Posts

psykedelisk symposium psychedelic symposium copenhagen

psykedelisk symposium psychedelic symposium copenhagen

On a recent mild weekend in Denmark I went to a psychedelic conference in the country’s coastal capital. Held in a sleek and modern building on the city’s metropolitan university campus, it turned out to be a hugely impressive event. Something that struck me early on was how well organised everything was – I guess a part of me was expecting stoned hippies in tie-dye shirts to be running the thing. Though I’m sure that would’ve been fun in its own way, that was absolutely not the case. It was an excellently organised and professional event put on by the psychedelic society of Denmark: clearly a smart and competent group of individuals that understand the value of these stigmatized substances.

psychedelics conference denmark merchandise stand

The atmosphere around the building and in the main hall was of an almost tangible positivity and you could tell everyone was excited to be there. It was awesome to connect with others who share an interest in psychedelics and being around so many like-minded people made me feel that I’m part of something much bigger. A pretty good feeling.

lsd magic mushrooms mescaline dmt flyers

There were workshops on tripsitting and integration on the Friday and the main conference was held over the weekend with two full days of presentations on subjects ranging from neuroscience to psychotherapy to social ecology.

Serious Work Is Being Done

There was a moment I enjoyed on the second morning when an older lady asked me if I was a scientist. I smiled and said “well, I do conduct experiments.” It turns out I’m not the only one. There are like, actual scientists doing (slightly more rigorous) experiments and clinical trials with these substances and writing papers and PHDs on them. And there are a lot of them.

psychedelic plants presentation

Pharmacologist Jordi Riba

Nearly all of the presentations were done by scientists and researchers from  a diverse range of fields and while the research into how psychedelics can be used to treat mental illness is currently getting the most attention, there is plenty more going on. I enjoyed one talk about how the type of hallucinogen present in a culture might influence its prevailing religious beliefs – especially thought-provoking when we consider today’s most popular drugs. There was another interesting one in which pharmacologist Jordi Riba presented his findings that suggest the alkaloids of the plant source of ayahuasca stimulate adult neurogenesis. I should mention that he did also note that aerobic exercise also does this, so if you fancy growing your brain and aren’t quite up for a massive psychedelic trip in the jungle, you can just go for a run. Slightly less intimidating.

Science Is Leading The Movement

Today science is a door to credibility. Open any statement with ‘well, studies have shown that…’ and you’re guaranteed to have your point considered more seriously. As psychedelics gain more attention its clear that many leaders within the movement know this. They don’t want to see mistakes made in the 60’s made again and are very conscious of public perception. Hence the amount of scientists and academics giving presentations. In a panel debate at the end of the first day, neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris used the word ‘hippies’ more than once and its clear that he doesn’t want to be labelled one. He wants the respect that comes with science and he’s not alone in wanting that respect to be extended to psychedelics.

Robin Carhart-Harris psychedelic brain presentation

Robin Carhart-Harris

I do think there should be room for non-science based discussion too though. On looking through the program ahead of the first day I saw a presentation with an intriguing title – ‘Psychedelic Pleasures: An effective understanding of the joys of tripping’. I read it to my friend and he smiled. “That’s more like it. All this science can miss the point.” The talk turned out to be steeped in science and methodology and disappointingly, not very fun at all.

Whilst all the scientific research is important to the wider perception of psychedelics, I think it’s important to remember that technical understanding has its limits. Sure, science has granted us incredible advancements in medicine and technology, but alone it doesn’t have all the answers. Technology has isolated people, globalisation has fragmented communities, and if we look at where all this technical, rational understanding has landed us today we see a world with increasing rates of mental illness in the midst of an ecological crisis. I think we can go a little too heavy on the science at times and there should be room for other types of understanding too.

Small Event In A Big Year

2017 has been a big year for the psychedelic movement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designating MDMA as a breakthrough therapy for PTSD in August, and much larger conferences like Psychedelic Science, Breaking Convention, and The International Transpersonal Conference taking place in California, London and Prague. Whilst the gathering in Copenhagen was a modest affair compared to those events, it still gave me a sense of how big the movement is and how fast its growing.

psychedelic presentation meditation

I appreciated the relatively small size as it meant that I had the opportunity to talk with some of those presenting. It was interesting to hear neuroscientist Mendel Kaelen (who you may be familiar with from this VICE article) talk about how he considers ‘hope’ to be a crucial aspect of music in a session, and speaking to Jordi Riba, I found out why I can drink cup after cup of ayahuasca without any real effect (turns out I’m not a beast of resistance, it’s more likely that my body just metabolizes certain enzymes very quickly). Whilst it’s possible to find out almost anything online, nothing replaces those in person connections.

Overall the conference was equal parts enjoyable and eye-opening and the cornerstone of an inspiring week in Copenhagen. I think I might make this an annual trip. See you at the next one.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you enjoyed this you might also wanna check out:
7 Remarkable Things I Learned At Psychedelic Science 2017 – by Aaron at Freedom & Fulfilment

psilocybin shrooms

Hey, I’m back. September has been jam-packed. What have I been doing? Well for one I spent a week in Copenhagen. Here’s what I got up to in Denmark’s capital.

copenhagen

Freetown Christiania

On my first day I visited Copenhagen’s counterculture haven: Freetown Christiania – a self-proclaimed autonomous anarchist district in the borough of Christianshavn. An abandoned military base that was taken over by squatting hippies in the 70’s, around 1000 people live in the area making up a community that has its own rules and where decisions are made through meetings.

christiania

It was my second time to visit and on arriving at ‘pusher street’ I was taken back to my first visit, 5 years ago, by the pungent smell of hash that fills the air there. Yes, weed and hash are openly sold and smoked there. It reminded me of Uruguay with people freely toking in public. Pretty cool.

smoke christiania

See no evil, hear no evil…

I love the ideas and values that Christiania represents so it was great to be in that environment. I walked by the canal, got some green from a friendly seller, smoked a little too much weed and then walked around Neuhavn slightly paranoid before returning to Christiania to meet a friend for a veggie dinner. The food was great, paranoia less so. Ha. All good in the end.

neuhavn copenhagen

Neuhavn

On the Friday I attended a tripsitting workshop (yes, that’s a thing now), spent Saturday and Sunday at the Psychedelic Symposium, and on Monday I went to see Daniel Pinchbeck talk about Social Ecology at a gallery in Christiania. These were all awesome and warrant their own posts – more to come.

Kierkegaard & Existentialism

Kierkegaard

On Tuesday I visited the graveyard of Søren Kierkegaard. Born in Copenhagen, Kierkegaard was the founder of the philosophical school of existentialism and I took the opportunity to explore some of his ideas whilst there. I’m really glad I did, taking time for philosophy is always rewarding. Very briefly, here are some ideas from him I enjoyed that I thought would be fun to share.

“Truth Is Subjectivity”
Kierkegaard didn’t believe in the utmost importance of objective absolute Truth, but rather of personal truth – how one relates oneself to Truth – and what you experience subjectively: feelings and emotions. 4+4=8 may be an objective truth, but is it as important to your existence and experience of life as how you feel today? Maybe you’re nervous for a first date, or pissed because someone cut in front of you in line. These feelings are crucial to how we experience life, and are what make up our existence – they are ‘existential’. They are our lived truth.

soren Kierkegaard grave

Kierkegaard’s grave

“The Crowd Is Untruth”
At odds with the prevailing intellectual norms of his time, Kierkegaard was a loner and what we would now call a non-conformist. As a social critic he challenged many widely held beliefs of his time and told us that just because an idea is broadly accepted does not give it a sense of credibility – it actually points to the probability that it is an untruth. The individual should never defer one’s personal responsibility to the crowd – he must think for himself.

crowd untruth kierkegaard

The Individual
Naturally then, Søren emphasised the importance of the individual. He proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or “authentically”. He highlighted the importance of personal choice and commitment. Here are a couple of quotes I enjoy that this brought to mind:

“A sensitive and honest-minded man, if he’s concerned about evil and injustice in the world, will naturally begin his campaign against them by eliminating them at their nearest source: his own person. This task will take his entire life.” – Fernando Pessoa
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self” – Aldous Huxley

Yes, I love quotes. Here’s one more from Kierkegaard himself which I think is totally relevant today:

“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.”

Yep. Think about that for a minute.

9/20: Psilocybin & Hash

My last day in Copenhagen was Wednesday 20th September, or 9/20 – Psilocybin mushroom day. Not as celebrated as 4/20 or bicycle day yet but of course, I was down.

shrooms psilocybin

I tried ‘Lemon Tek’ – mixing dried ground shrooms with fresh lemon juice and letting them soak for 30 minutes before knocking it back. Lemon Tek is supposed to intensify the trip but the shrooms I had were quite weak so I can’t really comment on that. I will say that it was a nice way to consume them though.

3g and a hash joint sent me into a spacious, thoughtful, and analytical headspace as I lay in bed listening to ragas by Ravi Shankar. My stream of thoughts was moving quickly and I used the time to think some things through that have been on my mind recently – related to my personal life and my life’s direction – with a nice level of insight and novelty. I didn’t plan on this type of session going into the trip but it naturally went there so I went with it. This main part of the trip was very mentally stimulating and felt productive, though there has since been a level of amnesia that I suspect came from the hash.

hash

Tasty chunk of hash

There were too, of course, ventures into some broader themes. ‘One must be capable of standing alone’ is a note I have scrawled in my pad from the session – Kierkegaard’s emphasis on the individual and how it relates to independence clearly came through. I love when an idea really hits home like this, it’s so satisfying.

As the thought-spurring effects of the hash faded off, I tuned in more to the music. Some of Ravi’s sitar lines just seemed to embody the essence of ‘play’. I could almost see the music as a child dancing. Very fun.

Three takeaways from the trip:

  1. When taken with a low dose, hash is good fuel for a thinking, analytical trip. Probably good for a problem solving session or making a plan of action.
  2. Noise cancelling headphones are the shit.
  3. Ravi Shankar’s The Spirit Of India is awesome.

shankar spirit india

Celebrating Mushroom Day – A 9:20 Event

After coming down I had a cup of tea with a couple of friends and we cycled to a massive old shipyard-warehouse for an event celebrating International Mushroom day. Outside of the city to the East, we pulled up to the container leaking flashing lights and pumping music. Upon entering I was greeted by a friendly Norwegian guy who straight up told me he had some mushrooms I could eat for free. Ha. I told him thanks and that maybe I’d find him later.

The warehouse was a huge indoor skatepark that had been separated into different areas. In the main area was a DJ and dancefloor, psychedelic visuals projected onto a wall, and an organic smoothie and tea bar. The event was alcohol-free and I guess this might have played a part in the nicely balanced ratio of guys and girls. The atmosphere was chilled and friendly though I can’t say much for the Danish climate at that time of night – a little too chilled.

psilocybin shrooms

The event was in celebration of these treasures

There was a foam pool (the kind that skaters can practice tricks into) that people were swinging from a rope into, another area showing documentaries on psychedelics with mattresses for people to lie down on, and an outside area with a fire for people to sit around and chat whilst passing doobs. Having not yet truly partaken in mushroom day, my friends got into the spirit of the event and we ended up staying for a while and settling by the fire before finally heading home in the early hours. Overall it was a fun event and I hope to go to more like it in the future.

The cycle home was littered with stops to ‘appreciate the beauty’ and by the time we’d arrived home and said our goodbyes I had just enough time to pack my bag and have a coffee before heading to the airport for my morning flight home.

What a week. Copenhagen, thank you!