Quitting coffee (with mushrooms)

Quitting coffee (with mushrooms)

I wrote this post in August 2020, but for some reason never posted it. I guess in fear I’d relapse. After a year without coffee, it’s safe to say our relationship is over.

A while back I released a video discussing why I stopped drinking coffee, however, I think it missed a few of the crucial components for why this was so important to me.

I would have considered coffee to be a part of my identity. I was particular about the stores in which I drank it, the quality of the coffee and the ritual. Part of my ego identified with it, I would make judgements of people based on where they purchased coffee from and how they drank it.
But I wouldn’t say the connection I had with it was all bad. I made so many amazing friends all over the world by bonding over this little brown bean.

A few times in the last five years or so I have stopped drinking coffee, usually while I was sick or getting run down. I just completely stopped craving it. I started to wonder why it was that when I was run down my body actively resisted the craving for coffee? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. In the months leading up to quitting I had felt completely flat. We were deep in lockdown and I’d been doing a lot of internal work through this time, and unfortunately coffee seemed to be the next habit to examine. A quick search on google gave a plethora of examples of people who had quit coffee and found tremendous benefit from ditching it.

Effects of coffee

Coffee activates your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘flight or fight response’ this leads to:

  •   Anxiety (we know this, there are memes about it)
  • Reduces blood flow to organs
  • Reduces blood flow to the brain
  • Increases blood flow to heart and brain = alertness
  • Lowers testosterone production (which is already a massive problem)
  • Creates adrenal fatigue which Inhibits recovery 
  • Digestion, effects on the stomach
  • Increases your blood pressure
  • Inhibits quality sleep
  • More here

    Some of these may not seem so bad, until you times that by that coffee or two you have every day for months or years on end. That’s a huge accumulation of stress on the body.

As I side note, I was recently informed of the vast amount of pesticides used in the production of coffee, many of which are banned in several countries and have strong health warnings from the WHO, so if you don’t plan to quit, maybe at least look into drinking organic.

“Once vice becomes a code of conduct, there ceases to be any possibility of cure”

– Seneca

Why I stopped:
  • I had had a sore throat and a recent illness.
  • My levels of anxiety had heightened and I was finding it increasingly difficult to feel grounded.
  • Meditation was becoming difficult.

After my morning coffee:

  • My ears would block during conversation and I would have trouble focusing on conversations I was having. 
  • Things I needed to do which required sitting and being focused I would put off as I couldn’t focus. Ironic considering, like many of us, I was drinking coffee to give myself the energy to do said tasks.
How I quit:

I have quit coffee before but always came back after a few weeks. In an attempt to find the source of why I felt the need to drink coffee and the effect it had in my life, I decided to do a small quantity of mushrooms and get my pad and pen out and journal it out.

I just want to stop here for a second, as I think it’s important to note that this isn’t a regular occurrence, and I left this out of my initial revision of the post. I was concerned with the way it would be received, but at the same time conflicted, knowing that I hadn’t been completely honest. I think the same results could have been achieved without them but I also don’t think that many people are aware of the benefits that can come from the use of mushrooms in the correct environment with the right intentions, and supervision. If you are interested to know more I suggest reading How to Change Your Mind.

Okay, back to it,

During the mushroom session, I began journalling and a few things became apparent. I’d been drinking coffee pretty consistently for the last 10 years and what I found was that I first started drinking it while working as a builder with my Dad after I left high school. It was a great way to take a break and get away from the building site, especially to avoid doing a job I didn’t want to do or get out of the cold. It was also something I associated with my Dad, we would go to cafes and bond over a mocha bowl (I know…). Then later, I went to university, it became a way to get away from the computer screen, socialise with my friends, or plan group projects ( read “procrastinate”). I noticed this as a reoccurring theme, even 10 years on I was using coffee as a way to avoid doing things I didn’t want to do and each cup took me back to spending time with my family and friends. Once I made these connections the answer seemed obvious, coffee was doing me no favours.

Effects of giving up coffee:

Oddly enough I haven’t missed coffee at all since I quit, however, the withdrawal symptoms were pretty savage.

The first few days I had mild headaches which I could handle, but for the first 10 days, I had progressively worsening muscle aches and pains in my legs and hips. The muscle and bone aches got so severe after the first week that I spent much of my day in pain and would wake up in the middle of the night in agony. On investigation this seems pretty common, something to do with caffeine no longer dilating blood vessels, I would assume as your body has to learn to take control again without the assistance of caffeine. I also experienced a lot of fatigue, tight muscles (to the point where my hips hurt as I bent to tie my shoelaces), minor headaches, and trouble focusing. I had an increased appetite (probably due to trying to fill the craving with something else), and generally quite poor sleep.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

– Benjamin Franklin”

How I feel almost a year on:
  • I feel far more grounded
  • More focused
  • Decision making improved (somewhat)
  • I’ve become less reactive or affected by issues that may come up throughout the day.
  • Sleep is slightly better
  • I don’t wake up groggy and needing a coffee to function (which can make me a little abnoxious to coffee drinkers in the morning)
  • Appetite is more consistent.
  • Interestingly my facial hair is growing faster. (A recent blood test showed I had a healthy testosterone level)
  • My memory is improving! something I’ve struggled with for years
  • I don’t have to factor in a coffee stop on the way somewhere
  • One thing I do miss is the manic motivation. I’m not sure I can directly link it to coffee, but I haven’t been as active as I was a year ago. Ofcourse that could also be linked to moving countries or a number of other things going on in the world, but it has caught my attention.

If you don’t want to give up coffee, maybe try:

  • Ideally eating, but definitely having a big glass of water before your morning coffee. This is to help combat the acidity of caffeine of your stomach. Water also helps flush all the toxins for your body that your organs have been clearing over night.
  • Ordering a single shot instead of a double.
  • Ritualising your coffee consumption, taking time to savor the taste and smell, how it makes you feel. After all, coffee was regarded as a sacred plant in its origins before western society commercialised it, much like chocolate.
Will I drink coffee again?

I’ve tried a few times, just to see how I would feel, and every time I had to let it go to waste. I could feel discomfort in my body even after the first sip. I even tried decaf, but no luck. Now after all this time, I think it’s safe to say, my days as a coffee lover are over. I do miss it a little, especially when I’m at a nice cafe, but hey, my mental and physical health has improved. Honestly, I think the hardest part is not sounding like a douche bag when you tell people you don’t drink coffee. The ego loves it.

Next vice to let go of, swearing. This will be a real challenge.

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Review: Own the Day, Own your Life by A. Marcus

Review: Own the Day, Own your Life by A. Marcus

I’ve been following Aubrey Marcus’ journey for a long time now and in some ways its been a love hate relationship. For those who don’t know, he is the founder of the neutropenic/supplement company Onnit. One of the only supplement companies to do peer-reviewed testing and come out with favourable results (Sorry, Isagenix/Arbonne). He is also a big advocate for the likes of plant medicines, cold showers, meditation, and kettlebells, etc.

“I can’t lose! I can only win in ways I didn’t expect; through the teachings of failure” – Aubrey Marcus

Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex, is a guide to exactly that. If you don’t have the time to do the research yourself and want to live a healthier life, in pretty much every way, Aubrey’s book is for you. Everything is backed up with science from leading experts and nothing goes into too much detail that it becomes overwhelming.  The principle is brilliant/simple. Just focus on one day at a time following these guidelines. As the byline suggests he covers everything. 

“To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.” – Aubrey Marcus

“You know what’s over that mountain? More fucking mountains.” – Aubrey Marcus

Aubrey is one of the few who is living the transformation and being truly authentic about it, whether it gains him a following or not. I should know, I’ve unfollowed/re-followed him a bunch of times. Sometimes I felt his approach was a little too much and wonder if he is putting unnecessary struggle in his life, but you cannot fault his openness, vulnerability, ability to call himself on his bullshit, or his commitment to taking you on his journey.

If you’re not sure the book is for you I highly recommend his podcast. Flick me a message and I’ll recommend some for you.

“The sun does not measure its light by the shadow it casts” – Aubrey Marcus

“small things, when compounded over time, tend to have big consequences” –  Aubrey Marcus

Ayahuasca – A reflection, one year later

Ayahuasca – A reflection, one year later

I’d been fascinated by plant medicines for at least five years. A fascination which began after listening to a podcast with Graham Hancock in which he discussed the role he believed they played in ancient civilizations. It wasn’t until November 2018 however, that I felt the time was right to experience them personally. I wasn’t (and still am not really) an avid user of narcotics in any form. In fact, my first experience with psychedelics was only one year earlier, with LSD. An experience that also coincided with my first experience practicing yoga.

It’s been well over a year now since I had my experience with Ayahausca and had I written this post back then I think it would have been very different. After completing my two sessions with the plant medicine I was convinced my asthma was gone, and that I had life more-or-less figured out, or at least a distinct plan. I felt unstoppable had a drive and presence like never before. After the session I was convinced I would fall into the perfect job, I had found the love of my life and that this feeling of self-love would last forever. I felt completely connected to everything and everyone.

Set & Setting:

There are a few critical factors to a safe experience with plant medicines such as Ayahuasca. Most important of which are set and setting. Since I’d moved to London six months or so prior to my experience with Ayahuasca, I’d heard that guided sessions were available in Amsterdam (no longer the case). However, it wasn’t until two strangers within 12 hours of each other mentioned Ayahuasca in Amsterdam, one of which that gave me a recommendation, that I decided it was time to give it a try. They say that when it’s your time to try plant medicine it will call you, and the call will be undeniable. There were definitely cheaper options to my referral, but I knew set and setting was important and I trusted the word of this person over a google review. I knew I’d made the right choice when I looked up the next available session and it coincided with a trip in a few week’s time that I had already booked to Amsterdam.

The experience:

As with most of these things, I don’t think the details of my own personal journey are important as they will just lead to expectation, and if I learned anything, it’s that there is no real way of knowing what the medicine will have in store for you, and experiences are vastly different. That being said, I will give a brief outline.

In the preceding weeks, we were given a detox diet to follow which became more strict the closer we came to our session. On the night of the session, we started off a few hours of bonding with fellow participants, the Sharman, and her assistants. This aided in feeling more comfortable with those around you as you shared the experience. Once they had cleared our energy and the energy of the space and stated our intention for the experience we were then given our dose and made our way to our mattress where we lay for the duration of our trip.

As we lay there the Sharman chose music, both contemporary and more tribal, sung, danced, played instruments and watched over us with her assistants. Given aid to those who were being challenged in some way. I would highly recommend taking a notepad and pen with you as there were a number of times in my first session where I found it necessary to jot down ideas and thoughts, even if they didn’t always make sense at a later date.

Like most who speak on their experiences with Ayahuasca, I felt a deep connection with nature, that of which is difficult to describe and for those who have not experienced it, almost impossible to comprehend. There were a series of ideas that came to me, concepts I was familiar with and thought I believed, but somehow it that moment they seemed cemented and profound, such as the idea that love is all that matters and I was perfect and worthy just the way I was. It showed me the importance of coincidence and that literally everything happens for a reason and as a guide for the path ahead.

There were experiences of shadow and light. For example, finally grieving the loss of my Nana (the shadow) followed by the knowing that she was there with me smiling down (the light). Another was the experiencing the heartache of the loss of my unborn twin brother followed by the deep understanding that an individual I’d recently met and felt a strong connection to, was in fact a reincarnation of him.

After years of asthma, like many asthmatics, I was shallow breathing. Ayahuasca “spoke” to me and taught me to breathe properly, but not in the sense of hearing the words, or visualizations. It was more a knowing, instinctively understanding but realizing that the information came from a source outside of myself. It gently encouraged me to focus on my breathing and breathe more fully. By the end of the session I felt a lightness in my chest and breathing that I had never felt before.

During my final session, there was one more lesson, it highlighted who my soulmate was. It showed me our lives together and how deeply we were connected through more of those instinctive understandings, like how a tattoo I had seemingly got at random many years earlier was in fact a representation of her. As you can imagine I left and thought that was it, it was all sorted, but a few months later I found that feeling wasn’t reciprocated creating a great deal of heartache. Now looking back I can see it was a valuable lesson in external validation, it taught me to be present, and that there was still work to be done in learning to love myself.

A reflection:

Looking back I find it was a valuable experience but not the be-all and end-all. Ayahuasca gives you a taste of what life could be like if you learn to love yourself and others unconditionally, release all fear and be guided by love. The taster that Ayahuasca gives you eventually wears off and there you are left with the real work of making a conscious effort to put the lessons into practice. Having said that, it gives me the space I needed to let go of losses and experiences that I had burying deep down, and for the first time in a long time, cry and let myself be able to feel these emotions fully. Previously these feelings just built up and turned into frustration, and anger, and eventually sickness. It was very common for me to get sick seemly at random. Now that I’m able to sit with those emotions fully and let them go through crying, breath or meditation I get sick far less often, and recover faster.

Advice: My advice to anyone interested in plant medicine is, like most things, do your research. Find likeminded people, watch podcasts, read books, and don’t rush. I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind (my review is here).

To have these profound experiences you must feel comfortable and safe. If at any point something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. There will be another chance. These medicines are no joke and some people have found themselves in horrible situations having placed their minds and bodies in the trust of the wrong people.

Next time? I think I will try plant medicines again soon, but there is no rush. I’m now of the mindset that if it doesn’t come easily, or with obvious signs that I must do it, then I will just wait until the time is right. Right now I’m content in better understanding the science, reading anecdotes and focusing on personal growth through journaling, reading, and meditation. After all, most of these individuals working with plant medicines eventually discover that meditation is the only sustainable way to become love.

“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.” — Aldous Huxley

Review: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Review: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

 


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In How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan deep dives into the world of psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapies. He covers everything from their rise and fall in the pharmaceutical industry, the undercover CIA LSD experimentations within MK-Ultra, the hard science, their use in silicon valley, and his own personal experiences amongst other topics.

“there are three things human beings are afraid of: death, other people, and their own minds.” ― Michael Pollan

Without glamorizing or overselling the use of psychedelics, Pollan gives an in-depth and deeply researched breakdown of their potential benefits, implications, and unknowns.

It would seem that we are just beginning to understand their ability to change our minds, giving us a more objective way of looking at the way our own mind works, releasing us from habitual ways of thinking, and assisting in dissolving our ego.

Psychedelics are “literally a reboot of the system—a biological control-alt-delete.” ― Michael Pollan

Michael does his best to give the reader all the information available at current time. He interviews everyone from top researchers at Jon Hopkins, to Doctors, phycologists, Sharmans, and underground practitioners.

Much like my previous read, Lost Connections, Michael has a journalistic approach and does his best not to disillusion the reader while providing his own accounts under the influence of these medicines.

What I found most fascinating was the effect psychedelics have on the Default Mode Network (DMN). The area of the brain responsible for past/future thinking, “the ego”, imagine what it is like to be someone else, and cognition. Under the influence of psychedelics, this area quietens, much like it does during meditation, allowing the user to see things with fresh eyes, or without the influence of past traumas.

“psychedelic therapy creates an interval of maximum plasticity in which, with proper guidance, new patterns of thought and behavior can be learned.” ― Michael Pollan

Teacher: Ram Dass

Teacher: Ram Dass

Ram Dass is famous for his quote “if you think you are enlightened, try spending a week with your family”, and his beautifully illustrated book Be Here Now. It’s also alleged that he gave the Dali Lama LSD.

In his early years, Ram Dass was a highly regarded Harvard psychologist and pioneer of psychedelics. His mind-altering psychedelic research eventually lead him to India, and on a work trip, he met his guru, the Maharajii who later gave him the name Ram Dass (previously Dr. Richard Alpert). Ram Dass means “Servant of God”, and was given to him as a means of constant reminder to his life purpose.

When I initially considered writing this post my knowledge of him was rather limited. I had seen plenty of quotes from him that resounded with me, had watched his special on Netflix, and was reading his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, a book called Paths to God. Ram Dass is a student of Ashtanga and in Paths to God, he breaks down the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga with anecdotes, the words of his teachers and his understandings. I have found the book extremely fascinating and the way Ram Dass writes it is very relatable and at times quite funny.

He can break down quite complicated concepts and address them from several angles to the point where they become easily absorbed. In 1997 Ram Dass suffered a massive stroke which left him almost completely paralysed. Interestingly when he speaks about it, he almost appears grateful having had the opportunity to go more deeply into his practice as it illuminated aspects of his ego that were not yet dissolved.

Ram Dass now lives in Maui where he still teaches. He has given all of his book royalties and profits from teaching to his foundation and other charitable causes. It is estimated that annually he gives away between $100,000 to USD 800,000.

“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

Psychedelic assisted Therapy with Rick Doblin

Psychedelic assisted Therapy with Rick Doblin


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Rick Doblin is a pioneer in psychedelic therapy. This talk includes promising statistics on MDMA and psilocybin use in therapy along with anecdotal evidence. These include life changing results within just 3 assisted sessions. He highlights that at current state around 20 ex military veterans are committing suicide each day. To watch the Ted Talk click the link