Word on the street was that the fancy tech heads of Silicon Valley were using hallucinogens to increase performance and levels of creativity. After hearing my favourite PodCaster, Tony Wrighton talk about the book, Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler, I downloaded it and gave it a read. This was not some hippy-dippy, tree-hugging book that makes you want to live in a bathrobe for the rest of your life. Steven Kotler is a highly intelligent man that works with top executives, using science to test human performance and how to expand consciousness. What he discovered was that accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness can promote innovation, happiness, problem-solving, among many other qualities essential to thrive at the highest level in the twenty-first century.
A little self-experimentation made me realise that this was safe and no worse than getting pissed in the pub. If anything it was better. No hangover. No being sick on my shoes. Perfect! Problem-solving to one side, the most unexpected side-effect was the elevated levels compassion I felt toward all people. In particular, the people who would annoy me most – my family. The habitual snaps that seemed to be all too common for me were under control, and I began to see that all that bugged me about them, were strongest in ME. Ouch for the old ego, but better for my inter-personal relationships as a whole.
When I heard my 85-year-old Grandma had considered suicide due to depression, I was deeply moved. I had heard that hallucinogenic mushrooms could help alleviate depression, so I sat her down and asked her if this would be something she would be up for trying. Truth be told I was terrified she’s kick the bucket on her ‘trip’, but being a risk taker by nature, I forged on with the plan. The results were incredible. She laughed for 6 hours straight! Then as effects faded, she kept expressing her gratitude for her family. This doesn’t sound significant to you because you don’t know my grandma. This lady NEVER shows any emotion. And she hates saying, “I love you!” Even hugs are the most detestable things for her. Before you judge her, let me say, this brilliant woman grew up with a lot of abuse, making her hard inside. The lack of love that was shown to her during her development without a doubt had an impact. For the next six weeks of her visit, she let me hug her and kiss her. I rubbed her feet. She laughed and giggled (again not her style) at every remotely funny reference. It was like she found the joy that had been locked up in her heart.
I probably sound like an advert for mushrooms, which is not my intention. I don’t mind if you do them or don’t. Personally, I found value in the experience, and it was mind-blowing seeing my Grandmother having more fun and expressing more emotion. But these are powerful little plants, and you have to be sure that this is an experience worth exploring before you take that step. What I can wholeheartedly recommend is the lesson the ‘trip’ taught me. Never underestimate the power of compassion, it will make life far more beautiful, for you and your loved ones. And, no matter how old you are, don’t be afraid to try new things. I’ll leave you with this quote from the book, Stealing Fire, “When free from the confines of our normal identity, we are able to look at life, and the often repetitive stories we tell about it, with fresh eyes. Come Monday morning, we may still clamber back into the monkey suits of our everyday roles—parent, spouse, employee, boss, neighbour—but, by then, we know they’re just costumes with zippers.”