Ehren Cruz is a master ceremonialist who has mindfully studied the use of sacramental entheogenic substances as a cornerstone of self-actualization, spiritual growth, and leadership for 13 years. This path of inner discovery has evolved through a life devoted to the wisdom of ceremonial practice, high-performance training, radical creativity, and developing an unshakable trust in the gift and importance of a connection that transcends the mind. In this episode of the Third Wave podcast, Ehren talks with Paul F. Austin about his life-altering psychedelic experiences, how he created transcendent spaces through event production, and his transition to the heart-centered work of leading ceremonial experiences.
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0:00:00.2 Ehren Cruz: And in terms of those that I've been in guiding through coaching and mentorship and ceremony, it's really been a sense of, "Can I see this person as a soul? Can I embrace them and embody them as a spirit on a journey, first and foremost, and can I accept now, all these various dramas and challenges and aspects of our life that we carry as a burden, can I see through them and have compassion for that space, and when I'm able to perceive that full spectrum of a life that they've been able to carry", and still they show up and still they choose, it allows me to embrace them in a whole deeper way and then feel a sense of camaraderie and Allie ship with that journey that they've chosen to walk for growth for self-realization, and then really embodying that philosophy through my own action and through my own perception and way that I perceive the world with more of a smile and more of a jovial presence.
0:00:50.1 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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0:04:32.4 PA: Hey listeners, welcome back to Third Waves podcast. Today we have one of our Third Wave certified psychedelic coaches, Ehren Cruz. Ehren lives in Ashville, North Carolina, and sent a life-defining psychedelic rebirth in 2008, he has pursued the mindful study in use of sacramental and theoretic substances as a cornerstone of self-actualization, spiritual growth and servant leadership over the past 13 years, this path up in their discovery has evolved through life devoted to the wisdom of ceremonial practice, high performance training, radical creativity, and developing an unshakable trust in the gift and importance of a connection that transcends the mind.
0:05:12.8 PA: After our decade, serving as an award-winning event producer and high performance team builder, Ehren's life is now dedicated to supporting the self-realization of integral leaders, innovators and creators, and personal and professional evolution, he specializes in sporting clients to take courageous ownership of their boundless capacity to heal, transform and live a choice-based, purposeful-filled life. Ehren is a certified third wave psychedelic coach, ICF and CTA certified life coach, master ceremonialist, medicine man, loving husband and proud father of three lovely ladies. Ehren, and it's good to have you on the podcast.
0:05:47.9 EC: Hey, Paul. It's absolutely a pleasure to me you in this way. Absolutely.
0:05:50.2 PA: We've shared a lot of great conversations. I think we first met over a year ago now, you were, I think the very first person actually to sign up for our coaching training program, and it's been magic ever since then.
0:06:06.3 EC: Yeah, yeah, it's been a long journey. I remember that day I was making a strong pivot away from events because events were no more at the time, and really trying to find an honor, the next path that has always been there right in front of me, and I'm grateful to find you guys.
0:06:18.9 PA: So one of the things that's always stuck out to me about your approach and your vibe is you're very sort of bullies, you're very joyful, you always have a smile on your face, you have sort of a capacity to give and give and give. And I'm just curious, when you're looking at servant leadership, when you're considering what it means to be a servant leader, how have you evolved through psychedelics as part of your path as a servant leader? What have they taught you about servant leadership?
0:06:55.2 EC: Yeah, yeah, that's a great question. I feel ultimately, psychedelics has really systematically dissolved the boundary or barrier or illusion between me, us and them for me over time in so many different capacities, and whether us and them is our environmental context, our connection to the spirit of nature and the world around us whether that is our community context where I have to be concerned about my little five Tilman, everybody else is kind of my exterior, giving me much more interdependent, interwoven and accountable frame of reference for really working in conjunction with a community and fostering the sense of larger family. And in terms of those that I've been and guiding through coaching and mentorship and ceremony, it's really been a sense of, "Can I see this person as a soul? Can I embrace them and embody them as a spirit on a journey, first and foremost? And can I accept now, all these various dramas and challenges and aspects of our life that we carry as a burden? Can I see through them and have compassion for that space, and when I'm able to perceive the full spectrum of life that they've been able to carry".
0:08:01.4 EC: And still they show up, and still they choose. It allows me to embrace them in a whole deeper way and then feel a sense of camaraderie and allies with that journey that they've chosen to walk for growth for self-realization. And then really embodying that philosophy through my own action and through my own perception and way that I perceive the world with more of a smile or more of a jovial presence.
0:08:25.3 PA: And so, for you, when we're looking at those boundary dissolving elements of psychedelics, when you had that first psychedelic experience back in 2008, which I mentioned in the introduction, what was the shift for you? Pre-psychedelic to post-psychedelic. What changed in your perspective, what change in your world view? How did that inspire or a new way of being for you?
0:08:51.6 EC: Yeah. So prior to that, well, I was an academic, I was studying anthropologist in a fellowship in Ohio State University. I was looking at ancient culture mostly in Latin America, I'm looking at Maya, Aztec, Toltec, how they use plant medicines, ritual for community task, the cultivating spiritual community, harmonizing community, also their own personal cosmology and connection to the divine. And for me, I was deeply curious, deeply interested, but very much still in a theoretical philosophical mind set, like how is the other able to do this? It wasn't until 2008, I was... One of my earlier psychedelic experiences, I had to try to twice before, almost like I'm a yearly continuum, but that year I took a pretty high dose LSD experience, and I was also at a crux with that learning path, I felt very disconnected from the embodied community and felt like I was in an ivory tower, always looking down at the other people's way of life and not being a part of that experience. So when I took that, the medicine that day, I was at a critical juncture in my life, and first thing that really occurred to me is that I just saw the rigid armor that so many of us adopt, whether that be persona, projections of who we think people want us to be, whether that be trauma, we are guarded, we had pain in our life and we don't want people to penetrate that boundary.
0:10:10.7 EC: There's so many different ways that people dress and where these masks and mostly for safety, they're mostly for a sense of fitting in in the cultural context. I just saw and penetrated straight through all of it. It could be this huge 350-pound man or a 120-year-old girl, dress is a fairy. I saw the same soul, the same bright eyes, the same person that wanted belonging, connection, to be understood, to be heard, to be appreciated, and to enjoy the rebels of life, and I couldn't stop seeing that it was just the only thing I can see. And then I just saw also this dynamic element out there of radical creativity, how expressing ourselves freely, how sharing our gifts, our art, our music, our dance, our culture, our food, it's just such a pathway to deeper understanding how often our words are just... We do our best, but even the greatest eloquence can penetrate the boundary of different perceptions and subjective subjectivity, but our dance or our song or out revelry certainly can. You could see beyond national boundaries, beyond politics and all these things, so just these boundaries that I thought were fixed were melting and in destroying one after the other until it became to me. Who am I even on this field? Am I Ehren the academic? Am I Ehren the Puerto Rican? Am I Ehren the family member of first generation to ever go to school? Am I Ehren that just loves art and creative? Who is that?
0:11:35.4 EC: And so I fell away in the middle of the... In the middle of the dance floor, I just became a human, a male force that was in love with a girl and dancing to the music and experience a wondrous, magical, deeply mystical world that was alive and be on time, and that really opened me up to entirely different paradigm of experiencing life, and it was also a very difficult integration because it was a new perception that had never come across in my life and rarely read about, except in Biblical text perhaps, in terms of that type of revelation.
0:12:11.4 PA: And so, let's talk through that a little bit, because a huge element of what we leave throughout the Third Waves coaching certification program is the importance of integration, is the necessity for a coach to be there to support you as you're starting to come back to cohesion, 'cause oftentimes, especially when we're working with high doses of psychedelics, they can be destructive and they kill an identity that we thought was relevant, but maybe isn't as relevant as we believe it to be. So coming out of that first experience for you, how did you integrate? What was that process like for you? Was it challenging? Was it difficult? Was it interesting? Just talk us through that a little bit.
0:12:56.3 EC: Yeah, yeah, it was actually very difficult. I have to be honest, there were certain wondrous things that I felt I took away from that, that did become blessings over time, I wanted to be a producer of beautiful community events. My girlfriend at the time, I wanted to absolutely marry a girl that could hold space for me, as I'm like a supernova in the middle of the field, so that she became my wife and certain things certainly concluded. But after that, I had a 90-page thesis. I was about to graduate my master's agree in about three months, left the program [chuckle] the day after I got back from my psychedelic training, no, done with that, much to the chagrin of my family who thought I had gone off the deep end and perhaps a little bit, I might have for a few weeks there, but you know, things that made some radical differences, even some hyper-narcissism said, and clearly if no one has had this experience, perhaps I'm a chosen one, perhaps I'm a gifted one, perhaps someone to share the good word. So I felt almost a compelling to call friends and tell them how the world is magic and they could do anything, and we all want the same thing, benevolent messages, but none of that was invited, none of it.
0:14:02.6 EC: I had to force my way through some very difficult talks, and a couple of friends had created distance, and even my family was like, "Well, get in me when you find some solid ground because you're all over right now". And, so it was really hard. I have to say, I didn't even know integration was word. But the thing that really assisted me and I process that, started intensely studying different spiritual paths, started intentionally coming to an awareness that, "Oh, this is a phenomena, there's things... This Kundalini Awakening, there's things such as personal self-development and spiritual growth, and I learned about her medicism and the Tree of Life and different things that were able to give me context and helped me to start grounding into my life. But I remember I was very fragmented and very confused and having to make a decision of what I experienced, was it a psychosis or was things genuinely that rich and deep, but we were just in a world that just doesn't really appreciate or perceive that side of things, so it was a very crux moment that took, I would say years to really come into full alignment with.
0:15:06.0 PA: So this idea of a messianic complex, and this is common, I think you termed it as hyper-narcissism, but this is quite common for those of us who are uninitiated and we have a psychedelic experience, and we become aware of these truths that maybe we've been shielded from forever. And I think that's an important thing to emphasize 'cause a lot of integration is helping people to recognize that they are not the thing itself, and that is simply moving through them, and the more the humility and a spiritual practice and rituals can be maintained, the more we can stay in that place of channeling, because as soon as we think we are it, that's when everything gets blocks, it's sort of that paradox of how you work with spiritual energy, I suppose. So the messianic complex sets in, Ehren Cruz is all fragmented, he made a classic wrong move in the integration phase, which is, "Don't make any major life decisions for at least a month after you have a mystical experience".
0:16:14.0 PA: And yeah. You seem to have found your way, and soon after that, you went into... From what I understand, you went into event production, and I'd love just... We've talked a little bit about creating an event for Third Wave in the foreseeable future, which I'll drop a hint on here in the podcast just because I think that's a cool seed to plant for everyone. But I'd love to hear a little bit more about how did your path then find its way to event production, and what was it like for you to create those spaces of transformation for people?
0:16:48.2 EC: Yeah, absolutely. So really the alchemy of what occurred within me is realizing that, and through my also research and learning of these different cultures is that creating these containers where there is a welcoming of a free creative expression, where there is a curation of different facets of how that can take form and shape to allow people to tap back into that aspect of themselves that is wondrous and innocent and uninspired, so often our life is filled with so much business and so much what is effective, what is efficient, what is necessary to accomplish the tasks of the day when really our heart, our souls yearn for, "Well, how can we express and experiences life and it's full flourishing, how can we see each other as Fellows, as people that are dancing in this world and is excited to be here?" So I found a couple of collaborators and we were thinking about how can we create a new paradigm when it's not just a concert based around looking at what's on stage. Awesome, everybody clapped. Maybe drink some beer. If we were like, "Okay, you know what, these are containers, let's take it into an old model, let's have painting, let's have sculpting, which have creation of installations in small world, let's do ceremony, let's do ritual, let's have meditation, breath work and yoga", that's part of an experience.
0:18:12.0 EC: Let's not just have a stage, let's have 40 painters, let's have fire, twirlers and dancers, let's have all of these interesting simulation, let's drive a carnival fair, a parade straight through the middle of it midway. And what really the goal was that when people see different facets of creativity, they could find their affinity by the wild palette, and all of a sudden they also could realize they're all expressions of the same thing, they're all us finding our gift, finding our purpose within and allowing that to be a service, allowing that to be an emanation that brings joy and well-being, but also fulfills mastery and a gift and all these different aspects that help us drive within to cultivate something special. So I started cultivating root buyer in Ohio. Now, there's a lot of other frameworks that around that idea, like lightning in a bottle and awakening visions in sonic bloom, they took that kind of transformational festival model and brought it out there, so those were some... I was one of the earlier pioneers of that back in the late 2008-2009 time. And then after that, we cultivated that for four years, then I want to do leaf in Ashville, and the embodiment of that mindset was, what about different countries and cultures?
0:19:21.0 EC: What happens when you bring people from Ivory Coast, West Africa drums and Tibet monks that are Tuvan throat singers and Aborigines didgeridoo, and you bring them all into one container and you create an environment that just blows the doors off of expectation of what creativity is and all about, and sometimes having ceremonies with multiple facets of these at the same time, and again, it would just help too on a higher elevational arc perceive that once again, "Wow, the human experience is rich and powerful", and when we express ourselves there, we could transcend things like political, social and cultural divide through culture. And the whole time underneath this, I was doing ceremonious entheogenics it was helping me to, again, dissolve the boundaries of creativity, was attuning me very richly to a sensation of when people are aligned and playing... Either expressing their art or playing their music from a true core place, I get a hum, I would just feel it, so I would see it in Moroccan players, I'd seen in Brazil and I would bring them all into a container, and I was able to sell out 11 continuous festival experiences that were based around that type of cultural immersive framework. So I feel psychedelics is a great dissolver and radical creativity and intuitive and inspirational arts is a great dissolver of those boundaries.
0:20:41.3 PA: When it comes to that event production, so to say, who... What was the before and after? When people enter that space, how did that space change them and how are you intentional about curating that space for that transformation?
0:21:00.3 EC: Yeah, yeah, the first component is a foundation of safety and a foundation of comfort. Often people are like, considering, "What is the awesome artist that you're getting on the stage", or where the coolest installations that you can build, but truly, it was about, "Let's find a location where everybody has a space that they feel is comfortable and beautiful for them, let's make it extremely safe, let's make it family-friendly and welcome, let's make it so that it's easy access in and out, and flow. Let's make it aesthetically beautiful, so that if even people were having a barbecue, it would be a fantastic weekend". And then we cultivate the container after that is, let's bring in high integrity of facilitators of various different modalities and presence. We had talked about this a little bit. I was very, very keen on bringing elder presence. Elder presence, because not only do they represent a master in a particular lineage, but their very embodied presence creates a container and a condition of acceptance and dare I say even alchemy just by their sheer nature of how long they've distilled their path, and I would place them in different variety of areas around the entire festival, this would be their sanctuaries, places spread throughout.
0:22:09.7 EC: And what they ended up, they create Saxons, continuous community family conversations, off schedule. So things like that were important. Then oscillating certain types of varieties of music that were varied in their context, so Jazz here, electronic there, progressive, just making sure that there's always an interesting flow of what is being offered, how it's being offered in a diversity in that offering. So again, people can find the facet of their diamond to dance with in a way that feels very conducive to them, and always uplifting this sense of it's bigger than the stage, so frequent check-ins, opening ceremony, closing ceremony, this is something we do and we have always done for thousands of years, we are creating this container very intentionally, not just a retreat to escape, but actually to learn, to grow and to share in community, to practice.
0:23:00.9 EC: I used to call it Jedi training camp, this is where we practice our highest art of self, of expression, of accountability and mindfulness, of our availability, and for exploration, psychedelics is it deeply interwoven into that culture, so feeling how to explore in a way that's contained, but also has a freedom to really discover what one can do in an atmosphere that's enriched by a Mythos, by a mystic culture, but the more firm thing I found from that is, can we create a condition, but then can we emphasize that this is a really important note to bring back, this isn't something you just go to, so three days a year, I get to be my true self, this is more so a space that was always emphasized that, "Hey, this is where we work together to bring these special emanation, special experiences and plant those seeds where it matters, in the schools, in the towns, with your family at the dinner table, in your own profession and job, this is where we bring that home", so that was always the goal, is to have a translation be one of the strongest emphasis of the weekend.
0:24:04.1 PA: Which goes back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of integration, and not only do we need to integrate from psychedelic experiences, but oftentimes, I've heard a lot of stories of people who go to Burning Man, for example, and their lives are totally transformed and they have to go back to a corporate job, or they have to go back to this much more conventional life, and it's very difficult to navigate that which I think speaks to... This is something I often reflect on, it speaks to the importance of creating a culture and society that doesn't necessarily... It's not so different from those spaces of transformation that there's not really a need to integrate, but that instead we're always in an environment that is supporting that true self, that authentic self, that expression, authentic expression of who we are.
0:24:55.6 EC: Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. I would just put a note on that. And that's the thing that's really important is that people want to always say, default world and ecstatic world. And so the mindset even of a Burning Man, I would say is "Yeah, it is an ecstatic experience", but if it's always envisioned as to, we're practicing here, we're practicing the new way, we're practicing the new life, the new civilization of potentiality. And so when we go back, finding those support networks that could help to add a continuum to that experience and finding those meet-up groups and all those things that are important to not feel like you're abandoning that way of life, but slowly weaving it in with patience, with persistence and devotion to the craft.
0:25:43.3 PA: We'll continue to track your lineage here. Annd where we're gonna land now is event production happening, and what I sense it was very successful for you in terms of your ability to create that and then COVID hits, and so, of course, all these events get canceled, and so you probably left in a bit of a lurch. I'm just curious, from the perspective of someone who made his career in events, what was that COVID lockdown like for you when that happened? What did that feel like?
0:26:12.0 EC: Yeah, yeah, the onset of that was quite brutal. Again, to be completely honest, we were having the 50th festival, it was a really landmark Festival for the organization, I had just finished booking, probably my best line up, artists now that are just exploding, like CloZee and Billy Strings and stuff, they're all in there, as well as old school Preservation Hall Jazz Band, I had a great combination. I still... I still got the poster. [chuckle] And, but boom, a week later, gone, and then I had to come to terms, okay, look, this clearly can't last for six months. So I went and I called 1000 people and I sent 1000 emails in a few days, and I moved the entire festival six months to October, which is no easy feat of anybody in the production industry would know. And then that was done, I was like, "Okay, great, we're just gonna weather this out", and a month, two month goes by and it's just clamping down, everyone's like... This is just not gonna happen. This is just over here, I gotta honor that and so I dissolved that again, and then my organization was like, "Well, we have the performing arts, artistic director with no arts, we wanna do Ehren", so I was like, "I gotta go, I gotta find what's next, and I gotta honor this fully", so I left and it was a hard time. The closest...
0:27:28.7 EC: You see how I am, there's no depression to be seen, but that was the closest I've ever been. That was when I was, I guess, at least very lost, very much so, "How does this translate to any resume, like, what am I gonna do with this? I'm an extra plate juggler and I land crafts". It was so difficult to even figure out where that to begin, but one thing really helped me again with the plants, so I went back to a couple of phases of psilocybin journey, and a few of them really revealed to me some powerful revelations. The first one I was holding of a lantern, I would hold it up and I would see, "I'm a Director of Arts and beautiful", I would hold it up and I would see, "Oh my gosh, I'm a father, look at these little girls running around, great". I'd hold it up, and I saw just a pathway with flowers and beauty, and it was like, "You carry what you're creating, you're not just the Directors and who you are", that was your... You were gifted with that lens, you were gifted with that filter, and what's next is for you and what you're bringing is gonna be full of the love and excitement of life that you hold.
0:28:29.5 EC: So that helped for me to be like, "No, I'm not defined by this, even though I did it for these many years and I'm known for this and all those things. This is not what defines me". And then another journey after that was a very direct experience of a deevak powerful mushroom goddess presence that came to me in a very visceral way, and it was the most peaceful, one of the most peaceful times I've ever felt in my life. There was no, not a flicker in my body, not a thought in my mind, I was just in an ocean of just complete harmony and she welcomed me to serve and I had no idea what this even meant, the feeling of... Translation was, "You've been kind to us. You've treated this with respect in your life. Are you willing to serve?" And I was thinking to myself, I was like, "Well, I feel like I've always been in service", but then my mind would start tapping in and be like, "Well, how would you be sustained?" "Don't worry about that". "Well, how would I create a job?" "Don't worry about that". "Who will actually come to... " "Don't worry about that".
0:29:27.8 EC: Every time I began to think of a challenge, the presence would say, you just choose, just be and we will discover what's next and you will discover what's next... And I did, I said, "I'm in service, I've always been in service, this is older than even my production and the medicine for me". Ceremony for me, it's always been there, it was my first true step in the transformational culture, and I'd love to and I'd be beyond honored, and it was, again, a serene ocean of timelessness and presence in that space and I just knew that this was the path. So from that experience, I was able to relinquish this sense of identity around production. I love it. Maybe I'm gonna do it again. Absolutely, in the right way. But it's much more than that, and the invitation to serve, and then I really started diving deep into the research and diving deep into the practice and really cultivating that and found third wave very serendipitously as well, but it all as the goddess stated, here we are, and I am in full trust and faith in that.
0:30:31.0 PA: Yeah, thank you for that reminder. I find myself in a bit of a challenging period, just presently running a business and finishing a book and working to close investment, and we're doing enrollment for the next round of the coaching program as well at this point in time. And so when I get in the particulars or caught in the details, my mind also starts to ask all the what about this, what about that sort of questions, and just sitting here with you as you talk through that, it reminds me a lot of my own experiences about that sense of being in service, and as long as that is the mode and the orientation, then just having the trust and the faith that it'll all work out, and there might be some things that need to get tweaked, but just trusting that you're making the choices and the decisions that need to be made to serve in the way that we've been... In the way that we've been called to serve, and I think that even speaks to the modus operandi of the coaching certification program, it's how are we training then coaches and facilitators who wanna pioneer this third wave of psychedelics and be at the forefront of what is a very exciting and emerging space with an understanding that it is about service at the end of the day, and it's about safety at the end of the day, and it's about creating spaces of healing and transformation for people to move through.
0:31:58.1 PA: I'd love if you could just flesh that out a little bit, that decision-making process for you, why is it that you chose to join the program, and what was your experience of the program like?
0:32:15.5 EC: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I'm so grateful that that program came to fruition because I felt like to be in integrity, I genuinely wanted to have a path that allowed me to look at the full spectrum and honor these very important facets of the psychedelic experience and be grounded in the knowledge of it and the practice of that work, to then be able to say, I could step forward here and know that I can hold a container that has awareness of these various spectrums, and those spectrums are looking at the neuroplasticity and the neurochemistry of how these psychedelics actually impact the brain and impact the nervous system, it's so important that people have different bridges of access into this medicine, and although mine is highly ceremonial, and I can speak on that, I have to honor that what feels safe, what feels aligned for others, they need a certain lexicon of verbs, they need a certain scaffold of different ways to approach this work, so that they feel like, "Okay, this is aligned with me, this feels like a path that I can step into, that I can believe in". And so learning about those things, the different dosaging for safety, the different uses of the different plants and why it's important to consider the different entheogens or have different psychedelics that are more attuned to different mental health issues or different aspects of growth and development.
0:33:35.4 EC: There's very, very different qualities for these and how to step into them, whether they're going for a deep dive psychedelic or a psycholytic experience or a micro or a mini-dose or different ways to allow that to infuse into a life without being jarring or overwhelming, but being a nice gradual immersion into that space. I just love that full spectrum awareness that was created around that, also considerations of ethics and how we actually step into this space and be accountable for the whole. That's a big thing about being on the vanguard right now, is that everybody that's practicing on this, when you do something, it actually reflects the whole. There's not enough within the whole gravity you feel to say that this is the ethical way chiseled in stone, such as some of the psychological and therapeutic realms have for their particular practice in the ceremonial world, there is a lot of gray and so how we comport ourselves, how we frame that intentional preparation protocol to have people distill down their body, mind, spirit, intentions, move into this place with a great gravity of purpose and having a deeper sense that this is a powerful moment for them, that lineages have been doing for thousands of years for initiation to come into and having the reverence and the sacredness of that space, and then how do we weave that back in the tapestry of life through integration.
0:34:56.9 EC: So the coaching experience that a Third Wave gave me that full panoramic view and it did it with specialists that are really deep in the work that have had a lot of experience and growing through the work, it did it with a community of eager and earnest and honest people that were devoted to that process, from various perspectives, from executive coaches to psychotherapists, to myself as a ceremonialist, so it really created a way to perceive how this particular skill of psychedelics can be applied to such a large spectrum of different types of people in a way that creates safety, creates a sense of belonging and also creates a sense of a deeper evolution for the entire field. This is something that I think is really important for the whole psychedelic conversation. As you often to say, there's 15% of us, 20% of us struggling with mental health, and I cannot emphasize enough how psychedelics, the excitement I feel for that rising trend to help assist those people, and there's all of us, what we consider "well," a lot of us are still very lost, very confused and very much not in a state of buoyancy in this life experience, which is a beautiful one, so really trying to capture that, elevate us collectively in different ways to grow and develop, learn and actualize ourselves is really key.
0:36:21.8 PA: And so for you, with going through the program, what have been some of the biggest shifts, some of the biggest practical shifts for you pre and post the coaching certification program in terms of... It could be the confidence, it could be the network, it could be the familiarity with psychedelics as a scale, whatever it is, if you were to distill it down, how would you communicate that outcome?
0:36:56.2 EC: Yeah, yeah. If you hit three that were great. Yeah, absolutely, they're absolutely in the queue there is one of the top ones for me. I feel confident and grounded in my knowledge of the work, both experientially for many years now, and also through just being very aware of the research where it is very aware of the different modes of how to step into a full protocol for psychedelic experience that's efficacious and really has a lot of considerations in mind, the network has been phenomenal. I think the Psychedelic frontier community as a whole is quite profound, I think because the nature of the medicine demands certain types of growth in us and really a different type of openness, I feel a camaraderie in ways that you don't find in many other healing and holistic arts communities in a broad sweeping terms. So that was really important. But for me, I think overall, the greatest thing that that equipped me with is just a deep understanding that the psychedelic itself as critical and important as that immersive experience it is, it is a part, it is a step of a continuum, it's a vital step.
0:38:01.4 EC: But when you're forming the arc of an experience, the arc of a rainbow, and now that I envision is like, how we step into this space, the way that we embrace and embody our path of growth and learning how to refine and come to a sense of where we're trying to move the bar in our own development, that's like 40% of that art, that's one leg of the rainbow. The psychedelic itself, that's that vast view above the clouds. That's where you expand that vibrational frequency of your mind as a receiver and you perceive these inter-dimensional sentience and this different capacity to perceive a subtle world and universe around us that interpenetrates us and has always been a part of our lineage, and that gives you more of a profound scope of who we are and what we're capable of in those moments, in a deep way, whether it's through our own lineage in our self-development or in our ancestry, whether it's through the cosmology of what I believe many beings that have our greatest welfare at heart and our own development. And through that experience on that high cusp then, that other 40% leg is bringing it home. And so, there's always... And I thought before this is all about the journey, it's all about the journey. And now, I'm just like, "It's all about bringing it home, actually."
0:39:12.8 EC: It's all about how can you get that wide view and then come home to the next day and sit at the dinner table and take care of the kids and go take out the garbage, but do it with lightness, do it with reverence, do it with a sense of gratitude, and then also, have a very clear idea of where the work is, like, "Okay, I did that journey." And that journey... And sometimes it feels like to me a journey is a compressed year in a day. It's almost like everything that's gonna happen in that one compressed journey is gonna happen over a year, but it's gonna happen slower, with a greater devotion, patience and humility and you work it into the body somatically, what you discovered and compressed in the psyche in that one experience. So that's the great work I feel on that far side, and Third Wave really emphasize that deeply. And I think the whole culture is moving that direction of like, "This is about transforming society, and to do that, we have to transform ourselves in a slow, progressive way."
0:40:05.7 PA: Yeah, you mentioned the word transcendence before, and I often come back to... I've shared this quote on the podcast before, but I think it is also... It's relevant for the point you're making, which is transformation, not transcendent. So when we come back into our body, it's really about the, "Now what?" That's what I say. The now what. "Oh, okay, we're here. Now what? Now what do we do with this knowledge, this insight, these lessons, both for ourselves and to be in service to the world around us?" And I think that 'now what' is often lost in a lot of the psychedelic space. There can be a bit of an attachment to the phases or periods of mysticism and enlightenment, and people don't necessarily put a lot of effort and energy into the physiology, because at the end of the day, we still have to come back into our bodies, and our bodies are the mechanism through which we interact with the world. And so, let's really make those as optimal as possible for the mission that we're here to do and to serve.
0:41:09.8 EC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll just say quickly on that, that's really the greatest importance, and that's... And that element of undoing, I've been saying a lot too is, people feel like they have to come out and hit the ground 1000 miles an hour and change the world, sometimes too. And that's a process too that, slow down, allow yourself to settle, allow yourself to get more still, and when you are in integrity with a path of growth... A dear brother said this to me earlier this week is, "When you're in integrity, you're in serenity". Because you're honoring what is the very next step that's healthy for you, there is no inner qualm and debate, there's no guilt and shame spiraling around, there's no staticky dialogue about the other things should have ought to do's, because you're honoring that very next step.
0:41:58.7 EC: So, integrity in the next step creates serenity, creates greater awareness as to how we can be of service in the moment, whether that's being a guardian, whether that's stepping up and taking lead, whether that's standing in the back of the room and smiling. The service changes in the atmosphere, but the more still you are without agenda, the more serene and integrity with the moment you are, then you really show up, then you're serving through emanation, you're serving through presence. And that's one thing that's really important as well is, it's not always about the next big project, the next big thing you do. Are you cultivating presence that heals as much in the grocery store, as it does, when you're in front of a leadership board meeting?
0:42:37.9 PA: Which is a good transition, because I'd love to hear a little bit about what are you now up to. We're recording this in May, 2022. What's Ehren Cruz... Where have you landed? We tracked your lineage from the 2000 LSD experience at a festival, through event production, through Third Wave's coaching program. And where are you currently, now? What are you bringing out into the world?
0:43:02.4 EC: Yeah. So a few of the projects that I have going on, that I'm just really honored to be a part of, the first one is Psychedelic Passage. Psychedelic passage is the nation's first harm reduction psychedelic support service. So ultimately, what it does is, people that have the compound... We do not provide or source compounds for anybody, but people that have chosen to lean into that space and acquire their own compound, that are looking for the facilitation of a safe, ethical and informed container for them to experience a psychedelic experience, usually heroic, more on the higher side, and they're looking forward for vast different reasons, whether that be mental health, addiction. I've had OCD, I've had a PTSD, various things. There are some that are just, "Hey, I'm curious. I'm wanting to explore. I'm wanting to grow. I'm wanting to find my development through alliance with plant and fungi."
0:43:56.0 EC: And, they reach out to this particular service. We have seven facilitators across the country. We provide a full spectrum medical analysis, looking at contra-indicators, anything that might be... Within this physiology, that might prove to be detractive from an experience or averse to an experience, and then also, different things that could cue them in for readiness, to ensure that they're understanding the intensity and intimacy of this experience. And then, if everything checks out, we provide a preparation arc, where we dive in deeply about how distill intention, how to take care of the body, rest, restoration, quality of well-being, good nutrition, mind. Stay away from the static social media politics, let's talk about what brings awe and inspiration and nourishes your wonder, nourishes your sense of excitement in life. So, kind of putting them a little bit on a mental diet, spirituality. Are you a steward of the world around you? Do you take time in nature? Do you step into this life with purpose and gratitude and set some intentions for your day? And very holistic, very open, but always including that is a very important facet.
0:45:00.2 EC: We do the immersion. Typically, I have people who will either come out to my place here, or we visit them on different locations. We do a very intentional ceremony with them, hosting that space, sitting with them, honoring the gravity of that space, vigilant through the entire experience. And then, we do an in-person, usually integration, another integration. So they get a really solid orientation or step into that work, and we could do it in a way that's really healthy and vibrant for them. And just on the side, is that, I'm really hopeful that this can be established in different ways, in different ways that this could appear, because the ceremonial side of things is so critical, alongside the therapeutic, a genuine belief. I wanted to be a secondary pillar of option for people when this really starts hitting the fore.
0:45:50.3 EC: Second thing that I do for people is that, I do more of a rites of passage initiation track, where I'm working with them over a long period of time. They're cultivating drive, they're finding their curiosity, they're discovering their passion, they have a purpose for things, they're working toward a sense of mastery in how to cultivate that skill or cultivate that particular understanding in their life. They're finding pathways to integrate a holistic lifestyle, including various modalities of breathwork and different aspects of high performance, whether that be nutrition and supplementation and exercise, various things that really kind of pushes their body into a space of optimization. And then, they courageously step into a medicine experience, and they do so, very much like Luke going into the forest. They are very aware that they've come as far as they can, in current state of mindset, and that they now need to test what is inter-penetrating through their being, in more of a rites of passage experience. So, we use plant medicines in that way. We then fortify that, again, with a really powerful integration protocol, but it's also a continuum, where you use these experiences as scaffolds of awareness into, "What's next? How can I achieve and start building in that paradigm as well?"
0:47:01.3 EC: A few other things I'm invested in. I'm now been doing some retreats with some members of Third Wave, I'm very grateful to have found an amazing group to collaborate with, with MJ, the executive coach, Michelle, who is a wonderful professor at University of Maryland, and we are working together to cultivate great experiences together. And, we're having a retreat center being built on my property, actually. I hear, that's set be due in October, which I'm very excited about. And to wrap all that up, I'm deeply invested in the ceremonial-ism, so I'm teaching Hermetic Qabalah courses. Hermetic Qabalah is an ancient, beautiful practice that fuses kabbalistic Judaic practice, neo-platonic Greek emanation practice, and Egyptian ritual. It's a beautiful alchemy of these paths that form a path of initiation and a path of realization, that's... It's flexible, it's evolving, but it has steeped in tradition. So, I'm doing that as well, and I'm also hopefully collaborating on a few awesome events [chuckle] No shortage of options. [chuckle]
0:48:04.3 PA: Coming up soon. A couple more questions, and then we'll wrap up, Ehren. The first question that I have is, and I'm sure a lot of listeners at home are also reflecting on this or considering this is, how do you navigate the sort of legal landscape? You're working out with Psychedelic Passage, you're starting a retreat center, you're coming out more public about it. I've been out in public about this for years and years, and I've never felt sort of a hesitation. But, I'm just curious, from the perspective of someone who, this is fairly new for, you're just coming out; how do you just feel about the legal landscape and what's going on there? What provides some level of safety or security in your own being, for what you're doing?
0:48:43.4 EC: Yeah. It's a very, very complex arena right now. Ultimately, it's a very gray landscape. Right now, a lot of my facilitation is in two distinct lanes. One of them is, and the majority of which is harm reduction. I don't provide compound, I provide experience and we work together to bring the fruition of whatever intention you were just trying to cultivate, through a very intimate, systematic framework. But, that does put a little bit of pressure on a person that is the client or the journeyer, to have to tow that particular market and have to tow that particular nuance of that world. So, it is an interesting dynamic. The second element that I'm really looking toward though, is the RIFA act. So, looking at really emphasizing that we are using a sacramental entheogen here, that is necessity for the divine communion that we are looking for, without which, I could not fulfill the heart of my ceremony, which is a visceral communion with alternate sentient allied awareness. So, that is a lot of words there, but having a very, very concrete legal document that expresses that in very, very direct ways is how I'm navigating that. And that was actually a document that has been fortified through Association of Entheogenic Practitioners, and also fortified through numerous different legal... Different consults that I've had.
0:50:14.3 EC: How do I navigate this right now, in a way that can ensure that I can do this in a gray space? Now, whether that holds up in a variety of spaces, well, I'm walking that line, but I'm honoring it to the best of my capacity that, everyone's in awareness of where we are here, and I do whole-heartedly believe that this is a necessity for us to achieve what we're hoping to cultivate in the middle of our divine experiential sanctuary. So, people that are going through a process, we're not paying for the medicine. We are paying for the full spectrum of process of initiation, and then we work with the medicine in that context.
0:50:49.5 PA: Thank you. That's a very, very comprehensive response and I think, speaks to a lot of the nuance in navigating the gray market right now, and the landscape of what is. 'cause the fact is, law enforcement is not cracking down on this by any stretch of the imagination, but it still is illegal almost everywhere, at this point in time. So, that's an interesting tightrope to walk. So, the final question before we wrap up the podcast today is about ceremony, and I'm just curious, from the lens of someone who's a ceremonialist, how do you define ceremony and what does it mean to be a ceremonial list?
0:51:24.1 EC: For me, ceremony is a continuum. Often, people share that ceremony is a very distinct moment in time. And there is, I think, a climactic nature to what ceremony is. But, after being a ceremonialist for many years, you realize that what we're always engaged with, is an orchestration of a life experience, it's an orchestration of reality. And in this orchestration, the symphony that we're a part of, there are things that are created to wow you, or things that draw your attention here and draw your attention there, and all this stimulation. Yet, at the heart of that experience, can you witness, can you bear witness to what is authentic, unfolding right in front of you? The power of the life force, the gift that we are here, the perfect distance from the sun, no less than a million processes, atomic, fungi, bacterial, cellular, all going through our bodies in a rhythmic cadence that is ineffable to even discover.
0:52:22.3 EC: As Graham Hancock says, even one protein, by accident, synthesizing into DNA is one to the 240,000 trillionth amount of happenstance that that can happen by accident. So, if something is happening here, there's a symphonic nature to life. Now, when you go into ceremony, you're a microcosm of that. The hermetic tradition I have is very much a recreation of a world within your temple space; the rising of the sun, the dawn of the new day, the embracing of the emergence of energy through the body. So, there's two principles. There's emanation coming, that informs us the Cosmology, the subtle emanation of life coming from source, and the emergence coming from within us, the DNA encoding that's driving us upward and evolutionary awareness towards stretching toward who we're capable of, this luminous quality of who are capable of.
0:53:15.6 EC: And, in the middle is where we meet in the ceremonial container, in that space between emanation and emergence. And so, what I feel is that, ceremony creates a condition of reclaiming our divine and inherent birthright to be creators in this world. I use the word, theurgy. It's an ancient Greek term that theology is just the thinking of divine process. Theurgy is the being of a divine being. The creative process isn't done by the first emanation. We are, as made in the light of the first love and the first creation, we have almost a sense of responsibility to continue being creators, creating for the harmony and well-being of this world. So, theurgy is the embodiment of that. I am aware, that I'm an avatar of consciousness, I'm aware that everything I think and do ripples and matters. So using the ceremony to distill upon where my energy goes, how it's utilized, where it nourishes, what it informs, and then sending that out into the universe. Not controlling it, not manipulating it, not using sorcery to dictate the will of others, but really actually gifting this. Gifting my life force, my prayer, my emanation, for the well-being of the container and of the collective.
0:54:25.7 EC: And so, as for me as a ceremonialist is we're always in ceremony. I think a perspective of that would add greater accountability to how we comport ourselves. But, the secondary element of that is that, when you're in those small ceremonies, we are creators, we are avatars of life force, we are the gifts. That's why angels have aspired to be man, because we could touch and taste and feel this world, and we're connected to the source light. What a gift. So I really embody that space of remembrance, and when I'm facilitating ceremony, that's why when people are going through perinatal experiences and death and rebirths, I can look them in the eye and say, "Yes, yes, keep going. Yes. Beautiful, beautiful. You are it. That's right. You are," and coming from that experiential space and welcoming them in, that also creates a different condition, that I think is important, to have that type of experience and perspective when you are sometimes midwifing people through profound awareness and experiences, for them to see that that's not philosophy for few, that's where you live. That's a big, big deal and difference when you're hosting that space.
0:55:27.8 PA: Beautiful. Well, thank you. You're quite the loquacious and articulate person, Ehren. It's always been a pleasure to share conversations with you, and to record one, no less, has been a really fun time. So, before we wrap up today, if the listeners wanna find out more about you and your work, where can we point them to?
0:55:46.0 EC: First, thank you so much, Paul. This is a sincere honor. I love Third Wave, I love the community you're cultivating, and even though it might be tricky and tough in the thick of things, man, you are making profound impact. So thank you, brother. Secondly, I will say that, if anybody wants to find me, my website is, The Sparc. You could find me at www.thesparc.co. So the Sparc is that ignition within and then the arc is the journey. So find me at The Sparc, a lot of great things coming up and services to offer, but also, just reach out, be community. It would be my pleasure.
0:56:19.4 PA: Thank you, Ehren.
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