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Renowned Doctor Gabor Mate on Psychedelics and Unlocking the Unconscious, From Cancer to Addiction

Drug addiction expert speaks on the mind-body connection and the medical and emotional potentials of psychedelics.

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I won’t read you the other experiences, but they’re all the same sort of people experiencing love, gratitude, connection to themselves, experiencing the childhood trauma.

My daughter did an ayahuasca retreat. She said that she revisited all the sad places in her childhood, and because I was a workaholic, and was very stressed, and a very undeveloped adult when I was a father to my young kids, she’s has plenty of sorrow in her life. And she said that she revisited those sad places but did so with the loving consciousness and empathy and the compassion of an adult, and if you look at the brain scans on ayahuasca ... what you see is activation of the temporal lobe, where childhood memories are stored; of the limbic system where our emotions are modulated and they live, and the front part of the brain where insight is made available to us.

We can connect the childhood experience, no matter how traumatic—and it sometimes comes up for people. Some really deeply disturbing, traumatic experiences come up for people during the ayahuasca experience. And those experiences may take the form of direct memory, direct recall of an image, or what happened to them, such as a body invasion, or other kinds of trauma, or it may take the form of really scary images and creatures, but it’s like a dream. In the dream, when somebody’s chasing us, we’re not afraid because somebody’s chasing up—somebody’s chasing us because we’re afraid. In other words, during sleep, the centers in the brain where childhood memories are stored get activated, and then the brain makes up a story to explain the emotion. And I believe that much of the same is true of the scary visions that people have during the ayahuasca experience.

The beautiful images, of course, represent more the core self. We get to see both the experiences in response to which we develop these coping mechanisms that give us addiction or cancer or other form of illness. We get to experience that core self and the beauty of the world, as it actually is, when we don’t see it through a screen of suffering and misinterpretation induced by our early experience. So, we get to see both what we’ve been running from and trying to cope with, and trying to manipulate, but we also get to see that true connection that true love, that true beauty, that true vision, that pure insight, that pure strength, that pure compassion. And when we do that, we realize we don't have to cope anymore. We don't have to run anymore. We can just be right where we are.

Now, that’s not to say that because you have that experience it’s going to stay like that.  That takes work that takes practice. If you don't put in some practice afterwards, if you don't get follow up, if you don't put it into the context of your life, this experience just becomes a beautiful memory. But the impact of it will fade. So it’s transformative, but it’s only transformative if you allow it to be transformative. And it you work with it so that it becomes transformative. But if you do, it can be very, very powerful, it can be life-changing for many, many people.

I have to say something here about context here. I don’t lead ayahuasca ceremonies, I’m not on ayahuasca, I don’t chant, I just participate in the ceremonies. Leading the ceremonies are people who wouldn't call themselves shamans, but I would call them that because their work is that effective. They chant, and they work with people energetically. And they pick up on peoples’ energies in the dark. I don’t do that.  I pick up people’s energies in the light. I hear it in the tone of their voice, facial expression, choice of words. They sit there in the silence while they chant and they are reading the energies of the people as they emanate from each individual in that circle, where they might be 30 of us in the Malacca. And then they chant to people specifically to unblock particular energies, or particular energy blockages.