I just finished “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence” by Michael Pollan. First off, I kind of hate the title. That unneccesarily wordy subtitle doesn’t really do a good job of explaining what the book is about. Sure, that is all in there but it is actually a small part of the book. That isn’t to say I didn’t love the book, I did, I just don’t like the title.
So, what is this book about then? Well, a bunch of stuff. It provides a great historical account of scientific research into psychedelics. It has an interesting discussion of mushrooms. It is a first-person account of the author’s psychedelic experiences. And it looks into how psychedelics can help with dying, addiction, depression, etc.
For me, this book came at a very serendipitious time. I actually ordered it a while back but it was a pre-order, which means I was a little surprised when it showed up on my doorstep last week. Of course, it was new and shiny so I brought it along to the INELDA training I went to in Toronto. Plane rides are the best opportunity to read books and spending four days mostly alone in a strange city provided additional opportunities to dive into the book.
Not only was its arrival great timing because I needed something to read, it was also wonderful subject matter for the training that I took part in. The same weekend I was training on how to help others with death I found myself reading a book where some of the pages were devoted to how psychedelics can help people with death. I’ve long resisted my interests in sex, drugs, and death. I didn’t see them as something that I could turn into a career and I wasn’t really sure why I’m comfortable with them (is it because they are taboo or because they are all altered states of consciousness?). That has changed though. I see a vague path in front of me where I can merge the death and drugs in a way that will allow me to be a healer. Where is this path leading, exactly? No fucking clue, but the path is clearer now than any other time in my life.
I guess my dream would be to have a facility where dying people and their families can come to receive psychedelic drugs to help them with they dying process. We’d also have other professionals (nurses, doulas, massage therapists, therapists, nutritionists, etc) that are all focused on dealing the physical, mental, and spiritual struggles that come with dying in a healthy way. After my training, reading this book was like icing on the cake.
And, as is the case with all books, it has opened up a lot more rabbit holes. Like always, the back cover is filled with books I want to read and things to continue researching. This list includes:
- “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan
- “The Varieties of Religious Experiences” by William James
- “Altered States of Consciousness” by Tart
- “Animals and Psychedelics” by Samorini
- “The Philosophical Baby” by Gopnik
- “The Perennial Philosophy” by Huxley
- Holotropic Breathwork
- California Institute of Integral Studies
- Katherine MacLean
- Compass Pathways
- Journal of Psychopharmacology
- Al Hubbard
- Paul Stamets TED Talk
- Keats, “negative capability”
- Henry Berson
- Siddha Yoga
I’m working down in Florida today and my upcoming weekend is busy as tits, but I really, really, really hope to start diving into this work more soon. I am no longer going to spend my time reading and doing the things I should do when I feel a passion growing inside me to help others in this important way.
Oh yeah, and the book made me want to try psychedelics again, but in a more therapeutic and controlled setting. I’ve never really been into psychedelics, my experiences have been mediocre at best. But I’m willing to give them a try again.