Over the weekend of April 17th-19th, an amazing event took place, the Psymposia event, "Envisioning a Post-Prohibition World." This was a conference dedicated towards one question, "what would the world look like if we lived in a post-prohibition world?" There was an amazing line-up of speakers at this event, from Earth and Fire Erowid to the "Medicine Hunter" Chris Kilham.
One aspect of this conference that really stuck out was the sense of community. Everyone was there to learn from one another and to make connections. The openness from the speakers also stood out. It was amazing to hear such personal stories from all the presenters, as you don't always get to hear at conferences. The setting was small and intimate, which made this conference shine with love and beauty.
The opening night began with "Psychedelic Stories." This was a great way to open the conference -- it provided a relaxed setting and helped everyone become comfortable. It was amazing to hear such personal stories from many of the presenters, stories you normally do not get to hear during academic conference. This aspect of the conference shows how intimate the conference was and how open all the presenters were. It would be great to see more conferences adapt a similar model because it is extremely hard to be that vulnerable to share such personal stories. After all, stories are our life and if we can not share our experiences with others, what else is there to give? Facts? Data? Personal stories go a long way sometimes, and can be very moving -- in a way that presenting facts and data cannot.
Kyle shared his story on Friday night for the first time in front of a larger audience. His story explored death, psychedelics, and Holotropic Breathwork. Kyle began his story by sharing his experience with death -- by suffering a near-death experience from a snowboarding accident when he was sixteen. With a ruptured spleen and massive internal bleeding, Kyle began loosing consciousness by the way he arrived to the hospital. Dancing with death in this traumatic way changed the trajectory of his life -- pushing him towards his healing path, which lead him to shamanic practices and Holotropic Breathwork.
So what does a post-prohibition world look like? Some presenters like Chris Kilham mentioned that big corporations would most likely take over and we would see big tobacco companies take of the marijuana business. The Erowids shared this thoughts on safer drugs, dose control, and purity reports. Jonathan Thompson shared his views on psychedelic rites of passage for teenagers. And Katherine MacLean shared her thoughts on psychedelic hospice care. There is a place for psychedelics as medicines for an array of mental health issues, such a anxiety related to terminal illness and dying. The possibilities are endless!
When thinking about writing this blog, there is one particular topic that really stands out and is important to touch base on. That topic is -- rites of passage. Jonathan Thompson's and Katherine Maclean's presentation highlighted the importance of rites of passage in our culture, or the lack of meaningful rites of passage. There are two rites that seem extremely important -- the transition from adolescence into adulthood, and the transition from life into death.
It was an integral part of life in many traditional societies to have a structured event, ceremony, or ritual for young individuals transitioning into adulthood. These rites were important because many traditional rites created a psychospiritual death and rebirth -- letting an old role die and learning how to take on a new role in the society. These rites were also important because they helped the young adults understand the myths and stories of the culture -- which provided meaning to life. By the lack of traditional rites, young people never truly grow up, and become stuck in their childish roles for eternity. We live in a culture where making money and polluting the water is common -- it is all about "me" and what "I want." Children who constantly need and want things, and don't take the time to think about the future of the next generations. Psychedelics and other non-ordinary states of consciousness were integral parts of traditional rites -- not all societies used psychedelics, but many did depending if they were part of their life already.
Death and dying is another important rite that is lost in our culture. Many people fear death in our society and we struggle when it comes to dying. We hold on tight, and are afraid to let go. The culture builds walls around life to try and stop death from entering, but the reality is that no matter how big or strong a wall we create, death will also knock it down. Psychedelics such a psilocybin can help individuals "practice" dying, and as Kyle explained during his talk, his psilocybin experience was very similar to his near-death experience. This experience left Kyle believing that death and the psychedelic experience are parallel in some way, and that the psychedelic experience could help people or the culture understand death in a new way.
The post-prohibition may be around the corner, but until it happens, it is fun to dream and envision the future. We need visionary leaders to help pave the way to the future so that our children can have fruitful lives. Without the little seeds and sprouts surviving, we come closer and closer to a darker age. But after attending this conference and knowing that there is a conscious movement to help bring healing to the world, makes things a little bit more hopeful! Never stop dreaming!