Psychedelics in The Hudson Valley PART 2 | Awakening
In PART 1 of our Psychedelics in The Hudson Valley story, we spoke with Beth Weinstein, a spiritual business coach who has been working with entheogens and psychedelics for over 25 years. She shared some of her hopes and concerns regarding the legalization of psychedelics, intention setting and integration, finding and deepening a sense of your life’s purpose with the help of these plant allies and more. We are now going to round out this in-depth conversation about Beth’s own spiritual journey, the importance of set and setting, the question of “What if the billionaires of the world were the spiritually awakened ones who were on a healing path in dedication to planet earth and the healing of humanity?” and other interesting musings and insights.
Please make yourself comfy now as we begin this second journey together. We hope you will also stay tuned for our upcoming (and final) PART 3 of this series which will offer resources for workshops, practitioners, retreats, books, media inspiration and special guests.
So… Why All the Talk About Psychedelics Lately?
In spite of the bucolic reality we can relish in our gorgeous Hudson Valley, most humans in our modern Western world have fallen out of touch with nature, with joy and curiosity. Too many feel afraid, alone and disconnected from their own bodies and even the ones they love most. Twenty-nine percent of American adults now report that they have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime. Rates among young adults, Hispanic and Black adults are even more alarming and, according to Gallup, “Over one-third of women (36.7% or about 121,807,300 women) now report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime.” Um. That’s a LOT of very unhappy people.
The Good News. (And yes, there is good news.)
Many are finally waking up to this fact: allopathic, conventional approaches to mental wellness within a culture that pushes fear, consumerism, a disconnection from the earth, true presence and personal authenticity have been a lousy and even dangerous melange. The good news is that exciting and irrefutable studies have revealed what pioneers in the field of psychedelics and traditional curanderos have always known: psychedelics offer another lens to peer through and even a lasting remedy for mental and physical dis-ease. They also offer insight into the sentience of our natural world and a balm to what is perhaps more deeply impacting our modern world, a crisis of meaning.
The Proof is in the Psychedelic Pudding
Plenty of studies back these facts: psychedelics ameliorate major depressive disorder symptoms, reduce anxiety and addictive tendencies, reveal or deepen a sense of purpose, treat OCD tendencies, and even “induce neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and reorganize thought patterns, enabling new ways to process deeply embedded trauma.” They have also been used to effectively treat depression and anxiety in terminally ill people. Then there are the ineffable benefits in terms of accessing or deepening creativity and a spiritual path, as well as opening a true sense of oneness, compassion, and a healthy dose of self-love.
Stephen Szára, a Hungarian psychiatrist and chemist, who was often considered the “father of DMT” (N-N-Dimethyltryptamine) once wrote in Are Hallucinogens Psychoheuristic, “Another peculiar effect of these drugs is a dramatic change in perception: it appears to the person as if the eyes (the ‘doors of perception’) have been cleansed and the person could see the world as new in all respects — ‘as Adam may have seen it on the day of creation’ as Aldous Huxley (1954, p. 17) pointed out in his popular and influential book. This new reality is perceived and interpreted by some individuals as a manifestation of the true nature of their mind…”
And Now Back to Beth Weinstein…
INSIDE + OUT: Can you tell us about a few of your favorite personal soul lessons thanks to plant medicine?
Beth Weinstein: I have a lot of those. Usually, these are the most simple, the most profound lessons and, I believe, that all of us inherently know. For example, to be reminded of the power of our hearts. It’s super simple. To me, everything important comes back to love. Like, why are we here? Why are we incarnated here as a human on planet Earth? Why is it that we’re being called to something? Why is it that we even go on living?
For me, it’s really about being connected to this place within us that is the ultimate running of the universe. I’m a student of A Course in Miracles which says, “Everything is love and everything else is an illusion.” We have a choice: it’s either fear or love. And love is all that’s real and everything else is illusion and fear and ego. And when I say ego, I mean, the ego part of our mind that is telling us stories to make us believe certain things: telling us to live a life that is not authentic, that is lying to ourselves. It’s so prevalent in our society. And yet this is such a simple teaching of pretty much all psychedelics and all sacred medicines: they help us remember the truth of who we really are; that all beings are children of God, essentially, (and again, you can use Spirit, Creator.) We are all equal. We’re all interconnected. We’re all loved by the great Almighty, all, the Great Mystery, whatever you vibe with. And if we drop into our hearts and really learn how to lead a life from the heart, with compassion and love and understanding, I really think we would have a better world in every direction. So the super simple lessons are my favorite because honestly, all the other lessons, still come back to the same lesson: What do you choose? Love or fear. And when I say fear, you know, I mean the pathway of the ego, the illusion all reality. We have a choice. We can live in this grace of being a human alive today and have gratitude for all that comes at us, which is love, love, love, and come from love in every single decision we make, or we can not. So really, that is the soul lesson. And I believe that is the lesson of being a human. And I believe we repeat it over and over until we learn. Look at our ascended masters. They learned what love really was. That is the explanation of Jesus, Buddha, and so on.
How much do “set and setting” affect the experience and why?
Set and setting counts for everything. Set – stands for mindset, which is what I was speaking about earlier. Some people are actually not in the best mental place to work with (plant) medicines. Number one priority of importance is that you are in the best-prepared space and mindset. Number two, the Setting – meaning not just where you are physically, but who’s facilitating? Is it safe? Do you feel safe? Do you know what you’re getting into? Are you in an environment that feels good to your intuition? Is it set up? Does it have all the safety measures in place? Does it have water and warmth and whatever? Are you cared for? All that can make or break a whole experience. And honestly, I’ve definitely done medicines in a bad mindset and it’s been really challenging. I’ve been in some not-so-great spaces before, in terms of the settings, and they were probably the regretful experiences I’ve had. Although I don’t really regret anything in life.
Anyway, it’s important. There’s a reason why it’s talked about so much and I would not put either one of those aside. There’s a checklist, part of an internal process of really asking your intuition, getting to know yourself, being connected to yourself so deeply and also being autonomous in the situation. Knowing your boundaries and knowing what’s right for you and what’s not right for you. I’ve totally gone through this before, where I’ve done things that I actually didn’t want to do because I wasn’t really connected to myself. And it’s unfortunate, but thank God I learned from it.
Do you have anything to share about the benefits or challenges of plant medicine used therapeutically as opposed to ceremonially?
It’s interesting. I personally have only done “therapeutic medicines” a couple of times. My experiences have been 99% of the time in ceremonial settings, but also some recreational. To me, there’s actually nothing wrong with recreational medicine. Some of the “recreational experiences” I’ve had have been highly life-changing, spiritual and beautiful. There are benefits to both. And, there are challenges for both. I really believe, for some people who maybe don’t want to go sit in a bunch of ceremonies in the middle of the jungle in Peru and hang out with snakes and gigantic spiders everywhere, that maybe sitting in a cushy, safe therapy office with someone they really trust is just a better option. That’s just an example. By the way, please don’t go to Peru with someone you don’t trust. I only go out to the middle of the jungle with someone I feel really safe with.
I don’t think there’s any pros or cons, it’s more just whatever works for you. And, I really try to take the path of non-judgment. I really don’t believe anybody out there can say what’s right or wrong for anybody else. I’ve said this before in the past: if someone feels called to go drink ayahuasca in a ceremony in a loft in Brooklyn where they’re just playing music over a Bluetooth speaker… that might not be my thing, but if that works for some people, who am I to say whether that’s right or wrong? I don’t believe there is such thing. We are autonomous humans who are sovereign and can make our own decisions for what’s good for us. As long as it’s held safely and it’s not actually causing harm to the participants or others outside of there, then to me, again, who am I to say what’s right or wrong?
Do you work with your clients with plant medicine or any psychedelics to help them “activate” and manifest?
I do not give my clients medicine. I don’t, straight up. I do not. I have certain offerings that go deeper into this, where there’s medicine that is acquired by my clients on their own, but that’s a whole different story. And I don’t tell them, “Hey, take medicine and let’s work on your business.” But yes, medicine can help activate and also awaken truths that are already inside so you can finally choose what’s already there.
Do you feel it’s harder to live from our hearts and create the lives we deserve and dream of without plant medicine?
Oh, it’s not any harder without plant medicine. You don’t need plant medicine to do this at all, but generally, a lot of human beings do struggle to live from their hearts. The path of dropping into your heart has nothing to do with plant medicine. It’s actually very easy to find your heart and start to tune into it without ever touching plant medicines in your life. So I don’t feel like that is true, it’s just very often, the case with plant medicine is that it awakens and helps to open up our hearts and makes things a lot more visible. Again, meaning: someone already knows something is in their heart and they just are afraid to admit it to themselves. Or they feel it, but then they push it away or repress it, or they’re just too busy or they’re distracted, or they’re numbing, or they’re depressed, or they’re anxious or whatever. When you have the space with plant medicine and the proper integration, you can start to see and get curious about things that come up. You think, “Hmm, I keep getting this vision of… you know, maybe…embracing my healing gifts and helping people with this modality that I really found helpful with me that I learned a few years ago.” Whatever it is. And very often the medicines will give you that, will show that to you. It will say something like, “Hey, you know, you’re on this path for a reason,” and help make that more obvious. So, it’s not like you’re going to get shown something completely out of the blue. It’s more common that whatever’s living inside of you is just illuminated more. It’s kind of like, “Oh, I already felt this and now the light is shining on it a little more so I can see it clearer.”
You offer a 12-month live business coaching program which you state offers a transformational practice in a supportive, like-minded community. Is that openly a community of entrepreneurs who work with psychedelics to clarify and manifest business and life goals? Has that been controversial?
I work with an incredible group of people. It’s mostly newer entrepreneurs, early-stage entrepreneurs or people making the shift into entrepreneurship. A lot of the people in the program do work with psychedelics or plant medicines or both, and they are openly communicating about it, some of them publicly, some are not. Everybody has their own boundaries and limitations.
Has it been controversial? Not really. The only controversy I have experienced once in a blue moon is when someone sees business and psychedelics together in the same paragraph, like on my website or wherever and has a negative reaction to that. What’s funny is, I’m just a solopreneur who’s making a difference in the lives of just 50 to 100 people each year, hopefully, more. Yet there are venture capitalists out there throwing billions of dollars into the psychedelic industry, and no one seems to be yelling at them. So go after the big guys: the people who are trying to regulate and control and patent mushroom strains.
People can get all up in arms over money, but I think that is also something we need to look at on a deeper level as a society. Right now money exists and it’s part of our reality so we have a choice. We can see money as bad and evil as in, “All the people with money and all the powers that be that have money are bad and so having money is bad.” Or we can see money as a tool for empowerment for the awakening of the human heart, which is how I see it.
“Imagine if the one percent that has most of the money in the world, the billionaires like Bill Gates and the Jeff Bezos of the world, were the spiritually awakened ones who are on a healing path in dedication to planet earth and the healing of humanity–what kind of planet would we then have?”
So I do believe money needs to be embraced since it’s here to stay. Why are we hating it? If we just pretend money’s bad, shun it and choose to be broke, struggling healers or artists or whatever it is, that is not helping the advancement and awakening of the human heart, or serving the planet. So we all have a choice: Do you want to be in the struggle and not serve, or would you rather serve and also be served back with the financial support and Spiritual, emotional and energetic support for the work that you’re here to do with your soul and your heart? That’s the way I see it.
You claim on your site that, “When you join our community of Psychedelic Pioneers and Spiritual Entrepreneurs, you’ll be given the steps you need to get clarity in your business, start getting clients, and make consistent income by helping people with your soul’s calling.” Is it possible to work with you and within your community and not work with plant medicine?
Yes, it’s possible to work with me and be in my community and not work with plant medicine. I have always had clients that are not on the medicine path and have never touched a psychedelic. One thing I’ll say is they do tend to be on a spiritual path.
How different do you think our world (and our relationship to it) would be, if everyone worked with plant medicine, at least as a right of passage?
That’s interesting. I don’t know if plant medicine is for everyone, but let’s say everyone did, maybe at least once. I think on some level we would have a shift, a major shift in consciousness. Depending on what kind of plant medicine and how much is taken… how wonderful it would be if everyone got the message about living in harmony with planet Earth and had more love and compassion. Then maybe we would actually start to figure out how! If we can get to the root of it all, which is love, compassion, gratitude, abundance, reverence, sacred reciprocity… I think all of the bigger problems could be solved. The bigger problems are all rooted in this imbalance and disharmony and disconnection from self, from Source + Earth. I do think we would have a better world really.
How/why do you feel psychedelics help people live more easily from a place of personal authenticity and truth?
Yes, I do believe that psychedelics can eventually help people live more in their truth and authenticity, to take away the mask. But the mask that we all wear tends to crawl right back on without integration and therapeutic work.
Why might living from a place of one’s truth be considered “dangerous” or threatening to a society based on commodification and materialism?
One of the reasons why there’s a growing threat with psychedelics and medicines, is that we might actually wake and see that certain things are not working–like a society based on materialism and the loops of capitalism that don’t really serve people. I’m actually not an anti-capitalist by the way, but I do see systematic issues with pretty much everything in our society. These medicines really wake us up to what I would call more conscious consumption and also to seeing things from a different viewpoint, as in: “Well, that doesn’t seem to be working.” Or “Why am I going into that looping cycle of just spending more money to feel better, or materialism, or working so hard just to keep up with the people with the Tesla down the street? I think there’s a lot of people questioning what life is all about, and then you throw psychedelics in the mix and it has people questioning things a little more. And that can be a threat as well as a potential salvation to the entire planet.”
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When not exploring this beautiful planet or enjoying her Hudson Valley homestead, Beth Weinstein can be found at bethweinstein.com, where she offers free training and lots more interesting info. You can also learn about her upcoming workshops and stay in touch via her email newsletter.
For PART 3 of this series, On Sacred Reciprocity, Psychedelic Resources and Special Guests, check back in the next few weeks. We can also send the story right to your inbox. Sign up for our Newsletter HERE (just scroll to the bottom of page to sign up).
Top Photo by Mellisa Robin
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