THIRD WAVE PODCAST
“The Infinite Octopus of Music”: Exploring Consciousness Through Octaves
East Forest is a multi-disciplinary artist, producer, and international leader in underground sound meditation. His work explores living authentically within a modern context through an introspective methodology that weaves together elements of electro-acoustic live music, nature, technology, brain science, and guided meditation. His ceremony concerts utilize a skilled instrumental repertoire to create space for an emotive inner journey. In: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner Volume Two is the latest chapter in his ever-evolving career, which includes over 25 albums, including 2019’s album-length collaboration with spiritual pioneer Ram Dass, the five-hour long psilocybin soundtrack Music for Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner, and collaborations with artists John Hopkins, Typhoon, Laraaji, Dead Prez, Nick Mulvey, Peter Broderick, DJ ANNA and more. As a trailblazer in the global wellness movement. And he offers guided meditations, retreats, a weekly podcast, and talks that guide students through a brain-body approach aimed towards non-religious and grounded spirituality. He’s a faculty member at the Esalen Institute and has worked with Google and Johns Hopkins’s Neuroaesthetics Project, Wave Paths, Consciousness Hacking, Ted, Field Trip Health, and is the co-founder of journeyspace.com
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- The emergence of East Forest.
- The evolution of East Forest’s music.
- Introspection and listening.
- Transcendence versus transformation.
- Music for virtual psychedelic journeys.
- Predictions for the future of the psychedelic space.
- East Forest’s connection to Ram Dass.
- East Forest’s biggest musical influences.
0:00:00.0 East Forest: I just learned from my own experience of other indigenous ceremonies and working with lineages that are millennia old how music works in those ceremonies, and it really is… It’s this central tool. It is the ceremony. And then, I know from my own experience in psychedelic states with music, that the music becomes the architecture that you’re in, and sometimes you become the music. I mean, it’s extremely powerful. And most ceremonies that I’ve been, that’s the only guide, is rhythm and harmony, it’s music. There’s no talking structure, or we don’t go anywhere. Usually we’re in the dark, in a circle, and there’s music. So, I mean, it’s strange to me that it isn’t talked about more, or it’s not a bigger aspect of this psychedelic revolution or psychedelic therapy modern movement that’s happening, because from my point-of-view… And yes, I am a bit biased. It’s one of the top three things we should be considering.
0:00:57.2 Paul Austin: Welcome to the Third Wave podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting-edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So, let’s go, and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
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0:04:41.1 PA: Hey, listeners. It’s so great to have you back for the podcast today. We have a very special guest, East Forest, on for today. East Forest is a multidisciplinary artist, producer, and international leader in underground sound meditation. His work explores living authentically within a modern context through an introspective methodology that weaves together elements of electro, acoustic, live music, nature, technology, brain science, and guided meditation. His ceremony concerts utilize a skilled instrumental repertoire to create space for an emotive inner journey. IN: A Soundtrack For The Psychedelic Practitioner, volume II is the latest chapter in his ever evolving career, which includes over 25 albums, including 2019’s album length collaboration with spiritual pioneer Ram Dass. The five-hour long psilocybin soundtrack, “Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack For The Psychedelic Practitioner” in collaborations with artists Jon Hopkins, Typhoon, Laraaji, Dead Prez, Nick Mulvey, Peter Broderick, DJ Anna, and more.
0:05:49.5 PA: As a trailblazer in the global wellness movement, he offers guided meditations, retreats, a weekly podcast, and talks that guide students through a brain-body approach, aimed towards non-religious and grounded spirituality. He’s a faculty member at the Esalen Institute and has worked with Google and Johns Hopkins neuroaesthetics project, Wavepaths, Consciousness Hacking, TED, Field Trip Health, and is the co-founder of journeyspace.com. East, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you.
0:06:18.4 EF: Thanks, man. Thanks, Paul. Nice to be here.
0:06:20.9 PA: That’s quite a bio, I must say.
0:06:23.4 EF: Yeah, when you hear it, I’m like, “That’s a word salad,” for sure.
0:06:26.9 PA: It’s a word salad. Yeah, I was going through that, I’m like…
0:06:29.2 EF: It’s a lot of different things.
0:06:30.8 PA: This is…
0:06:30.9 EF: It’s been a long time.
0:06:31.4 PA: It’s good practice though, just to move through that, and weave through that. I was saying before we went live that I first heard about your work at Harmonia Wellness, the spot that was up in Marin County, and you did a beautiful two-hour soundscape experience. And then soon after that, I actually was at home with my dad who had never done mushrooms before in his life. Barely touches a beer, never really does… Never smoked cannabis, religious, and he had his first ever mushroom experience to your soundtrack, the five hour one you put together, and it was so moving for him. So, I just wanna start off by expressing some gratitude and thanks for the work that you’re doing and the magic that you’re creating.
0:07:15.4 EF: Thank you. Thanks. Well, thanks too for trusting that music, that’s exactly what my hopes were for it, is that it could serve as essential guide for someone, especially someone… Well, anyone. But especially people who haven’t been in that space before, and a recognition of how powerful music can be to lead you through that kind of experience, and really wanting to put some tools out there that I found work with other people over the years. And just like that, you just find it and try it and use it, and hope… And it works for some kind of beautiful opening across generations there. That’s awesome.
0:07:58.0 PA: Yeah, it’s one of the perks of being able to pull out an iPhone and have it on Spotify and we can plug it in and connect from from anywhere.
0:08:05.3 EF: Yeah, make it available.
0:08:06.6 PA: Precisely. So, just so our listeners have a little bit of context and background on you before we dive into journey space, and I have a phrase written down, “Inviting introspection, and what that means to you?” I’d love if you could just kind of tell your back-story. Who were you before you became East Forest? And what have you created in the last 10 years that’s really helped to solidify that kind of persona or an identity for you? And even, I’d love within that is, how did you land on the name East Forest? Where is that from?
0:08:45.9 EF: The name’s easy. I mean, that’s just the translation of my last name, which is Oswald. And so, it’s like German. My former partner spoke fluent German. And so, she mentioned that to me back in 2008 when this was all emerging, and I was just like, “I don’t know, I need a name for this.” And I didn’t want it to be about me, I wanted it to be about the work. So, it sort of felt like maybe a way to thread that needle where it was still something in my identity, but it wasn’t about the cult of identity. It was more about the music and the work, and it is a tool. My background is honestly quite standard and normal from probably a lot of Americans growing up in Oregon, in the suburbs, essentially, and had a very normal upbringing that was quite depressive for me, because I think I was really yearning for something. I just knew, always, that there was something more, that there was something missing, but I didn’t have a lot of avenues or elders to show me what that was. And so, unfortunately, I really struggled with depression, anxiety, and just kind of stumbling through trying to figure out…
0:10:04.1 EF: Just trying to make my way in this world, like a lot of us. And I definitely can say that psychedelics and some of my early experiences with psilocybin in college were the first opportunities I had to crack open a very tough nut that I was in, to show me that feeling I had in my heart that there is more. And not just show me, but have a felt experience of it. That’s just the most you could ever ask for. It’s not an idea, it’s an actual experience. So, that really lit the fuse for me, and it was a long meandering path from there through my 20s, but that served as an inspiration. And it was around 2008 when, as things do, the universe just kind of conspired to have it all come together for me.
0:10:56.8 EF: Where the world was falling apart externally, with the financial crisis. At the time I was in New York City, and my work at the time, I was a photographer, and I was doing music, but my money work was this photography work. Was very tied to the economy. And so, anytime there were those downturns, I felt it, and I was getting a lot of invitations to things that expanded my mind, reading new ideas and books, and got into things like indigenous ceremonies for the first time.
0:11:25.7 EF: And it all just sort of converged. And the band and the project I was working on, musically, were also collapsing. It was just messy. And so, there was a real opportunity for me to just try something new out of a need for assuaging my own anxiety again, and pain. So, I was just making music strictly for me to use to do that. Chasing that feeling, the inspiration of places I had felt on just a handful of psychedelic heights or very synchronistic meaningful moments, and how that aligned with music. But I didn’t understand it, but it still was like this lighthouse for me. It still is.
0:12:08.0 EF: And so, I started making music like that, and it had no agenda, no commercial agenda, no… There was no agenda other than chase that feeling for me. And it was just really turning into something I found really interesting and fun, and it took me a year and I made a record. A little album that was my first record, called, “The Education of the Individual Soul.” And I played it for myself on mushrooms to honor the inspiration, really. And it completely changed my life. Like that listening experience is just one of the most beautiful things I’d ever experienced in my life. Almost like I didn’t realize what I was making. I didn’t… My soul had tricked my ego into making this tool to use in that moment to become something different. And it really felt like, in one way… From that moment before listening to that album with psilocybin ’til after, definitely felt like there was before and after. Almost like a new being stepped into my life, I… But at the same time, I feel like I’m the same person too.
0:13:16.4 EF: And I think we all sense this feeling like we’re two beings in a way, where this pedantic three-dimensional human who’s this animal. Like you push us in certain ways, and we just respond as animals do. We know this, and somewhat we’re aware of this. But that part of us that’s aware of it, that part of us that has cosmic consciousness and brotherly love, sisterly love, psychedelic insight… I mean, what the hell? And all of that co-existing. So, I felt like there was this kind of awakening of a part of me, but I still carry that little boy in me too, that is extremely human and scared and trepidatious.
0:13:56.6 EF: So, whatever it is now, it’s been almost 15 years now, 14 or so, since that day. In the fall of 2008. And I’ve just continued to pray that I can be in service to whatever that is, because it’s not something that is just me as my identity. It’s something larger emerging, and it’s a reflection of what’s emerging in the world and what is emerging for all of us through collapse, through a composting, and I just look to have as much grace as I can navigating all this stuff. And the more we move into this psychedelic revolution, in some ways, the trickier it gets, right? It’s a lot of carrots and sticks and so forth. So, I really try to have my eyes and my heart wide open. But it’s been a really, really beautiful trajectory and ride since then.
0:14:51.9 PA: That last part that you mentioned, about we’re in this psychedelic renaissance now. Maybe there is a little more chaos as these substances become more widely used, and it feels like the soundtracks that you’ve created, the music that you’ve created, is almost a way to ground those experiences, both for individuals and the collective, right? As a way to interpret, as a way to be moved emotionally, as a way to open hearts, to really see the truth of what you talked about. The sort of lighthouse, this mystical white light that we all seem to be drawn towards. And I’m just curious, you’ve been doing mushrooms longer than most people, I would say. And you’ve been making music inspired by mushrooms longer than most people. How has your music evolved over the last 14 years? In particular, how has it evolved now that psychedelics are not this sort of thing in the corner that we never talk about, but are actually front-and-center in many ways?
0:15:57.6 EF: I haven’t changed what my approach is musically, or like why I’m doing it, or what I’m doing. I’ve evolved as an artist as artists do. And so, musically, I continue to… I like to push frontiers, musically and creatively, and that has nothing to do with whether or not something’s geared towards psychedelic use or guidance. I just like making innovative music. And so, I’m inspired by my contemporaries and colleagues who are doing the same, pushing the boundaries of music and composition and technology and just melody and just, “Wow, what can we do these days with music?” But the music that is used to guide psychedelic journeys, I’ve made albums that are explicitly for that. Like you referenced, the IN album or Music for Mushrooms, and it says, “For the Psychedelic Practitioner Soundtrack.” And of course, that’s what I designed it for. And that’s to be said, it could be used “off-label” for anything. Hanging out, Yoga, whatever. As all music is that way, right? And some people use my other music, like the Ram Dass album, which I didn’t anticipate or I didn’t plan. I’m like, “Okay, this is the guided journey.”
0:17:10.7 EF: But certain songs on that, like “I Am Loving Awareness,” for instance, it’s a 10-minute track. It’s wonderful in that space if timed well, really wonderful. So, you could piece things together. But I was really interested in offering tools people didn’t have to make that kind of decision. A lot of people don’t know, “What can music do to guide a journey?” And I just learned from my own experience of other indigenous ceremonies in working with lineages that are millennia old how music works in those ceremonies, and it really is… It’s this central tool. It is the ceremony.
0:17:45.0 EF: And then, I know from my own experience in psychedelic states with music, the music becomes the architecture that you’re in, and sometimes you become the music. I mean, it’s extremely powerful. Most ceremonies that I’ve been, that’s the only guide, is rhythm and harmony. It’s music. There’s no talking structure or we don’t go anywhere, usually we’re in the dark, in a circle, and there’s music. So, I mean, it’s strange to me that it isn’t talked about more or it’s not a bigger aspect of this psychedelic revolution or a psychedelic therapy modern movement that’s happening, because from my point-of-view… And yes, I am a bit biased. It’s one of the top three things we should be considering up there with access and probably like…
0:18:31.7 EF: I mean, I wouldn’t even say legality anymore, because that’s just happening. [chuckle] So, that’s not even as interesting to talk about. It’s more like, “How do we get this relevant and accessible to people and meaningful?” And then, “How do we do it in ways that are positive and powerful?” And that’s not discussed as much. We’re focused a little bit more on, “What can it do?” Which is interesting and important. So for me, there’s this big hole in thinking about, “Well, how can we do this in the best way?” And even some of the… Like, the Johns Hopkins studies, the very early press, if you remember. Their playlists they put out. I’d look at these playlists and I was pretty disappointed, and I was doing ceremony, we were kind of doing our own citizen science and our own little lab research of just trying things with our groups in our community and guiding ourselves through these journeys. Over the years, thousands of people, and we were just learning what worked for us. And that’s how I developed the first six years or so of the project, was really just that, and I was just developing techniques to use in that space.
0:19:37.0 EF: I felt it was important to share that in a more explicit way, ’cause before I was doing it in a round about way, and that was in 2009. I recorded a ceremony in 2018, so it was a live ceremony, I improvised in the ceremonies. There was about 20 people there in the medicine space, and I just record it. And that became Music for Mushrooms, a five-hour album, and I wanted it to be a press play and you go through it. I think we’re all picking up on different wavelengths. When it came out, within a week, Oakland and Denver passed their first initiatives of decriminalization, Michael Pollan’s book came out, everyone’s like, “Oh, great timing.” And I thought, it is a great timing, but I was like, “I started this a year ago, we recorded a year ago, and I’ve been mastering and mixing it.” So I just feel like I’m riding a wave we’re all riding, and I’m doing my best to provide tools and some information from our own experience about music and music as its ability to guide a journey, and how important that is. And when I say… Last thing I’ll say is, important thing about music is it goes hand-in-hand with ceremony and ritual, because I think these are also elements that make the set and setting, so to speak, really valuable and important, so the role music plays as a piece of ceremony or a tool in ritual to basically deepen the value of the experience is something I’m very interested in.
0:21:01.1 PA: One phrase that I found when I was doing some research before the podcast was ‘inviting introspection’ as sort of a… It almost felt like it’s a mantra for your music and for your work. And you were just talking about the role of ceremony, the role of ritual, the role of medicine, a lot of it is when paired with a psychedelic, for us to go inwards and to explore these inner realms that so often we’re distracted from exploring, we’re too busy, we’re too out in the external world, we don’t have enough time to go in. And I’m curious, from your perspective, what is your creative process? And how do you, yourself, invite introspection, whether it’s through plant medicine or otherwise, as you’re making this music, as you’re creating this for the world?
0:21:54.8 EF: Invitation is something… I love that word, and it came more strongly into my consciousness after speaking to Bayo Akomolafe, who’s a philosopher and poet. And he was on my podcast and he kept talking about creating the invitation, or that the invitation is still being made, and these are intentionally poetic, larger metaphors, but I really believe that we do need to create the invitation to be spoken to. And the other side of that, the other side of that coin, is learning how to listen. And so, if anything, I’m cultivating in my life this larger ability to listen more broadly, listen when I’m playing music, listen to the messages that I feel are being conveyed to me through the challenges in my life, through the triumphs in my life, through the feelings that I have, through the conversations of what I’m learning, to what’s happening in the world, listening to the unseen, and learning how to do that and a commitment to being open to that. And creating the invitation, to me, is casting a declaration that you’re doing into the universe. You need to decide, in a way, to be spoken to. If you really want the most out of this, it’s like, it’s not just passive.
0:23:11.9 EF: And so, introspection is something we choose to do, but what if it’s a form of deepening yourself into conversation with all that is? And that is you too, but there’s this active element of choice that navigates you into it. I think creating an invitation to be spoken to is this beautiful idea and what it means to learn how to listen. And so we can do that through learning how to listen to music, or learning how to… Doing listening meditations, but it’s also beyond just the actual listening with your ears. It’s listening with your heart, listening with your body. A lot of us are pretty cut off from our bodies, myself included, and there’s this huge antenna, in a sense, that we… A lot of us in modern society, not only are suppressing with this noise of food and diets, but it’s trying to speak to us or is speaking to us. So my friend, Cort Johnson, he’s a teacher of mine, The Voice of Ten Laws, one of my songs, he talks about how we have this information sickness. And on face value, it’s quite obvious. There’s so much information coming at all of us and our nervous systems every day, it’s astounding. Far beyond, exponentially beyond anything that we’ve experienced in human history.
0:24:30.1 EF: And just in the last 10 plus years with the iPhone and how it’s changed our consciousness to have this quasi-cyborg liminal space that we find ourselves in, is profound. We’re just taking these baby steps of knowledge about what this means for us, but what does it mean spiritually? It’s a mixed bag, that’s for sure. And that gets into things like social media, but I think step one of learning how to listen is learning how to clear away the noise. And psychedelics do a great job at that, in a sense, because when you’re in that space… And sometimes there is a lot of noise, in a way, but it makes what’s really important to you, very clear.
0:25:13.2 PA: There’s a signal that’s often beamed down, and that’s what I hear you talking about when you’re saying clear everything out and create a space where, other people might call it the muse, you act as a channel for the muse of what wants to move through you and then almost with your individual… Not personality, but your individual touch, you’re transmuting that muse into, you’re interpreting it. That muse into your…
0:25:45.7 EF: Yeah, exactly, it’s my humanity, it’s our… I think hypnosis is a pretty good analogy because whatever is coming through your unconscious or the ether is coming through the funnel and the filter of your consciousness that you speak English, what you know, how your brain is able to say, it’s a translation machine, and then you’re speaking the things to your hypnotherapist or so forth. You don’t wanna take it too literally, because in a sense it is being filtered and it is a kind of representation or a metaphor in a way, because it has to be. Music is similar, it’s a representation and a tentacle that goes from this third-dimensional reality into these other unseen forms in dimensional spaces beyond just the realm of form. I think what’s so exciting about it for us, I think that’s why universally, all humans respond emotionally to music and certain harmonies, like we just have an innate built-in coded response to how that makes us feel. What does minor feel? What does major feel? Why do we feel that? And I think it’s because it’s this kind of echo reverberation from something larger that’s us too, but it’s like beyond the boundary condition of this operating system.
0:27:05.7 EF: Another way to think of that is like a dog, you look at your dog and you’re communicating. You’re clearly both conscious, but you could never explain to your dog like what the word love means, but just explain it to them. But you could… You both feel love and this oxytocin in both of your brains releasing, but you’ll never cross that boundary conditions, it’s not built into the operating system of the dog or you to translate in that way, so you have to do it in energetic ways, and music is a sense going in the other direction in these upper octaves and lower octaves, but it’s touching us into the infinite octaves of music, which is truly scientifically, the frequencies just gone forever, we just can’t hear them all.
0:27:47.1 PA: One thing that comes up for me when we’re talking about this is this concept of transcendence versus transformation. And what I mean by that is, oftentimes, when it’s high dose ketamine with a playlist, it’s a full disassociative state, we’re transcending into ego dissolution, and yet a lot of the work, so to say, that comes from psychedelics, a lot of the long-term healing is more about transformation, it’s rooting in the shadow, it’s rooting in some of the difficult parts that come up. And I’m curious, when you think about just generally, the word transformation, what comes up for you?
0:28:29.3 EF: I think about integration because we can have these moments of revelation in psychedelic states, somewhat, I don’t wanna say easily, but they’re often inherent to the space, and it’s really what you do with it that makes it more valuable to your life, having the revelation without any kind of integration isn’t as purposeful. And what does it mean to integrate? I think it just means ways to learn to pay attention and listen, and perhaps even ideally exercises that help embed that knowledge, it’s kind of translation in itself, how we translate it into our habits, and into our routines, and into our really mundane choices. Yeah, sometimes we have these big revelations about I need to change my job or end such a relationship or such thing, that happens often, but where the rubber meets the road is how your practices might change, or you add a new practice or just be more conscious with your word or what that means to you, or being kinder to yourself in the head and what that actually looks like, and maybe cognitive behavioral therapy is your doorway into that. So I just think if we really want psychedelics to play a role in changing our world from the inside-out, which is the only way things change, a person at a time, we have to support this work of integration, witnessing one another. And that’s something we focus on with Journey Space you mentioned, but I think it’s talked about a lot these days in psychedelic therapy, and I think it’s really important.
0:30:05.8 PA: And it goes back to what you were talking about earlier with the somatic role, the role of the body. So often we’re neck-up, and so much of the transformation with psychedelics, with music, with the more introspective state is tapping back in and feeling and listening, and slowing down, ’cause the mind goes, and goes, and goes, but the body keeps the score, the body slows everything down, and so there also seems to be a way that when we tap in and listen to that, that intuition that moves through, how can we honor that and not necessarily rush the process?
0:30:42.9 EF: I couldn’t agree more. And I think that’s, in some ways, an uphill climb these days because everything is so head-focused and information-focused and eyes-focused, but absolutely learning how to listen to the body and nurse the body, and just have it play a role in your life. It’s been a tough lesson for me to learn, but it’s so true, it really is, and I think we all like to stay healthy, and so it’s not just thinking about how to do it and what you can wall off in your life, but it’s sort of letting your body be a part of that communication.
0:31:19.3 PA: Even if it’s tricky or challenging or uncomfortable, I think a lot of times when we start listening, it’s like, what is this thing? I haven’t heard from you in years, maybe since I was a child.
0:31:29.5 EF: Yeah. And it might be baby steps of just starting with some kind of movement practice or some basic yoga as a way of just being able to like, what does it feel like to have tension in a part of my body and then it’s moved somewhere else. Just noticing these things is not… It’s attainable by everybody, and it’s a progressive process, you don’t have to feel like, “I don’t know anything, I’m never gonna know anything so what’s the point?” Just again, creating that invitation to be spoken to is the most important step, just even saying, “Body, I’m listening. I don’t know how to listen, but I’m listening.” That’s beautiful and huge, and I think the absolutely necessary step one.
0:32:15.6 PA: The acknowledgement, right?
0:32:17.0 EF: Yeah.
0:32:19.6 PA: You mentioned Journey Space a little bit ago. I had mentioned it at the beginning. Let’s open that dialogue up because I feel like this is, in some ways, the next growth and evolution of East Forest. You’ve made a number of albums over the last several years that we’ve talked about. You’ve really established yourself as a leading contemporary musician within these phenomenal soundscapes, and now you’re… It’s still East Forest, it’s still within the realms of who you are, but it feels like a growth step, sort of a leap that you’re making with Journey Space. And I’d love if you could just tell our listeners a little bit about what it is, would be great, but more so what inspired you to create Journey Space and bring that out into the world?
0:33:06.7 EF: Yeah. Well, we… It was created out of, what I saw, was a need. But it is a subscription music platform that will be launched soon to provide specialized musical guidance for journeys. I think we’re initially aiming that towards ketamine, but there’s different links and types of music offered for other medicines, and some of them include instruction and meditation at the beginning and end. You also have the option without that, and then we also have integration circles and lots of preparation materials in that, but we also offer online virtual ceremonies. So they’re live-supported facilitators in a virtual space to be, essentially, with you on these journeys that are guided by the same exclusive music library that I’m creating, but it’s this idea of being able to join in community or one-on-one. But we have monthly groups and ideas, we have more of those, or perhaps a ketamine clinic. A client comes in a few times, but they wanna keep working with the medicine, but they either can’t afford or the clinic, a lot of clinics are full. And they want to help these people, but they’re like, well, we could work with them, and say, well, we’ll facilitate, they become the prescriber and it’s now less expensive for everybody, and everyone can still do the work, but feel like it’s not… They’re just not alone, or they wanna work on the help… Have help with the integration part.
0:34:37.5 EF: So it came out of the pandemic like a lot of things. And the first weekend, when the lockdown happened long ago in March 2020, my dear friend Lewis, who has helped be an advocate for East Forest forever since the beginning, he started me with the first ceremonies, he just said, “We’re gonna do a virtual ceremony.” And I was like, “What are you talking about? How do you do that? And I’ve never even live streamed before.” And as usual, he’s like, “We’ll figure it out, don’t worry about it. It’s Saturday.” [chuckle] And we did figure it out, and we found that our community was a lot of people in the New York area and a lot of medical professionals, and it was really, we’re doing it for them initially. And we found it that, although there were sure disadvantages of like, “Well, it’s online,” but there are new advantages like, “Well, some people really liked being at home and they didn’t have to travel to anywhere, let alone Peru or something, and it was really cheap for everybody.” And then, for me, I was like, “Well, I’m in my studio. I can use all these other instruments I have, and do all sorts of things, and have these beautiful microphones,” and when I would travel and do it, I had to have a more compact setup.
0:35:47.6 EF: So it actually worked really well and we ended up doing… I did five of them, and they actually ended up doing many more. And through that we discovered that “Oh, you know, this could actually be a thing that could work with lots of people or other people beyond our community, and maybe this is a service that could be activated to help people learn about the role of ceremony and music and give them actual tools that we’ve been developing ourselves in a way that’s accessible as we move into this new psychedelic future, where there’s a lot of interest and people come in online, but not a lot of knowledge for them.” Like, “What do I do or how do I do this in a way that will be positive for me?” And that’s what Journey Space hopes to play a part and fill in that role.
0:36:37.8 PA: Is it just music from East Forest, are you working with other collaborators as part of that, how is that? Do you have a business partner that is… I’m just curious about some of those facets.
0:36:50.1 EF: Yeah, so it was founded by myself, Lewis, and my partner Radha, and we have a team of advisors, and then we have a team of facilitators. And this is just the beta launch, and right now the subscription music service will just be East Forest Music and it’s music that will be exclusive to that platform that I have not released elsewhere. I’ve been playing more and more ceremonies publicly, and some of them are in this medicine space, that’s sort of a hybrid, but I’m approaching it the same way I would do these private ceremonies with improvisation and being completely open to what wants to speak. So I have that material where I was like, “Well, this is actually a beautiful way to get it out into the world where I couldn’t maybe, feasibly release it as much or as quickly on things like Spotify,” and for a very specific purpose. So right now it’s me, but yes, we will be bringing on other musicians. Absolutely, and there’s an A&R development thing there, where I think, in a sense, it could become like a label, where we’re helping cultivate and support other artists, and to bring them into this space, and maybe give them some pointers and tips about what might work, but wanting them to do it through their voice. So, yes, it’s a growing… If you think about it, it’s like a growing library.
0:38:06.0 EF: Every month, in a way, there’s more and more content in it, meditations and other things, but definitely there’s these musical guidance pieces, which they’re intended to be used more than once. Like, for instance, the Music For Mushrooms album I have out there, I think many people have used it definitely more than once, and that’s fine. It works that way, but we would like to think that we’re gonna give you options, like I said, different lengths an hour, two hours, four hours. So the thought it’s like it takes the guesswork out of guidance for a journey. You really, in theory, could just hit play and not have to know much about music or anything and it should… And, hopefully, the client can have a really good experience assuming you’ve covered your basis on the setting that they’re in and their mindset.
0:38:51.0 PA: The Music For Mushrooms playlist was released in 2018. You mentioned soon after that Denver and Oakland decriminalized. We’ve now seen Seattle and Detroit. Oregon has legalized psilocybin therapy. California has something on the ballot. This doesn’t even include all the FDA approval. I’m just curious, both as a musician and now also as an entrepreneur, what’s your sense of how this space is going to grow and develop? What’s your sense of how we can increase accessibility? What’s your sense of the FDA approval path versus de-crim and state by state? Just sort of as this third wave of psychedelics grows and develops, where do you see it going?
0:39:33.9 EF: I don’t see the Biden administration changing the scheduling of the drugs, that’s just my intuition. So I would see it continuing to be a state level and municipal level movement, although Canada’s got some stuff in motion, and so do some other countries. It will become more and more obvious what’s already obvious to a lot of people. It’s like, yes, they have medical value and therapeutic value. So it’s like the scheduling is not accurate, it’s not even an opinion so much, it’s just like this tsunami of obviousness.
0:40:07.1 PA: When I think like… There was a recent poll that was published maybe last week or two weeks ago that said 65% of Americans support psychedelics for therapeutic purposes at this point, which is…
0:40:18.0 EF: Which is wild…
0:40:19.8 PA: Wild, yeah.
0:40:19.9 EF: It’s amazing, it’s amazing. It’s kinda like the way now most of us know people who’ve had COVID or we had it ourselves. It spreads around. It’s a strange analogy. But people now are learning more and more like they actually know someone who’s like… Not like the hippie. Oh, they actually really helped Jeannie Sue or whoever, or themselves, or they read Michael Pollan’s book. The conversation is getting louder and more and more sober. And as you know, doing this kind of work is not easy. It takes a lot of bravery for people to grow, it’s not like what we’re… We’re not talking about, “Oh, have you gone into the Blissed Out space and now you’re in the Unicorn Religion?” That’s not what it is. It’s often like, “Have you faced your demons and your dark side and now you feel stronger and better that you kinda cried it out and got all that trauma out.” That’s not easy.
0:41:14.4 EF: And I really honor… I honor people for some part of them knowing it’s just the soul’s journey, it’s the soul coming through at the right time to say, “We can do this.” Now there’s actually a system of support, and we’re gonna heal generations, essentially, of trauma. These lineages of pain that have brought us to this concrescence of where we are with cause and effect, or karma, as you might say. And we’re the brave souls now who are incarnated saying, “Hey, maybe I can make some choices to round this corner.” And so we’re all in this co-conspiracy of awakening, and there’s all these different tools emerging, and at best, those tools are truly there to help that process.
0:42:00.5 EF: Some of them, of course, are going to be lost in the delusion of greed in a very small percentage, even malice, but mostly just greed and you get lost. That is happening and will happen. But in a sense, what needs to break through the egg of capitalism, I believe can, because I believe really strongly in what is emerging. I’ve seen it in my own life. Like how powerful it is and how little I have to “understand” it. I just have to be in service to it. And I watch that river flow, and we’re all part of that river. So it’s like you can dam parts up or stake your thing on the ground and like this is where I’m gonna be. And you can stay there if you like, but it might be difficult at times for the river rises or the dries, it’s a trickle, but it’s always flowing.
0:42:52.4 EF: And I think it’ll get harder and harder to resist that as time goes on. We’re already in it, in that sense, like you see it’s harder and harder to live as you did, even three years ago, exactly as you did. And the more you’re flexible and malleable and the more you’re willing to drop what isn’t serving you anymore or others in a sense the easier it is. But that is… There is grieving to be done there, and there is processing to be done. And that’s not something that we’re really good at in America, at least in some parts of the world. So there’s some learning to be done and new tools to be brought forth. And psychedelics is just one of those tools, and it’s not the tool for everyone. It’s not the one tool that solves all the problems, but it can be a pretty powerful one for some folks to make some bigger changes more quickly. And not that time really matters, but it matters in the sense of we have many crises, from ecological to societal to on and on and on.
0:43:55.8 PA: To spiritual even, and that’s something that I also picked up. Your sense is this is more than anything, it’s a spiritual crisis that we’re going through.
0:44:02.2 EF: A 100%. At its core I do see it that way because I believe that… This is just my personal way of looking at the world, but everything comes from the soul out in a way and is in service to the soul’s journey, so all the “problems” or frictions we’re having are spiritual in their derivation. And so I think when you look at it that way, if you choose to, it makes it a little easier to approach in some ways, as opposed to just trying to play whack-a-mole and attack each problem, you’re kind of looking at it from a more holistic, systemic, functional point of view almost, of what it means to be alive.
0:44:43.1 PA: One, it’s the difference even between psychedelic-assisted therapy and taking Prozac or Zoloft. If you take Prozac or Zoloft you can numb the symptoms or play whack-a-mole with the things that are popping up but you never get to the core of it. And this is what I found to be so interesting, even with the early, early research that Johns Hopkins did, and what was so brilliant about how they set it up is they showed that psilocybin occasions and mystical experience, and that the stronger the mystical experience, the stronger the healing, tying it right back to that connection.
0:45:13.6 EF: If you think about us being time rich, and another thing my friend Cort says, he’s like, we all graduate, all choices are valid. And if you take that mindset, it’s like, I’m not judging if you take Zoloft or Prozac and you don’t wanna face that right now. Maybe these are contradictions, these are paradoxes, ’cause you could say like, “Yeah, but we’re sinking, the Titanic is sinking. You don’t have time.” The faster we make these changes, the better. Yes, that is true. And at the same time, my heart tells me, we all graduate. I’m not saying that’s a good answer, but that’s how… The mystery is called the mystery for a reason, it’s the world of the Buddhist Koan and the paradoxes. So it’s a process, yeah.
0:46:03.1 PA: And it can’t be rushed. And we’re running out of time.
0:46:07.5 EF: Exactly, [chuckle] right, exactly. And that being said, I do think it’s sort of all hands on deck in the sense of everyone get ready to load your gifts, what gifts do you have? Now is the time to give them, and if you’re not sure, now is the time to start listening and cultivating and be like, “What is it that I’m here to give? Or what things can I give?” And I mean, largely energetically here, obviously not just monetarily. So the time is now, absolutely. I sense that urgency of not wanting to hold back and releasing the Music for Mushrooms was a pretty good example of that, where years prior, I had a lot of trepidation because I was like, “I could be judged, I did illegal implications,” all sorts of things, and those are all true, but there was a part of me that sort of whisper in my heart that said, “But it’s time. It’s time.” Yes, all these things are true, but listen to that part of you that says, “It’s okay, now it’s the time to do that.”
0:47:11.3 EF: And so I did it, and it’s largely only been beautiful, it is just beautiful, and you kind of put something out into the world and then I go on and do my stuff and that’s like a… It’s like a beautiful child or a little boat that’s sailing out there and interacting with different boats and countries that it hits, and as you mentioned in your own life too. So you can give yourself over to that, and trust that the river is flowing, you don’t have to decide where the river goes, and you just think of yourself as like, the less I resist the more I’m just floating in it in a way, and it’s a moving target as it goes around different bends and things, there’s different… It’s not like you just find a spot and chill in it every day, in a sense, every breath, we’re releasing into that process, but again, I honor our bravery for being at a time where there are a lot of turns in this river right now, it’s pretty turbulent. And if you know how to rest in a river that’s turbulent, your feet facing downstream and… You can do it, you can do it, and it’s not about resisting, it’s about flowing with that.
0:48:24.6 PA: I love it, that metaphor of coming back to the river, I think of Siddhartha, the book, that was written by Hermann Hesse and how the story ends… Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read Siddhartha. But the story ends with the characters sitting by the river, and it’s this metaphor for at some point, we all cross the river, we all graduate, so to say. But while we’re here, our role is to help other people make that leap.
0:48:52.6 EF: That book, I’m glad you mentioned it ’cause it has a pretty big influence on me, and I think it’s from that book, but I love this idea that the river is always at the beginning and the end at the same time, it’s always… It’s emergence and returning to the ocean all at once, and this idea also then more psychedelic idea that you’re the whole river, not just in the river, but you are the river. And this idea of reincarnation or creation, and it’s just a… It’s a beautiful… There’s sections in the book where he’s listening to the river, and it would take him to these trance states. And that’s like a really real shamanic thing about wide noise and training the brain and entrancing you like crickets or frogs or wash of a river. So yeah, I love the river as a metaphor.
0:49:50.1 PA: We have a couple more questions, but one question that I wanna make sure we talk about is about Baba Ram Dass who has been incredibly influential for you, and I’d love if you could just talk about that a little bit, who is Ram Dass to you?
0:50:07.5 EF: Ram Dass is a beautiful soul who did a lot of work on himself, who dedicated himself to loving as deeply as he could. And he changed my life profoundly in ways that I’m humbled by, and was gifted by to be able to cross paths with him physically, but even before that, for many of us, he was a teacher from afar and an inspiration and… For the reasons I just mentioned. And then when I got to work with him, collaborate on a project, it was really difficult to fathom because I just couldn’t really believe that all was happening, and I didn’t wanna think about it too much. And then I think after all the whole process happened, which is a very long process, and creating it and then for getting it out and then the remixes, and then he died like two days later after the final thing was released. And I think then I was able to start reflecting on what was all this, or what is all this? Because it feels very, very alive. It feels very alive, especially because I have conversations about it, but I go out there in the world and I play these ceremony concerts and events and I press a button, and Ram Dass is booming, booming through these big sound systems and I’m playing music underneath it, and it’s like that is very alive. He’s out there singing to the world.
0:51:36.3 EF: So, it’s just honestly one of the coolest things that’s happened to me, and it happened at exactly the right time of his work and end of his life, unbeknownst to us at that time, we certainly knew he was at the last stages of his life, last chapter, but I didn’t even know if he’d be able to speak when we gathered, it ended up being his last recorded teachings, like that. Again, we didn’t know that either. So, I’m just so deeply humbled to play a part in what that is and became and what it is now in the world, it’s a record I’m very proud of, because he got to choose what he wanted to speak to, and he spoke to some very salient messages to the world that are so relevant to today, and he did it in such an artful and masterful way, and his sort of micro-teachings that are humorous and poetic and… Oh my God, he just killed it. He just killed it.
0:52:39.6 EF: And the technology, the music, completely ameliorates the little pauses or large pauses he had from his stroke where it was difficult for him to communicate, and so, I think, a lot of people hadn’t really connected with Ram Dass quite the same way verbally anymore, ’cause he had these huge pauses, but, after a decade plus of him having that condition, there was this richness to the words he did speak, and so when I essentially took out the pauses and he might have… When he talked about dark thoughts, what does it mean to be suicidal and to have dark thoughts? He only spoke for… When I took the pauses out, for probably a minute or less, and I put that into the song, but it becomes like a minimalistic teaching that’s perfect. It is absolutely perfect. And that was, again, sort of like a benefit and a gift of his aphasia, so it’s a really wild trip, man.
0:53:37.1 PA: That is a wild trip.
0:53:37.3 EF: Yeah.
0:53:38.3 PA: Do you have a favorite Ram Dass story or a favorite proverb or a favorite teaching from him?
0:53:46.3 EF: I think what he gave me the most was this recognition of how we can be with others, and it’s this loving awareness, this sort of just loving presence, that’s not difficult to do, it’s not a mystery, it’s available to all of us, but we don’t… Very rarely do we give it to others, and it’s just… It’s not about words at all, it’s just opening completely to what’s in front of you and what’s in front of you is another soul. A perfect soul. And when I first met him, he didn’t really know me, and the door shut, and he just locked eyes with me, and it was this loving embrace of complete receptivity, and that was a real teaching because it really showed me is like how I can do that too. Any of us can. And that was nothing he said. Certainly many of the things he said were great too, but that was just something I really took away for me, was what it meant to feel that energy in person, and it was a real gift.
0:54:56.8 PA: I never had the opportunity to meet Ram Dass but I met Stan Grof a few years ago at a workshop he did at CIS, and I felt the same…
0:55:07.8 EF: Awakeness?
0:55:08.3 PA: Loving awareness… The same… I remember I went up to say thank you to him after, and he just locked eyes and it was like pure… It was like an indescribable sort of presence and connection that just moved through him, and it’s such a gift to be able to then amplify that with the work that you’ve done through Ram Dass with… Obviously, Grof is well, well known in many ways, and it’s almost like… Whether we call them enlightened figures or gurus or healers or teachers, whatever the phrase that we use, ascended masters, I don’t know if it lots of…
0:55:42.3 EF: Happy humans. [laughter]
0:55:43.3 PA: Happy humans. There seems to be a sense where in the past, we would just… There was a Lotus flower that would bloom here and there, we had Buddha, we had Jesus, and we had Muhammad, and now what seems… And what I feel to be happening is, instead of there being a single Lotus flower that blooms every 100 years or whatever, there’s many that are now blooming, it’s almost like the tools for this awareness are becoming decentralized, and I see your music, your ceremony, the way you even weave in someone like Ram Dass as a way to listen deeper into that, knowing that we all have that sort of spark of divinity that lives within us.
0:56:32.2 EF: It’s a bridge. We could honor Thich Nhat Hanh who recently passed, and how he said the next Buddha may be the community, essentially, the Sangha, and it is changed, especially with the advent of the way the internet and information… The downside is we’re awash in the sickness of information, the upside is we’re interconnected in a way where a singular being is not as necessary as the collective, and the collective consciousness, and the group consciousness, and how that can actually be effectuated by things like the internet and technologies like this that we’re doing right now, there’s ways of spreading information far beyond what we could do before, and it has changed what it means to have a singular guru, and to having more like a meme in a way, is the guru.
0:57:24.3 PA: Or AI, even.
0:57:24.5 EF: Yeah, that’s a… We get down the rabbit hole, but there’s always these infinite possibilities in front of us, and it means exactly what it says, so it’s not just sort of preordained. I like to say that we have a destiny, but it’s required that we choose it. And that, again, is meant to be a paradox, but I think they’re both true.
0:57:51.4 PA: So final question before you wrap up, I’m just curious to hear your three biggest musical influences, so as you’ve created music over the last 14 years now since 2008, who has influenced you most in terms of your compositions, in terms of the way that you choose to weave together, rhythm and harmony, who would you point to?
0:58:16.5 EF: I’m a big fan of Keith Jarrett, and his long-form piano compositions really paved the way for… What it means to open yourself and up to the moment and improvise in a live setting like that. I mean, on one hand, totally terrifying, on the other hand I also never plan or expect to have the technical adroitness that he has. He’s true virtuoso. But what he’s doing is a big, big inspiration on me. And God, there’s so many. There’s certainly contemporaries you listen to like what’s going on in the field these days. But then there’s all the people who have come before who are coming up, Aphex Twin, and sort of what he was doing in Ambient Space had a lot of feeling for me. And so a lot of music that had a lot of feeling. And even I went to Cigarros concert in 2008. Oh no, it was earlier, 2005 or 2006, at the Beacon Theatre in New York. And that concert changed my life because I was doing different music before, and it showed me what can be done at a show and the emotional character and the artistic arc. And that was hugely inspirational for me.
0:59:39.8 EF: So you could go on and on, but there’s lots of people who’ve been paving the way before me that… Anything I hear I get inspired by pretty much, whether it’s like, “I don’t wanna do that,” or it’s like, “Wow, I wonder if I could ever do something like that,” or, “That’s a really interesting way to do a kick drum,” or… So I’m just like a sponge. But I think for better or worse, I’ve always… When I’m inspired by something I end up doing it. It just becomes my own, not because I’m almost choosing to, it just does because of my own inabilities. [chuckle] And so it just starts becoming the way I like to make things sound. And I think I used to think for a long time, I was like, “Oh yeah, I could do any of these things.” And I still believe that, but I notice more and more as the years go on I keep being drawn to the introspective and the things that really pull me inside musically.
1:00:38.3 PA: Back to the listening and to the river and the stream and everything that’s moving.
1:00:44.4 EF: Yeah. I love feeling and I love richness, whether it’s in conversation or… I don’t really like the stuff on the surface too much, so I wanted the music to take me. That’s the point of it for me.
1:00:57.5 PA: The depth of emotion that it can bring. Beautiful. Well, East Forest, thank you for joining us. Journeyspace.com is the… And when are you launching? What are you looking at for dates for that?
1:01:12.8 EF: It’s already online for our group ceremonies. We’ve had three and we’re continuing with that. And the music subscription service, we’re hoping to have along by March 1st or in early… That’s our goal, early March 2022. But you can already go up there and sign up to be part of the beta of that if you wanna be a tester and join a journey, or if you wanna… If you’re a clinic out there and you wanna talk about working together, reach out.
1:01:42.8 PA: Beautiful. Well, thank you, thank you for the music you’ve created, thank you for being a channel and a vessel for listening, and for hopping on today for an hour of your time. I really appreciate everything that you’re creating.
1:01:56.8 EF: Yeah, thank you, it was fun. Thanks, it was fun.
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