The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Shamanic Investing: Using Money, Sex, and Power for a Higher Purpose
Sylvia Benito is a portfolio manager with 20 years of experience in managing family office investments. She connects consciousness to capital by bridging the traditional world of investing to her proprietary innovations in quantifying the alignment awareness and transformative purpose of any company. Sylvia works with families, founders, and boards to adjust alignment to their highest and truest purpose. She is also a trained shaman and actively investigates the utilization of entheogens in investing. In this episode of the Third Wave podcast, Sylvia talks with Paul F. Austin about her path weaving together entrepreneurship, investing, and awakening through meditation and psychedelics.
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- Sylvia’s path to awakening.
- How plant medicines inform Sylvia’s relationship with money.
- Sylvia’s experience weaving entrepreneurship, investing, and awakening.
- Becoming an investor in the psychedelic space.
- Indigenous reciprocity and representation alongside medicalization.
- Investing in a shamanic way.
- Psychedelics and the decentralized future.
- How to awaken leaders with psychedelics.
0:00:00.0 Sylvia Benito: I think one of the reasons why plant medicines are so powerful is because they’re really interested in the evolution of everything, and they leave nothing out of their invitation to transform and evolve. So everything is welcome at the table of a psychedelic, everything, every shadow… Everything that’s hidden, every secret, every blind spot. Part of their power is that they make us feel more comfortable looking into the shadow aspects of our own self, and therefore the shadow aspects of society, and in my experience, one of the biggest shadows and society is money. So I think that it makes perfect sense to me that the plants would like to get their hands on money, ’cause in the end, money is just a form of energy, it just happens to be a form of energy that’s fraught with a lot of conflict right now.
0:01:05.2 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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0:04:47.7 PA: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to Third Wave’s podcast. Today we have Sylvia Benito. Sylvia is a portfolio manager with 20 years of experience in managing family office investments. She began her career as an entrepreneur, co-founding a start-up in South America, the Oasis Institute, which she successfully exited before becoming a professional investor. Sylvia connects consciousness to capital by bridging the traditional world of investing to her proprietary innovations in quantifying the alignment, awareness, and transformative purpose of any company.
0:05:20.3 PA: She works with families, founders, and boards to adjust alignment to their highest and truest purpose, and in doing so, creates chains of abundance that benefit the common good. Sylvia holds her CFA charter and is trained in family governance systems. She is also a trained shaman and actively investigates the utilization of entheogens in investing. Sylvia, welcome to Third Wave’s podcast.
0:05:42.0 SB: Thank you for having me today.
0:05:43.2 PA: Absolutely. So I first heard about your work at the Microdose Conference in Miami, which was about five weeks ago or so from the date of this recording, and what you were talking about was really interesting, which was this relationship between investment and personal entheogenic experiences. And that’s a very sort of deep topic, and I don’t want to just throw you into that right away, so I’d love to just start by having a broader perspective of your work in the space, and specifically starting with your path to awakening, and when did that path to awaken and begin for you? What was the context around it?
0:06:17.5 SB: The first experience that I had of awakening was accidental. I was in college and somebody went and picked some psilocybin mushrooms and we were gonna go to a party. At the time, I didn’t smoke pot, I didn’t drink, I didn’t have any experience, really, of any kind of altered consciousness at all. I was 19. I partook of some mushrooms. If I had to guess it was a way heroic dose, although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. And I started walking to the party with my then boyfriend, and as I was walking, I remember looking at some trees and seeing their magnificence for the first time, and then I just peed in my pants. And I said to him, “Wow, how can we just don’t always pee when we feel like it’s time to pee, why do we control anything at all?”
0:07:14.9 SB: And that was the portal then into what became a very, very profound awakening experience, in which I saw that my thoughts create my reality, that everything is made of God, that consciousness is the only thing that matters, that we’re on this planet to wake up. And I was able to kind of touch into the energy of infinity, which for me, being 19 years old at a college party with my boyfriend was pretty terrifying, but it changed my life, and so I have great respect for these medicines, because were not for that experience at that college party, I would not have turned my life towards awakening.
0:08:00.6 PA: That’s beautiful. And it feels like the plant medicines, these entheogens, whether they’re actual plant medicines or fungi, are these phenomenal openers, and what is also true is a lot of people who have these experiences don’t necessarily understand or explore the relationship to money in particular. And I’d love, just as an opener, for you to sort of go deeper into how do you see or what more specifically, what have plant medicines and fungi taught you about money and your relationship with money?
0:08:32.3 SB: I think one of the reasons why plant medicines are so powerful is because they’re really interested in the evolution of everything, and they leave nothing out of their invitation to transform and evolve. So everything is welcome at the table of a psychedelic, everything, every shadow, everything that’s hidden, every secret, every blind spot. Part of their power is that they make us feel more comfortable looking into the shadow aspects of our own self, and therefore the shadow aspects of society. And in my experience, one of the biggest shadows in society is money. So I think that it makes perfect sense to me that the plants would like to get their hands on money, ’cause in the end, money is just a form of energy, it just happens to be a form of energy that’s fraught with a lot of conflict right now, and that they would like to help us to transform that energy into something that is more in service to what really matters.
0:09:47.6 PA: And what does really matter?
0:09:49.8 SB: Waking up. Like it’s like… It’s like the Earth is a school, like we came here to wake up, basically. We can say that there’s other reasons for being human, but I’ve looked into this for many, many years, in many, many journeys and many experiences, and I’m pretty confident that the purpose of a human lifetime is to wake up as deeply as you can, so everything gets included in awakening. Nothing gets left out.
0:10:16.7 PA: Right, because it is all-encompassing. In your talk at the conference, you mentioned not only is it money, but it’s also sex and power, that money, sex and power are these three things that we have a lot of shadow around, that are often fraught with conflict because of how much they can move, so to say. And when people who are maybe less than savory or who are not awakened have a lot of money, sex and power, it can sometimes harm in some ways, and yet through the awakening with these medicines, the ideas, we can actually utilize money, sex and power for a higher purpose that is sort of conscious, that is aware, that is contributing back to the greater good.
0:11:03.9 SB: My experience, having spent a lot of time around massive wealth, is that money amplifies what is already present in the person who’s holding it. It’s like a great volume knob, it turns the volume from 13 to 26 on a person. So if you are asleep in certain ways, that just becomes magnified, and if you’re awake in certain ways, that also becomes magnified. So obviously, this is kind of my life work, so I spent quite a lot of time looking at what happens to people that hold great wealth, how great wealth operates in our society. And one of the key points that I like to think about is how, particularly in American society, money has, in many ways become a form of a god. It becomes something that we worship. We spend a lot of time and effort worshipping or idolizing certain attributes or certain qualities in our society that are primarily really related to money, sex and power.
0:12:18.4 SB: So there’s something interesting which happens if you’re a wealthy man and you go into a party. Everybody treats you like the most important person in the room, everybody thinks your jokes are funny, everybody thinks every comment you make is interesting, you can have any woman that you want. So the way in which we as a society actually somehow have said money is the most important thing and is the thing worth paying the most attention to, it’s the sacred cow of American society is money itself. What gets embedded into money is sex and power.
0:12:56.7 SB: Alright, so those three things, they kind of play in the same sandbox together. So it’s not a mystery, like the rich man can have as much sex as he wants, the more powerful he is, the more women he can have, like this is very, very interrelated in our society. So I got curious about that and I said, well, if money is just a form of energy, but it’s got all of this power, what happens if that power itself begins to wake up, what does it look like if the money and the power and even the sex become more conscious. What would that look like? And that’s been kind of the experiment that I’ve been trying to live with my life.
0:13:35.1 PA: And so bring us deeper into that, because you have an interesting story. You weren’t immediately in the investment in finance world, you explored, had some personal experiences in places across the globe, you also were first an entrepreneur before you started to get into investment, so just bring our listeners a little bit deeper into your professional personal path between entrepreneurship, investment and awakening.
0:14:01.5 SB: After university, I moved to South America to help start a school with two other people. It’s called the Oasis Institute, and it’s based out of Argentina. I was an entrepreneur by accident. I was an entrepreneur because I didn’t understand risk, I had nothing to lose, I had a lot of spunk and a spirit of adventure, and ended up helping to create something that actually was a meaningful contribution and still exists today, has trained thousands of healers and body workers and massage therapists throughout Latin America. So I was really, really proud to have basically, for that to have been my first career.
0:14:40.2 SB: And as a part of that building of that school, I then also trained with different shamans and healers and body workers for the first 10 years of my adult life. And the only thing that I really cared about in terms of my professional life was, what is healing and what is awakening, and then studying with anybody that I thought could give me those tools or those codes to go deeper into that. So I was so steadfast throughout my 20s, really nothing else mattered to me except those two questions: What is healing and what is awakening? And as I kind of progressed, specifically with healing, I kept digging deeper and deeper and deeper into this question of what does it mean to heal, like who is it that heals, what is it that’s healing?
0:15:30.1 SB: And for me, I was able to discover that healing in its very essence is really not separate from that moment of awakening, that the only healing that is actually really ever real to us is the awakening of your true nature, who you truly are, which is that which is never born and never dies, that pure, profound, pristine consciousness, that is your essence. Seeing that knowing, that feeling, that understanding that and anchoring yourself in that, living a life from that truth, that is awakening.
0:16:04.5 SB: So for me, all healing kind of comes to that one moment of awakening, and the beauty was that I was able to give myself to that fully throughout my 20s. And then at a certain point of time… It was really quite simple. I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my life in South America, as much as I loved it, I didn’t really… It’s far away. I still had my family, my friends were still based in America, and I was getting to that age where I knew that it was gonna be time to marry and have children. And I knew if I married and I had children in South America, I would essentially become Argentinian for the rest of my life, and that wasn’t something that I really wanted to do.
0:16:44.3 SB: So I sold my part of the school to my two partners in 2000, and I moved back to the States. I had some money from the sale of the school, it wasn’t like a crazy fortune, but it was something. And I began to think about how to invest that money. It was during the dot com boom. And at the same time I was thinking about how to invest that money, I was thinking about what I would do next in my career, and two things happened. One is I couldn’t figure out how to invest the money, one is… I felt like everybody was trying to sell me something. And there was so much hysteria in the market at the time, it just didn’t feel like anything I could understand, it didn’t feel grounded, and so I actually didn’t invest in that moment and I kept everything in cash.
0:17:34.9 SB: And at the same time, I thought maybe I would go to divinity school and become ordained, or maybe I would become a clinical psychologist. I was trying to find this sort of next stage in my career, and as I was experimenting and trying different paths, none of those things felt right. So in the end, what I did is I took a sabbatical in India, and that was one of the best decisions in my entire life, and I would wish that for any young person that given the kind of unknowingness of what is next or not knowing what your career path is to be, is to actually give yourself the opportunity of a sabbatical or a gap year, or whatever you want to call it, and kind of retreat deeper into yourself until you can see what is… So you’re not just moving forward through conditioning or societal expectations, but from this kind of place of connection to yourself.
0:18:28.2 SB: So I went to India for a prolonged trip, and I stayed in this ashram in the south of India, which is the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, who was one of the great gurus of India, he died in 1950. And what Ramana Maharshi was really teaching and continues to teach today through what he’s left behind was non-duality, this question, who am I, and stillness, and just entering into this profound rapport of knowing yourself to be that which is true. So it was a really incredible experience to live inside that ashram. I lived there for over two months, and towards the end of those two months, I was introduced to a beautiful teacher, a beautiful young teacher, a saddhu in India.
0:19:22.8 SB: And with this teacher, I had a really, really profound awakening, the kind of awakening that you read about in books and sort of like what I had been waiting for my whole life, I wanted to have that experience where everything explodes into pure light and that your nervous system gets blown up for two weeks. And so I got to have that experience, it was cool.
0:19:50.0 PA: Without 5-MeO-DMT or…
0:19:53.1 SB: Without 5-MeO, yes, I didn’t even know 5-MeO existed at the time. So I got to do it the old-fashioned. You see, all you young listeners, this is what us old people used to have to do, we used to have to go to India for two months and sit in an ashram and find a teacher and work really super fucking hard for it, but now you guys can just smoke some 5-MeO and you’re gonna get there way faster.
0:20:17.5 SB: No, seriously, if I had had 5-MeO at this time, I never would have spent all those hours sitting in meditation.
0:20:23.5 PA: Right, precisely.
0:20:26.7 SB: So I had that experience, but when I was coming out of it then, because all experiences fade, even the most profound enlightenment experiences at some point begin to sort of stabilize and normalize into ordinary life. As that was beginning to happen, it was sort of like landing the plane back on Earth, I really… And again, this is where I feel like there’s this great guiding hand of consciousness itself, which wants to evolve. Like there’s this way in which if you give your life to awakening, everything else kind of takes care of itself. It’s sort of like, it’s sort of like somewhere in my 20s, I must have somehow made enough prayers that was like, use me for whatever you wish, I want to wake up at any cost, I want to be of service. Just that simple prayer, like I want to be of service, I must have made it enough times and in enough ways for consciousness to be like, well, in that you look like a good servant, we can use you. You look like a good soldier.
0:21:28.3 SB: And I think that at that point in India, that I was somehow prepared enough for consciousness to say you’re a really great soldier, we’re gonna use you, guess what? Now you’re gonna go and learn how to manage money. And I can tell you, it was for me, it was… It was about the most insane thing that I could… It was akin to being like, now you’re gonna learn to be a gold miner, or like, now you’re gonna be an oligarch. It was just so completely… I was completely unprepared in every single way, and terrified and terrified. I had no idea how I would even do that.
0:22:13.6 PA: What was the fear in that?
0:22:15.0 SB: At the time, money still felt very foreign and very separate, and it felt like it had nothing to do with spirituality, it felt incomprehensible to me. I didn’t even like math, like for starters. Like of all the things [Overlapping speech] told me to do…
0:22:38.6 PA: What did you study? Like prior to getting into money management, what were you into?
0:22:45.7 SB: Environmental studies and poetry.
0:22:51.1 PA: Perfect.
0:22:51.8 SB: Yeah, nothing at all like, not even close. So that was a real uphill… That was a real uphill journey for me in particular, and the only reason why I share the story is, I don’t think anything I’ve done is so special or important, but I want other women to hear the story and either feel like they can become financially empowered themselves, for them to feel like finances are not separate from God, and then maybe for some women, I want them to be like, wow, actually, I think I want to manage money too. I didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond when I had the vision that it was my destiny to become a money manager.
0:23:34.7 PA: You were just that… That separate from it. It was that novel to you.
0:23:40.7 SB: Yeah, I had some money in the bank.
0:23:41.8 PA: Sure.
0:23:43.3 SB: I knew how to… I knew how to not over-spend, I knew how to not be in debt, I could balance a budget, but investing, I knew nothing about it.
0:23:52.0 PA: So my background, which I’ve shared with the listeners before, but the relevance of this is I grew up middle class, West Michigan, Dutch frugal, money was always a weird thing. And even in my early psychedelic experiences, it was always about the efficiency of money. In other words, I lived in Turkey for a year, I lived in Thailand for Portugal, Mexico, all over, for five, six years, it was always around, how can I get the most out of it, so to say, but not necessarily look at it as a driver of good. I had this sort of separation from money, I didn’t necessarily perceive it as evil, but as less than necessary.
0:24:27.2 PA: And yet what I’ve come to find through my entrepreneurial path is that money as a resource, like you said, it’s a resource, it’s an energy, it can be very helpful in terms of what it can build and create. Now, you also mentioned the dot com boom in the early 2000s that you were considering investing in, and there’s a lot of overlap or parallels between the current psychedelic boom and the dot com boom, so to say. And so I’m just curious, like you have this awakening, you start to look at how you can manage money, what’s the path then for you from committing to that, managing money, to choosing the psychedelic industry as a space that you want to be involved with, and that you want to invest in?
0:25:15.0 SB: First of all, I think that in terms of the sort of exuberance of the psychedelic market compared to what dot com was, we’re not even close yet. I think those of us who are sort of in it and close to it, we’re like, wow, this is a little bit crazy, but this is minuscule, microscopic compared to what it potentially could be one day. That being said, I have a very forgiving and compassionate view towards psychedelic investing right now. I think it’s like any space that has so much potential in it is going to become frothy and over-capitalized, and it’s gonna get messy along the way.
0:25:58.9 SB: I think that there will be people that lose money, and there will be people who make money, and in the end, so much of that is gonna be luck and timing. So the thing that I try to pay the most attention to is really understanding the fundamentals of the science as much as I can. If you are looking at drug development… These are biotech companies, so I really don’t think they should be invested in in any different way than you would in a biotech company. So if you’re going to be a psychedelic investor and you’re investing in companies like Compass, you should school yourself on what the process really looks like for a drug to become approved by the FDA, where are they in their clinical studies, do they have any kind of real IP? Do they have a moat around it, do they have an orphan indication?
0:26:51.1 SB: I mean, these are biotech companies. So for me, yes, some of these valuations are crazy and frothy, but you can still be a good value investor in the space. That’s just me putting on my investor hat. Where it gets complicated is that there’s other parts of this ecosystem which are more about safe access and just legalizing and getting… Getting these into the hands of facilitators and people, and there’s some… The drug development is for depression or cluster headaches or specific medical imbalances, but the other side of psychedelics is just about access, is about safe access, and I really don’t think there’s any investment theme there. And I think that it’s foolhardy to try to invest in that thesis. I just want it to… In that particular side, all I’m really interested in is investing in the companies that are gonna train the 50 to 100,000 facilitators that we’re gonna need as these things become legalized. We just need to get really, really good facilitators trained.
0:28:10.6 SB: But I don’t think anyone should be trying to profit from the broader consumer access of psychedelics.
0:28:21.3 PA: Well, it’s a tricky balance, right?
0:28:24.1 SB: It’s a tricky balance, but you know, I study with this lineage of ayahuasceros who’ve been in the jungle for thousands of years, literally, who have master medicine, master processes. Like you tell me how you don’t ever commercialize that, you can’t commercialize that. All you can do legalize it. That’s it. I don’t know, how do you commercialize ayahuasca, how do you commercialize a tribe of shamans who are holding a lineage and holding teachings and… Do you see what I’m saying? It’s like I don’t see any commercialization thesis around that, and I think that that’s what’s beautiful is that there’s some part of the plant medicines that belong belong to the Earth and belong to the people.
0:29:09.0 PA: And this is where the conversation in the psychedelic space comes back to reciprocity and indigenous representation and the importance of engaging in dialogue. I had on the podcast recently Mark Plotkin, who’s an ethnobotanist, who wrote a book, Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, who’s lived in the Amazon for a long time. And we got into this conversation as well around just sort of the emerging psychedelic renaissance and how there might be people who sort of do a hat tip or sort of a virtue signaling around reciprocity, but that it requires actually a certain level of politeness, so to say, and a willingness to listen and communicate that I think we were not seeing with most biotech companies, but that we are seeing with more of, whether it’s the non-profits or even some of the for-profit companies that are taking a more long-term approach, we could say.
0:30:00.5 PA: And they’re really like, what is the vision for the next 30 to 40 years that we’re holding to ensure that the space emerges with integrity, that it emerges with the divine intelligence that we want inside of it, that it emerges with, like you said, facilitators and people who can hold space, because this could go sideways very quickly, like it did in the ’60s. And a lot of it comes down to the integrity and the wisdom that we continue to hold within the emergent space.
0:30:29.9 SB: Yeah, and the two sides have to respect each other’s role, because the truth is that none of this gets legalized without the biotech companies putting out the data or the John Hopkins of the world doing the clinical studies, and they have a role to play. So I think that they have to… In my mind, they have to… They have to respect each other, and I think that they fulfill different purposes that are important. But for me, look, I look at the biotech thesis as more of… One is some of the science is actually really beneficial and important, so if you think about a company like Wesana, which is looking at using psilocybin for traumatic brain injury, that’s important.
0:31:20.8 SB: We need to capitalize companies that are gonna understand how to really properly dose psilocybin for athletes that have experienced multiple concussions, for example. I mean, this is a real science, and they shouldn’t be judged by any other parameters than we would judge any other biotech company. It’s just not fair to them. It’s not fair, they are developing drugs with specific indications, and we need that on the planet, like we need science. It’s important.
0:31:54.7 SB: On the other side is, in the theme of access, in the theme of awakening the people, I’m on the board of Beckley Waves, so Beckley, as you know, the Beckley foundation is this research institute, Beckley Psytech is their drug development arm, Beckley Waves is where they’re developing models for training of facilitators, and they’re also developing models for retreats, sort of like best-in-class psychedelic retreats, using psilocybin specifically, and based out of Jamaica, where it’s already legal. So the conversations that we have in Beckley Waves, for example, is that we can’t just be doing retreats that are for high-end paying clients, but we have to balance them with access to these retreats for war veterans or even local community members in Jamaica.
0:32:53.6 SB: So that’s like… I don’t think I’m articulating it pretty well, but when I’m investing on the drug development side, I’m really looking at it like a pure investor in a biotech company. When I’m looking at it on the community side, I will happily facilitate personally retreats free of cost for some of the community members in Jamaica, because that’s our duty, that’s our responsibility. We’re holding ceremony on their land, and we want the community to be included, not just drop in, use their place and then drop out. So I look at it separately.
0:33:35.9 PA: And yet what we learn from psychedelics or what we learn from awakening, let’s say, is there is no separation, everything is interconnected, there are no… Any separation is artificial at the end of the day. And so I’m just curious, from your perspective, are there any companies in the space… And I guess Beckley, we could point to Beckley as one of them, right, ’cause they are the non-profit, with the Beckley Foundation they rolled out Psytech and they’re doing drug development, they’re now doing Beckley Waves, like you said, with retreats and community.
0:34:04.2 PA: But I feel like this beautiful intersection of the science with the community, so to say, is the ideal of what we’re looking for. In other words, what companies can both pioneer cutting edge science that’s going to move sort of the medicinal element forward while still recognizing the importance of community in the healing process, ’cause I think the downside somewhat to the biotech is that the western medical model tends to be very focused on individual, let’s say, individual indications rather than the relationship of the individual to the larger community. And the challenge with the community side of things is a lot of people would say that it’s sort of painted a little bit too much with drug decriminalization or far left social justice stuff, whereas the community is just sort of central to the healing element. So I feel like there’s a way that merging those two is really important to, again, the integrity of how this develops, so to say.
0:35:06.4 SB: I definitely don’t know the answer, but if I think about using psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, right, like what is that, what is that? Yes, we really want there to be safe protocols and for producing and legalization, and that’s all great, but in the end, depression is also… Is a societal ill, right? It should be healed inside of a community context also, right. And with the point of like, I’m not an expert in depression, but to me, where I see so much benefit with people that are using plant medicine and who are experiencing a lessening of anxiety and depression, it’s not happening in a clinic with a bullet, it’s happening because they’re doing this in ceremonies that are part of a larger community where they feel this sort of inclusiveness and they have this reminder of the we, and they have this reminder of that we’re not doing this journey alone.
0:36:07.7 SB: But I really don’t know how it’s gonna play out, and I really don’t know what’s the correct course of action overall. I can only speak to the things that I actually am involved in and I know, and I can only talk about the sort of ethical compass that I use in different environments.
0:36:28.8 PA: So I want to come back to this, but before we come back to this, I just… I want to open up a bit of a different lens, and that’s this concept of investing in a shamanic way. And this is sort of the title of the talk that was given at the Microdosing Conference. I think for a lot of people, when they see it, they’re a little confused, and I know we’ve already… We’ve talked quite a bit about investment and money, we’ve also talked now about shamanism and lineages, and I’d be curious if you could just explain that phrase, investing in a shamanic way. What does that mean to you?
0:36:57.2 SB: What I am interested in is… Well, first of all, is breaking down the barriers between what we think is shamanic and what’s not shamanic, because in the end the shaman is the one who’s the seer, and what it means to be the seer is it’s the one who’s able to look at the energy pattern underlying things. He’s the one who can… He’s the pattern reader, right? He’s the pattern reader, he’s the energy seer and the pattern reader. And when I think about what makes a really great visionary venture capitalist, a lot of what makes a venture capitalist phenomenal is they are also a seer, they can see what kind of a company is going to transform society or what’s going to make a huge impact in the world.
0:37:53.0 SB: And probably, and I don’t think a lot of venture capitalists talk about this so overtly, they like to say, oh, we’re founder-focused. So you hear that a lot, I’m founder-focused. Well, what does it really mean to be founder-focused? Well, it means that you have to really be a good judge of character, and you have to really have a pretty strong sense of empathy or intuition around who people are, and being able to line yourself up with those founders and take the journey with them.
0:38:20.8 SB: So when I say, okay, if a venture capitalist is looking at the pattern of what kind of a company is gonna make an impact in the world, and if he’s looking at a founder and saying, who is this person and can I take the journey with them? And then the shaman over here is looking inside of the energy pattern of a person and saying, why is this person suffering, or why is this person is sick, or where does this person need to make an adjustment to thrive, they’re looking at patterns, and they are actually deeply intuitive about the people that they’re working with.
0:38:53.5 SB: So I don’t understand why it would be so surprising that those two things could actually be completely synergistic together. It’s just that it’s such a holy cow, like investing is like… Investing is so sacred, like, oh, it’s such a… God forbid you ever say that investing could actually be intuitive and simple, and your birthright. Imagine if it was our birthright to really know how to be good investors, what? Imagine if you didn’t have to outsource that to an expert. So I think it’s a bit… It can be a bit shocking for people, but when you really think about it, why would it be shocking? It should be completely natural and intuitive that you could bring together those skills.
0:39:41.1 PA: Kinda reminds me of the words stewards. If we were to replace the word investor with the word stewards, which I think most… If investors are, let’s say, investing in that shamanic way, they’re really looking at how can they be stewards of the psychedelic movement, or stewards of a revolution in mental health, or stewards of whatever else it is, and that almost requires a framing that is rooted in awakening, because oftentimes, through awakening, we realize it’s not about us necessarily as an individual, but instead of what is moving through us, the divine. And the divine wants to contribute, the divine wants to be stewards of this greater thing that the Earth, community, whatever we’re sort of playing with or existing within.
0:40:25.9 SB: I can just share with you my own sort of personal anecdote about how it started was, remember, I’m like… This is about two-and-a-half, three years ago. I’m a portfolio manager, and at the time I’m working in a bank, which is just about the most compliance-heavy environment you’ve ever been in your life. And then on my vacations, I’m going to South America and I’m working with these, in particular, Taita Juanito, with these great shamans. But nobody really knows that I’m doing that. It’s like these things are really quite separate in my life at that time, and I would be sitting in these ceremonies and I would… Whether… Like there was… There was a certain point where like, it was almost like this, this is how every ceremony started to go.
0:41:22.4 SB: In the beginning, I would have to come in to integrity and something in my life, like whatever it was, like my kid is spending too much time on his iPad, I’d have to come into integrity, or I didn’t treat my ex-husband kindly, I’d have to come into integrity, like wherever I needed to come into integrity. It was almost like, like the first two hours of every ceremony was sort of like just me cleaning up my messes and coming into full integrity and seeing where it is that I needed to be more true.
0:41:53.3 SB: And when that had kind of settled down, this sort of housekeeping, like ayahuasca housekeeping, whenever that had settled itself out, when I purged all of my sins into the bucket, I would come always into this sort of place of utter stillness. It was like being in the silver desert, just like utter, total stillness. And in that stillness would come what they call the consulta, the consultations, and these consultations, they could sometimes just be consultations that were for other people that were not related to money, but increasingly what was so amazing is every single consultation would just be about money, and every single consultation would be about investing.
0:42:41.9 SB: And it was like the grandmother was showing me down to the most minute details, I would literally sit in ceremonies and the grandmother would walk me through incentive structures on deals and show me how the incentivization was aligned with truth or was not aligned with truth. It was like at that level of detail. And as much as I… It was kind of weird in the beginning, I was like, wow, I’m just literally spending half of my ceremonies looking at investing, it was like a love affair.
0:43:14.3 SB: I loved what I was being shown. It felt like the most precious knowledge I could possibly be given was this sort of like sacred understanding of the nature of money and the nature of investing. And what consciousness wants and what God wants is just incredible support and abundance for everybody. This isn’t about investing in a way where you get less but you feel good about it, it was like, no, this is like… This is a way in which everybody wins, the planet wins, the people win, everybody wins, but it was showing me in all this kind of detail how that actually had to operate and how it actually had to function. So all of it really came from deep seeing in ceremony.
0:44:05.1 PA: I’ve had similar experiences, not specific to investing, just because I’m not necessarily an investor, I’m much more entrepreneur-creative, but very, very similar things in terms of, let’s say, for Third Wave with the vision that we’ve built, or Third Wave and Synthesis, the companies and the ecosystem that I’ve been able to develop. It’s been, how do those pieces all come together to form like a 1 + 1 = 3. Even the name Synthesis is the coming together of pieces for a greater good. And there seems to be an ability both to feel that in terms of what feels good in the chest and the entire body, but also quantify it to make it actually executable.
0:44:47.0 PA: So there are clear steps from, let’s say, current reality to envisioned reality, right, because so much of, let’s say, investing or so much of the entrepreneurial path as a visionary is holding what is that imagined reality and being able to have the sort of wherewithal to bring a team or bring a company or whatever it is into that, which is very difficult. And psychedelics help to facilitate that process more than anything that I’ve personally worked with, breath work or ice or floats or whatever, psychedelics continue to deliver on, sort of clearing the cloud to see what is that peak, both individually and collectively, that we’re aiming for.
0:45:26.3 SB: That’s beautiful, thank you for sharing that, because I don’t always like to talk about these things, because there’s just so many people that could think it’s crazy. And I’m like, that’s cool, you can think it’s crazy, but I just want to say like, ayahuasca has been… People have been drinking it for thousands of years, and historically, if somebody was sick in the village, they drank in ceremony to see what was happening. If they were gonna go on a hunt, they drank in ceremony to see where the animals were. Like this is… It’s a practical medicine.
0:46:06.1 SB: It will kick your butt, it will school you, it will floor you, it will give you the keys to God. But it also loves being used practically, because in the end, consciousness wants to evolve in a very ordinary way on the planet, like if consciousness can evolve in the building of a company or in an investing of money or in how I parent, if it’s not gonna be able to teach me at these practical levels how to do better, then what’s the point, then all we’re doing is tripping. All we’re doing is tripping and hanging out with a bunch of fractals and then telling each other stories about it. Who cares about that? Like literally.
0:46:46.8 PA: I think it’s fun, you know. That can be fun, but that’s the much more feminine element, the connection, the visions… Where I’ve always been is very masculine in terms of I want structure, I want a clear path that I can execute against, I want to have a clear sense of where is my objective reality, ’cause even with psychedelics help to do through the ego dissolution process is actually just be honest with yourself. Like you were saying, when you were working with ayahuasca, you had to come clean about all these things that had happened in the past that brought you out of integrity.
0:47:18.8 PA: And I feel like part of that cleansing process is allowing us to sort of sink in to a place where it’s like, oh, yeah, this is true, this is the vision that I want, this is where I’m lacking, or this is where I’m not fully owning up to what I need to be, and I’ll shift and move that energy to find greater alignment, ’cause ultimately at the end of the day, it’s about alignment between yourself and the vision that you want to create, and not only between yourself and the vision that you want to create, but I think back to your point earlier, what makes VCs shamans, so to say, in terms of seers, are recognizing how that relates to larger things going on.
0:47:57.0 PA: One of the reasons Steve Jobs was so successful is because he built something, ’cause he knew the future would be digitized, so he’s like, if I build Apple and this computer, a lot of the sort of, the attractor point of the future, the digitization of society will pull me into that. And I feel like we’re going through something similar with psychedelics, where the future is decentralized, the future is open source, the future is Web3, the future is whatever else you want to name it. And psychedelics seem to be fitting into that larger evolution of where we’re going, where consciousness is headed, so to say.
0:48:31.6 SB: I couldn’t agree more. Like I think one of the most amazing things that I’ve seen happen in my lifetime is just the concept of a DAO. I mean, imagine, like that’s…
0:48:46.9 PA: Tell our listeners, what is a DAO, ’cause some know, but some maybe don’t know.
0:48:50.7 SB: Okay. Again, as an investor, I try to figure these things out sooner rather than later, so I’m still at the beginning of understanding. But my understanding is a DAO, which is just a… It’s a decentralized authority organization. But what does that mean practically? So let’s say that I want to buy a token in a company that’s decentralized, let’s say… Or doesn’t even have to be a company, it could be like an asset. So let’s use an example, let’s say that we want to buy this land in Miami, or maybe… That’s not a fun example, let’s say… I don’t know, let’s say… Let’s say we want to create our own Uber, I think that’s a fun example, right, let’s create our own Uber.
0:49:35.7 SB: So we can now, first of all, we don’t need Uber in the middle anymore because we can… These contracts, we can now let these contracts and all these transactions can actually go between the Uber driver and the person who needs the ride, so we no longer need the intermediary of Uber taking a percentage of that in the middle. So that’s great, because now the Uber drivers can actually earn more, but then let’s say there’s some infrastructure or there’s some other… There’s some other maybe development costs that need to be borne to make this a reality.
0:50:06.2 SB: So we can then buy the token of that underlying infrastructure, and so that the development and the coding of that infrastructure is supported by the contributions, by us buying the token. And then when decisions need to be made, and this is the part that I find most exciting, because I probably just did a total hack job of describing how the actual coding part works, but the part that I love is that decisions can happen through the collective, so that all of us that hold these tokens in this decentralized company, we get to decide how the company makes its decisions through the collective.
0:50:45.5 SB: And that for me is so exciting, because if you think about it, it means that we could start to have like… I don’t know what the future is gonna look like, but I imagine and like… I mean, me personally, in the future, I would like to see no banks exist anymore, I would like all the banks to die, I hope, especially JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs…
0:51:04.3 PA: Why is that?
0:51:05.1 SB: Because they really have… Because they’re centralized power over money, they limit access to opportunities and deals, like they say that they represent investors’ best interests, but in the end, they as an organism represent their own best interests, they have to survive, they have an immune system, they’re interested primarily in their own existence, and then the shareholder for them is really what matters, and then the retail investors in the end are secondary to that, at least that’s how I see it.
0:51:38.3 SB: And so if you think about organizations like that no longer existing, and I don’t know, I’m just really excited about a day… Again, this is very future thinking, but why wouldn’t there be a day where we don’t need there to be a bank anymore. If we want to take a loan, what if we can start our businesses by lending to each other? What if you no longer have to be a super sophisticated, super wealthy investor to get access to early stage venture companies? Why can’t I invest $100 in an early stage venture company through a coin?
0:52:15.1 SB: I just love the fact that in the future that there’s this mechanism by which all of this power can be redistributed and therefore also all this opportunity can be redistributed. But again, there are people who are way more knowledgeable than I am in this space and can speak with it with more elegance. I’m just watching it from the sidelines, and I’m just a good cheerleader for the people that are actually gonna revolutionize the world of finance.
0:52:39.4 PA: And it feels like there’s some interesting through lines there between DAOs and even psychedelic companies, so to say, in terms of where I look as a CEO of a company in this space, what I’m focused on more than anything is community and creating a community focus or a community-first platform, because ultimately the community is where you’ll find… That’s who you’re gonna serve. Again, coming back to this notion of stewardship and investment, I’d rather invest in people, I’d rather invest in land, I’d rather invest in tangible things as a way to grow and develop, let’s say, a future.
0:53:17.3 PA: I even love what I’ve been getting into lately is this concept of networked states, which has been sort of talked about by a guy named Balaji, where he talks about how in the future, we’re going from nation states to network states, and those will be essentially bought through communities with a coin, where you could buy 50 acres in Costa Rica, you could buy an apartment in Miami, you could buy a place in Russia, and all of a sudden now you have a coin, you have a community, you have a mission, so to say, of what you’re creating and building.
0:53:51.4 PA: And this solves, let’s say, a lot of problems, in that, again, where a lot of people are at right now in terms of mental health or what they’re struggling with, is a lot of it comes down to lack of community, a lot of it comes down to loneliness and a sense of disconnection. And so I feel like that is in large part the opportunity with this larger psychedelic space, it’s how are we investing in more tangible assets, ’cause I often see money as being very abstract. And so how do we invest in wealth that isn’t just purely numbers on a spreadsheet, but is also something much more tangible in terms of people connection, earth, land, etcetera, etcetera.
0:54:33.3 SB: That’s a beautiful vision, I love that. I feel like, I don’t want to speak out of turn and talk about things that I’m not really an expert in, and I can honestly say that I’m looking at right now in the world of the development of blockchain, I’m looking at real revolutionaries, real visionaries with a lot of awe and a lot of respect. And I feel like my particular role or my contribution is I feel like I’m kind of like the grandmother at this point. And so what I am skilled at is facilitating via, particularly via plant medicine, journeys, facilitating the deepening of awakening and the support of a visionary consciousness, right.
0:55:29.2 SB: So that’s really what I understand, I guess. I can be like, I know who I want to spend time with and who I want to support, like I know who I want, I know who I want to… I know who I want to be on the cheerleading team for, I’ll say that. I don’t… As a facilitator, I never charge for my facilitation work, I do it for free, I’ve always done it for free, and I will always continue… I will never charge for my facilitation work, because I feel like if I can, just with the little bit that I know about being a good plant medicine facilitator, if I can be a catalyst or just be a little tiny spark behind these great and amazing visionaries who are either building, coding, building, transforming society, that’s kind of where I see, I see my best role.
0:56:28.6 SB: And then as an investor is, I really am lucky, because I get to meet people like that and I get to see what they’re doing, and I get to come into their deals and… I don’t know, it’s like a virtuous circle, if that makes sense. I feel like my role is primarily to help with the awakening of the consciousness, and then the beauty of that is what comes back to me on the other side is I get tremendous visibility into early stage transformative world-changing companies, and I get to invest in them.
0:57:04.2 PA: It’s the best in everything, right. And I think this is even a not as widely-held conversation at this point in time, ’cause the focus of psychedelics have been so much on mental health, and yet this is my… Continues to be my personal mission as well, it’s how do we transform leadership as we know it through psychedelic use and through awakening, because I really go on the thesis that it doesn’t require a majority of people awakening in this lifetime to shift things on a systemic level, it only requires, let’s say, 10%, because that shift is exponential, it’s not linear, so to say.
0:57:42.6 PA: And so I’m really curious about what is that relationship between awakening and leadership, and then even more particularly, how does that relate to the psychedelic space? And this is sort of the last question that I want to have for you before we wrap up is what do you think of… Do you think it’s important for, let’s say, CEOs of psychedelic companies, executive teams of psychedelic companies, those who are working in the space, to have experiences with these medicines, or do you think… Yeah.
0:58:07.8 SB: Yeah, I mean, I get asked that question all the time. I’m like… I mean, it’s actually a really annoying question at this point. I’m like, nobody has any business leading a psychedelic company if you don’t have first-hand profound experience in psychedelics. I mean, I can’t even… It’s incomprehensible to me that that’s even happening, because there’s so much guidance, like the plants themselves have an agenda, and we are in collaborative conversation with their agenda, like psilocybin is part of the evolutionary path of mankind, it is out of the kindness of their little fungal heart that they even want to help us.
0:59:00.6 SB: Like the fungi are so freaking awake, okay, they’re immortal, and then they’re like, you know what, let’s help the humans out. They are collaborating with us in our evolution, so if you’re gonna… The idea that you’re gonna extract some psilocybin and make a product out of it and sell it without actually having gotten on your knees and respected the incredible, profound, collective, eternal, unbelievable wisdom of the psilocybin is reprehensible. And I’m a pretty open-minded forgiving person, but if you’re leading a psychedelic company and you haven’t had some really good journeys, God bless you.
0:59:45.2 PA: And you can’t start too late, in other words. Yeah, we know Sylvia facilitates for world-changing leaders, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m just kidding, I don’t think… I don’t think this is a good time to make that connection, but I agree with you, and I feel like what it speaks to, again, it comes back to integrity, and it comes back to like we were talking about, right? Psychedelics, they can help with the quantitative, they can help with the vision, the execution, but more so they help with the sort of deeper intuitive knowing. And having been in this space myself for six years, I’ve gone through quite a few ups and downs, it was not… I didn’t make really any money from it for probably four of those years, just because of… It was too early on.
1:00:27.7 PA: And what always kept me going is the personal experience itself. In other words, I would have quit a much, a lot before if it was just for these external reasons, but I find what is true of many of the leaders that I love in the psychedelic space is there’s a deeper thing that’s driving them, and often it’s that relationship or that experience, profound experience that they’ve had with these medicines.
1:00:51.1 SB: For the record, I haven’t actually made money from psychedelics at all, because most of the companies that I’m invested in are not public, there’s one that’s public, that’s not doing great. I won’t mention which. And I don’t take compensation for a board seat, for example, I don’t charge for my facilitation and I have nothing to sell, so guess what? I actually make zero money from psychedelics at this stage, but the beauty is that I’ve been able to work with founders of companies of… And I have been able to go on the journey of some companies that have gone from the private market to the public market, companies not related to psychedelics, just companies, amazing, beautiful companies that I’ve been able to be a part of the capitalization of and help bear them to the public markets, and that’s been incredible for me because we’ve gone on that journey together, deeply connected and deeply counseled by plant medicine.
1:01:55.4 SB: So it’s come to me in other ways, but the bottom line is respect the plants and be in communication with the plants and don’t get arrogant about it, because the plants, they’ve got equal billing with us humans in this journey.
1:02:13.4 PA: If you get too far ahead of yourself or think you’re too above them, they’ll come back and…
1:02:19.2 SB: And call you. Yeah, exactly. Come drink some yage with us.
1:02:24.2 PA: Oh, God, yage.
1:02:25.8 SB: See what’s going on in Colombia.
1:02:26.3 PA: That’s beyond ayahuasca.
1:02:29.9 SB: I don’t know, my… The lineage I study with is the yage lineage. So anyone who feels like they’re…
1:02:33.4 PA: Colombia, it’s from Colombia, yeah.
1:02:37.3 SB: Yes, anyone who would like, come drink in Colombia, and see what’s up.
1:02:41.0 PA: I remember my first yage, it was arrhythmia. I don’t think it was Taita Juanito, but it was another Colombian shaman. It might have… No, it wasn’t Taita Juanito, but another one. And I just remember there was a leaf in there and it was like so viscous, I haven’t had ayahuasca that thick since then. Even just talking about it makes me a little sad, but that’s just how it is.
1:03:04.9 SB: I know, I was like of all the lineages I could have chosen, go figure. But I wouldn’t have it in the other way. Yeah, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a very pure, beautiful path.
1:03:19.5 PA: Beautiful.
1:03:19.6 SB: Well, I really wanted to say, I really appreciate the depth of your understanding and your questions, and for me, it’s just a rare treat to speak with someone who really has his own embodied knowledge and is really holding something deeper than just an intellectual understanding. So I just want to acknowledge that and appreciate you for that.
1:03:43.9 PA: Thank you, Sylvia. And I want to return that and reciprocate that. I feel like with… I knew of your work and did a little bit of research before this podcast, and even I was interested in this relationship between money and investment in psychedelics and shamanism, and just talking with you about it for the last hour has been illuminating in many ways, so I just appreciate your path and the perspective that you’re bringing to this space, and the fun that you’re having with it. I can tell for you, it’s obviously, it is a path and it’s a mission, but you also enjoy it, which is good, because these are serious medicines and they’re also medicines meant for play and connection and exploration and fun.
1:04:30.0 SB: No, beautiful. Well, thank you.
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