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Posted on / Dr. William Strohman

Mindfulness, Consciousness + Psychedelics

What is Mindfulness or Consciousness?

I don't think many people pose this question to themselves, but many could benefit from asking it.

Whatever we choose to pay attention to starts to build our minds, habits, worries, and expectations. Being mindful is simply noticing this process and prioritizing what to focus on. This will allow you to have influence over what you will pay attention to, rather than being driven by the next random thought.

Practicing mindfulness can help you avoid thoughts and emotions that induce a negative state of being. Meditation is a great place to start. If you really think about it, we always meditate or focus our attention on something in our daily lives.

For eons, humans have been teaching meditation and the technological advances of the 2000s, have again put the spotlight on meditation.

There is a default mode that we must overcome.

Think about the last time you were at a stoplight or had a 10-minute break at work (and let's put the setting in the early 90s – no smartphones). It may feel like your mind is moving at top speed, jumping from one subject or thought to the next, and when you finally have a quiet moment - you can become very aware.

In these quiet moments, if you can focus your attention, you can discover the true nature of your mind. 

In today's age, during downtime or small breaks, we typically feel compelled to pick up that smartphone and fill this gap versus slowing down like we used to do. A lack of this downtime could affect us, especially our children who are being overstimulated with Xbox/smartphones/Instagrams and never experience a dull moment.

Never having a moment to unplug and focus on yourself or meditate is - I feel - at least partially responsible for the state of our 'plugged in' population.

Meditation or mindfulness is the capacity to be aware that you are lost in thought versus being aware of your current state, including breathing, random thoughts, emotions, and any object that you pay attention to.

Meditation or Mindfulness gives you the ability to overcome this default mode.

You become aware that you are in this default mode (with never-ending thoughts driving your thoughts and emotions). And you realize that thoughts are just thoughts, and don't necessarily mean anything.

The default mode owns you when you are not mindful of these continuous internal dialogues. Any idea that arises we tend to identify with immediately. In this process, we get caught up in thinking of the past or the future and not what is occurring right now and being mindful of our present state.

The benefits of meditation and psilocybin

Experts state that long-term meditators and psilocybin (the active psychoactive substance of magic mushrooms) events - as being complementary processes - allow you to discover the true nature of the mind and self.

Neuroimaging studies of meditation and psilocybin show large parts of the brain that light up are related to a sense of self – and produce similar changes. If meditation is the tried and true course, psilocybin is the crash course, and both have been used for centuries by many different cultures and religions.

The research on psilocybin and depression, anxiety & addiction

Researchers are actively exploring psilocybin in the treatment of resistant depression, end-of-life anxiety, and a few other ailments like addiction to opiates and cigarettes.

For a long time, the potential risks, which are omnipresent with any drug, were believed to be far outweighed by any clinical benefit. But, we are now learning this may not be the case. Some people may benefit greatly, some may not benefit at all and some are at high risk of side effects.

Since 2000, researchers are proving psilocybin has profound effects on many different psychologic disorders. With proper set and setting, psilocybin therapies are being highly-vetted and researched, with some early studies pointing to long-term benefits with 1 or 2 treatments per year. Some of these effects, albeit the drug duration in the body is 6 hours, can last for months and longer.

These lasting benefits of psilocybin include:

  • A greater sense of joy
  • Positive cognitive changes
  • Increased mystical experiences (sense of unity, connectedness, sacredness, +mood/joy). 

Interestingly, greater than 50% of patients studied said it was the single most important experience of their life - comparable to the death of a parent/birth of a child. Further research will vet out contraindications and red flags to figure out who would be the most appropriate patient and the particular diagnosis that would be most impactful.

Additionally, for specific clinical reasons and diagnoses, the shortcut of psilocybin & psychotherapy (set and setting) may also be another weapon in our medical armamentarium.

Until further research is done though, meditation is your best bet at becoming aware of how your brain works. If you direct your attention inward thru mindfulness, you become aware that you are aware. You will acquire an inner knowing, an interconnectedness of all things and people, and may even have mystical experiences. This inner knowing gives overwhelming peace, mutual care-taking effects, and a profound awakening that can translate into joy and gratitude. 

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