Over the years, detractors of this magazine have accused the publication of being run by a bunch of granola-munching, kombucha-drinking idealists who sit around smoking pot while writing poetry to butterflies. Well, I pass on grass and I'm a crap poet, but these critics aren't completely off-base.
This month's health and wellness feature, which examines the burgeoning research into the therapeutic use of psychedelics—from clinical trials around the use of MDMA to treat PTSD to LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety—reminded me of my own experiences with mushrooms. The article, which you can find on page 56, sits at a delightful intersection of science and first-person accounts. In the spirit of those who came forward to share their transformational experiences, I thought I'd share one of mine.
Last summer, at a friend's house in the foothills of the Catskills, I took mushrooms with a group of about 10 people. I was in a slump, feeling stuck in my life and frustrated, so I was grateful for the reset the trip might provide and open to its lessons.As you might expect, I spent much of the day walking tenderly through the woods, mesmerized by tree bark, tracing the slime trails of snails. As the sun passed its zenith and I descended into the denouement of my trip, I found myself walking through a field, trailing my fingertips on doily tops of Queen Anne's Lace. I was turning a problem over in my mind, mumbling aloud to myself.
Earlier that afternoon, I had sat cross-legged in the woods with my partner, chastising him for his intimidating behavior toward others. He embarrassed me, I accused him. He made me uncomfortable. While he had handled the conversation reasonably well, something about the interaction was sitting poorly with me, so I kept chewing on it.
I could sense that I was on the precipice of one of those life-changing revelations that psychedelics are known and loved for. Suddenly I had a vision of a geyser spouting skyward, and the image propelled me to clarity. I realized that the emotional landscape of every encounter is dotted with sinkholes of self-pity and geysers of power. In a given moment, you have the opportunity to respond as a victim or to step into your power. There are multiple geysers you can ride to empowerment. In a given situation, you might choose to leave, to stay and make peace with the circumstances, or else to commit to changing the reality. But it became clear that my old stand-by of stay-and-sulk was an abominable abdication of power.
To those older and wiser than myself, this truth may seem so obvious and self-evident that it doesn't merit mentioning, but it was ground-shaking for a 27-year-old who was simultaneously dodging accountability and deeply craving a stronger sense of agency in my life.
This lesson has returned to me time and again in the last year. Since that summer day, I have moved out of the home I shared with that partner for years, travelled to Argentina and back, and stepped into greater responsibility at work. I find myself alone in an echo chamber, testing things, rejecting things, shifting pieces, and responding to my own actions, trying always to read the landscape and detect the geysers of power. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed.
I share this story not to illustrate some moral high ground but rather to humanize this magazine, produced as it is by a team of lovely, fallible, earnest individuals like myself. Growth takes many forms. Sometimes it's catalyzed by psychedelics, sometimes it's spurred by desperation. It's almost always uncomfortable, but the trek forward is infinitely better than stagnation. And as we all sprint, stagger, nap, and bootstrap on the road to transformation, my hope is that this magazine provides a breathing picture of our progress as a community.