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How to Change Your Mind
20 September 2018

How to Change Your Mind
20 September 2018

How to Change Your Mind

 

How to Change Your Mind is the title of Michael Pollan's newest book. I first heard about this fascinating exploration of the new science of psychedelics—and its role in psychological healing and understanding consciousness and transcendence—from a student at UVY. She—like I—hadn't strong feelings one way or another, or much direct knowledge, but she told me it was a fascinating read and, intrigued, I ordered it and am about three quarters done. The book is half overview of the history of psychedelics here and worldwide, and half details of Pollan's own experiences as a "reluctant psychonaut".

Psychedelics (mostly psilocybin and LSD) have proven to be astonishingly effective tools for easing depression, anxiety, obsessive thinking and behavior and other conditions that affect mental and emotional health, when paired with an experienced guide and in a carefully designed setting. This alone is worth the read.

As a student of yoga and other contemplative traditions, a meditator, and just generally curious, I am even more compelled  by Pollan's descriptions of the moment in a psychedelic trip when a subject's ego dissolves, and he/she experiences quite dramatically and profoundly the dissolution of not just ego, but all of the boundaries that separate. As a daily but always aspiring and ever beginning meditator, "I want to go to there!" as they say.

In moments of deep meditation I have peeked behind the curtain of conditioned mind to catch a glimpse now and again, but have never stayed there more than a few moments. Pollan talks about how in some instances, the experience of psychedelic exploration can potentially make us more facile meditators, better able to re-find that quality of entropic mind that unchains us from what contemplative traditions call "conditioned mind" and what neuroscientists call the "default mode network".  I'm not advocating entheogenic enhancement as THE key to Samadhi, and it may be a kind of spiritual laziness on my part, but I do wonder about ways to learn how to more easily enter into that timeless, boundless realm we hope to find in deep meditation, and strategies for sidestepping a brain hardwired to overthinking and conditioning. A back door, a short cut—it's worth at least a think.

Though I cannot claim a lot of time in that alluring world of unboundedness that meditation sometimes reveals, I was thinking recently about an experience that I have had randomly since my early twenties, around the time I began to practice yoga. I tried recently to explain in words my experience, and I'll briefly do the same here. I think it is useful because it feels precisely like a "peek" into that realm of unbounded consciousness. When my eyes are closed, sometimes during meditation, sometimes when I am lying down, I feel/see myself "zoom" way out, as if looking through vast space at Earth from the perspective of being entirely unbound by form—vast, expanding, and infinite. It's both a felt experience and in a way I find hard to put into words, a "visual" one. It is compelling and clear when it happens, never lasts more than maybe 30 seconds, and instead of ending suddenly, gradually "zooms" in reverse until I notice that I am "back".

I expect that most people have had a comparable kind of experience. Out of body experiences, lucid dreaming, ego dissolution, deep states of serenity and connection even.....whether through the meditative experience, psychedelics, near-death trauma, or random firings like my own.

What do these glimpses and micro moments teach us? The experience for me is brief and random and infrequent (and entirely elusive), but I remember the feeling with crystal clarity: awe meets understanding, and I am wide open.

There is value in any process that brings us toward a more open mind, isn't there?  Some interesting mental phenomena arise when the voice of the ego is muted or by-passed, when we really see that there is more to consciousness than the ego and that in those moments we transcend ego, we should be open to what we learn.

Though fully fascinated by what I am reading, I am not (yet anyway) a psychonaut...

but I am fully onboard as a yoganaut!


I would love to hear your experiences through meditation and/or other means, that have given you a glimpse of bigger consciousness, the dissolution of ego, a feeling of profound connectedness. Would you share? I know in the end, words can only go so far to describe these kinds of experiences. Nonetheless, I'd love to hear a bit about yours if you are willing to share. I'm working on how to turn on comment-posting on our blog where this will be posted. If I figure it out, I hope you will chime in.

Love, your sometime-guide and fellow yoganaut,
Leslie

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ACCOMMODATIONS:

The building itself was renovated to be energy efficient, and the room is moderately heated in cooler seasons to promote a good, healthy sweat, but not heated to an excessive or wasteful degree. There are cubbies in our large office to store your personal belongings, a spacious changing room, a comfy sofa and a water cooler (please bring a water bottle to fill, to cut down on paper cup usage). Two nice, clean bathrooms are located just down the hall. There are also cubbies in the studio itself for valuables, which students are welcome to use. We have a full lending library of yoga books, and encourage students to borrow freely. Gift certificates are available for purchase in any amount.

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GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE

Please do not wear perfume or any strong scent

People with allergies can be very sensitive to scent. Also, lots of people sweating in a closed space is less stinky than lots of people all wearing different brands of perfume or deodorant.

Wear comfortable clothing

Not so tight it binds, not so loose it gets in your way. And please do not wear clothes that “gap” and are inappropriately revealing.

Practice on an empty stomach

If possible, don’t eat at least three hours before practice. If you know that this isn’t possible for you, eat easily digested food one hour before class.

No food or outside beverages inside the studio

If necessary, bottled water is okay, but remember we are trying to generate internal heat; constant sipping cools the body. After practice, drink plenty of pure water.

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Shared mats are not hygienic; you may borrow one from us if one is available, until you are able to purchase your own, but please clean it afterward with the mat wipes provided. Please understand mats may be borrowed on a first come basis….we have only a few to borrow, and do occasionally run out of them.

Keep your eyes on your own practice

The practice is richer when it happens from the inside out. It’s not about comparing yourself with the person next to you. Be present with your own experience.

Be kind and loving to yourself

Rest when you need to. Honor where you are in your practice. Use the energy of those around to inspire, not diminish, you. Remember: you are perfect just as you are now, and yoga is meant to enhance that understanding and let that perfection shine. Have fun!

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If you are new to Upper Valley Yoga, you can purchase a 3-class pass for $30! (For our first-time guests only, package expires 15 days after purchase)

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*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

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Unlimited yoga. 6-month commitment is required; early cancellation fee of $50 applies if the auto renew is canceled before 6 months. This is the best value if you plan to attend at least 2 classes per week.

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Unlimited yoga with no commitment required.

One month, Student or Senior* rate, $140

Unlimited yoga with no commitment required.

*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

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