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The Ego, Yoga Sutras, and Psychedelics

Tada drashtuh svarupevasthanam: then the seer abides in itself, resting in its true nature.

Yoga Sutra 1.3

So this is also known as self-realization. This sutra explains that the ultimate result of yoga is the discovery of one’s true nature. Our authentic self. This term gets thrown around a lot. Who are we? What is our authentic self, our true nature?

The idea in yoga and meditation is that once we are able to calm the fluctuations of the mind then our perceptions of reality becomes clear. If we are no longer stuck in thoughts of the past or the future then we are fully present to what is now. With that, the ego mind dissolves, our preferences melt away, and our reality sharpens. We recognize our connection to all that is, and we see our current state is just as it should be. In the world of emotional intelligence, we find our authentic self through a process of clearing away old conditioning, limiting beliefs, and patterns in order to get back to our authentic selves.

Now there is another state that shows the dissolution of the ego and a return to a higher consciousness, or our true nature. And that’s drugs. Now, in the context of this blog I am specifically talking about psilocybin, and even more specifically in regards to Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. It's a fantastic book, I highly recommend it.

I’m not saying the ego is bad, it’s part of who we are, a very large part. I’m merely drawing back the curtain to discuss what else there is, and if it may be beneficial to quiet that ego mind.

So, the ego. We know that the two driving forces to, arguably all, our actions are pain and pleasure. More specifically to avoid pain and to move towards pleasure. This is the survival part of the mind, “go get that, go get this, avoid that, avoid this.” So when this lens through which we see the world is dissolved, what are we? In Michael’s book, he describes,

“When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of ourselves but of our self-interest. What emerges in its place is invariably a broader, more openhearted and altruistic—that is, more spiritual—idea of what matters in life. One in which a new sense of connection, or love, however defined, seems to figure prominently.”

It's a beautiful concept, and if you’ve ever experienced or witnessed this in yourself before you know how magical and powerful it is. Now, drugs are not the only way to dissolve the ego, yogi’s have known this for centuries. Through the practice of asanas, through deep meditation and through breathwork you are able to quiet this part of the mind. Science now can back up a lot of the things that before where in the realm of mystics.

So what can we benefit from this state? In Michael’s book he talks about the research done in respects to the fear of death.

“Volunteers were returning from their journeys with a new understanding of their mortality; many of them had completely lost their fear of death. The dissolution of ego that often occurs on a high-dose experience had allowed them to “rehearse” their death and come to terms with it.”

Perhaps it’s that ability to surrender the ego mind that allows us to connect with this other consciousness. This could the reason why someone has a bad trip, or feels like they are dying but not coming to terms with it because they are grasping to that identity that is dissolving. In a very real way you are losing everything you know, that comfortability, that safety, it can be terrifying….BUT that’s where I think surrender is key. Once you surrender to what is, then you are able to feel one, with a sense of connection and love, to something greater, something universal. That’s why it’s wise to have a guide if you are doing psilocybin for therapeutic reasons, and luckily this is becoming more prevalent as society begins to accept the science behind it.

What other benefits?

Well in regards to psilocybin there has been research into the benefits of micro-dosing, and therapeutic trips on depression, addictions, and PTSD.

In regards to yoga, meditation and any other practice that quiets our ego mind I think the benefits are numerous. By being able to broaden my view, to surrender and tap into my nature, I find peace, joy, and love. I think that if we began these practices at a younger age; meditation, breathing, yoga, the study and master of your mind and emotional world. If our society as a whole revered the study and mastery of consciousness then we could live in a thriving world that truly support one another because we see ourselves as connected. A world where we treat our planet and the animals that inhabit it with respect and reverence because we see the greater picture. In my eyes, I think it is part of our duty as humans to explore our minds, to expand our reality, and be in touch with the world we live in. I’ll leave you Michael Pollen’s words.

"Consciousness is one of the greatest mysteries there is—there is nothing of which we are more certain, and yet nothing that is further from being understood by modern science: how brains produce consciousness (if in fact, they do—some believe it may exist outside of us). Yet consciousness itself is not a single thing. Psychedelics show us that, as William James said, minds are capable of multiple kinds of consciousness, separated from our everyday experience by “the filmiest of veils.” There are doors in the room of one’s mind that open onto unsuspected dimensions of mental experience. Psychedelics is only one of those doors—there are other, non-pharmacological doorknobs too, like meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, sweat lodges, vision quests, etc. But turn any one of these knobs and enter, and you realize, as I did in my “reporting” for this book, that the mind is far vaster, and the world more alive, than I ever suspected".

What do you think?


How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. By: Michael Pollan.

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