Transcript: Psychedelics And Personal Transformation – Paul Austin & Connor Beaton
Please enjoy this transcript of Connor Beaton’s interview with Paul Austin.
Paul Austin, founder of Third Wave and Synthesis joins Connor Beaton in this ManTalks interview where he discusses the responsible and intentional use of psychedelics to catalyze personal transformation.
In this interview we talk about:
- Inspiring western culture to adopt microdosing as an entry-point to collective transformation.
- Creating accessible touchpoints for the intentional and responsible use of psychedelics.
00:10 Connor Beaton: Welcome, men and women of the world, I’m Connor Beaton, and this is the ManTalks show. This show brings together some of the best thought leaders, teachers and extraordinary individuals to help teach and mentor you on how to be a top performer in life, love and business. Now, if you’ve noticed, by the title today, it is all about psychedelics. We are gonna talk about microdosing, we are gonna talk about heavier dosing, we’re gonna talk about psilocybin and LSD and MDMA and ayahuasca. We’re gonna go on a journey today.
00:43 CB: So joining me is Mr. Paul Austin and he is a social entrepreneur who educates individuals about the responsible and intentional use of psychedelics to catalyze personal transformation. His why is to inspire Western culture’s adoption of microdosing as an entry-point to collective transformation. And because of this why, he’s founded two companies in the emerging psychedelic space, one’s called Third Wave and the other one is called Synthesis. Currently, Third Wave is the definitive website on psychedelic literacy and education, reaching over 650,000 people per month with the information on the website and they have been featured several times in mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Forbes and The Economist.
01:29 CB: Synthesis, on the other hand, is a psilocybin-based retreat center that Paul co-founded in early 2018 and has facilitated high-dose experiences for hundreds and hundreds of individuals. So you can tell Paul has a really breadth of experience, he knows what he’s talking about, he’s spoken at a number of tech and business conferences like The Next Web, SXS… Southwest by… Argh! South by Southwest, I couldn’t get that out for some reason, SXSW, I know that it’s South by Southwest, and Tech Open Air. So what are we gonna talk about today? Well, we first talk a little bit about Paul’s story, and how he got into this. He shares a little bit about his experiences and then we go into very practical, I wanted this to be as practical as possible. So we go into what microdosing is, what the benefits are and a little bit around how to actually microdose, if you are interested. Then we talk about larger doses, we talk about the differences between compounds like psilocybin and cannabis versus LSD, what the benefits are for things like MDMA and some of the research around all of these substances. So this is a pretty in-depth episode. We cover a wide variety of topics and Paul is incredibly, incredibly knowledgeable.
02:52 CB: So if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with somebody that you know will enjoy the content of it and that, maybe somebody that’s wanting to learn a little bit more about the uses of these. There’s a ton of research that’s out there. We reference the John Hopkins University a few times because they’re doing some incredible work. They actually just recently opened up a facility in the United States, I believe it’s the biggest facility for researching psychedelics in the world. And so, there are some really cool things happening with psychedelics. Obviously… Recently, I went down to Costa Rica and experimented with plant-based medicine and so I talk a little bit on this about some of my experiences with psilocybin and in the future, I’ll be talking a little bit more about my experiences with both psilocybin and plant-based medicine, just to help out some of the people that are out there that are interested in exploring some of these topics. So, without any further delay, please welcome Mr. Paul Austin.
03:53 Paul Austin: Thanks for having me, Connor, I’m really excited to dig into this with you.
03:56 CB: Likewise, likewise. Actually, one of my friends and colleagues that looks after… He’s an admin on the ManTalks community on Facebook, Tyson, recommended that we connect and I have you on the show and when I started digging into your work, I was like, “Absolutely.” So today is gonna be a lot about psychedelics, which is great, [chuckle] because they are pretty freaking awesome. So I’m excited to dive into this conversation. But before we dig in, I have to ask you the question that I ask all of my guests, which is tell us a story about a defining moment in your life that made you who you are today.
04:33 PA: I’ll paint the scene a little bit. This was early May in 2010, and I was 19 years old, basically a week before I had had my first LSD experience and it was a higher dose and it was with a bunch of friends, and it was a beautiful experience. And after that experience, I went on a school trip to Tanzania and it was basically like I get credit for a biology class and as part of getting credit, we basically go on safari. So because I’d had this first experience with LSD, I decided to bring some LSD with me to this trip to Tanzania. And what better place to take a hit of acid than on a safari vehicle in the middle of the Serengeti. Now, that’s not necessarily the ideal set and setting, but for someone who had a little prior experience, and kind of knew what I was getting into, what happened essentially with that experience is I remember being in the safari vehicle, standing up and kind of looking out at the savanna around me and seeing wildebeests and the savanna prairie, and the sun beating down and lines in the distance.
05:48 PA: And when you’re under the influence of a psychedelic, a lot of your boundaries and walls drop, and you feel this sense of connectedness with everything. And so when I was in that experience, it more or less plugged me directly into this, as cliche as it sounds, this circle of life, this circle of energy. You know, how the sun beats down in the savanna and the wildebeests eat all the savanna grass, and then the lions come after the wildebeests and the lions, they’re at the top of the chain and they eventually die and their remains go back into the earth and it kinda plugged me right into this circular way that everything moves and helped me to realize that I was part of that.
06:30 PA: And that because I was part of that, then it made me no better than the lion and wildebeests and the grass, but it just in essence as a human, I was just a different form of that energy. And the reason that that was so kind of influential and impactful for me is because when you have an experience like that where you’re taken out of your ego and you’re dropped into a space of complete connection with everything else, it just totally reframes the way that you look at the world from a more dominating perspective, to a much more connected, involved, grateful, in-service perspective and because of that experience it was really like before LSD and after LSD. That more or less set me on my journey that I spent most of my 20s exploring, which was essentially what can I do to put myself in a position to continually stretch my boundaries through travel, through business, through relationships, through whatever else it might be. Yeah, so I think that, to me, is definitely the most impactful thing that’s happened.
07:37 CB: Awesome and well, I kinda got to chuckle. I had my microphone on mute, but I really got a chuckle out of like the… Doing that in the set and setting that you’re talking about on the African safari. I was like, ooh, I can’t imagine, that would be a little confronting, I’m sure at first to dive into that. I’m sure that we’ll talk about set and setting here in a minute, but was that one of the first experiences that really got you curious about engaging in the work that you do now, because your work revolves pretty much entirely around psychedelics?
08:10 PA: In some ways it’s like, when I tell the narrative of my story up to this time and day in a specific moment, that’s definitely one of the catalysts or one of the openings, but by no means when I had that experience was I like, yes, right, this is the professional path that I wanna pursue. It was a little bit more circular than that. Really the key insight or awareness that I came to, from these early psychedelic experiences was really overcoming the fear of death, because through high-dose psychedelic experiences, we essentially come to realize that death is just another journey, it’s just another passing and that for us to hold on to fear of it is… It doesn’t really serve us in any way, and when that fear of death is let go of, then all of a sudden we’re not as held within the conditioned boundaries of normal society and culture.
09:04 PA: So, for most kids, when they’re 19, 20, 21, they graduated from school, they go get their MBA or they start a corporate job or they go volunteer for the Peace Corps or whatever else it might be. For me, after I had those early experiences I basically was asking the question of what position can I put myself in to make an impact on society and culture at large. And in particular what I learned from my early psychedelic experiences is the superficial nature of most things that are driven by ego: Status, achievement, money, things that are really… Ways that we’re incentivized by external things, and when you’re able to reframe it, be motivated by what’s going on internally, then all of a sudden there’s this deep desire to create the story of your life and to have full agency and autonomy over writing that story and that narrative.
09:57 PA: And the decision that I made at that point in time was I wanted to put myself in a position where I could help culture and society to basically live in a much more harmonious, sustainable way than it was at the point in time, because my experience growing up was I just wasn’t a big fan of the place that I grew up and I wasn’t a big fan of American culture, I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of the values that we as a Western society held, mainstream values. And so I was like, “Well, if I wanna put myself in a position to change, I need to be able to really do what I want.” And the way that I saw the best effective solution to do that was to first travel, to explore, to push boundaries from that direction, but then beyond even that was to build my own business and to start my own business.
10:51 PA: Because when you’re not relying on a paycheck, and you’re not reliant on your own wellbeing with someone else, then you’re able to really speak your truth as much as you want. So essentially what I did is I lived abroad for five years, I started my first business within that time, which was an online English school. Over time, that business became profitable enough where I was like, “Okay, now I have enough money coming in from this other business and now I can really come out in public and say and do what I want,” and that’s when I started Third Wave. This is about mid-2015, because I was like, “Well, if I’m gonna build a resource, if I’m gonna create and develop a business around a topic, from my perspective psychedelics are one of the most effective ways to change our values and to grow up in a way to become really responsible for our own well-being and for the well-being of our family and our community.”
11:43 PA: And so I just thought, “Wow, this is a tremendous opportunity. There’s clearly not a lot of websites in the space yet.” And from an entrepreneurial perspective, I was able to recognize the pattern of okay, cannabis is becoming legal. That’s a good sign. There’s all this research, starting to come out about psychedelics, that’s a good sign. And now Tim Ferriss is publishing podcasts about psychedelics, and that’s also a good sign. And that’s when I started Third Wave. I was like if I position myself in this place now, then once psychedelics start to gain more mainstream legitimacy, I’ll be in a really exciting position to have a significant say in where the story of our culture is going.
12:20 CB: That’s incredible, man, it’s quite the journey, and I appreciate you breaking that down, ’cause it’s interesting to hear how everyone sort of comes to the table when it comes to psychedelics and some of the work that people like you are doing. So today, psychedelics is a big, broad topic, and just to give some context, I’m gonna read off the different psychedelics that you talk about on your website, Third Wave, and just to give the listeners some context, ’cause maybe they only heard of a couple. So you have a bunch of information on psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, MDMA, DMT, 4-AcO-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, ketamine, cannabis, iboga, peyote, San Pedro, mescaline, kambo, 2C-B, which I don’t even know what that last one is.
13:13 CB: When I was going through the list, I was like, “Oh, shit, I actually don’t.” I know everything on this list except for that last one, which was kind of funny, but I think, for the sake of today, I would kind of like to narrow down the field and maybe we can talk about a few of them, but maybe just give us a highlight of what some of the differences are between things like psychedelic mushrooms, versus a DMT, versus an ayahuasca versus a cannabis, and then maybe we can go into things like microdosing and talk about appropriate doses and set and setting after that.
13:49 PA: Yeah. Let’s do that. So for listeners at home, and I think this will tie in nicely to how psychedelics will roll out from a business and medical and cultural perspective is, usually the way that I encourage people to think about it is, we’re either thinking about plant medicines, and plant medicines are things like ayahuasca, iboga, San Pedro, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, or we’re talking about molecules, and molecules are things like ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, because it can be extracted from psilocybin mushrooms, 2C-B, 4-ACo-DMT, LSD. And typically molecules, you know, they are synthetic in nature. DMT would also be another molecule.
14:30 PA: So the way that most plant medicines are used is usually in a retreat setting. So, ayahuasca, you know, there’s a bunch of retreats out in Peru that you can go to, in Costa Rica, in various other places; iboga, there are retreats in Costa Rica, Gabon, Spain; San Pedro, there are retreats in the Sacred Valley. And typically those retreats are with a group of people, you’re with a trained facilitator or a shaman or healer. The substances have usually some historical narrative, so they’ve been used for sometimes hundreds if not thousands of years within some sort of indigenous culture, and these substances are… They’re plant medicine, so they are made up of various components.
15:12 PA: And to give an example, or one more note to that, Oakland, which is actually where I live now, is a city that just decriminalized all plant medicines. So that doesn’t mean they’re legal yet, but that does mean things like ayahuasca, iboga, psilocybin mushrooms, San Pedro and peyote, if you’re caught with them in Oakland, there’s a small fine and that’s it. So law enforcement is not pursuing this anymore.
15:34 PA: Now, the other substances are the molecules. Those are things like ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin. Now, molecules are the things that are going to be used within a clinical model. So in a couple of years, actually, right now, you can go into clinics and you can get ketamine infusions and ketamine treatments for depression. In a couple of years, you’re gonna be able to go into clinics and get MDMA for PTSD with a couple of psychotherapists. You’ll be able to get psilocybin, the molecule, extracted from mushrooms, to treat treatment-resistant depression as well. And that will… The clinical model that’s developing is usually done within a controlled setting, it’s done with psychotherapists and the idea is that it’s, in some places like Canada and Europe, it’s covered by insurance. In the United States it is a costly thing, at the moment.
16:26 PA: So I think looking at it from that perspective, A, it’s really helpful to understand how these substances are going to be utilized in a more public way. The other perspective to look at it is, I would say, looking at it in terms of disassociatives, so ketamine is a disassociative, meaning that it just disassociates you from your body. So essentially, if you do a high enough dose of ketamine, you completely basically numb out, you kinda have this perspective, this observer’s perspective, on your ego that allows a lot of separation from it, and people have found that ketamine, because of that, is very useful at lower doses to initiate trance states, which is why a lot of people do it in clubs, but at higher doses, it’s really helpful for suicidal ideation and depression.
17:14 PA: So, that’s one type. The other type is things like MDMA. So MDMA is what is called an empathogen, and essentially what that means is it’s a heart opener. So when you take something like MDMA, there’s a sense of just really wanting to connect with other people. There’s a sense of feeling very safe, very secure, very vulnerable, like you can say exactly what’s on your mind and there’s no problem with that. And the reason MDMA is being medicalized is because it’s really difficult to have a bad trip with MDMA. It’s not a classic psychedelic, you don’t have visuals or it’s not like you’re experiencing these transpersonal realms. Typically, MDMA is much more subtle, it’s much more open, and it just feels like you’re really happy and love-y and easy-going.
17:58 PA: And then the final thing beyond that is more like the classic psychedelics, like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, San Pedro, and the classic psychedelics, you know, they can be really amazing and incredible and they can also be super difficult and dark, depending on the type of experience that you have. Because what psychedelics do is they really basically enable an opening that allows things from your subconscious and your unconscious to come up. So one of the reasons that psychedelics are so useful at treating, for example, trauma, is because if someone is, for example, sexually assaulted when they’re young, that trauma is repressed and it’s kind of stuck into the unconscious mind as a survival mechanism. And the only way to heal it is to get that trauma up, to sort of dive into the basement of your unconscious, to root up that skeleton, and to get it out. And this is what psychedelics help to do.
18:51 PA: In fact, some people will say that a really good psychedelic experience is like 10 years of therapy in one night, because it basically allows that opening so you can process all of these things that you’ve repressed for so long as a survival mechanism. So that’s at least a little context on the different types of psychedelics, the usefulness of them, and how we could see them rolling out in the future.
19:12 CB: Awesome, I really appreciate you breaking that down. And I think one of the interesting parts there is all the research that’s being done specifically around psychedelics, things like MDMA and psilocybin, and some of the usages, as you kind of pointed out, is really fascinating and the fact that John Hopkins University the other day opened up the, I think it’s the biggest psychedelic research center in the world, if I’m not mistaken. Where do you think that some of that can potentially lead? Some of the movements that we’re starting to see in Canada and the United States, not only around the research, but around the potential legalization, where do you see that going?
19:53 PA: Yeah, so there will be two main tracks that develop. One is the clinical track, and that’s the track that is based in the research that’s going on. It’s where people who have clinical issues like PTSD, alcoholism, addiction, depression, OCD, various other things. And essentially, what psychedelics will do, once they become integrated into more mainstream psychiatric care, is they’ll really flip the model of psychiatric care. Right now, most psychiatric care is very reductionist. In other words, the idea is, “Oh, you’re depressed. You must have low serotonin. Let’s put you on an antidepressant that will increase your serotonin, and for that reason, you’ll feel better.” And usually, that works for some people and for a certain period of time, but usually, what it just does is it numbs people to what they’re actually experiencing.
20:44 PA: What psychedelics do is they open you up to the fact that it’s not just a biological thing, but really, there’s a significant emotional component, which is healing trauma and adverse experiences that have happened. And oftentimes, there’s also a spiritual component, which is feeling connected to something greater than ourselves. So from a clinical perspective, psychedelics are gonna totally reframe the paradigm of psychiatry, where instead of trying to treat the symptom, psychedelics will go ahead and cure the root cause, which is often trauma and various types of trauma. So that’s one thing. We’ll see, basically… We’re in the process right now of finishing phase 3 trials for MDMA and psilocybin. After phase 3 trials, there will basically be clinics that open up as early as 2021 where you can go in and you can get these medicines within a clinic to treat various conditions and issues.
21:37 PA: The other main way that psychedelics will roll out is through the decriminalization movement. So we’ve already seen in Denver, Denver decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms. In Oakland, they decriminalized all plant medicines. California is now pushing, there’s a group that’s pushing to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in all of California on the 2020 ballot. So essentially, in parallel to the clinical track, you’ll see more and more cities decriminalize psychedelics in general because they’re very low risk. There’s no potential for addiction. They’re useful as medicines. They heal and treat a number of issues. And a lot of these are plants. And making nature illegal is just weird, in a lot of ways. So the other movement will be more of like a gray area underground market where it’s not gonna be like cannabis where you could go into a dispensary and buy mushrooms; instead it’s gonna be teaching a lot of people how to grow their own mushrooms so that they can harvest them and that they can use them in small groups, ceremonial settings as they wish. And that will be the other big movement.
22:35 PA: And really, the key to the success of both of these things is education. And that’s really what I’ve chosen to focus a lot of my public work on is how do you educate a populace about psychedelics that really has no context for understanding of its usefulness and potential. And that’s the big hurdle that still needs to be overcome. And the hope is that through medicalization, because doctors will prescribe these medicines to people, that that’s gonna be a really big way that people start to learn about it. There are probably gonna be initiatives undertaken by certain organizations to educate more and more people. And the way that I’ve approached it is digital marketing, meet people where they’re at. If people are searching for this stuff, present it in a way that’s easy to access, that’s easy to understand, that’s easy to digest. And make sure that it’s valid, make sure it’s backed by science, make sure there are footnotes, and let’s get people up-to-date on like tis is the real thing of what’s going on with psychedelics. These are the actual benefits. These are the actual risks. This is what you need to be aware of. These are the use cases. Answering and helping out with a lot of these questions is super important.
23:51 CB: Nice. And how do you present the benefit of psychedelics? ‘Cause I think it’s one of those things where… And I ask this question ’cause I’ve had a lot of people that have gone through a psychedelic experience, and then sort of struggle and grapple with how they present their experience to other people. Even though it’s been beneficial, I think a lot of people get stuck on that. So maybe let’s talk what the benefits are, and how people can position some of those things. [chuckle]
24:21 PA: Yeah, that’s always a tricky one, right, because it is still fairly stigmatized that if people go ahead and say, “Yeah, I had this experience,” a lot of people won’t take them at face value or they’ll say, “You were just on drugs,” or, “That’s not a valid experience because you were just on drugs,” or whatever else it might be. So I think first, at the core, the benefits of psychedelics are really just like connection. It’s connection to yourself, it’s connection to the community, it’s connection to your loved ones, it’s connection to nature; it’s feeling a deep sense of connection. And from that connection comes presence. So as we know, from things like mindfulness, meditation and yoga, and breath work, and float tanks, as we’re able to cultivate a more lasting presence in our everyday life, this helps to significantly mitigate suffering and reduce suffering, because we’re not as focused on the past and we’re not as anxious about the future.
25:09 PA: So I think just at its core, this is why psychedelics are so healing is because they can help us come back to a really present state, where A, we’re not projecting the traumas of our past from our subconscious and unconscious to the world around us. So there is, first, an element of needing to heal our pass and heal our story. But B, once that process has been done, then it’s really about how can I cultivate as much presence as possible to really expand my potential as a human being. And so, when people have these experiences, usually, the recommendations that are given is to embody the experience, to live the experience. So not feel like you need to grasp for attention, to not feel like you need to sell it to someone else, but to literally be like, “I had this experience. This is what it did for me.” And then to live that experience.
25:32 PA: So if psychedelics helped you become a more patient person, then live that experience of being a more patient person. If psychedelics have helped you to really reconnect with yourself on a more consistent basis, then get really into meditation and make that a consistent habit where you’re consistently meditating. If psychedelics have made you more aware of how connected you are to things around you, then go volunteer, or pick up trash, or do something for the environment around you. Really become that sort of embodied practice of what you’ve learned from it. And then as you embody those lessons and learn those lessons, then even if there is resistance in your family and your friend group around that, because they’re able to observe and perceive this change, that will be convincing in itself for them to explore on their own. So I’d say that’s, to me, always rule number one.
26:47 PA: I think the other things in terms of how do we talk about these substances to other people, for me, I always lead with two things: One, look at what happened with cannabis, and I always ask people, “What did you think about cannabis 10 years ago? And now, what do you think about cannabis? And why did you change your mind?” So that usually helps them to frame it in terms of, “Oh, yeah, there was another illegal drug that everyone thought was bad and awful and terrible; and now, it’s clearly been used for medical purposes and now, it’s being legalized for other purposes.” And essentially, I say, “Yeah, that happened.” And the same thing is going on with psychedelics right now where psychedelics show incredible efficacy to treat PTSD, depression, alcoholism, addiction at major universities. They’ll be used… They’ll be available for medical use within a couple of years. And they’re really helping people to heal trauma and heal deep trauma.
27:37 PA: And I think leading with that helps people to understand the legitimacy of these substances, and not even really talking about the sort of legalization or those sort of things because usually, when people hear, “Oh, my God! You wanna legalize acid,” it’s a little bit of a headache for people to realize. Now, there are models that will work in terms of legalizing these substances, but in some ways, let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s first get it medicalized, let’s first continue to push that general drug policy and improving drug policy. And then once we’ve made significant strides with both of those, then the question about full-scale regulation will just be like, “Yeah, this is obviously the next thing.”
28:20 CB: Nice. Nice, man. Well, thank you so much for laying that out. I think that’s helpful for a lot of people. Let’s go next into… I’d love to talk a little bit about microdosing and how, not only why that’s powerful and can be really potent for some people, and why all of Silicon Valley seems to be doing it or at least, that’s the rumor. Tell us a little bit around microdosing, what it can do, what the effects are, what people can expect. And then let’s talk a little bit about what it looks like to actually do that.
28:56 PA: Yeah, so microdosing started to become a thing in 2011, 2012. Jim Fadiman, who was one of the OGs of the psychedelic movement in the second wave in the 1960s, he published this book called The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, and had a chapter in there about microdosing. And in 2015, Tim Ferriss interviewed him for his podcast. That’s when everyone started to hear about microdosing ’cause half of Silicon Valley listens to Tim Ferriss’ podcast. And that’s about when I picked up on it as well. And essentially, my rationale for getting into microdosing was… When I had these early psychedelic experiences when I was 19 or 20, I noticed that after a high-dose LSD or psilocybin mushroom experience, for the week or two weeks after, I would feel incredible. I would feel more connected, I would be more disciplined, I would be much more present. And then eventually, that went away as life became more stressful and things happened to me. So when I heard about microdosing, I was like, “Well, maybe this is a way to elongate that sort of opening after a high-dose experience, where I then… I’m more able to change my habits and behaviors and do things.”
30:03 PA: So essentially, I started to microdose, set the intention of, “I’d really like to utilize microdosing to help with work and flow states and creativity and also, for more connection and relationships, to be more connected with people.” And it was helpful, super helpful in terms of both of those things. And so then, I started just writing more and more about it and doing more things about it. And as I researched it more and more, I came to realize that there were two main reasons that people are microdosing. Reason one was for elevated states of being. So for flow states, for productivity, for creativity, to just generally have an enhanced mood, to enjoy life more. And then the other big reason a lot of people were microdosing was to help with depression and PTSD and addiction and alcoholism because a lot of the pharmaceuticals had failed people. And so, they were looking at microdosing to help with that, specifically.
30:51 PA: Now, the way that microdosing is different than higher doses is higher doses, you have… You feel the effects of the substance that you’re taking. So if you need 5 g of dried psilocybin mushrooms, you’re gonna have an experience. It might not be the most positive one, but something’s gonna happen. Whereas, with microdosing, the idea is it’s a sub-perceptible dose of psychedelics. And it’s not just doing it once and seeing how it feels, but it’s really engaging in a microdosing protocol where you do it a couple times a week for maybe a month or two months, and you track and measure and journal how things are developing, improving for you over that time. And typically, when people microdose, they take about a 10th of a regular dose. So for LSD, that’s anywhere from 5 to 20 mcg. For psilocybin mushrooms, that’s anywhere from 0.1-0.3 grams.
31:40 PA: And they do it twice a week and people notice, yeah, they’re just like… A lot of the benefits, I would say, are similar to what people report after meditating for 30 days straight. They’re more present, they’re less reactive. They’re generally able to focus better. They’re a little more creative. They’re just in a better mood, generally. And so, microdosing is great as a catalyst to sort of start that process of really looking after yourself, and self-care, and loving yourself in a way that makes you go, “Oh, okay, I’m now becoming more and more aware of how I feel as a result of this. I should probably eat a little healthier. I should probably sit down less. I should probably get to the gym a little bit more. I should probably meditate more often. I should probably tell people in my life that I love them a little bit more. Gotta stay connected and spend time with loved ones.” It tends to have just that sort of cascading cumulative effect where we’re taking better care of ourselves. And there’s a developed intuition through the practice of microdosing that sort of makes it very obvious what we need to do. And for every person, that’s different. But the core component of that is self-care and self-love.
32:30 CB: Yeah, I think that’s such a valuable piece. I know for myself, when I’ve done microdosing, specifically with psilocybin, that the results have… It’s been really interesting ’cause I think what you just outlined there is that rather than seeking the meditation, sorry, not meditation, the motivation that we need in order to really actively pursue something, like our goals and the relationship that we want, the health and the fitness and the joy that we really want to experience in life. Rather than us being fixated on the motivation that we need in order to go get those things or do those things, we become more aware that we should just take action on those things.
33:31 CB: And I found for myself that rather than needing the motivation or trying to find the motivation, I was just actively starting to do those things more, because like you’re saying, they’re much more top of mind, much more conscious about it. And the shame that normally comes around with, “Oh, I’m not working out as much as I want or I’m not spending as much time with my family or telling them how much I love them,” or those other things, the shame kinda gets processed in a way and we understand it from a different lens and it allows us to take action. Is that, has that roughly been your experience or the people that you’ve known that have done microdosing?
34:09 PA: Yeah, there’s less judgement, right? Less judgement of yourself, and through less judgement of yourself, there’s less judgement of others. I really like this quote. I think it’s a Ram Dass quote, which essentially says something along the lines of, “Oftentimes when we look at a person, we start to analyze, ‘Oh, they should change this, or they should change this, or they should change this.’ Or sometimes when we look at ourselves, we’re always like, ‘Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.’ But when we look at a tree, we just go, ‘Wow, that’s beautiful.’ And the tree is what it is.” And I feel like what microdosing and psychedelics help us to do is to help us to come back to that place in our own life where we can just accept where we’re at, accept where people in our life are at, and then basically feel this sort of agency and, “Oh, okay, now that I have an awareness of where I’m at and where these other people are at, now I can do something about it.”
35:01 PA: And not doing something… And that, sort of, doing something about it, isn’t coming from a place of lack, isn’t coming from a place of, “I’m not good enough.” Instead, it’s only coming from a place of wanting to get better. It’s coming from a growth mindset, it’s coming from, “I’m really happy with where I am now, and I’m very content, but I also plan to live a long life and I’d like to continue to go deeper and deeper into the exploration of what life means for me.” And so that lack of judgement that, lack of self-judgement, basically minimizes resistance. And I think that’s what I noticed with microdosing, is when we sit down to write a post for Medium, or when I sat down to write out business strategy or when I was with a friend, oftentimes the thing that prevents us from really dropping in, is this sort of ego mind.
35:50 PA: It’s this voice in the back of our head that tells us that we’re not good enough, that tells us that we we’re not really asking the right questions and tells us whatever else bullshit that it might be telling us. And what microdosing did is it just sort of softens that. It quiets it a little bit so that you can just really drop in, you can tune in with that intuition, with that place in your heart that you need to check-in with and then you can create and express from that place without the sort of clogginess of the ego and of that judgement and shame that often wears us out. And what I’ve noticed is, it’s a process as well. When I first started microdosing it went really well for two years, and then I moved to New York.
36:30 PA: And basically, as a result of moving to New York and things got very stressful and I wasn’t sleeping as much and my self-care dropped significantly, I became depressed again. So it’s also… And now, I’ve sort of got back out of that. I live in Oakland now, I’m taking much better care of myself. I meditate consistently. I spend time outside. But I think that’s also something to emphasize with microdosing is microdosing just makes you, in some ways, more aware of what you need. And it certainly can help with the sort of agency aspect of taking more, essentially taking responsibility for your own wellbeing in every way, shape and form. But microdosing is really about 5%.
37:10 PA: If people are really looking at real self-care, the 95% is sleep, diet and exercise. And if you’ve locked in those three, then microdosing is a nice touch. Or if you’re looking to become more aware of how do I build new habits so I can eat better? How do I build new habits so I can go to the gym more often, then microdosing oftentimes is the great catalyst to sort of get you up out of that rut and then get you on your journey, so you can start to integrate and build those new habits around self-care and self-love.
37:39 CB: Yeah, I love that. I love that you kind of outlined the benefit of it and just where it fits in, but it’s not the sort of savior. It’s not the fix-all or the cure-all.
37:51 PA: No, and I think with… That’s an important, that’s an important thing, Connor, as well. Because a lot of people, especially as they hear more about psychedelics, they see it as the sort of panacea, “Even if I do a high dose of mushrooms, oh, all my problems will be fixed.” Psychedelics don’t really fix any problems. All psychedelics do is make you more aware of your own problems. It’s ultimately up to you to then do then actually do something about it. So I think that’s also an important element of psychedelic use, is the opening is there, the opening for change and transformation presents itself, but it’s still up to you as individuals, whether or not you really wanna go into that [unclear speech].
38:27 CB: Yeah, and I think that’s important because I think a lot of people sort of start experimenting with cannabis to reduce things like anxiety and stress and whatnot. And it can feel initially like it’s sort of solving this big problem for them, but then they change nothing in their life, and eventually that problem bubbles back up to the surface. And so, I love that you sort of touched on that. Just out of curiosity, can you break down for the listeners and myself the difference of microdosing things like LSD versus psilocybin and what people can experience in those different places, and why you would use one versus the other?
38:58 PA: So, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are very, very similar. And I think that’s an important starting point. They’re both serotonergic, largely, they’re both classic psychedelics, they’re both active on the same receptors in our serotonergic system, the 5-HT2A receptor. The way that they’re different, there are a few ways that they’re different. Psilocybin is about a six-hour thing. So in terms of its activity, if you will, in the body, it is only about six hours, whereas LSD is for 12 hours. So typically, a lot of people who are looking at microdosing might have low-level anxiety. If you have anxiety, definitely don’t microdose on LSD, because microdosing on LSD could worsen that anxiety. Psilocybin mushrooms are probably a better bet for that.
39:54 PA: The other general thing that I picked up on in talking with people is everyone’s experience is different with LSD versus psilocybin mushrooms. I’ve talked with some people who are like, “Yeah, psilocybin mushrooms helped me with my cognitive abilities much more, I’m much more alert and on point and with LSD I’m like in my body and my heart opens, and I’m like… ” And for me, it’s the exact opposite, right? It’s like psilocybin is a very emotional experience, it’s a very felt experience, it’s a very somatic thing that I get, whereas with LSD, it’s much more cognitive. So oftentimes, when I needed to do more cognitive work, when I was writing or I was coming up with business strategy or I was trying to brainstorm for something, I would take a microdose or a mini-dose of LSD to help facilitate that process. When I was, for example, going to therapy, I would take a microdose of psilocybin mushroom, because it would help me more with feeling my emotions and feeling my body and feeling somatically what was going on.
40:48 PA: So that’s usually how I differentiate the two substances in terms of their potential usefulness, but again, it’s really a case-by-case basis. Everyone is, it’s different. I think the key indicator to point to is LSD lasts for 12 hours, so if you have insomnia or anxiety, probably don’t microdose with LSD, psilocybin lasts for about six hours, so it’s just a bit less intense.
41:12 CB: Wonderful, thank you. What have you… Let’s kinda shift gears ’cause I think you’ve done a good job of laying out what microdosing is and a little bit about how to do it and the benefits that it can yield. Let’s shift a little bit to higher doses of things like LSD and psilocybin and maybe even sort of explore the DMT and the ayahuasca realm. Can you just sort of describe, first and foremost, I think a lot of people out there that are curious about this don’t even know where to start, and I’ve heard so many people that have these horror stories of doing a whole bunch of mushrooms at a party, and then having a really bad trip, and not having a good experience and then being like, “Oh, I never wanna do mushrooms again.” And unfortunately, they were just doing it in the wrong set and setting. So, can you just speak a little bit to what higher doses are and how important that environmental piece is?
42:09 PA: Yeah, so the best way to think about psychedelics are psychedelics are really non-specific amplifiers. So in other words, when you come into an experience, especially with higher doses, whatever’s sort of lurking under the surface is going to be amplified, so that what was previously maybe unconscious or even subconscious will all of a sudden enter the conscious mind. So it’s really important to think of it from that perspective that if you’re digging into the psyche in this way, that you wanna do it in a context, in an environment that feels safe and that feels secure, otherwise it could lead to a not so great experience. And so that’s how the term set and setting was coined, is because set is your mindset before you go in, do you feel present, do you feel grounded, do you feel clean and clear, do you feel like you’re ready to surrender to what you’re going through? And then your setting is the environment that you’re doing that, like going and doing a bunch of mushrooms after being out at a party till 5:00 AM is a terrible idea because it will likely not go so well.
43:08 PA: Even for most people going and doing mushrooms at a Grateful Dead show for the first time, probably not a good idea, because the setting isn’t ideal. Usually an ideal setting is a place that you’re comfortable with, a place that you know well, and that could be your apartment or your house. It could be a place in nature that you know and that you’ve enjoyed and to basically have someone there who can sit for you, who can be there, who can help guide you through that experience, if necessary, who has previous experience with psychedelics and just hold space for you and be there in case anything comes up. I think those are the most important sort of things to think about when doing a high dose of psychedelics. The other thing to think about is there’s no reason to jump in the deep end right away. So when I first started doing psychedelics, LSD, back when I was 19, I started with one tab of acid. I feel like the most acid I’ve ever done is maybe three tabs of LSD, so not a significant amount. And that’s usually the recommendation that we talk about on Third Wave.
44:10 PA: It’s like if you’re gonna do psychedelics for this first time, approach it like you would when you learn how to swim. When you learn how to swim, you first went in the shallow end, you put your Swimmies on, you had a swim instructor, you kinda learned how to paddle around the water, you felt what that was like. Doing that is going into a float tank, right? You can drop in, you can be with yourself, you actually have this total sensory deprivation, you’re just in there with your psyche and no distraction. Then maybe you’re in the shallow end and you take off your Swimmies and you’re going around the shallow end and you can still touch the bottom, but you can swim and you can feel it. That’s like going into a microdose or a mini-dose. You’re slightly altering your consciousness, things are starting to change a little bit, but you’re still pretty much in control, it’s comfortable, you kinda know where you’re at, it’s not too big of a risk or a challenge. And then once you feel comfortable there, you go in the deep end. You can’t touch the deep end, you’re swimming around, it’s a little scary, you’re worried what might happen. That’s kind of like a high dose of a psychedelic.
45:05 PA: And when you’re out there for the first time, you want someone to catch you in case you start to kind of paddle and drown, you want someone to be there to support you. So if you think of a psychedelic use from that metaphorical perspective, then there’s really no reason to just take 6 g of dried mushrooms right away because you don’t know what’s gonna come up if you’ve never been in that space before and that could be potentially more traumatic than helpful. Instead what’s better to do is first become a little more familiar with altered states through a float tank. Then maybe start to do little doses of psychedelics, then once that feels good, then do a high dose of a psychedelic. Yeah, I think that’s a good place to start. I could also go into the specifics of substance by substance basis, but I feel like at least having a little bit of context of how to start there is useful.
45:52 CB: Yeah, no, I think that’s great. It’s a great place to start. And I’m curious from your perspective, and I think maybe I’ll just ask that question that I’ve had a lot of listeners and I recently went on to Rhythmia and I’ve been sharing some of my experiences with psychedelics and along the way and people have a ton of questions, but one of the biggest ones is, what can go wrong, right? Like what’s the worst thing that could happen? I think people’s brains oftentimes go to fear first and foremost and so how do you describe to people and sort of address some of their concerns around doing psychedelics?
45:52 PA: I think one, it’s, this is just basic education, one, it’s important to know that these are the safest substances that we have available. They’re safer than alcohol, they’re safer than tobacco, they’re safer than cannabis, even, psilocybin mushrooms are the safest drug that we have available to us. So I think just starting from that baseline is really good to know. And I think the other thing is just preparing people adequately, because when people go into psychedelic experiences for the first time, they could potentially go through some sort of death. Many people who go into high doses of psychedelics, they freak out, because they feel like they’re dying and they worry and they get concerned, and that’s where a lot of then the fear comes from.
47:11 PA: And really what’s happening is that’s just the final point of resistance that your ego is putting up until it can really, until you can really drop into who you really are and not just this sort of ego construct that you’ve had about who you are that’s existed for most of your life. So oftentimes, when people go into these psychedelic experiences for the first time, it is some sort of ego death or ego dissolution process where they’re having to confront themselves and look at themselves for the first time, potentially ever. And that’s a very scary experience because, like I mentioned before, a lot of people have trauma, we all have trauma to some degree, some people it’s worse than others and we often repress trauma as a survival mechanism in childhood and adolescents.
47:52 PA: And so now as adults we have an ability through psychedelics to, again, open up the unconscious basement and start to process that trauma. And so oftentimes that’s where the “bad trip” can come in. That’s where the “difficult experience” can come in. When you actually come face-to-face with the truth of what has happened to you and what impact that has had and why it’s made you the way you are, and that’s very difficult to confront, because what it forces people to do is it forces people to take full responsibility, because once you confront that and once you have that realization, then you realize it’s fully up to you to do something about it, and that’s where either it’s kinda like that’s the make or break, that’s where the rubber hits the road.
48:34 PA: It’s once you have that awareness, once you have that realization, what do you do with it? Do you hide from it, do you just say, “Oh, no, I didn’t see that. I didn’t experience that, I’m never doing that again”? Or do you say, “Okay, I accept that as part of who I am, I accept that that has happened to me and now as an adult, I’m in a position to basically change that, to write a new story and to heal that part of my life so that I can fully live in the present moment, from this point forward.” So I think that’s a really good way to think of the risks is really the riskiest thing about psychedelics is the fact that you’re enlarging your level of self-awareness, your level of self-awareness is becoming greater and greater, and that’s both on the positive side, you’re becoming more aware of joy and happiness and the beauty of who you are, and that’s also on the shadow side of things, you’re becoming more and more aware of how you’ve treated people, you’ve becoming more and more aware of where you’ve wronged people, you’re becoming more and more aware of what has happened to you that you maybe repressed.
49:30 PA: And being able to fully go and again, this goes back to what we were talking about with microdosing, being able to go into that space, from a non-judgemental perspective and from an acceptance, a surrender perspective is what is so, so key in ensuring that that’s a healing and transformative experience.
49:48 CB: Nice, nice, I love it. And in terms of where people should start, I’m just being conscious of time here, in terms of where people should start, which one do you recommend that they start to experiment with if they’re curious? ‘Cause there are a ton that are starting to come forward, things like ayahuasca are becoming very popular and doing DMT or whatnot, so where do you recommend that people start?
50:14 PA: So a couple of weeks go, I read this really good piece on Medium by Tucker Max. Do you know who Tucker Max is?
50:20 CB: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
50:21 PA: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, best-selling author. So he’s recently got into psychedelics and has written publicly about it on his Medium page about psychedelic therapy. And he wrote a recent post basically explaining this, which I think would be really good to include in the show notes, where essentially he said, “Start with MDMA, then go to psilocybin and and then do something more intense like ayahuasca.” And the reason for that is because MDMA is, basically the metaphor that he used is a lotus flower, right? So for a lotus flower to grow and bloom and become beautiful, first it has to have really good soil and the soil has to be really well-kept and well-nourished, and that, that’s our soul, right? And so, with MDMA, we really get into healing trauma, we really get into healing our past and that’s laying the really good soil and groundwork for the lotus flower. Then once that trauma has been healed, then it’s time to plant the seed, right? And that’s the psilocybin and that psilocybin is what opens our psyche, to be able to then go into our unconscious and subconscious and start to heal some of these things that have happened and to work with them and to understand them and to integrate them in an appropriate way.
51:33 PA: And that’s when the lotus flower starts to grow. And then ayahuasca is the blooming of the lotus flower. Ayahuasca is what can bring you into these tremendous states of awe and wonder and majesty and just like you’re at the feet of God, and you’re like, “Oh, my God, this is, this is just fucking unbelievable.” And if, the point that Tucker Max makes in that piece is if you try to, for example, skip the MDMA, skip healing your trauma and just go right for the ayahuasca, then that can often lead to something called spiritual bypassing, where essentially you basically hop over certain things, and so when you’re in these expanded states and you’re kind of up, you’re continuing to project your own trauma and your own shit that’s happened onto the world around you. And so that’s why it’s so, so key that before we go into these really, really significantly altered states with things like ayahuasca, we first heal this deep trauma that most of us have inside.
52:28 CB: So good man. Yeah, that’s such a great piece of advice and I love the way that Tucker lays that out, because I think that’s a pretty powerful experience and I think from the stories that I’ve heard from people that have gone through this journey and experimented with psychedelics, sort of taking up that pathway of creating some resistance or some resiliency to it and sort of taking baby steps and getting into the shallow end of the pool first is always powerful. So look, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. I wish I had another hour to dive into, dive into a whole bunch of… I have so many other questions, so maybe I’ll have to have you back on the show, but just for right now, where can people find out more about you and your work?
52:43 PA: So, the best place to go is the thirdwave.co, that’s the main website. There’s plenty of educational resources on there. We also have a microdosing course that if people are interested in micro dosing and really taking it to the next level. I also started a retreat center in the Netherlands called Synthesis, so people are actually doing this in a legal setting, with guides, facilitators. That website is synthesisretreat.com. And then, every now and then, I post on socials, PaulAustin3w, both on Instagram and Twitter and I’m on there, if people wanna just reach out and say hi and connect with me.
53:50 CB: Incredible, incredible. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today, definitely gonna have you back on in the new year. And for everyone that’s out there listening, if you’re curious, we’ll have the links to Paul in the show notes. Don’t forget to share with someone that has been curious about this conversation that you know would enjoy it, and don’t forget to head on over to whatever platform you’re listening to us on and leave a rating and review, goes a long way to getting us into the ears and onto the phones of other people. So until next week, this is Connor Beaton signing off, join me next week for another inspiring conversation with another inspiring individual.
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