Podcast Transcript: Hacking Consciousness Without The Drugs
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with David Rabin, Daniel Cortez, and Brooke Deputy.
Dr. David Rabin, Daniel Cortez, and Brooke Deputy join Paul Austin for a far-ranging conversation about the utility of non-ordinary states in healing and transformation.
In this episode, we talk about:
- What is the difference between drug-induced psychedelic states and natural alternatives like breathwork?
- The science surrounding cold stress, intentional breathing, and vibrational therapy
- How these techniques can be utilized within existing psychedelic healing frameworks
00:29 Paul Austin: And we’re back with another episode, this one entitled Without the Drugs: Modalities for Hacking Consciousness with Dr. David Rabin, Daniel Cortez, and Brooke Deputy. So this is a live event that we did, a 3W Node event out in San Francisco in late May 2019 essentially. You know, we put a panel together, where we wanted to explore the question of what does it look like to “hack consciousness,” without the use of psychedelics and where are the overlaps between some of these modalities like breath work, and vibrations, and TRE in terms of facilitating similar states of healing and transformation? So this is about an hour long podcast panel. It really delved into the difference between, obviously, psychedelic states and breathwork. What’s the science surrounding cold stress, intentional breathing, and vibrational therapy? How you can combine some of these things with psychedelic healing frameworks. And we had a really, really great panel for this discussion.
01:24 PA: So I’m not gonna give too much more of an introduction outside of that little bit of context. If you enjoy the show, again, we ask that you leave a review on iTunes and just share it with a friend or two. The more people who have access to this education and the information, the better off we all are. So without further ado, I bring you Without the Drugs: Modalities for Hacking Consciousness. So without further ado, I wanna go ahead and bring up each panelist on stage. I’m going to start with Brooke Deputy. Brooke, if you could please join us and please give her a warm welcome and round of applause.
02:06 PA: Secondly, I’d like to bring up Daniel Cortez. If you could give Daniel a warm welcome and round of applause.
02:17 PA: And finally, Dave Rabin, Medical Doctor and PhD. Please give Dave a round of applause.
02:25 PA: Did I say that? I did? What I’d love to do is just start tonight’s panel with having each of you briefly introduce yourself, so just a little bit about how you got into this work, what the work is that you actually do and how you’ve seen it impact or help or heal people in that process?
02:46 Brooke Deputy: So yeah, my name is Brooke, Brooke Deputy, I’m here tonight to talk about TRE, TRE stands for Trauma or Tension Release Exercise. It was a methodology that was originally began to work with people in war zones, large population groups, it is a self-help technique. I can talk a lot more about it, but I think what I wanna say is, is that I’ve also studied something called bioenergetics, which is a somatic psychotherapy. And this is similar, if you know something about bioenergetics you might know something about TRE. Briefly, TRE is a series of seven very simple exercises that can be done by anyone, they can be modified for people with any condition. That leads to a gentle shaking or shivering in the body. We believe that the idea of the shaking and I think you’re gonna be talking more about that, is actually a natural component. It’s in our DNA, just like it’s in our DNA to contract when we have a traumatic event happen. It’s in our DNA to release that through the shaking and all we’re doing is helping your body to remember how to do it because shaking has a negative connotation.
04:04 BD: So I have a tremor, right? Some of you can see it. This is not from TRE, this is a different kind of a tremor, but it shows… In your thinking you might be thinking, “Hmmm, she’s really nervous. Let’s see. Does she know what she’s talking about? Maybe she’s sick, what is that?” And I knew it was gonna get worse when I sat up here, because it is a little bit exacerbated by stress, but at the same time this is actually a resting tremor that goes along with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s that I have. So this is not what’s gonna happen to you. This feels totally different, it’s a different experience. And I would say that I learned about TRE, ’cause you asked me about that, when I was actually studying bioenergetics. The founder of TRE David Berceli is also a bioenergetics therapist, and he has incorporated some of the principles of bioenergetics into TRE.
05:03 BD: So I learned about it but I didn’t act on it. And about, I don’t know, eight or 10 years ago a colleague of mine said, “I just went to this workshop. You ought to try it.” So I went to a workshop that David was doing and I told him that I knew bioenergetics and he said, “Great, tell me the difference. Think about it. Don’t tell me right now, but tell me the difference.” And I knew immediately what the answer was. And the answer is, with TRE I don’t need to know your story. This is strictly a body-based technique. It doesn’t mean that over time, you might not get into your story but in the beginning it’s just with your body.
05:41 PA: Thank you so much, that’s a wonderful introduction. Dave, if you could please try to top that.
05:46 Dave Rabin: I’m Dave Rabin, I’m a psychiatrist and a neuroscientist. I have been studying chronic stress for just over 10 years and the effects of stress on the way that we perform and recover and grow as people and then also the way that we make ourselves more resilient to illness. And so my… Especially in psychiatry as I mostly work with people who have severe PTSD and substance use disorders and typically illnesses that are considered to be treatment-resistant to Western techniques. And then I see people after they’ve gone through a lot of treatment trials and similar to what you just heard, very accurately, we don’t think a lot about in Western medicine is the importance of the body in treating many of our medical conditions that we diagnose and the body being able to learn things that the mind sometimes has a really hard time grasping and vibration is critically important to the way that we interpret our environment. We don’t necessarily think about it all the time, but this is actually a relatively quiet room to sit in in San Francisco and as soon as you walk outside and you have cars driving by you and flashing lights and loud noises, your heart rate immediately goes up and your breath rate goes up, and your blood pressure goes up, and you start having faster thoughts and unless you’re aware of that your body starts to resonate with the environment that you’re in.
07:05 DR: And similarly, if you walk into a room like this or a room in a lounge or something like that where it’s calm and there’s soothing music and lots of plants around, you feel calmer and more soothed, and your thoughts slow down, and you feel better. And we see this in meditation and deep breathing and biofeedback practices and things like that, with our patients who are otherwise treatment-resistant and they say that their symptoms get better. And so, I noticed that. But I’m also an MDMA-trained psychotherapist and we also see this in MDMA therapy where people who have had terrible trauma can experience MDMA or another psychedelic medicine, and they’ve never been able to feel safe and they feel safe enough to now talk about some of their deepest, darkest fears and overcome them in session, which is really truly incredible and humbling to witness. And the single thing that was said earlier, that is so important is what facilitates these experiences is safety.
07:56 DR: And there’s lots of different ways that we can make ourselves feel safe and music being one very important one, and TRE being another one, and psychotherapy being another one, Psychedelics also. But as Paul mentioned earlier we also developed Apollo to do this on the go. So Apollo is a technology that I think probably all of us on stage are wearing, which is awesome. It actually does target the body up. Those that said body and the mind from the bottom up, so hitting the body and the touch receptors in the skin it actually activate safety signals in the emotional brain that would be just like somebody who like giving you a hug. And that feeling sort of puts a little bit of a damper on fear and stress-related thoughts that may not be appropriate at that time or may not be warranted, or conditioned fearful thoughts that give you pause to allow you to step back and say, “Wait, maybe I don’t need to be afraid right now, maybe I can be present and I can be in the moment and just see where this goes.”
08:50 DR: And when people do that which you can do on your own but again, having something with you helps, it allows you by training your nervous system to adapt more effectively to stress, and perform better under stress, and transition between states which is something that’s very difficult when we are in states of fear. And so we’re developing this technology for fall release so you can check it out and…
09:09 PA: These are early pilots that are…
09:09 DR: These are the prototypes, clinical trial prototypes so it will look much better than this and you’ll feel much better. We’ll talk more about that anyways. And I have a lot of them if anybody wants to try them afterwards. So thank you.
09:19 Daniel Cortez: I’m Daniel Cortez and I guess, in brief, if I can make a crazy story brief, I was ill for about 15 years and in that time period I switched from going down and kind of a… I was gonna be a lawyer, which now sounds like a fate worse than death. No offense, no offense to any lawyers but…
09:37 PA: How many lawyers, how many lawyers? Yeah, yeah, no.
09:39 DC: Oh, good, good.
09:40 PA: Okay, you didn’t offend anyone, that’s good.
09:41 DC: So what ended up happening was I kinda started to rethink everything that I thought about health and wellness, and along the way I found Wim Hof. And Wim Hof had been setting records for some time, but wasn’t well known in the United States at the time that I found him. And I…
09:57 PA: Who is Wim Hof?
09:58 DC: So Wim Hof is a Dutch daredevil, for lack of a better term, who basically went on his own journey of self exploration and discovered that he could modulate parts of his nervous system at will, which was thought previously to be impossible and controlled his body temperature with his mind. And what makes him so different and special and important to all of us, and I would argue to everyone particularly in the modern industrialized world, is that he brought that ability to scientific scrutiny to show that, no this wasn’t just some kind of a parlor trick, that anyone could theoretically do this because it’s… The answers to why he’s able to do this lie deep within all of our physiologies, right? And so, I intuitively without understanding the science at the time thought, of course, this makes sense. I had a History and Anthropology background, so I was really interested in what humans could do and what humans were well-adapted to doing.
10:58 DC: And that’s remained the focus of a lot of my work. So I trained with Wim and I started working with… Rethought everything I had ever thought about nutrition and movement, ’cause I had been into athletics when I was younger. And so I became a coach and I coached people’s movement and nutrition, etcetera, and then I became one of the first Wim Hof method instructors. And then eventually I conquered my illness, which is so apropos given what the Third Wave is about, by working in Peru with traditional psychedelics. And so now, I live in Peru and I’m a shamanic apprentice starting in three weeks.
11:34 PA: You’re moving to Peru.
11:37 DC: That’s right. And so I’ve been working with people there and so I’ll be starting formally there in a couple of weeks. And basically, what I do for a living is I teach retreats and workshops, and then I’m basically a one-on-one coach. So I coach people through basically… I like to call it life coaching, plus health coaching, plus movement, plus psychedelic integration. It’s all in one thing. It’s the idea that we really need to be thinking about health as this very, very, very ever expanding big picture puzzle, with a lot of different puzzle pieces. And everybody’s health is necessarily going to be… Or the solutions I should say to everybody’s health are necessarily going to be individualized because there’s a lot of individual variability, thanks to evolution.
12:01 PA: So one question I’m wanna start with, has everyone here done psychedelics?
12:29 PA: So that’s something we all have in common, right? But like I haven’t done, well, until just recently, the Apollo. I had a good friend of mine who told me I should do TRE, but I never had the chance and I’ve done very limited breathwork. How do we compare what we go through in psychedelic states, compared to breathwork, or compared to Apollo, or compared to potentially TRE?
12:51 DC: One thing that I would say is that as a person who… I’m here to talk about breathwork, and we’re here in this particular event to talk about non-drug-induced altered states. But my background is, in my particular case, it’s just as stronger and stronger in the actual drug-induced states, but I have to say that as much of a proponent as I am of these tools, as of these plant technologies, they are very dangerous in a lot of circumstances. And one of the things that you can say about breathwork is that it’s a lot safer in a lot of ways. And you just have to be honest about that, and…
13:36 PA: The most safe.
13:37 DC: Right. Right. And so as…
13:39 PA: ‘Cause you’re just breathing? Is that why?
13:41 DC: Yeah, yeah.
13:41 PA: Okay, just thought I’d try.
13:42 DC: You should be breathing in a safe place on your back where if you’ve… There’s really almost nothing that could go wrong, if you faint or whatever, you’re on your back, right? Nothing can happen. So I think the first thing is that as these psychedelics become closer and closer to the mainstream, one of the things that I know that every one of us has thought about a lot, at least on this panel, ’cause I happen to have talked to all of you, is these things are really powerful. I’m talking about psychedelics right now. And they always have the chance of being used too casually, being used where set and setting is not appreciated fully, and we don’t have… Modern western societies don’t have a culture that to place these tools into… In other words, if you go to the Amazon and you work with like my Ayahuasca teacher, well, she views ayahuasca as part of a medical system that exists already. And she believes that people should come in to, in this particular case, the Shipibo system and immerse themselves into the system and look at it from their perspective and gain insight. Now that in and of itself is a fascinating conversation to have, right? Then, I don’t know if it’s gonna be the subject… One of the subjects that we get into today. But the point is we don’t have that.
15:10 PA: What do we have from your perspective?
15:12 DR: Third wave.
15:13 DC: Yeah, exactly, exactly. We have people like us who are attempting to tell this to people, to work through these problems in our minds and figure out some solutions. But in my opinion, we’re on the frontier, we’re… And that’s one of the main reasons I’m going to Peru which is to say, we don’t have those traditions and customs. We’re going to have to make something new, because modern western people have modern western problems. The great things you can say about a tool like breathwork, whether it’s Wim Hof method or holotropic breathwork developed by Grof is they’re so much safer, that the risks are so much lower and the problems of not having a cultural kind of firmament, something that undergirds the tool you’re using, the problem that we have of not having that with psychedelics is mitigated.
16:09 PA: There’s no framework for cultural integration, that’s what you’re focused on, in particular is, I mean, culture, whereas Dave, some of the work that you’re doing with MDMA psychotherapy and with Apollo is clinical in nature. So I’d be curious if you could talk about that element.
16:21 DR: Yeah, I think Daniel hit it spot-on with saying that we really have to change the way we look at these different… Well, the way we look at consciousness as a whole, right? Because consciousness is this consciousness that we all share right now, and then there’s a whole bunch of other different states of consciousness that we can reach at different times with different skills and different tools. And it’s wide open, wide, wide open. The idea that psychedelics are a specific kind of tool that we can use to give us instant access to these incredibly deep or altered states of consciousness or however you wanna describe them; spirituality, connection to God, connection to self, whatever you wanna call it, wholeness, that’s just a tool. It’s one tool that has to be used, one kind of tool that has to be used in a very, very specific way, as you’re saying, carefully with ideally ceremony and a whole lot of intentionality around, because similarly to fixing a car, if you have the best tools at your disposal but you don’t know how to use them, you’re gonna break the car. And the body isn’t really that much different.
17:21 DR: And so when we’re talking about all of these different modalities, whether it’s breathwork, or yoga, or a good nutritional habits and just taking time out to be present and mindful every day of the things that are happening, be grateful and practice the four pillars or to do regular TRE practice or to just do four agreements practice or whatever it is, there’s lots of different strategies to do this, and they’re all tools that are all safe and fair play. But the point is that we have to use them properly. So part of what we were doing with Apollo and I guess what I realized in my practice was seeing a lot of patients I realized that people don’t know how to use these things properly at all. And there’s a lot of misinformation and thanks to people like Paul and MAPS and Erowid and all of these different sources of information that have tried to make reliable access to information about how to access altered states of consciousness or deeper meditative states more available, reliable stuff and good evidences that anybody can understand is really not as easily accessible as we want.
18:23 DR: So the idea behind Apollo was to basically use what we know about technology, and what we know about Ultra-states, similar to the way we use deep breathing. And actually, a good example you brought up, Stan Grof, for those who don’t know Stan Grof, Stan Grof wrote one of the most famous books on deep breath work, to reach psychedelic states, and it was written by him after Albert Hofmann, sent him some of the first doses of LSD ever, and he took that LSD at way too high a dose in a room with a bunch of strobe lights and sound and basically blasted off instantaneously into the universe. And then learned through those experiences, how to train himself to access those states naturally, simply through breath patterns, which he calls holotropic breath work.
19:03 DR: And so in a similar vein, what we try to do with Apollo is harness what we know about what’s happening to the body when we enter meditative states, and then use very specific layered vibration frequencies to facilitate entry into those states more effectively and smoothly on a regular basis. Because meditation isn’t just about taking time out of your day to be present, it’s about being present every moment of your day. And so these different techniques, and these different tools are ways that we can do that, and they’re all great, but it’s up to us to figure how we can adapt and pull up from those into our lives to make us really the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
19:37 BD: I agree with you. The idea of being present, I’ve been thinking a lot about this since Matt invited me to come here tonight. Modalities like TRE help us enter our bodies. We’re in our heads so much of the time. When you said walking outside and the noise, and the chaos and everything, we lead from the head, we don’t even know we have a body underneath us. So the idea that something like TRE can help you come into your body. If you come into your body and develop a relationship with your body, then you can develop a relationship with others. And you can move forward and begin to access higher ideals, higher consciousness, whatever. But in the beginning, I think it’s so important. Daniel and I were talking, and I mentioned to him that in Central and South America, people are generally, this is a stereotype, more in their bodies. So they adapted this work so quickly, it’s amazing. In fact, in my limited work, I work some in Colombia, and in Costa Rica, my limited work there, what we had to do was tone people… Bring ’em back, tone ’em down because they were so in their bodies.
20:50 BD: Here in the North America, not so much. And I think that it’s important to have, to go back to what both of you were saying, we’re not just ready to drop into a program that has a big history, we don’t have people that we know that can teach us that. The elders are not here, or maybe we’re here like me, but nobody’s paying attention. But the idea is that I believe that we really have to access our bodies before we can access other modalities.
21:26 PA: What does that mean to you?
21:27 BD: What it means to me is, as I said, most people lead with their head. We’re cut off, we have contractions in our body, we don’t even realize we have until they’re released. That’s part of it. The idea of being grounded, which Alexander Lowen in the ’50s when he talked about bio-energetics, talked about being grounded, which they call earthing now, and about being in touch, about having full breath, having pulsation and vibration. Vibration helps us be alive, that’s part of our aliveness. And to be able to be alive and not disconnect just because somebody is crazy driving on the freeway, or you have too much to do, or your job is constantly working in tech, and you can’t get away from it, I think you need to be in your bodies before you can go forward with other things.
22:18 PA: I like that. Can you walk us through what is TRE? I get the breath work thing. We’ve seen videos of that, big muscular dudes jumping in cold iceberg water, and then there’s a Wim Hof thing at the top. So we know that obviously with this wearable… It’s a wearable, it’s something you put on your wrist or your ankle. What do you do with trauma release exercises? What does that look like? What does that entail when you’re going through that process?
22:46 BD: Okay, one of the things that David Berceli discovered when he was living and working in the Middle East and Africa, is that we really have two things, two ways we respond to trauma, the first is contraction, which I mentioned. When we have a traumatic event, we contract. We may contract by just holding our breath a little bit more, tightening down that pulsation or we may go all the way over, and it’s automatic, as a way to protect our organs and our head. It’s in our DNA. So the idea is, if that’s in our DNA, and we contract all the time over time, what’s in our DNA to release that? And he noticed, for example, that small children would shake and not necessarily the adults, or maybe not the big kids. And so he asked questions, and went around and said, “Why aren’t you shaking? And do you know how to shake?” And they, “Yeah, we know how to shake, but we don’t shake because we don’t want people to think we’re afraid.” So this natural physiological response to stress or trauma has become a negative psychological response. So with TRE we stretch a little bit, work with the muscles from our feet up through our pelvis, our psoas muscles, perhaps some of the larger back muscles, which then generates an ability to begin to shake.
24:05 BD: Mostly the first couple of times you might be shaking just in the lower half of your body, but over time as you allow more and more, you can shake from your toes up through your head, not necessarily in a linear fashion. So we might start with our legs and then my shoulder might go, and then maybe my right arm will go, but it’s all self-regulated, that’s a big piece of it. So we teach self-regulation so that you’re not ever out of control, that you can stop it. You can slow it down, you can start it up again. And I think what it looks like, people laugh because they’re like, “Oh, whoa, what’s happening to me?” People laugh, sometimes people cry, sometimes you have a memory that comes back but no emotion, is just separate out there. Or sometimes you might have an emotion, and there’s no story with that. And basically, we recommend shaking for 10 or 15 minutes at most, maybe two or three times a week. And once you’ve learned it, and once you’ve learned the exercises and done it maybe 10 or 12 times, you don’t need to do the exercises anymore, you can just lie down and say, “Okay, let’s shake.” And your body will go. Is that clear?
25:19 PA: I like this. And I wanna dig further into each of these, ’cause I wanna talk about some of the basic physiological things that we know are going on.
25:26 DR: Something Brooke said that was really important, that I think we forget about a lot in meditation and breath work, that also ties back into what you said about psychedelics, is about the control thing. It turns out that when you think about what anxiety really is or what fear in a lot of our lives on a daily basis practically really is, it’s about spending time thinking about things that you cannot control. We only have so much time in the day. You could spend that time thinking about things you can control and actually doing something with your time that’s productive or you could spend that time thinking about things you cannot control. The more percentage of time you spend thinking about things you cannot control, the more you would drive yourself absolutely crazy. And that is something that we absolutely have control over, but it’s very difficult for people who have never, if you’ve never realized that that is something you have control over, it’s very difficult to control it. And so when I work with some of my most severe anxiety patients, one of the first things that I do is we talk this through and they’re like, “Okay, I get it, but I don’t know how to implement that. What do I do about it?”
26:25 DR: And then we start doing breath work, and we say… And the reason for breath work or shaking or any of these kinds of things that draw your attention to your body and the reason for that is because as soon as you start drawing attention to your body, it shows you that there’s something that you can do in the moment that you have control over that makes you feel better. And it just takes as little as 10 seconds, five seconds breath in, five seconds breath out, and then we just start there and then repeat and repeat and repeat, and within 60 seconds the person goes from about to have a panic attack to actually kind of calm and being able to have a conversation. And so that understanding of control, and the way we direct attention outside of our bodies versus inside drawing back to the body and back to the body first is critically important to this whole idea of meditation and what it’s actually doing for us. It’s establishing balance, re-establishing balance between the mind and the body.
27:10 PA: Because we’re so in our minds most of the time, so bringing us back into that. And this is something that I struggle with is being very intellectual. In fact, this conversation is very intellectual. It’s like how do you maintain that balance of integrity? I’ve done breath work, so I can speak for that. I haven’t done much Wim Hof but I’ve done a lot of transformational breath work, and that’s always been very useful. What I’d love to dig into a little bit more like some of the science and research that we know behind each of these modalities. Dan if you could just talk a little bit about… You had mentioned that, what separates Wim Hof from other breath work instructors is he’s really shown the science or stepped into that field. What do we know about breath work from a scientific perspective?
27:50 DC: To get at the first thing you just said about Wim, is not only did he bring himself to scientific scrutiny, but he also said, “Yeah, and everybody can do it.” And then he also threw in this other element which is related and important which is the cold. That’s another thing that’s very separate. Like Stan, if you wanted to, if someone came to me and said, “I would like to experience, I would like to prepare myself for psychedelic experiences down the road but I don’t want to start out with psychedelics, I want to use breath work as a tool to get into altered states.” I would say, “Holotropic breathwork was specifically designed for that. That’s where you should go.” The Wim Hof method also utilizes the cold as a tool to, let’s say, for lack of a better way of saying it, to shut down the monkey mind because the cold is as Wim would say, merciless but righteous. It’s a noble force. Merciless but righteous.
28:42 PA: Merciless but righteous. Does he have T-shirts that have that?
28:44 DC: He should. He has actually, I think he has…
28:48 PA: We’re gonna make t-shirts for the third wave that they’re gonna say, “I am not a shaman.” ‘Cause too many people are calling themselves shamans now.
28:54 DC: Fair enough.
28:54 PA: “I am not a guru.”
28:56 DC: He has a “Breathe motherfucker” shirt.
29:00 PA: Cool. That’s cool.
29:00 DC: He has that. Yeah. That’s him, yeah. What I would say is that there’s that element that’s also very body, getting back to what Brooke was talking about, there’s this combination of not just, “Hey, let’s just do the breath work and only think about what’s on our mind.” It’s also the sensation of being in the cold as well. And then, teroceptive focus, the looking within focus. That’s a part of the method. Now, as far as the science on, some of the science on breath work, let’s just speak generally about because there’s a lot of similarities between holotropic, what’s commonly referred to as re-birthing which just gets a little nutty if you go down that rabbit hole. And because the inventor, I think claims to be able to kind of live for forever, with, you know…
29:45 PA: One of those situations that…
29:46 DC: Yeah, that’s what I meant by that.
29:48 PA: The guru situation.
29:49 DC: Yeah, exactly. And then there’s the Wim Hof method which has similarities to holotropic breath work but is actually quite different because it utilizes breath-holding which holotropic breath work does not. Some of the things vary in brief. And I wouldn’t be surprised because Dave’s got a much stronger scientific background given he’s a neuroscientist. Maybe he wants to throw some stuff in, but basically you are super ventilating meaning you are taking in large amounts of oxygen, you are spilling off carbon dioxide and in doing so, you alter not only the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your body, but you also alter pH in many of the tissues. PH in the blood is pretty tightly regulated. But because there is even probably a small change in the blood you trigger then a cascade of hormonal changes related to adrenaline, etcetera. You basically in the Wim Hof method, what’s happening is… And in holotropic breath work you are simulating or you are stimulating a sympathetic dominant response a fight-or-flight dominant response when you are breathing heavily. That’s that super ventilation I’m talking about.
30:54 DC: And then when you do the breath hold in the case of the Wim Hof method breathing, you are driving down into a parasympathetic dominant state. Right? You are having this kind of oscillation, between sympathetic fight or flight and the parasympathetic rest and digest, it’s commonly referred to as. And so that’s some of what we see and then there’s all kinds of, I’d rather let Dave get into the neuroscience, but there’s probably ramifications for the default mode network and a bunch of other things that are happening in the brain, but it’s really interesting because you can actually for sure, we know now influence the autonomic nervous system which is called the autonomic nervous system because we used to think that it could not be influenced. And that’s really, really interesting. It has a lot of potential for people with inflammatory issues which is at this point, a staggering amount of modern people.
31:47 PA: Let’s talk a little bit about that. So one thing that we’re just starting to learn about psychedelics, is how strong of anti-inflammatory agents, they are. So a lot of the research that’s been done on psychedelic shows for example the efficacy facilitated in a mystical experience, or it shows how effective it is at treating alcoholism or with MDMA, there’s been a lot of research on the amygdala and how MDMA quiets the amygdala which allows us to feel safe and talk about PTSD. Right? But there’s been very little… I’m hopeful that you can speak a little bit to this, there’s been very little research on psychedelics and inflammation. Yet we do know that psychedelics are highly anti-inflammatory. So I’d love to have that discussion a little bit. What is inflammation and what role does it play in health and well-being? And what do some of these tools do to address inflammation?
32:32 DR: That’s a great question. And I think Danny started us off really well on that by talking about the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. So for everyone who isn’t familiar with these systems, there’s basically two major nervous systems in the body, one of them is your conscious nervous system, so that’s part of your nervous system that you’re using right now to pay attention to me while I’m talking and all of us on stage. And that’s what you’re directing your attention on, and that’s a part that you’re always generally thinking about. What people call the ego, but it’s like your primary focal point of your nervous system. Then underneath all of that is what’s called the autonomic nervous system, that Daniel just mentioned, which we used to think just functioned in the background and we didn’t really have any influence over it. But it turns out that the autonomic nervous system is split up into two parts, one of them is the sympathetic which is responsible for fight, flight and freeze responses which you mentioned earlier, and those are our responses that are really, really critical for the body when we’re exposed to an acute threat.
33:23 DR: So by acute threat, what I really mean is loss of shelter, loss of food, loss of water, loss of air or running from a scary animal or predator. Those are the only real times that nervous system is designed to turn on. And it’s designed to turn on when that stuff happens and by turn on, I mean turn on all the way. And it turns on when that happens in balance with the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest system which is also responsible for decreasing inflammation and facilitating healing, facilitating energy conservation and recovery, creativity, reproduction, appetite, digestion, all of the stuff that we do when we’re not stressed out. Because when you’re running from a lion in the woods, the last thing you wanna worry about is being creative or reproducing. You need to get away from the danger at hand, and then when the danger is gone, you wanna calm down, really quickly and get back to your regular life. And so what happens is that in our lives unfortunately, that is not often the case. We’re surrounded by perceived threat all the time. And it could be from something like our emails that won’t stop going off or could be from our cell phone or from our kids or from our neighbors, or the TV or the news or whatever it may be.
34:27 DR: And so what that does, is it conditions our nervous system to be in a constant state of threat and fear response where the sympathetic nervous system is always amped up, up here and that chronically suppresses the parasympathetic system. And so all the things that we need to function or that we need to have to enjoy our lives in a safe environment like sleeping well and digesting your food, and absorbing the food that you digest, and then reproduction, creativity and all this good stuff, decreasing inflammation, regulating emotions, all that stuff gets put off to the wayside because we’re always… Our bodies perceive that we’re always running from a lion, or in immediate threat. And so what that does to the inflammatory system, is it sets the inflammatory system totally out of whack, because you need the parasympathetic system to regulate the inflammatory system. When the sympathetic system is amplified or when you’re anxious or worried all the time, or frustrated or whatever, what happens is your body increases things like epinephrine, cortisol, your blood pressure goes up, your heart rate goes up, your respirations go up, your blood vessels get tighter.
35:27 DR: People have more heart attacks and die of heart attacks more on Monday morning at 9:00 AM, than any other time. Does any other animal know what 9:00 AM on Mondays is? They don’t even know what Mondays are a or 9:00 AM. But we do so much so that’s ingrained into our sub-conscious to the point where we will die more likely at 9:00 AM from heart attack than any other time. So you can see the impact of stress on the inflammatory system and it gets compounded over time and it does get stored, probably maybe not in our DNA, but on our DNA where in the epigenetic code which regulates DNA expression, that’s where a lot of these inflammatory markers are controlled. And so the way that we regulate stress can change the markings on the DNA, which can change its… We believe the way that we regulate inflammatory processes and inflammatory markers in our body. So by practicing meditation and practicing any technique or Wim Hof or any yoga or eating well or exercising well, or anything that balances your nervous system on regular basis, you will reduce the inflammation in your body on a daily.
36:25 PA: Being proactive about spending time in a parasympathetic state…
36:29 DR: Exactly.
36:30 PA: Is a key factor to reducing inflammation, which for those of us who aren’t aware, inflammation for example, is quite tightly linked to depression, it’s linked to a lot of chronic immune issues, auto immune issues.
36:42 DR: Basically every human disorder, can be tied back to some degree of inflammation. Inflammation also is a weird word, because it’s also a good thing in some cases. We need inflammation to heal, we need… That’s why when you first, when you first get a cut, it doesn’t hurt the worst when you get it, it usually hurts the worst right afterwards because the inflammation is allowing it to heal more effectively and facilitate that process, so that’s important. And it’s important for neural signaling, like our neurons talk to each other with inflammatory markers. It’s just that when it’s totally not regulated that it starts to cause problems.
37:14 PA: So what’s the research that we have on TRE? What’s some of the objective validity that people have tried to understand about what TRE is helping us to gain to?
37:23 BD: First I think I’ll just mention that people, anecdotally, people tell me after just one session, they say, “Oh I slept better. I feel less anxious. I feel like I have more space in my body. I feel calmer or I have a better sense of my own presence.” So in the beginning, David really wanted to get this spread out and research takes money. So there is currently a $500,000 government-funded study of the military that the results should be out this year, but they’re not out yet. And another study that was done with active duty military, that we are not ownership of those results and they’re still not out, so we have things like that.
38:00 PA: That’s for PTSD or for what…
38:01 BD: When you think about it, the number of soldiers returning has just upped the ante with more and more and more people having PTSD and the government, the military is looking for alternative methods because it’s expensive to do one-on-one therapy, it’s expensive to do some of the PTSD things that they’re doing, so they’re looking at TRE as an alternative method, yes. I can tell you perhaps this would be helpful, a couple of smaller studies, for example, in Denmark, over the last 10 years, they’ve worked with about 800 people with MS, both from the early stages to people having MS for about 30 years. Over time people will say, again, the same idea of a better sense of my body, I feel less anxious, I can regulate, but actually what they’re also reporting is they’re able to gain a sense of sensation where they’ve lost it, they’ve been able to reduce to a great extent, some of the neuropathy pain and even in situations where the muscles are so tight, I think it’s called spasticity, that’s been reduced. And these are often people in wheelchairs and in Denmark they’ve really focused on that population group.
39:11 BD: In South Africa, where there’s a huge TRE presence, a lot of focus has been on youth. They youth… I’ll tell you one study that I know of is they work in a group home where there were 300 kids, really traumatized kids, kids that wet their bed every night, late as seven, eight, nine 10 years old, kids with lots of learning issues, nightmares, post-traumatic stress issues, and they came in and they first realized they needed to work with the staff, ’cause the staff were going crazy. I mean, the kids were out of control, 300 kids, you can imagine. So they worked with the staff for about eight weeks, maybe teaching, doing TRE a couple of times a week and what they found is that the whole tenor of the place calmed down, without even the kids getting any help because the staff calmed down, kids could then resonate with people that were more calm. You mentioned that earlier, what happened with the kids because then they worked with the kids for about six weeks is every single one stopped bed wetting. Every single one. Nightmares were reduced, a lot of the learning problems, the ADHD kind of stuff seemed to go away. There’s lots of replication of that kind of thing in South Africa. So that gives you an idea of what possible, what kind of possibilities there are.
40:26 PA: What’s your story in getting into this, we didn’t really hear…
40:29 BD: No, you didn’t.
40:29 PA: Hear that.
40:30 BD: So obviously I’ve been around a while, I spent about 20 years in community college administration in Southern California, always wanting to do something different. I had a year off at one point, and I went to Esalen, and spent a year at Esalen and came back, was gonna leave, I feel in one more year, like I was supposed to, I thought I was gonna leave and I got caught, I got caught about money. At Esalen, I was making $200 a month, but that didn’t work so well in Southern California. I stayed 10 more years and then I left, really left and I wanted to complete my bio-energetic studies, and which I did, guess what, there was another opening at Esalen. I went back to Esalen for about four years. Who could blame me, right? I actually thought I would retire there, I really thought I was gonna live the rest of my life there. So I’ve had an amazing amount of exposure to a lot of different modalities, perhaps just this much with a lot of them. Stan Grof is from Esalen and there’s so many amazing people and modalities that are taught there. So then when I left Esalen the last time, I moved up to the Bay Area and I’ve mostly been working with TRE and bio-energetics since then.
41:38 PA: Why TRE and bio-energetics?
41:40 BD: Well, I am a client of bio-energetics. I found that bio-energetics really changed my life. It did all of the things I’ve been talking about that TRE can do, but on a perhaps the deeper level, I was more able to be in the world and not in my head, I was less anxious. I worked through all my stuff, pretty much and I value the work tremendously. I guess, I wanna also do a little shout out here to Radical Aliveness, which is an offshoot of Core Energetics which I also got involved with at some point. Obviously, I was at the age where maybe I should be retiring, but I live in the Bay Area and it’s crazy expensive. So what am I gonna do? And this TRE sort of came into my life and I teach TRE to individuals and groups but I also train people how to teach it, and that’s really the focus of my work. In fact, there’s somebody that went through the training here in the audience. I see you. [chuckle]
42:32 PA: Fantastic. So what I wanna go into now are some personal stories. To liven things up a little bit, I’d love you to talk about what are some transformations that you know of or that you’ve seen or that you’ve experienced when people go into breath work, and you can talk about it from a clinical perspective in terms of healing from PTSD or depression or you can talk about it from a transformational perspective, but what are some of the reasons why people come breath work, and what changes are people experiencing?
42:56 DC: Well, I think that in the case of the Win Hof method, people are often coming to that for slightly different reason than they’re coming to like, let’s say, holotropic, because in holotropic you have the very clear promise since it was developed by Stan Grof, if people know that, then there’s an obvious connection to the psychedelic world. There’s an obvious connection to, maybe, I wanna explore some past trauma, maybe I just wanna let a lot of this body tension go. Maybe I wanna explore what Jung would have called the collective unconscious, right? These kind of mythological, archetypal places that seem to reside in human beings’ nervous systems that you can access via psychedelics or sometimes via holotropic breath work. But in the case of Wim Hof, a lot of times people also wanna conquer the cold. And so I’ve had a lot of people come to me wanting to conquer the cold.
43:40 PA: What does that mean?
43:42 DC: Well, to conquer their fear, their fear of being in extreme cold, right? So to get into an ice bath, let’s say, at near freezing, is a very scary thing for a lot of people, right?
43:42 PA: Which is also a little like, it’s conquering your fear of vulnerability too, at the same time, right?
43:42 DC: Yes, for sure.
43:42 PA: More generally.
43:42 DC: Right, for sure, that’s just their particular expression, their particular expression of that, is they have a particular thing about the cold. So I’ve had a lot of people through, ’cause I don’t just teach the Wim Hof breathing. I kind of add in elements of what you might see in holotropic or what people are now commonly calling shamanic breath work, which is just setting basically, paying a lot of attention to set and setting, and using it as a place to get into deeper sympathetic states, basically doing something that’s not so different from TRE, in the sense that you’re really trying to let people tone the vagus nerve and get a lot of excess nervous system tension out.
44:31 DC: So I kinda combine a lot of these different things. And what I’ve seen is, is that people have massive emotional breakthroughs. Most of the time, particularly in the Wim Hof case. It’s not, as Brook was referring to before, it’s oftentimes crying or laughing or screaming or something like that, that is not specifically tied to a story at that time. They may realize it later. But at the time, it’s often not the case, unlike with psychedelics which is often it is the case, you know exactly what it is that’s coming up for you. So I’ve seen some amelioration of autoimmune illness in particular, and that is related both to the cold in the case of the Wim Hof method and the breathing style, right? And then I’ve also seen these kind of letting go of lots of nervous system tension, I have not encountered ’cause I also do psychedelic integration work with people where I help people prepare before and after a ceremony. I haven’t seen the same kind of confronting things in the collective unconscious or connecting the same kind of release to a story. That’s something that I think is particularly powerful about psychedelics, although a lot of people have gotten in holotropic graph work.
45:47 PA: Let’s personalize that a little bit more, people who came on your retreat, what did you see from them? What were some of the stories of, why did they come there, what happened?
45:54 DC: Well, I think, for all of them, it was different, for one person in particular, it was they identified that they had some fear of the cold, they wanted to know what it was like to be calm in the face of their fear, which was to be very, very uncomfortable in cold, and they had cold hands and feet, and so throughout the week, I just did a retreat off the coast of Vancouver Island on Cortes Island, I own it properly enough. It’s not mine, but… It isn’t, it isn’t, not yet, no yet, someday. It’s Andrew Wyle and Paul Stanus who live up there. So, I can’t probably afford to buy it. In her case, I individualized some stuff for her. And then we managed it at the end of the week, the cold hands, feet, and the white. She would get white in her fingers and toes, and at the end of the week, it was gone.
46:39 DC: So that’s pretty massive, because you don’t really know if that’s gonna lead possibly to Raynaud’s down the road. I don’t know what the progression of that would have been. She took very good care of herself, in general, but she couldn’t deal with that problem for whatever reason. So throughout the week we went pretty slowly, and then by the end of the week, she did several minutes in a 32 degree freezing, ice bath back-to-back days, knocked it out…
47:02 PA: Who here has done like an ice bath. They’re intense.
47:05 DC: Yeah.
47:05 PA: Really intense.
47:06 DC: Sunday, people Oakland.
47:08 PA: Yeah, You’re doing it?
47:09 DC: Yeah.
47:09 PA: I won’t be here. Sorry. Sounds fun. Is it possible to get a ice… So let’s say I wanna do this a couple of times a week, do I need a bath? Tub? What are kind of the basic…
47:22 DC: Starters?
47:23 PA: What’s the starter kit?
47:24 DC: The starter move is cold showers.
47:26 PA: The starter moves is cold showers.
47:27 DC: The started move is cold showers if you live in a city like this but you also in here, you guys live on the ocean. The starter move is to get a natural water, whether it’s a lake, a river or an ocean, if you can, if you can’t, it’s cold showers.
47:39 PA: Can you jump? You can’t jump in the ocean here though, can you?
47:42 DC: Yeah.
47:42 PA: Like the Bay. It’s clean.
47:44 DC: I’ve never been here before, but I think you can, yeah.
47:46 PA: Yeah? Ocean beach. Okay, so the week after, we’ll do ocean beach. It’s cold, isn’t it? How cold are we talking, like 50?
47:54 DC: I think it’s 50s. It’s actually… First of all, nature is always… I talked about this in my intro is this, what are you most well-adapted to? Well, you’re most well-adapted to living in nature, and you’re not doing that. So getting in the ocean is a good compromise. And the other thing is, is that getting into a place where you can see really far away has deeply calming effects because your visual system is a window into your nervous system and so you can really get into a panoramic… Into a… I was about to say panoramic vision but by using panoramic vision, which is to look really far away and to make your gaze really soft and wide which you can do in nature, it’s not so easy to do the same thing in a shower, you can get a really calm feeling while you’re doing that, which makes the practice more effective.
48:41 PA: Cold showers, start with going into an ocean.
48:43 DC: Yep.
48:43 PA: Then we move to cold showers.
48:45 DC: If you’re stuck in New York City, like when I started, I was an incredibly ill person in New York city living in Brooklyn, basically, I had no access to cold…
48:55 PA: I had the Equinox, that’s where I…
48:57 DC: Oh yeah, you had Equinox… I used to go…
48:58 PA: Yeah, used to go to Equinox.
48:58 DC: I used to take the 8 train out to the Rockaways and go in the ocean, when it was really cold and I would also sit in my bathtub and just let the cold shower in the winter, go… And that’s how I started a train for Wim while I was really sick. If you’re stuck in a place where you have no natural water, that’s the way to go.
49:13 PA: Dave, for you, you just have to buy this or what’s currently available that mimics, maybe it’s nothing, maybe that’s why you’re creating this but that mimic some of the things that you’re attempting to achieve with Apollo.
49:24 DR: So there isn’t anything available that currently does this except the techniques we’ve been talking about the national techniques and psychedelics.
49:31 PA: What about tapping. Isn’t tapping a thing?
49:34 DR: Yeah. I could say that’s a natural technique.
49:36 PA: Yeah?
49:36 DR: Yeah, I think… Yeah, depends if you do it, if you use these techniques properly, you can self-induce these kinds of states. Apollo is interesting from a different perspective, because it’s also training for you. So it doesn’t just help you enter these states in real time, or near real time, but it helps remind you… And this is getting back to something that I think the Daniel mentioned, which is this idea dedication to what it is that you’re trying to accomplish and a belief that you can do it. And then once you have… There has to be a foundation ideally when you’re learning something new, there ideally should be a foundation that you can build upon so that everything you learn just doesn’t collapse when you stop practicing for a few days or whatever, it may be. And so there’s two critical things that I’ve found for me are; Belief, number one, that you can actually do something. So in this case, and this is one of those powerful things with my patients that we also see and we really strafer with MDMA therapy. But it’s belief that you can get better.
50:34 DR: Which doesn’t really sound like it’s that big a deal, but it’s a huge deal. Yeah, a lot of people do not believe or are not taught that they can get better and the unfortunate part of Western medicine is that we’re diagnosing people with chronic illnesses, which we’re telling them that they’re gonna be sick for life and we’re telling them they’re, even worse, we’re telling they’re treatment resistant, which means they’re doubly sick for life, which is obviously not true, because the body has miraculous capacity to heal, and we see that all the time. And if we forget about that, then we also forget how to believe in it. And so, a lot of this work and the foundation of this work needs to be based in understanding that we need to believe in ourselves again, and believe in our own capacity to heal ourselves. And that’s what you were saying, Paul, earlier, which when you introduced to all of us, you said flipping on the switch of healing, right? And the flipping on the switch of healing is really just flipping on a switch that says that you can believe that you can feel better.
51:24 DR: And so when it comes to Apollo and you can make yourself feel better, you can be the center of that whole making, feeling better thing, and when it comes to Apollo some of the most dramatic and amazing stories that we see are people who have PTSD and depression for decades and they don’t… Or chronic pain, and they don’t remember the last time they were calm, they don’t remember the last time they could just relax in their own home and feel at ease. And you put something like this on them, which gives them the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, and within minutes, you see their entire face just calm down, all of the musculature of their body just starts to get into a relaxed state and the tone of their voice comes down. And they don’t even notice yet, and then all of a sudden that clicks and they’re like, “Wow, I don’t remember the last time I felt safe, genuinely safe.” And so that, when they feel that all of a sudden and it flips on that switch, that says, “Oh, now I have something to believe in because I know that I can feel better without drugs or without whatever it is they were using before, some enter X immediate gratification tool that people were misusing to feel better and…
52:25 PA: Like acid, for example, no, I’m just kidding.
52:28 DR: Yeah, or yeah, I mean, or anything, people, work, sex, gambling, video games, TV, you name it, if you’re using it to escape from reality, then it is not serving your purpose.
52:38 PA: It’s a distraction.
52:39 DR: Right.
52:40 PA: Right? And it’s often a distraction from going back into source because for a lot of people who have deep trauma or healing to do, going back into that is you open up the unconscious, you open up that basement, and there’s a lot to process there that needs to be cleared and clean before you can actually have that deep energetic relationship with something that’s truly healing.
52:58 DR: And coming back to your body, a lot of that trauma, a lot of that energy, positive, negative is stored in our bodies. When you think about if we have something bad happened to us and we don’t deal with it and we just sort of shove it down, it’s not like you’re shoving it down into nothing, you’re shoving it down into yourself. So over time, that thing that was there, which used to be just a tiny little cut, 10 years later, it could be a festering wound that now require amputation and you have been ignoring it for all of these years, but if you go back with help from a shaman or with help from a meditation teacher or with just being dedicated yourself, as in the case of Daniel, saying, “I am going to fix myself, I’m gonna figure out how, I don’t know how it’s gonna happen, but I’m gonna figure out any way to do it”, and you have that belief and that dedication, you’ll accomplish your goal, which is the main point that I wanted to make, I think, which is that any of us achieve these states at any time, and it’s really practice that makes us good at it. And if you, once you have the foundation, all you need to do is practice it as often you can every day and Apollo is just another way to do that.
54:00 PA: And the way that I contextualize things like Apollo or I think of microdose, general psychedelic use as this is often we need a little bit of a kickstart, we need a little bit of a kick in the ass to get up and awaken these things, and that’s just a way of lowering the resistance, lowering the barrier to entry to start to actually heal because if you tell, like, I always think of my mom when these things come up, I’m from Michigan, it’s quiet, small town, pretty traditional Christian, I love my mom, she’s great, I’ll see her tomorrow actually, I’m going home, but she’s quite conservative and so when I think of, she’s not gonna jump in Lake Michigan in the middle of February, like I did when I was 20, right? So cold immersion, she’s not gonna do that. TRE, it just probably sounds a little like what my body, but you put on a device or you take a small supplement, like people have been doing with microdosing, and all of a sudden it becomes the healing process, becomes much more accessible.
55:00 PA: And then the phrase that I like to use when talking about this is agency, right? So the belief that you do have control, the belief that you can heal yourself, the belief that you actually can facilitate and manifest your own being and who you’re becoming, that’s basically a sense of agency. And agency is critical and key, particularly in a world where we’re all going through a lot of healing and we’re all going through a lot of our own stuff, from my perspective at times, it feels like, now the world kind of sucks. This is how it is, you can’t do much about it, right?
55:31 DC: So there’s a couple of things that both of you are dead on, this is a really important point. So one of the reasons I think that Wim became very well known is because his message is essentially the same what you were saying, right? So he drops a lot of F-bombs to do it and in a hilarious Dutch accent, but it’s like he’s very well known for saying, “Fuck fate, fuck destiny.” No, no, no, you have the power, it’s already within you and this is obviously a question of agency.