallic pinks, greens, purples and blues – colors I never knew existed – interwove and danced a spectacular dance. If I try really hard, right now, I can almost recreate those images using the imaginative power of my mind’s eye. However, the once vibrant fountains streaming with electric color only stream now when I push my imagination really hard to make them stream. Even then, this whole conjured scene is muted in comparison to the original. On LSD, the visions happen effortlessly and I can sit back and observe the show. No wonder Dr. Humphrey Osmond, one of the original LSD psychiatric researchers in the 1950s, coined the term “psychedelic” in order to describe these wild substances. It’s Greek, meaning “mind-manifesting.” In other words, the mind does this crazy shit on its own. Somehow, it just happens.
Over the last 20 years and dozens of experiences, the most powerful trips I’ve taken have generally been alone, either in the comfort of my home or in the woods. If I have a major life decision to make, I’ll often take a solo trip on mushrooms. According to researchers at Imperial College London (http://healthland.time.com/
Now, its not all peaches and cream. Sometimes the messages are conveniently discernible and arrive with ease, I feel completely connected to everyone and everything in the universe, the visions are elegant and beautiful, and that voice is encouraging and benevolent. Other times…pure fucking hell. I’m talking total chaos and confusion. The visions are so completely bizarre and novel that my brain has no idea what to do with them. The voice that normally offers sage wisdom becomes absolute nonsense repeating ridiculous words until I watch the sound of them fall apart before my eyes. (Side note – psychedelics are known to cause synesthesia, a curious phenomenon, not normally hellish, where the senses get all mixed up…hearing sights, smelling sounds, tasting color and what have you.) Time freezes and the sensation of being caught in a loop becomes all too real and terrifying (like when Dr. Strange traps Dormammu in a time loop and threatens to keep repeating the same scene for eternity). This is the place where paradox goes to get confused. In my experience, most trips aren’t all bliss or all challenging, there’s usually an interplay of the two.
Fortunately I’d say that most, if not all, of my experiences with LSD and psilocybin have been fascinatingly educational or just plain fun. Ayahuasca, the ancient tea made from an Amazonian vine and shrub leaves, is in a category all it’s own. It has provided me with probably the greatest healing of my life and the greatest terror. There’s nothing quite like pissing out your asshole and puking in a bucket on your lap at the same time. All psychedelics deserve a tremendous amount of respect, Ayahuasca deserves deep reverence. Truly, it should only be done in a ceremonial setting with an experienced and well meaning shaman. Would you hike Everest without a sherpa? I wouldn’t. Likewise, don’t go drinking the jungle juice without a shaman. DMT, the psychoactive ingredient in this jungle brew is a powerhouse. Scientists have found DMT, in varying amounts, in nearly every living thing they’ve tested for it. We produce it in the pineal gland in our brain. It’s also found in our urine and spinal fluid. Yes my friends, we, along with all the law makers and police officers are making ultra potent psychedelics with our bodies. Trees, shrubs, grasses, mammals, fish, amphibians, you name it, they’ve got it. The strongest and most intense psychedelic on the planet can be found everywhere.
While the experience of taking psychedelics is truly profound, how those experiences are integrated into our lives is where the real medicine can be found. For me, that integration has led to a life of learning and discovery, turning me into an anthropologist of consciousness. It has created a perspective of ever expanding inclusivity and a deep empathy for the suffering of others. It has informed and paved the way for my career as a teacher, coach and writer. It has allowed me to find other non drug induced paths of psychedelic experience like Tibetan Buddhist meditation, yoga, tai chi, drum journeying and breathing. Perhaps most significant of all, it has brought me intimate awareness of my own mortality and infinite gratitude for this opportunity to live as a human on this planet.
At present, it feels like my heroic dose psychedelic days are behind me. I’ve certainly taken my fair share and received plenty of beautifully meaningful messages along with a handful of good ol’ fashioned ass-whoopins. I’d much rather explore the amazing states created by Wim Hof breathing exercises and cold exposure or the “mind-manifesting” qualities of a disciplined meditation practice. They may not be as instantaneously provocative as a cup full of ayahuasca, but I probably won’t shit my pants. Like the great author and philosopher Alan Watts once said: “Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen…”