Thursday, November 22, 2012

See How They Fly Like Lucy In the Sky

The Psychology Today article (refreshingly mainstream, yes?) "See How They Fly Like Lucy In the Sky" covers some old ground on the 2006 Johns Hopkins research on psilocybin and the follow up research that showed long term positive effects.

The last paragraph:

LSD is a much "dirtier drug" than psilocybin. Psilocybin acts specifically on serotonin receptors in the brain and perhaps also on glutamate receptors. LSD acts on all kinds of receptors in a much wilder fashion. Because of this difference, people exposed to psilocybin don’t lose a sense of being the agents of their illusions and hallucinations. They don’t enter a fully psychotic state with head voices and paranoia, as can be the case with LSD.  People exposed to psilocybin sometimes report a liberating loss of time and space and personal identity through space and time. “It’s usually not a loss of the physical body,” says MacLean, “it’s the loss of the sense of ‘I am Katherine, sitting at my desk in this year 2012 and I had a childhood and then I went to college and then I moved across the country a couple of times and in the future I would like to do these things.’ That whole narrative is lost. You are an observer experiencing something but you are not a human being who has a certain identity. You are pure agency capable of experiencing the true nature of the universe.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

LSD as a Gateway Drug to Buddhism

Rick Strassman, pioneer psychedelic researcher (DMT), speaks about his early experiences in this video from the upcoming documentary "The Medicine: Science & Psychedelics".

"I went to a Zen temple in my early 20s, and, ever the scientist, every chance I got to speak to a monk one on one, I asked every one of them if they had tripped on psychedelics and how important their trips were in their decision to become a monk. And I’d say 99% of these junior monks in their 20s all got their start on LSD."
 Admittedly, this would have been in the early 70s, but still.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Meditation Reduces Colds

This study looked compared the effects of meditation (MBSR) or moderate exercise on the incidence of acute respiratory infection.  Both meditators and moderate exercisers had substantially fewer colds, but the meditators had the best results.

Since I began meditating daily about 2.5 years ago, I have not had a cold (knock on wood), which is a massive record for me.  Slight confound, I also began adding about 5000 IU of vitamin D to my already substantial vitamin intake around that time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meditation Produces Enduring Changes

8 weeks of MBSR and compassion meditation were shown to affect amygdala response outside of formal meditation, as reported in Science Daily.  In the paper "Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state" researchers report "this is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state."

Kind of surprised this hasn't been shown before.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Personal EEG Changes from Meditation

I rarely, if ever, do any EEG biofeedback any more, but I wanted to take a look at my frontal EEG (F3 & F4) and see what was up.  I had a 5 minute F3-F4 baseline from back in 2007 and decided to do a new 5 minute baseline and compare them.  Around 2009, almost 3 years ago, I began meditating daily, about an hour a day, amassing easily over 1000 hours of good practice.  During this time I attained stream-entry and vipassana-style access (but by no means mastery) to 8 jhanas.  For the current data, I was lightly in 4th jhana, I can't seem to help it.

For the graphs, blue is old (2007), red is recent (2012).

On the left (F3) the changes were increased activation (expected increase in amplitudes, particularly of high frequencies).  Alpha amplitude remained unchanged, while the amplitude of many other frequencies nearly doubled, a highly significant change.  The old 2007 data has an interesting spike around 39 hz that might simply be artifact.  The 2012 data shows an interesting low frequency bump in the delta range as well.
On the right (F4) amplitudes are largely unchanged.  Again, a likely artifact around 39 hz for the older data.
Coherence changed significantly, decreasing by an average of 50%.  I did not expect this.  There is a lot of talk about coherence in meditators, but I seem to have experienced the opposite, similar to this research.  I'd like to hear from a practitioner or something, but my guess would be that my original coherence levels might have been a little high.  Looking around at some papers, that would seem to be the case, particularly as I used to have some problems with depression.  I notice that the alpha and gamma coherence seems to have changed the least, while slow wave coherence is dramatically different, decreasing by 75%.

Revisions on Nitrous and Piracetam

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide is a useful tool for psychedelic exploration.  I find that it opens the spiritual door, but doesn't quite reach into the areas of challenging emotional material like a major psychedelic.  So that can be nice.  However, I think ultimately you get more growth by becoming comfortable with that emotional material.  Anyway, I wanted to add that methionine may be a useful supplement for use with N2O.  That angle may be covered with a B12 supplement, but I figure you want to be as safe as you can.  Relevant articles have been updated.

 Also my post on Nitrous Oxide Brands now links to these.


Piracetam may be useful by itself for meditation, seemingly increasing alertness and present moment awareness.  And it seems to be useful in combination with psilocybin, increasing the effects (yes) while simultaneously keeping one a bit more present (maybe).  But I've been using all this stuff at pretty low doses mostly, and I notice that for myself, as I occasionally get up to 2-3 grams of mushrooms in combination with piracetam (note: perhaps the equivalent of 4-6-9 grams of mushrooms by themselves), it's just feeling like a bit much, a bit strained.  Which it probably is.  My point would be that with mushrooms alone, a high dose trip seems substantially more comfortable.  So for the low dose kind of stuff I do, maybe up to 1.0 gram of mushrooms, it's okay, but beyond that, if I wanted to go big, I think I'd lay off the piracetam for a while.

Relevant articles:

Griffiths: Psilocybin Mimics Effects of Meditation

A video excerpt from Roland Griffiths' presentation on his research into the complementary relationship of psilocybin and meditation at the 2012 SAND (Science and Nonduality) conference.  Full video is $195, I'd like to see it.  Info from the slides:

  • Psilocybin and meditation can be viewed as complementary techniques for exploration of the nature of self and mind
  • Recent neuroimaging studies show that meditation and psilocybin produce strikingly similar decreases in brain circuits responsible for self-referential processing
  • Griffiths mentions the "default mode" network research of Brewer (meditation) and Carhart-Harris (psilocybin)
  • If meditation represents the systematic "tried and true course" of discovery of the nature of mind and Self, psilocybin represents the "crash course"
Psilocybin is a pharmalogical tool that helps people:
  • recognize how it feels to embody the present moment
  • dispassionately observe and let go of pain, fear, discomfort
  • transform a conventional sense of self (i.e. ego) [you are not your mind]
  • recognize that mind is capable of revealing knowledge not readily accessible in everyday waking consciousness
  • gain an authoritative sense of the interconnectedness of all people and things (mystical experience)
I had come across the Brewer and Carhart-Harris research while doing this blog, and tied them together with a small piece of my own experience in the post Meditation and Psilocybin.  I think psilocybin is very helpful, and my experiences have been about 95% wonderful.  But as to that other 5%, it's like Buddha referred to sense pleasure - it's like licking honey off a razor blade.  Every now and then you might taste a bit of blade, and every now and then you might swallow the whole blade.  My recommendation: don't go overboard with the dosage, and view everything with equanimity.