Harm Reduction

Transcript: Can War Veterans’ PTSD Be Healed With Ayahuasca? – Ryan LeCompte

The Third Wave · January 28th, 2018

Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Ryan LeCompte.

This week we’re joined by Ryan LeCompte, founder of VET, a non-profit organization that facilitates entheogenic healing for veterans suffering from PTSD. Ryan explains why entheogenic therapy may be especially useful for combat veterans, and also gives us some insight into his own personal beliefs about the direction of the psychedelic movement.

In this episode we talk about:

0:00:25 Paul Austin: Hey listeners. Welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast, where we look at how we can reframe psychedelics for a mainstream culture. This week we are joined by Ryan Lecompte, founder of VET, that stands for Veterans Entheogenic Therapy, a non-profit organization that facilitates entheogenic healing for veterans suffering from PTSD, particularly with Ayahuasca. So Ryan joined us to explain why entheogenic therapy may be especially useful for combat veterans, and also gives us some insight into his own personal beliefs about the direction of the psychedelic movement.

0:01:00 PA: Now, I recorded this podcast interview, maybe in September. We had some interesting conversation, particularly about political things. It was only briefly, as I prefer to avoid a political conversation and discussion. But from my perspective, Ryan had some, shall I say interesting perspectives on the recent presidential election, which I did my best to address, detailing the obvious incompetence of our current President.

0:01:25 PA: So, overall it was a really good interview. Ryan has a different perspective than many do in the psychedelic space, but I still found his insights to be valuable, particularly in how they relate to veterans suffering from PTSD. So you should find this interview to be very interesting, and of course if you enjoy it, please leave us a review on iTunes. So without further ado, I give you Ryan Lecompte of VET.

[music]

0:01:58 PA: Great, so we’re back. We’re hoping the third time is the charm. This time around, Ryan, I think this is the third time we’ve connected and it’s an honor to have you on The Third Wave Podcast, so thank you so much for being here.

0:02:08 Ryan Lecompte: Oh, it’s good to be back. Thanks for having me.

0:02:10 PA: We had some technical difficulties, last time when we tried to record. So we actually had 45 to 50 minutes of really high quality recorded material. But I think it will be great to start from the beginning, we might be able to incorporate some of that in some form later on. But I’m super excited just to, again, to dig into your story around your work as a veteran and how that intersected with entheogens, and how that’s come to be now with VET. And I think that might be a good place to start. What is VET, and where did that idea come from?

0:02:42 RL: So, V-E-T, VET is an acronym for Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy. And we are a non-profit. We’re in the process of filing for a 501 [c] [3]. It’s a lengthy process. We’ve been waiting a couple of months now for approval on that. But we specialize in bringing entheogens, creating context in our culture for entheogens specifically, not just psychedelics, but although we do advocate for synthetic forms of psychedelics, LSD, and MDMA and stuff like that.

0:03:14 RL: But we’re looking more at the indigenous and ceremonial use of plant medicines for mental health issues within our veteran community. Depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, all related to PTSD. So the vets that we work with are all, have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from service, as a result of service, and have tried therapy at the VA for a minimum of six months before they enter into our program.

0:03:45 RL: So that’s what we do on the treatment side. And then we also, myself as the executive director and the founder, I tour the country. I’ve been invited to many universities. UMass, Amherst. Just gave a talk there about the work that we’re doing, create more public awareness in the academia community, the public community in general. And then yeah, the research side is the other side that we’re tackling as a research non-profit. Where we’re looking at Ayahuasca-assisted psychotherapy for treatment resistant post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.

0:04:20 PA: And so, I think many of the listeners are probably at least vaguely familiar with some of the research that’s been going on with MDMA for PTSD, from MAPS. And they just got this breakthrough therapy status approved by the FDA, which I think is just absolutely phenomenal. And kinda to add on to that, as you mentioned, you advocate for the use, but you also, from your perspective, you guys are taking a different approach, because you’re not as focused on the molecule, MDMA for example, when used within a clinical controlled setting.

0:04:47 PA: But you’re more looking at the implications of, like you said, entheogens, these plant medicines whether that’s Ayahuasca or Psilocybin, or Peyote, Ibogaine, San Pedro. There are a number of plant medicines that obviously can be utilised to heal past traumas. And I’m curious, why take that approach? Why take the approach of looking at more the holistic aspect rather than the more mainstream approach that MAPS has done with MDMA for PTSD?

0:05:14 RL: Well, it’s funny you asked that, I just congratulated Rick, by the way, on the FDA, the new article that came out about the phase three starting. And it’s a great breakthrough. And again, it’s gonna be something that segues into the indigenous use of these medicine like what I’m working on.

0:05:30 RL: So sort of like how Marijuana was where MDMA is today. Marijuana was there about 20 years ago, when Rick… Almost 30 years ago when Rick first started. When they forced MDMA to become illegal, Rick was in a position where he’d sue the DEA and won that case in civil court, but ended up, they still ended up scheduling MDMA.

0:05:53 RL: So we’re sort of at that same threshold now, where my 20 to 30 year plan is to make Ayahuasca possibly, from an FDA point of view, just to make the dosages more measurable, and put in a more clinical context, that we focus on the active ingredient in there, which is DMT, which holds profound potential for healing very, very difficult mental health illness and pathologies like PTSD, like depression, like anxiety.

0:06:23 RL: But I’m coming at it from more of a spiritual angle, whereas MDMA holds the potential to have a spiritual experience and, sort of, that “aha” moment in therapy. I actually got to work with some of the MDMA therapists in the clinical trials here in Boulder. That’s one of their sites for MAPS for this FDA study.

0:06:41 RL: But those “aha” moments really extend deeper with an Ayahuasca experience, in that it provides context of what William James describes as like a peak experience. And that’s where your experience is beyond language. There’s some type of presence beyond what you normally perceive in waking consciousness, whether that’s God or a higher power. And it’s transient, so it doesn’t stay very long. And it’s noetic, so there’s a quality of the experience that goes beyond the rational mind, the confines of the rational mind.

0:07:15 RL: So following along those same lines, the breakthrough with entheogenic therapy, which is the niche that I’ve sort of cornered and marketed to all walks of life and people that I talk to on a daily basis, is that these peak experiences seemed to have some healing potential. I look back at the AA model.

0:07:32 RL: When Bill Wilson, who was also World War One vet, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, he sort of had this same experience with Belladonna and LSD in the ’50s and ’60s, working with Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley. He was in an LSD experience with them. And in that experience, he saw the potential for psychedelics to help alcoholics with the fourth step, which was taking a moral inventory on yourself.

0:07:58 RL: And we know this from our psychedelic experiences, that we have to look at if… I mean we can choose to turn away in those experiences, but the mind has made manifested in front of us and we witness those things on a visual or emotional level, and we get to look at our own stuff, basically. And AA works for those who work the steps. I know, I hear that a lot from alcoholics that I work with that are veterans as well, that have been in out of those rooms.

0:08:25 RL: And they describe this as like writing down every single thing they’ve done to someone that they’ve harmed and writing down that person’s name. So a lot of this taking out of the trash and baggage of the past that keeps alcoholics in that mode of drinking in the disease mind, the moral inventory is a crucial part of the step work.

0:08:47 PA: And so with Ayahuasca, it’s, the similar effect is that… Or with any sort of entheogen in general, is that there’s this felt sense of direct experience, as Terence calls it, where you just witness yourself in real time and you witness a part of yourself from the past or from the future, or even in the present sense. And so it mimics, from a therapeutic lens, exposure therapy model that the VA uses.

0:09:13 RL: In exposure therapy, the basic idea behind it is, for PTSD is, if you’re scared of snakes then they put a snake in the middle of a room in a glass box, and you work with an exposure therapist who’s standing next to you. And they sort of gauge your reaction to the snake and they sort of help, like a midwife would in pregnancy, help you along in moving closer or farther away and then gauging the feelings and sensations that come up as a result of those movements toward or away from the snake. And eventually, the goal of exposure therapy is to help them process their fear response because of an earlier experience that they had with the snake.

0:09:54 RL: The same can be said with Ayahuasca. There’s often visuals of snakes, where vets have said like, “I saw this snake, I was super scared, but I remembered what you said. Allow the snake to swallow me.” And all of this is happening in their experience, and so as a practitioner, as a psychotherapist, I don’t concern myself so much with the validity of, like from a logical point of view. I look at, what are they taking away from that experience? How are they processing that fear? And were they able to turn toward it? As we say in Buddhism, the Shambhala way, the warrior’s stance toward fear is to turn towards it and face it head on.

0:10:30 RL: And that’s something that’s a little bit different from MDMA, where MDMA… In therapy sessions, the point of doing any kind of work within therapy, the limitations are, is that you can’t always get right to it. So MDMA helps the brain sort of quiet those fear responses, the fear centers in the brain, so that individuals can move toward that fear, but it has to be done with someone who’s skilled in that.

0:10:53 RL: With Ayahuasca, you have a shaman who sort of just reduces the amount of fear in the individual indirectly, so they’re not necessarily like walking them through, but they are playing rattles. They are noticing the energy in the room as the Ayahuasca is moving throughout the ceremony. And they sort of take a harm reduction approach to it, whereas somebody in a psychotherapeutic context in Western therapy, an MDMA therapist would help walk them through it with words.

0:11:23 RL: This is beyond language. Ayahuasca seems to access the body and the mind and parts of the soul that were damaged as a result of a traumatic experience. And that… I mean, there’s survivor’s guilt in there. There’s depression, there’s anxiety that’s worked on in these moments of exposure to, say, a snake.

0:11:46 RL: So there’s just so many moving parts with it, but the biggest thing that I bring as an organization from VET, is the integration afterwards. I feel like in the beginning, in 2014, we went down to Peru and I brought a bunch of vets with me who were all diagnosed with PTSD. And that was the first time I had ever done Ayahuasca. That’s how much I trusted in this medicine, is that all the vets said, “Well, I got the message here. I feel grounded, I feel centered, I feel like I’m ready to do some work.” But there was no structure when they got back.

0:12:15 RL: And so I had to, for the next 12 months, play phone therapist with all the vets that I brought down. And I had just gotten my undergrad degree, my Bachelors in Psychology, so I was just getting into the psychotherapy part of this work. So now that I’m at a Master’s level, I’ve been practicing therapy for a number of years, working with difficult populations, and working with vets as well. I have a sense of what that integration model looks like now.

0:12:41 RL: And so the integration is a huge part of this work when they get back, and that’s what I do. I coordinate trips for vets, we sponsor veterans to go down and do retreats. And then, that includes their flight, their housing, their stay, their retreat costs, their food, the whole nine yards, for 500 bucks. And we do it stateside with a church that’s legally allowed to practice. We’re no longer going to Peru, just because of the cost and the amount of vets that we have to treat. We have over 500 vets actually waiting for this treatment.

0:13:12 RL: So we found a church that is solid, that practices ceremony the way we need it to from a therapeutic lens. And then they come back and do integration with us for a year. And the results from mining data for the last three years on that over 200 vets so far, is promising.

0:13:30 PA: That’s phenomenal news and that really warms my heart that you were doing what you’ve done. Because I talked to a close friend of mine who I met about six months ago, and he was an Army Ranger, so he did a few tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe, and he has bullet holes basically in his body.

0:13:48 PA: And when I was talking to him about his experiences, not necessarily as a Ranger, but after coming back, and about basically the lack of effective therapy that the VA offers. And how, because these medicines aren’t often illegally available and prescribed yet, how there’s high levels of suicide.

0:14:06 PA: And so basically, this friend of mine, who I will interview later on the same podcast, has done underground Psilocybin circles to help alleviate and heal all this trauma that vets are going through, and has had to go outside of the VA system to facilitate this and make this happen. And he said the transformations that he’s experienced has been unbelievable and has been phenomenal.

0:14:27 PA: And so, I think it’s even better that you’re doing this in an aboveground sense and a legal sense, because it expands it even further with this treatment that veterans who are coming back from, particularly Iraq, but obviously also Afghanistan and elsewhere. They really need that, that soul work, because they’ve been so hurt and traumatized by war.

0:14:47 PA: And I also, I wanna speak a little bit more to some things that you were talking about in terms of this difference between psycholytic therapy, which is what MAPS refers to for their MDMA therapy. So psycholytic therapy is like taking small amounts of MDMA or LSD, which helps that talking process, where psychedelic therapy is having these kind of transcendental experiences. And this is what Stanislav Grof wrote about is his book in the ’60s when he catalogued all of the research that he did with LSD in the Czech Republic at the time.

0:15:15 PA: And so I think that differentiator is important, where with psycholytic therapy, it’s more like a microdose or a smaller dose, where you’re opening up channels and pathways so that you can talk through this. Whereas psychedelic therapy, it’s more as you describe, where you’re actually facing it and it’s in front of you.

0:15:32 PA: And I think that requires then a more thorough integration process afterwards to really understand what went on, and what was I facing, and how do I integrate that, how do I process that? Because I think a big part of this process is psychospiritual development, and psychospiritual healing is coming to terms with our past and facing it and then integrating that shadow side so that we can continue to grow and develop as human souls or human beings.

0:15:57 RL: I love that. Stan Grof just gave a blurb about our organization in a documentary called, From Shock to Awe, that we did an interview with him. And along the same lines, he described this birth. From birth trauma, we all really have this trauma from birth. And he describes having to go past the hip canal of the mother, and that’s a traumatic event because our heads have to sort of bend a certain way and can be very traumatic to take that first breath coming out of the womb.

0:16:24 RL: And so that’s sort of the work that I do with Ayahuasca. People refer to Ayahuasca as “mother”. And I really love the idea that there is this psycholytic potential in therapy, that keeping up with these microdoses sort of help the mind, the brain, remember these old experiences, and integrate them into daily life without sort of having such a dissociative… Sometimes dissociative qualities to a peak experience. That’s really, that’s powerful stuff for sure.

0:16:53 RL: And we also offer… Within six months, if a vet does go through our program, within six months, if they feel called, that they need to go back and do some more work with Ayahuasca, that we offer that as well. So that’s something else that is part of our program.

0:17:07 PA: Yeah, I think there’s an excellent combination there when we talk about psycholytic doses or smaller doses compared to these higher dose experiences. Because like you said and like you emphasize, not everyone is ready to jump into that deep end right away. And sometimes that unraveling process, that kind of process of becoming acquainted with these altered states of consciousness, it helps to start at lower doses before we step into higher doses, where it’s obviously much more intense, where there’s much more a dissolution of the ego.

0:17:34 PA: And so I think it’s never one or the other, but it’s looking at how we can utilize both modalities to facilitate healing in the most effective, safe way possible.

0:17:45 RL: That’s a really good point. I’ve actually got my Master’s in Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University, and that’s Stan Grof’s work. He’s really the grandfather of transpersonal psychology. And the inspiration behind that, again, was my peak experience. But really, delving deeper into these microdoses and the potential that they have, is this idea that ego strength has to be there before we actually tear the ego completely apart and put it back together like Humpty Dumpty.

0:18:14 RL: And that’s what I do as a therapist, as a transpersonal therapist, working with each individual vet. From that lens, I keep it very client-centered when I work with each vet. From the screening process on, I’m gauging their level of ego strength, their level of their sense of self from a Jungian perspective as well, really looking at their readiness to move into ceremony.

0:18:37 RL: In AA, they call it the “rock bottom”. In some cases, where they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. There’s a lot of potential in that kind of healing, from that approach as well. So I’m always juggling so many different hats, from being a coordinator for flights and making sure that they have everything they need, ’cause some of the vets I treat are homeless, so they’re literally bringing their home with them to the retreat center. So there’s a lot of ins and outs and coordination of care that I do.

0:19:06 RL: But I’m also gauging their ego strength, their level of how well do they know themselves, and moving them into ceremony, and that’s… I’ve had to actually tell vets like, “I think you should go back and watch this documentary. Do you do a practice right now? Are you meditating actively? What’s your relationship like with your family?” ‘Cause we don’t wanna disrupt that, if that’s gonna put them on edge.

0:19:25 RL: So I do some family systems work with their families if needed, a sort of curb some of the fears that wives and kids have when they step into this path. And really it’s about a new lifestyle, so I always encourage them to be willing to try something new and be willing to step into that fear. And most times with vets in particular, which is why I really love working with fellow vets, is we have this warrior stance to fear, and our objective in taking that warrior stance is taking a bias toward action.

0:19:58 RL: And really, the pharmaceuticals and all the pills that they’ve been on over the years has really stifled their warrior spirit, and they know that on some level. And I look for that basic level of intelligence within them, we call it “basic aliveness” in Buddhism. And that basic aliveness is imperative to that ego strength, of appealing to that side of them that says, “Look, I have a sense of who I am as a warrior and I want to get better. And I have a bias toward action. I need a purpose. I need to be able to turn toward my fear and face it.”

0:20:31 RL: And it’s great to see that unfolding, to see the warrior come back out in my brothers and sisters, on a very personal level is fulfilling. That’s why I stick to vets. That’s my bias in this work, as a vet, as a guy who has come from a lineage of warriors dating all the way back to the Civil War.

0:20:50 PA: Well, and let’s get into that a little bit, because we’ve been talking more about VET so far and the work that you’ve done, but I really wanna dig more into your story. What’s your story, what’s your relationship with serving as a vet? And where does that kind of juxtapose, at what point does that combine with your interest in Ayahuasca and the work that you’ve done with Ayahuasca?

0:21:11 RL: Well, first and foremost, I come from a very conservative Christian background, and I identify myself as a libertarian with Right leanings. And so that sort of puts me at a minority within the psychedelic community. So I started finding more and more of this sort of warrior within me that was pointing me towards these conservative values.

0:21:30 RL: For a while in this work as a psychedelic connoisseur and advocator, that I was just going with the spree within the community of being more liberal, being more on the Left side. In fact, I think I saw Bea Labate was recently on your podcast. And some of that social justice stuff, I started leaning away from that, and I started just owning my part in society.

0:21:55 RL: And that ownership for me, left me with the sense of taking a warrior stance toward myself, and really focusing more on my inner lotus, versus trying to change society and blame society for the problems that are out there, and just taking more ownership and responsibility. So that’s first and foremost, that’s recently what’s happened with me in the falling out with MAPS and with Bea and the research that we were doing, and just getting more convicted in my values and my principles that have kept me in this warrior’s path.

0:22:28 RL: And so, looking deeper into that path, I found my grandfather who was a World War II vet, who served in the battle of Iwo Jima at 16 years old. I mean, you can’t get much more warrior than that. The guy, he was… Lied about his age and joined the Marine Corps and fought in one of the bloodiest battles in our nation’s history at 16 years old. Willingly.

0:22:49 RL: And my dad also served in the first Gulf War. He did 20 years in the military. And so I was raised as a military brat where as a kid, we were called to be ready to move within a 24 to 48-hour period. So I’ve lived in over 20 states out of the 50 as a kid, all the way up to 18 years old. So just that willingness to be adaptable and to be ready for change at a moment’s notice, I think is something that’s been endowed upon me as a blessing.

0:23:15 RL: Obviously, early in my childhood, those were things that I experienced that were like, “This sucks. I can’t have friends, I can’t have long-term relationships.” And looking back now, cultivating that, and now that I’m out of the military, these are some things that I can work on in terms of building long-term relationships, but there’s still value in being able to have autonomy, to be willing to stand outside of a box, and really stand alone in a lot of ways.

0:23:42 RL: And within the psychedelic community, that was definitely there, that I was starting to see within this warrior’s context, within this warrior’s path, I had to stand alone and sort of… And do this work as a conservative in the field. So my leanings led me more towards VET, more towards working with this population of warriors. And all of them, not all of them, but most of them have these conservative libertarian leanings.

0:24:08 RL: And I feel like if we can create the space to bring that side of our society into the psychedelic community, it would heal a lot of what’s been going on since Trump’s been elected, and even before that, since the beginning of the bipartisan system. And yeah, these warriors are a part of our society as well, they’ve been ostracized, they’ve been since Vietnam and they’ve had tomatoes thrown at them by, I don’t wanna call ’em hippies, but basic society that sort of called them baby killers.

0:24:37 RL: And I myself have experienced that within the community of Boulder, where I go to school at Naropa wearing a Marine Corps hat in the hallway, being the only Marine in my cohort, the only vet in my cohort, I’ve been called a baby killer passing through the hallways before. So there was just a lot of stuff that I was noticing within my community of healers, and there was some shadow coming up, both for me and in the community.

0:25:02 RL: So I just decided to say “fuck it” and stick with my convictions of who I am. I also support Trump. And that’s something that I think is way outside of the confines of the psychedelic community, where there’s so much fear around conservative values and there’s really what seems to be no place for conservative values within such a progressive movement as psychedelia.

0:25:27 RL: And I wanna be able to bridge that gap, I wanna be able to show that, “Hey, look, we’re here for healing, we’re here for community. And if you don’t wanna get on board with what we’re doing, then we’re gonna sort of build our own model and do our own thing.” And that’s really the inspiration behind VET, and just doing my own thing, doing what I love. And I’m sure that on some level too, Paul, like doing these podcasts, doing your psycholytic work, your microdosing workshops, and creating your niche and getting passionate about what you love to do, is something fulfilling for you as well.

0:26:00 PA: Well, it absolutely is. And there’s a lot that just came up there that I’d like to dig more into, and I think I’ll kind of start off by first saying, I can’t necessarily say that we come from obviously the same background or we’ve had the same experience, because that would be false. However, I think we are both… We exist within a certain niche in the larger psychedelic space, which is opening up new doors and pathways to conversations.

0:26:25 PA: I think there has even been, within the psychedelic sub-culture, these normative belief systems, which include social justice, which include obviously more liberal and progressive values, which include a lot of academia and idealism. And I think there is, I’ve experienced this myself personally, pushback in the psychedelic space when we start talking about pragmatic changes and differences, particularly about the sense of individual responsibility instead of being so concerned about changes in the collective.

0:26:54 PA: There are people who definitely disagree, and I’ve noticed that the reasons that they disagree, they’re not necessarily… Well, I think for me, it comes back to practical, like pragmatic change, and understanding that we live in this basically non-perfect world. And that with the world that we live in, there’s tension, and that there are always going to be disagreements and differences between opinions.

0:27:19 PA: And that the only way that we can really help to usher in more of a mainstream understanding of psychedelics is to hold all of those different opinions within kind of a larger confine of we want, by and large the same thing, which is to help heal people from the trauma of living in a world, in a society where the soul is not paid attention to, and the soul is not cultivated, and the soul is not really understood.

0:27:50 PA: And I think that, keeping that in mind amongst all these differences, is really important as this psychedelic movement grows, because there will continue to be disagreements and differences amongst community members. And I think intention and the understanding of intention and where that comes from, will be critical in minimizing cattiness and minimizing unnecessary conflict.

0:28:14 PA: I think conflict can be healthy, because if dealt with appropriately, it can help things to evolve. But conflict can also be done in a way that definitely tears down other people and tears down other communities. And I think that’s important to be conscious of and aware of as this movement continues to grow.

0:28:31 RL: Absolutely. And this really segues into the next point of this warrior stance, and as America’s warriors. And it’s this patriotism that’s really come from psychedelic experiences regarding freedom and the Constitution. And the idea that we have freedom of speech here, that we can disagree upon things, and that it’s okay to disagree.

0:28:55 RL: And even though you’re trying to sell me on something and I’m trying to sell you on something, ultimately the decision needs to be left up to the individual. And if we can meet on common ground, that’s great. But my intention, as a warrior, and I think you’ll find in the veteran community in general, and I think with like movements like the Proud Boys, and constitutionalists, and the “Don’t Tread on Me” guys that are really feared by the left, we’re really representing the preservation of free speech and non-violence.

0:29:24 RL: And the movements around Antifa and the violent protests, these are things that I think the shadow side of the Left has really opened my eyes to sort of move toward a more of a Libertarian viewpoint. And I want to foster this beautiful thing that we have called freedom. I wanna be able to foster that in some way and fight for preserving that, like I did when I first swore in as a Marine and I swore to uphold the Constitution.

0:29:50 RL: And that’s part of it, is that we can disagree and it’s okay. And that I don’t tread on you, you don’t tread on me. And let’s exchange some ideas and get down to the root of what’s creating this conflict. And that’s conscious conflict to me. That’s good healthy conflict and boundary setting.

0:30:10 PA: Absolutely. And I’m really glad you brought this point up because this reminds me, I really don’t listen to many other podcasts. In fact, I don’t even really listen to my own. I just record these.

[chuckle]

0:30:19 PA: And send them off to Patrick, our content manager. And he edits them and gets them up, but it’s always for me a little odd to hear my own voice echoing back in my own ears. So, the one…

0:30:30 RL: I have the same experience, yeah.

0:30:32 PA: Exactly, yeah. [chuckle] The one podcast that I have listened to consistently over the past few months has been the Sam Harris podcast, which…

0:30:38 RL: Nice.

0:30:39 PA: Are you familiar with Sam Harris and his work?

0:30:40 RL: Yeah, I like Sam. Yup.

0:30:41 PA: Okay. So what you’re talking about is a lot of what he’s discussed in his podcast, which is the rise of, not only the alt-right, but also the rise of the alt-left, and both are coming from these points of irrationality and fear, in terms of the opposite or the difference. And I think what Sam emphasizes is, there are certain benefits that come from paying attention to the individual freedoms that we’ve had granted to us in the Western world and society.

0:31:06 PA: And that that it is incumbent upon us, as Westerners who have fought really, really, really fucking hard for these freedoms, to protect those from things like Islamism, and from things like Islamic, especially extremism. And this is something that Sam really harps on quite a bit in his work, is the rise of Islamism is not healthy.

0:31:29 PA: And the values that they represent and the freedoms that they want to impinge on, we have to push back against and we have to protect ourselves from. And so I think there is always going to be this push and pull between kind of liberal and conservative values because this prevents chaos and disruption from occurring.

0:31:48 PA: And so, whenever I hear conversations about this, I think it’s really important that we do show gratitude and appreciation for the freedoms that we have, because even in other Western countries, particularly to psychedelic substances, they don’t have the freedom that we do in the United States and Canada, to actually openly talking about this.

0:32:08 PA: And the reason I bring this up is because I was speaking to a friend of mine last night, someone who has been on this podcast, who mentioned a story about Jeremy Narby, who is… Are you familiar with Jeremy’s work, The Cosmic Serpent?

0:32:20 RL: That sounds really familiar, Jeremy Narby.

0:32:22 PA: He’s really involved in, he’s an anthropologist, so he’s really involved in work with Ayahuasca. He wrote a book called, The Cosmic Serpent. Which is all about the information and knowledge that we have… That indigenous societies have learnt from Ayahuasca, and it’s kind of intersection with DNA and some other really, really interesting things.

0:32:41 RL: Awesome.

0:32:41 PA: And Jeremy was at… He was invited by a university in Belgium to come speak about Ayahuasca. And apparently in that crowd on that day, there was someone who was part working for the Belgian government as part of an anti-cult system, or whatever that they have set up. And Jeremy after speaking about Ayahuasca at this university in Belgium, went back to his home in Switzerland and was promptly served a notice that he was basically under arrest for speaking out about Ayahuasca.

0:33:07 RL: Oh my God. Terrible.

0:33:09 PA: Because of its supposed connotations with this cult-like behavior. And apparently both France and Belgium have laws against openly… You can’t speak out about illegal drugs, particularly like any sort of benefits that they might have. And so this is the ridiculousness of the world that we live in, and I think that’s why we really as Americans…

0:33:32 PA: And I’ll be honest with you, Ryan. Like I’ve traveled many places. I lived in Turkey for a year, I lived in Thailand for a year. I’ve lived in many, many other countries. And I do see ideally beyond a world that is restricted by borders.

0:33:46 RL: Absolutely.

0:33:46 PA: Meaning that I’m hopeful that in the future that there will be more understanding between nation states, and that ideally we’ll go into a post nation state future which will facilitate better political interactions amongst a global society. At the same time, I’m very cognizant of the fact that we’re not quite there yet, and that since we’re not quite there yet it’s still important that we have the wherewithal to understand the value of living in the United States of America.

0:34:15 PA: Which although it’s definitely not perfect, I would still say by and large it provides us with some of the most unbelievable freedoms that humans have ever experienced in the history of our world. And I think acknowledging that is important, particularly in the psychedelic space where there is often a anti-American narrative.

0:34:34 RL: Absolutely, and I like the grounded approach that you have between being an idealist and wanting to have a New World Order or a sense of no borders, language or culture, between nations, and recognizing that we’re not quite there yet, and that America serves as a beacon of light to the world to stand for freedom, and to… We are the last vestige of hope for the world, in terms of human rights. And are we gonna make it?

0:35:01 RL: And we’re the most diverse country on the face of the earth, and I think we’re doing pretty alright, being that we have such a mix of culture and populations within our borders. Are we gonna make it? We’re like on the front stage of being able to demonstrate to the world that we can find ways through adversity, through differences within our nation.

0:35:25 RL: And that’s a huge part of why I still believe in this country, and I really, really support the Constitution. And I think you’ll find within the vet community, the guys that paid the ultimate price to preserve that freedom, it resonates as well within that community.

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0:35:49 PA: Hey, listeners. We’re just here for a quick interruption, we have a few announcements and a few pieces of news for you before we get back to the interview. The first announcement is, our Microdosing Course and community is up and running in full spirit. So if you want to optimize your microdosing protocol and join several hundred other microdosers as part of our premium community, then go to our website to get more details about how you can get involved.

0:36:18 PA: This is also a great way to support us and our efforts as all of the revenue generated from the Microdosing course community goes directly into amplifying our message and vision, including microdosing research. So go ahead and check that out.

0:36:33 PA: Two quick little announcements. France may be on the brink of decriminalizing all drugs. A Government Commission report on drug policy, presented Parliament with two options; give police officers the power to send people in possession of drugs to the courts, or simply decriminalize all drugs. The aim of both approaches is to decongest the criminal justice system, rather than reform the war on drugs, although I would argue that the war on drugs and eliminating that is in many ways decongesting the criminal justice system. Police will still be targeting traffickers and dealers.

0:37:09 PA: So some common news. As we talked about maybe before, Norway. Norway has now decriminalized all drugs. I see a trend occurring. Vermont has become the first state to legalize Marijuana through its state legislature, instead of by ballot initiative, and this makes it the ninth state to officially legalize Cannabis. Other states, including New Jersey, New Mexico and New York are also pushing to legalize Cannabis through state legislature this year.

0:37:34 PA: That’s it for announcements for this week. Now let’s get you back to the interview with Ryan. And again, if you enjoy the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes, and send us your questions on Twitter or Facebook.

[music]

0:37:55 PA: So I’m curious, kinda to elevate this a little bit, what’s your stance then on particularly… You mentioned you’re a Trump supporter earlier, about the juxtaposition of what Trump has done from a political perspective, in terms of he really has, from my perspective, harmed American interests abroad in terms of being perceived as this vestige of freedom. And we saw this most recently with how he has basically undone DACA, potentially sending many of these immigrants back home. Where does your support from Trump come from, particularly when you talk about these more patriotic values that you hold onto or represent?

0:38:29 RL: Well, when I say I support Trump, I hold faith in Trump, and that he’s my President just like Obama was my President. So I have faith in our President. I have faith in our system. And I have faith in the warring that we’re gonna come out on the other side, whether it sways to the left or to the right.

0:38:45 RL: And with Trump, in particular, and this is why the work with Ayahuasca is so important in my life personally, and I think collectively, is that healing self, healing the fear, healing the reactivity from outside environment, is what it’s gonna take to thrive and to evolve in this country, and in the world. And as a individual, and as a collective.

0:39:08 RL: And with Trump, in particular, DACA, I know he just extended that to six months through a bipartisan agreement with Nancy Pelosi. So that was, some of that was pulled back a little bit. And we have to understand that in this country we have certain laws. And laws depict… Although we have, we’re a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws.

0:39:30 RL: And that goes back to Clinton saying that when illegal immigration was still going on, and the feasibility of maintaining our country economically just wasn’t there because of the amount of immigrants coming in. Bill Clinton recognized it, Obama recognized it, George Bush recognized it. I think every President left and right had seen some of the issues about breaking laws.

0:39:54 RL: And we have laws. If you break a law by coming into this country without proper paperwork, or doing it the right way, like legal immigrants have done, you’re not only harming the ones that have done it the right way, you’re harming the American population. And 50 to 75 years ago when the Irish and the Germans, and some of the European nations, some of the South American nations came in, the Cubans came in, we didn’t have much of a social welfare system that we do today.

0:40:22 RL: And it is absolutely draining, when you look at the numbers. I didn’t believe it at first. I’m like, “Man, this is just a far right narrative to sort of just… It’s a racist narrative to say, Look, we can’t have a bunch of people coming in because they’re sucking up the welfare system.” But I went in and did some of the number crunching, and it just blew me away. I’m like, “Dude, we’re losing so much money on that.”

0:40:44 RL: And we’re losing money on the industrial complex within the military too. So what I think Trump has the potential to do in his plan, in his planning with his team, is A, make the military better and more efficient. Not spending more money, but spending it more efficiently, being more vigilant about how we spend our money. Addressing some of the double standards that we have with trade, including NAFTA and the Pacific trade agreements, where we were getting shafted on imports. Huge amounts of money we were losing.

0:41:15 RL: Holding the UN responsible and NATO responsible for paying their side, in terms of European countries and Middle Eastern countries, paying their portions that they signed up to pay that we were picking up the tab on that. And yeah, this is not gonna be a popular thing. Some of these movements toward making other countries accountable for the security that we provide, that we’ve been providing for them, and the safety that we’ve been providing for them over the years.

0:41:43 RL: But having them pull their own weight will make us definitely more unpopular. But I don’t think Trump is really in the business of being a popular guy, even though he has a following. He has a group of constituents that put him into office, he’s not gonna make those guys upset. But the ones that don’t like him in general, that started off not liking him from the beginning, I think he’s been fully aware of that.

0:42:07 RL: In the media, from the far-left, it’s been nothing but false narratives about his Russia scandals, his issues with the… I think there was like a Russian hotel whore incident that he was accused of, that just sort of died down. And I just know from experience as sort of being an alpha male, a successful White cisgender male, that you’re gonna draw some haters, whether just based on appearance or the way you carry yourself, and that people just in general aren’t willing to have open and honest dialogues with people of that caliber.

0:42:42 RL: And I see Trump in the same way, that he represents a large shadow of our society, and that is being a successful entrepreneurial-minded guy, who doesn’t have the political tongue that this country, frankly at this point doesn’t need. He’s a businessman, and we’re in a lot of debt, and I think he can pull out the other side and get the job done.

0:43:03 RL: And he’s got an incredible heart, which I think the media doesn’t cover. He’s donated so much money to organizations, he’s helped legal immigrants that are in this country. He’s worked with Dr. Ben Carson, who’s also another guy who’s been called an Uncle Ben by the left, which is a Conservative black man. For some reason, you can’t be black and be Republican or a Conservative in this country. It just goes against the narrative of the Left.

0:43:30 RL: And so, he works with him on trying to create more education within some of the more metropolitan, downtrodden, Black communities, to provide more education instead of more welfare and social systems that would just keep people more dependent on the government. He’s seeking to help those communities sort of build from the ground up and become more autonomous, take a more self-ownership point of view, and move towards success.

0:43:57 RL: And if they so choose, just like UN nations who want the same type of security, both in and out of our borders, that they have to step up their game and say, “I need to take some responsibility for my life, and move on up.” And I think Ben’s a prime example of that, and I think that’s why they resonate so well together.

0:44:16 RL: Ben grew up with, I believe, nine other siblings with a single mother in the projects. And his mom didn’t know how to read, but she pushed him to read. He had to read every day of his life. And she made sure, as a mother, as a good mother… As a parent myself, I push my kids, “If you want these goals that you want out of life, you have to push yourself, you have to kick some butt, you have to be balanced emotionally, you have to make sure that you’re thriving socially. How can we get past some of these barriers that you have, and work towards solutions, and be more pragmatic?”

0:44:51 RL: And for Ben, he followed his mother’s direction and he became a neurosurgeon. Working in the pediatrician department from the ghettos of a really, really shitty part of the country. And so I think that’s the American Dream for me, is that anyone can be anything they want in this country, but it first has to start with yourself and taking ownership of where you are in your life. And that ownership will eventually lead you to a place of thriving and success. And that to me is the American Dream, and Trump represents that to me.

0:45:22 PA: Well I think we haven’t… I haven’t really talked much about this on the podcast so far. So I think it’s also incumbent upon me that I speak my word, because I haven’t really done so about Trump. And while… And I’ll kinda preface this to saying that we will likely disagree on quite a bit, which is completely okay.

0:45:39 PA: And I acknowledge some of the benefits that you have spoken about, or some of the positive outcomes of what Trump has done so far, which is definitely taking a hard look at how we’re becoming a bankrupt nation, about how we’re 23, 25 trillion dollars in debt, how we’ve over-committed and continue to over-extend ourselves. And that is, I think partly due to an over-bureaucratic federal government, where there has been too much reliance on the federal system and not enough cultivation and curation of local resilience, both on a state and obviously local level.

0:46:14 PA: And I think that is definitely one of his positive impact so far, particularly even when we look at what’s going on with the drug war, he’s basically tried to make the federal government less active and less involved, which I think is a necessary transition in terms of where we’re going. So I do acknowledge that beneficial part.

0:46:31 PA: However, I think where we would disagree is, I see Donald Trump is a deeply unethical liar, amongst other things. I think he has the maturity of a 13-year-old, I think he has a hard time taking any sort of criticism and integrating it. He often easily gets offended and basically whines and cries about how the media treats him unfairly, even when he continually lies about, for example, the audience that came to his inauguration, where there were clear photos that there were much, much fewer people than he tried to imagine.

0:47:04 PA: So he often has this kind of grandiose attitude, ego-inflated attitude about himself, which just doesn’t map on to reality. And although there has been some, like you say, the Russia case is definitely overblown in terms of how the Left has portrayed it. At the same time, Donald Trump’s continuous lies just make me basically have no respect for who he is as a person.

0:47:29 PA: I think his role, and the role that he’s playing, is interesting in terms of how he’s trying to make the federal government less prevalent, how the sense of what you spoke about, taking more ownership. But I see him as an individual and a person as basically this kind of clown of sorts, who really doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing. And the chaos that has been going on in the White House is a direct result of basically his disorganization and inability to hold any sort of leadership position.

0:48:00 RL: And this is where I think the narrative from the Left, the way he plays the media, and the way he sort of sways his position in general, is he plays in opposition to the media’s portrayal of him. So it’s a sort of back and forth that he gets in with the media. And I think when, that I’ve seen where certain media outlets that have engaged him with honest discussion about plans of action, not so much calling him out on his personality and what they perceived him to be, whether that’s being a liar, or being a misogynist, or a racist or…

0:48:33 RL: I’ve heard so many things and so many different name-calling, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of calling him out on his actual action as President. And it seems pretty violent from me on, to be able to say, “This guy is this, this, and this and this,” and allude to the inauguration address, where he said that there were more people than so and so.

0:48:55 RL: I don’t concern myself as an individual, around the things necessarily that he says. But I do concern myself with the actions that he takes. I think actions speak louder than words, and so far the actions that he’s done have made me pretty confident in his ability as President, beyond personalities. And I think that’s just the work that I’ve done on my own and being able to shut the media off and say, “Let’s look at some of the things he’s done, not so much the narrative from the media.”

0:49:22 PA: Yeah, and I totally understand that position, and that’s why I think for me that the role, in terms of this… He kinda has this strongman way of doing and way of being, it is interesting. But at the same time, I think I just have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he’s still is President of the United States. So I think…

0:49:43 RL: Yeah, he’s a huge shadow, man. He’s a huge shadow of our culture, for sure.

0:49:47 PA: And I think that, this is helping people then wake up and recognize, particularly people who are more rational, and not necessarily the alt-left. But yeah, people who are more rational in their approach are waking up and realizing that there’s been a lot of apathy in American culture over the past 40 years.

0:50:02 PA: And that, really if we are to, like we were talking about before, if we are to protect these values of freedom that we have, people need to start stepping up. And I think that has been definitely one of the positive outlooks and benefits of him being elected, is there are more and more people who are stepping up and becoming involved in their civic duty as citizens of the United States.

0:50:20 RL: Yeah, I agree man. I think he’s doing his best with what he has, and so far I’m pretty happy with the actions he’s taken. And we’ll see. The next, what is it? We’re not even a year into his presidency yet. Hopefully, you’ll get somebody else in there within another four years that, comes up as a good Democrat. I haven’t seen a good Democrat in a long time.

0:50:43 RL: The last one that I really love and respect and admire, is John F. Kennedy. But beyond that, it’s, on both sides, it’s just been crap. The Rinos, the Republicans in name only, those guys. Bush, wasn’t a big fan of him. His dad. Clinton, he was alright. Smooth talker, but not a lot of action, from my side, in my background.

0:51:07 RL: And Trump’s the first guy that he’s drawing hate from all sides. And that’s my kind of guy, just from a personal level being at Naropa, sorta of being the same height as him, 6-foot-2, 230 pound, stocky guy with 15% body fat, being perceived as sort of that alpha male, White guy. White, straight guy, go-getter, successful, freedom-marcher. Supports veterans. All that stuff. That’s what really resonated with me, seeing him get up there and give it a go.

0:51:39 PA: So yeah, totally. And I could see where you’re coming from, and I think I wanna kind of transition now into a little bit less, any non… A more Ayahuasca or VET-related note. In terms of, we spoke earlier about what VET has done so far, why it came about, the work with entheogens that you all are doing.

0:51:57 PA: I’m just curious to hear, what are future plans for VET? Like you said, you have about 500 people who are on a waiting list to go and have this experience with Ayahuasca. What else do you have in store in the next year to two years, in terms of where you’d like this to go?

0:52:14 RL: I think the biggest thing… And I’m really excited to share this, thanks for the transition. The biggest thing is we have a VET ranch coming up next year that we’re planning on opening. We have a fundraiser this year in October in Chicago. I just took on a program manager/ fundraising manager who lives in Chicago and is putting on this giant first annual VET fundraiser in Chicago. And we’re super excited to have some of the vets that came to our program to show up at this event, and give their testimony about how this has helped them.

0:52:46 RL: And from there, we’re hoping to raise enough money to break ground next year in Florida, opening a VET retreat center. And part of this VET retreat center, the idea behind it is to keep it in the context of indigenous healing and holistic healing. So we wanna include horse therapy. I have so many in my network from just being a student at Naropa in the transpersonal community. There’s an array of therapy that my cohorts and the professors that I work with are on board. They’re psyched about this. They wanna get involved.

0:53:20 RL: And part of their work is bringing workshops to our VET ranch in Florida. And they said, “Give me a call when this thing’s up and running, and you’re ready to go and to have me give a weekend workshop where I can pull out all my tools that have helped me in my life, and hopefully help some of these vets.” And it’s really focusing more on the residential care side. So we’re providing beds in the form of a spiritual bootcamp. I’ve talked a lot with my board about like, “We wanna gear this more toward like a spiritual bootcamp of sorts, where vets can come to the safe space in Florida.”

0:53:54 RL: Most of them are gonna be homeless, and they can live with us as long as they want on the ranch. Upwards of 30 days is really what we’re looking at, to provide a bed for them, and sort of a bunkhouse-style-living facility. I will be providing individual psychotherapy. I’ll be facilitating group therapy. We’ll be having, like I said, equine therapists and horses on the ranch as well, to do some PTSD workshops with horses.

0:54:25 RL: Canine therapy, we’re gonna have dogs on the ranch. We’re gonna have a few float tanks. We’re gonna have lots of hammocks. We’re gonna have wilderness therapy experts there to sort of take them out into nature. We’re gonna buy up a lot of land to be able to do that. And build this thing from the ground up. And the idea behind it is be close enough to the church that we work with in Florida who’s allowed to practice with Ayahuasca legally, buy a 15-passenger van and ship these guys down, do a weekend workshop with Ayahuasca, and then bring them back and do a 30-day integration with them on our ranch from a transpersonal lens.

0:55:00 RL: It’s gonna be a great system, and I’m hoping that we raise enough money to actually break around and make this a reality, and start getting some staff involved, and make this thing more sustainable. So that’s the big goal. And the people that have already come on board and have said, “Hey, we’re gonna help you out and get this thing done,” they’re super excited. And a lot of them have volunteered their time pro bono. And I eventually wanna get to that place where I can start compensating these guys.

0:55:24 RL: So really, our push right now is this fundraiser in October, and then continuing with the GoFundMe campaign, which I’d be very appreciative if you could link on your podcast. And yeah, just continuing to resource and build networks, and get these vets the healing that they need.

0:55:40 RL: And hopefully, this model that we create of Ayahuasca-assisted psychotherapy will get some attention at the VA. And the VA might, 20-year plan, we’re hoping 20 years, they would eventually start seeing that taking a community-based approach toward healing for vets will lead the way and change the way we look at mental health in this country, mental health treatment in this country.

0:56:04 RL: And getting the green light from the VA and starting referral programs with the VA and say, “Look. We have a program. Give us your treatment-resistant vets that have tried therapy at the VA for six months or more, and send them to us and we’ll take care of them. We’ll show you the results.”

0:56:22 RL: And I know the VA is always led the big changes within the larger community in mental health, just because they’re the largest healthcare system in the country at this point, and they’ve really always been, in terms of research, and the amount of people that they treat, and the size of their facilities. And so if we get that recognition, I think we have a way of changing as a whole, the model that we have now that’s currently in place.

0:56:49 PA: And we didn’t get much into that in this conversation. I think we may have spoken about this in our kind of last half recorded podcast. But basically, I think it’s important from a medical healthcare perspective, that we are able to step outside this clinical model, this molecule model, and that we’re able to, from a healthcare perspective, integrate holistic plant medicines that not only heal the body, but also the spirit and the mind.

0:57:12 PA: Because I think, as many of us have experienced from the psychedelic experience, there’s a deep understanding that all of those are integrated and connected into creating this being that we find ourselves in.

0:57:25 RL: Absolutely. And really, the other piece that we have an opportunity to do is to create a client-centered model. It’s this idea that we’re here for the needs of the patient that’s in front of us. And Carl Jung really changed this up for me. I read a lot of his books, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections early on. I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree.

0:57:42 RL: And his model was, I need to be able to show up for the individual that’s sitting in front of me, and take off my robe, my doctor’s robe, and be able to sit with them in their experience and see what their needs are. So this is a very, very needs-based model, and that’s why we wanna bring so many of these different options within the community context, we can do that.

0:58:03 RL: We have the ability to say, “Look, if you’re in need of wilderness, we got an app for that. If you’re in need for… A few horses really appeals to you, and you just don’t wanna do talk therapy, it’s not working for you, that’s something that didn’t work for you at the VA, we have horses, where we have dogs that can talk to you in different ways.” You know, there’s so many different paths to this healing, and I think psychedelics paired with those options is just, the sky’s the limit with healing. And I’ve seen it happen.

0:58:33 RL: Totally. I think other modalities, and looking into the synthesis of different modalities, I think it’s gonna be really, really important as we understand that healing comes not just from a pill or substance that we put in our body, but it comes from the sum of all parts of the environment that we exist within.

0:58:50 RL: Absolutely.

0:58:51 PA: I think that’s really, really important to keep in mind. So Ryan, I wanna thank you for coming on the podcast, I wanna thank you for a controversial… Slightly controversial probably, for some of our listeners, interview.

[chuckle]

0:59:00 PA: I think we dug into a lot of interesting topics. And I just, I wanna thank you for your service. I wanna thank you for the work that you’re doing with veterans, because I think that the healing that you’re helping to facilitate for them, is critical in helping our world heal from the various issues that we deal with. So thank you so much for your work, and thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

0:59:22 RL: Oh man, you bet. And thanks for what you do. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to be here. I appreciate it.

0:59:27 PA: It was a pleasure and honor. And just as a final wrap-up, are there any specific places that our listeners can go to find out more information about VET and the work that you’ve done?

0:59:37 RL: Absolutely. So our website is www.vetentheogenic.org and our Facebook page is facebook.com/vetentheogenic. And we also have a GoFundMe page. If anyone out there feels inspired by this podcast and wants to donate, that website is gofundme.com/end22vethealing. And so you can go there and that… Your donation directly goes to the healing and the support of a vet in need.

1:00:13 RL: Like I said, like Paul had mentioned, we have 500 vets waiting for this treatment. All of them are low income or homeless, and so we wanna provide sponsorship programs for these vets, because we know mental health is directly linked to homelessness. And the homelessness rate, vets make up a third of the homeless population in this country, along with the suicidality is so high.

1:00:35 RL: So this is, I would consider a state of emergency. So you would be definitely supporting a vet who is in dire need of this service. And like I said, they also get, along with the Ayahuasca experience, they get a year-long integration with me personally as a psychotherapist and our team of peer mentors, who are vets who have gone through this experience already. So it’s a full package deal.

1:01:00 PA: Great. Thank you so much again, Ryan, for sharing this with everyone. And until next time.

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