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The Multiplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has been doing frontier research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelics for the past 33 years, and they’re currently in Phase 3 FDA trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). MAPS played a huge role in recent books like Michael Pollen’s “How to Change Your Mind“, and has been providing the scientific legitimacy for the therapeutic uses of psychedelics. It’s also helped to bring the psychedelic culture out from the underground to the point where the Consciousness Hacking community decided to name psychedelics as a main part of the Awakened Futures Summit, which explored the intersection between psychedelics, technology, and meditation.

liana-gilhoolyI had a chance to talk with MAPS Development Officer Liana Sananda Gillooly at the Awakened Futures Summit where we talked about the history of MAPS, the current FDA trial process to get MDMA FDA approved for the treatment of PTSD, the broader experiential design protocols that MAPS is developing in order to cultivate a proper set and setting for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, the leveraging of eastern and indigenous philosophies in the development of a broader cultural context for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, harm reduction suggestions of technologies and communities to provide peer-to-peer therapeutic assistance for the recreational use of psychedelics, the historical evolution of the psychedelic underground, the decriminalization of psychedelics in Denver, the broader war on drugs and her personal opinions of drug policy reform, and her personal passion of eventually using psychedelics to work as a “death doula” helping reduce the anxiety, grief, and trauma around the process of death and dying — but that she needs to help legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelics before she can do that.

Gillooly says that our culture is facing a crisis of consciousness, and that we need as many people as we can to explore alternative ways of knowing in order to help solve some of the deepest ecological, economic, political, and social justice crises that are facing our world today. She also talks about the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation that was created in order to manufacture and distribute MDMA once it receives final FDA approval. All of the profits from the sale of psychedelics will be funneled from the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation back into the MAPS non-profit in order to continue evangelizing the legalization of psychedelics, training psychedelic therapy practitioners, and funding continued research into the health benefits of psychedelic therapies. Gillooly says that they’re doing psychedelic therapy on the economic system itself, and that they’re poised to disrupt the existing economic business models of the pharmaceutical industry. They’re going to have a hard limit for the number of psychedelic treatments that are made available, and the sessions will be focused on cultivating the innate healing capacities of each individual in a holistic approach that isn’t designed to get them dependent upon drugs forever.

This conversation and my experiences at the Awakened Futures Summit convinced me that we really are on the cusp of a pretty revolutionary psychedelic renaissance that is pretty closely mirroring what’s happening with the renaissance of VR, AR, AI, immersive theater, and with embodied, experiential entertainment in general. There are many opportunities for how immersive technologies will be serving as a psychedelic primer, assessment tool, and psychedelic integration tool.

Adam Gazalley also talked at the summit about how Akili Interactive is also in the process of getting a video game FDA-approved for the use as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and how this is a new and emerging form of “experiential medicine.” It’s an open question for what design frameworks and philosophical foundations will be used to fully understand the principles of experiential medicine, but there is lots to learn from non-Western traditions of Eastern Philosophy and Indigenous Philosophies, especially in the culture that’s been cultivated around transformative psychedelic experiences.

So it’s an exciting time in the world of how the worlds of experiential design and psychedelic therapies will continue to intersect, and Gillooly does a great job of setting the broader context for why psychedelics are such a hot topic in our culture today.

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radix-motion
sarah-hashkesRadix Motion is creating a trippy, asynchronous communication platform called MEU that starts to play with our experience of embodiment. CEO Sarah Haskhes is a cognitive neuroscientist who previously studied psychedelics through the lens of a predictive coding model of the brain where there’s a fusion of our prior experiences that have a direct interaction in shaping our current perceptions of the world. There are error codes between our expectations and our sensory experiences which shape our experience, but also provide a sense of novelty within the experience. Haskhes is applying these types of cognitive neuroscience insights to your sense of embodiment within a virtual reality experience in order to give a slightly trippy and psychedelic experience of our embodied interactions.

matt-hoeI was also joined by CTO Matthew Hoe, who talked about the desire for creating an asynchronous communication platform since both Hashkes’ and his family is overseas in a different time zone that doesn’t always make synchronous communication feasible. He talks about recording an embodied ritual that he used to do with his mother, and then her reaction in receiving it. But he also thinks that people are going to eventually move away from using emojis or reaction GIFS in order to record their own embodied dances and rituals that are communicate their feelings in the moment, very much in a similar way that people use selfies in order to communicate their current emotional state.

We talk about embodiment, what they were doing to create this slightly psychedelic trippy feeling to their experience, the risks of invoking body dysphoria if people are aware of creating mismatches between the body schemas stored in the cerebellum, motor cortex, and sensory cortex, creating technological interactions and user experiences that are body-centric, and how they hope that embodied communication can help us to escape the social media void that we find ourselves within in today’s society. Definitely keep an eye out for where MEU goes next as they’re really onto something that’s super compelling.

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Music: Fatality

soundself

robin-arnott2Andromeda Entertainment is creating and distributing immersive entertainment experiences for healing and self actualization. I previously talked with CEO Robin Arnott about his Sound Self experience, as well as a previous incarnation of Andromeda Entertainment when it was called Orpheus Technodelics. Arnott says that they’re interested in creating immersive experiences that could be used either as primers or assessment tools for psychedelic therapy or to cultivate mindfulness-based practices that could assist in integrating psychedelic experiences.

topher-sipesJoining Arnott is visual artist & VR performance artist Topher Sipes as well as flow artist and creative marketing director Swan. We talk about the intersections between psychedelic culture, immersive technologies, and contemplative meditation practices, and the variety of different flow states that they’re able to achieve through these intersections.

Another big topic of discussion was our wounded relationship to technology, and how technology usually puts us into a hyper mental state of consciousness. So what does it mean now that we have immersive technologies that are able to cultivate deeper embodied states of consciousness that increase our awareness of our bodies? There are many ancient “technologies” of plant medicines as well as breathing practices, and so they’re starting to explore some of these intersections by using breath as a gameplay mechanic in Sound Self, But they’re also thinking deeply about how technologies can be used to connect us to others and cultivate sanghas and communities of practice.

swan-vrAndromeda Entertainment is on the bleeding edge of fusing together psychedelic culture with immersive technologies that are aimed at the transformation of consciousness, and so it’ll be interesting to see the role that they may play in finding a niche therapeutic application for using immersive experiences as a form of psychedelic primer, assessment process, or post-psychedelic journey tool for integration.

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Music: Fatality

mindspa-glasses

larry-minikesLarry Minikes is a technological pioneer in the consciousness hacking space having started in the space back in 1989 after seeing LED glasses at CES that flickered light in order to invoke different brainwave frequencies. Minikes went on to star AV Stem to create his own set of MindSpa glasses that leverages the frequency-following response of the brain combined with either binaural beats or polyphonic sounds in order to achieve different states of brainwave entrainment.

I had a chance to talk with Minikes at the Consciousness Hacking’s Awakened Futures Summit in order hear his own journey throughout the modern history of the consciousness hacking movement, how he’s seen the cultural shifts around meditative practices that used to be relegated into the fringes of the New Age movement, but have since had a lot more cultural acceptance stemming from a variety of different scientific studies proving out the efficacy and healing potential of a variety of different mindfulness practices. He also talks about some of the research around light & color from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Lighting Research Center as well as a MIT study that used light flickering at 40 hertz (gamma wavelength) that found that it could be potentially used as a noninvasive treatment improves memory and reduces amyloid plaques improve Alzheimer’s symptoms. We also talk about the variety of different brainwave frequencies, and his phenomenal experience of these different states of consciousness.

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Music: Fatality

ions-consciousness-transformation-model

cassandra-vietenDr. Cassandra Vieten is the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, who’s current tagline is “Informed by Science. Transformed by Experience.” Dr. Vieten gave an opening keynote at the Consciousness Hacking’s Awakened Futures Summit where she talked about psychedelics, immersive technologies, and meditation techniques as “scaffolding” into this altered states of consciousness. The more that we get access to these altered states through these variety of different technologies, then the more that we build our innate capacities to achieve these states of being without the assistance of these tools. She also talks about the frontiers of research around gene expression, and how our environments and experiential context is actually a key epigenetic input to how our genes express themselves. So what does it mean to use technologies to shift and alter our environment and context? What type of latent human potentials might we discover once we’re able to more tightly control our environments that are mediated through digital technologies?

I talk with Dr. Veiten about the frontier science nature of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and where they started in 1973 and how much has shifted around the conversations around meditation, yoga, forgiveness, love, and other complementary and alternative medicines since then. UCSF’s Adam Gazzaley also presented at the Awakened Futures Summit about how he’s getting a video game approved by the FDA as a form of medicine, and so we’re in a phase where “experiential medicine” is starting to be officially recognized a scientifically-validated form of therapy. IONS is at the forefront at investigating the next way of experiential medicines that are based upon the modulation of consciousness, and they’re on the bleeding edge of pushing forward alternative paradigms for making sense of the nature of consciousness. The 18th IONS conference is taking place on July 18-21 in Santa Clara, CA, and I hope to attend again and cover it as I did two years ago.

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Music: Fatality

east-forest

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East Forest has been crafting musical rituals for psilocybin journeys for the past decade, and he just released a five-hour album titled “Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack For The Psychedelic Practitioner” coincidentally just a few days after Denver decriminalized magic mushrooms. East Forest kicked off Consciousness Hacking’s Awakened Futures Summit, with an immersive concert in the round while others guided the group through a Cacao ceremony, which is a legal psychoactive substance that lasts about an hour or so. East Forest has also been collaborating with Consciousness Hacking’s founder Mikey Siegel’s Group Flow experiments that use biometric data from the audience to explore group synchrony and collective flow states, like for example using people’s heartbeats as a music instrument or eventually aggregating biometric information to dynamically respond to the audience.

East Forest also collaborated with Ram Dass where he asked him questions and then edited his wisdom teaching answers into musical poems that are being released this year in four different chapters. He’s already released the first and second chapters, and just released the third chapter on the Summer solstice with the final chapter coming out in August.

I had a chance to catch up with East Forest on the first day of the Awakened Future Summit where we talked about his past decade of musical exploration within the psychedelic underground. He’s tells the story of his journey of cultivating a musical tradition that’s specifically crafted for psilocybin journeys. We also talk about creating sonic architectures that are tailored for psychedelic journeys, and how he blends different genres in order to cultivate a tradition that’s designed to help people go in inner journeys of transformation. His uses quite a lot of looping, which allows him to perform live and dynamically respond to the energy that’s arising in the room. He also uses quite a bit of recorded sounds from nature to create polychronic rhythms and a connection to nature, which creates an immersive experience that takes you around the world bringing in sounds that are indigenous to specific regions.

He also talks about how the future of 360 audio is going to take off once there are consumer-ready mixing platforms that can take what he’s doing in 2D, and then be able to spatialize it within a room. He’s already performing in-the-round on the same level as his audience, and so this type of musical ritual designed for inner journeys would be perfect for further exploration of spatial audio delievered through ambisonic speakers. He’s got a lot of ideas, and is looking for technology collaborators to help to push the bleeding edge of what’s possible with immersive and interactive music rituals and concerts designed for contemplative and transformative experiences.

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Music: Fatality

neuromeditation-institute

jeff-tarrantDr. Jeff Tarrant founded the NeuroMeditation Institute in order to research the neuroscience principles of different meditation states. He came up with a taxonomy of four different types of NeuroMeditation that include Focus, Mindfulness, Quiet Mind, and Open Heart. Tarrant has been collaborating with VR companies like HealiumXR in order to help to create real-time biofeedback immersive experiences based upon his models of brainwave activities in a variety of different meditative states. The NeuroMeditation Institute also investigates how other technologies can help cultivate meditative states, which includes EEG, audiovisual entrainment, heartrate variability, transcranial direct current, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, photobiomodulation, vibroacoustic therapies using a Subpac, and Non-Ordinary State Psychotherapy.

I talked with Tarrant at the Consciousness Hacking Awakened Futures Summit covering the neuroscience signatures of the different states of meditation, his journey into using biofeedback as a therapeutic tool, the potential of creating customized exercises for meditators based upon real-time biofeedback, and how he’s working within VR to help provide feedback in order to create immersive environments to help cultivate specific meditative states of consciousness.

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Music: Fatality

muse-2-headband

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Muse is an immersive meditation device that provides real-time feedback on your mental activity, heart rate, breathing, and body movements. They’ve optimized the device for ease of use, and to assist in making the invisible and intangible process of meditation more transparent and tangible.

I talked with Interaxon co-founder Ariel Garten about her journey in creating the Muse headband, the changing perspectives on meditation over the past 17 years, what types of things that the Muse headband can detect, how researchers have been using Muse as a research tool, the ethical issues around biometric data, how VR experiences have been using Muse as a form of real-time biofeedback, and how they’re going to be releasing a special version of Muse later in 2019 that will work more directly with VR HMDs.

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Music: Fatality

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Consciousness Hacking produced the The Awakened Futures Summit in San Francisco on May 18th & 19th, looking at the intersection between psychedelics, technology, and meditation. Consciousness Hacking previously hosted a sold-out event on October 24th, 2018 that was titled “Psychedelics, Technology and the Future of Meditation,” and that gave them an indication that there was a lot of interest in the fusion of these topics.

So Consciousness Hacking created the Awakened Futures Summit in order to bring together the psychedelic underground with the latest biofeedback and immersive technologies, as well as with the latest neuroscience research into meditation, contemplative practices, and transformational technologies that are focused on helping people reach a variety of different states of consciousness. I spoke with the executive director of Consciousness Hacking, Joshua Fields, about how the Awakened Futures Summit came about, his own personal journey into consciousness hacking, what each of these variety of different intersections have in common, some of the deep open questions around the narrative structures to contain these practices, and where he sees this current experiential renaissance heading in the future.

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Music: Fatality

aya-awakenings2
rax-razamI recently attended Consciousness Hacking’s Awakened Futures Summit that explored the cross-section of psychedelics, technology, and meditation. I ended up conducting 10 interviews totaling over 6 hours of conversations with neuroscientists, technologists, musicians, meditation practitioners, and pioneering explorers from the psychedelic underground. I’m starting my coverage from the Awakened Futures Summit with experiential journalist Rak Razam who has been covering the psychedelic renaissance & shamanic revival in a series of books and movies since 2006. We talk about the intersection between psychedelics, technology, and contemplative practices, as well as his practice of “experiential journalism” that he coined in 2006.

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Music: Fatality