Entheo-Expert Returns to Town
I really can’t recall how many time shivers ran up and down my spine as I talked with Martin W. Ball last weekend about his upcoming talk at Unity of Santa Barbara this Saturday, March 2, when Ball – one of the world’s leading experts and proponents of entheogenic/psychedelic medicines and an authority on the relationship between entheogenic (which means “generating the divine within”) experience, nondual awakening, and personal transformation – will serve as the first speaker in a planned series from Santa Barbara’s new EntheoMedicine Salon.
I was dumbstruck by his clarity, lack of pretension, grounded explanations peppered with passion, and his patience when I shared my own stories during my 90-minute phone call with the self-described “Nondual guy in the psychedelic world,” who in the name of scientific research recently underwent a brain scan while dosing with the powerful psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT, which is found in a wide variety of plant species as well as a toad.
Ball, a Santa Barbara native who later earned his Ph.D. at UCSB and now teaches religious studies at Southern Oregon University, will discuss how and why psychedelic compounds are both effective medicines and spiritual healing tools, the latter a special focus of his recent books and our phone call. An extensive Q&A session follows the talk. Tickets are $30 and available at www.entheomedicine.eventbrite.com. (Find more info on Ball at www.martinball.net, or on Santa Barbara’s EntheoMedicine at www.entheomedicine.com.)
Below are painfully truncated excerpts from our conversation.
Q. Let’s assume a sizable percentage of my readers, like myself, have little to no experience with psychedelics. What is the most important thing for them to know?
A. Human culture have been using psychedelics for healing, growth, ceremony, and spirituality since the dawn of human history. People just don’t realize that. They think it was invented in the ’60s. Which can’t be further from the truth. And because of that history, we can be assured that for the most part they are very safe. Now, it’s finally coming out in clinical trials and medical studies, although most of these drugs are still classified as Schedule 1, meaning a high propensity for abuse, addiction with no medical benefits. That is a lie! None of that is true. They’re safe, with multiple medical applications, not to mention the spiritual ones. Cultures around the world have known this for thousands of years. We’re the odd ones out with our modern war on drugs. We’re the ones who are backwards and primitive in disrespecting these medicines that come from the Earth.
But Western culture is going thru a psychedelic renaissance. Research was suppressed. But the barrier has now been broken. Medical experts and universities are looking at how these medicines can be used to help people in many ways.
How is taking psychedelics, especially 5-MeO-DMT, a spiritual experience?
It’s powerful energy and when you consume it, it completely and totally overrides your sense of self – the ego. From the ego perspective, it thinks “I’m dying. It’s happening.” And that’s scary. But if you can relax into that and trust it, you get beyond the ego. There’s an experience of complete unity with all reality. I’m not religious, but this is where I use the word God. It’s about a being of infinite energy, awareness, and consciousness that is all reality – that for me is God. Everything that exists within reality is this one universal being that basically is acting, pretending to be someone named Martin or Jane. The ego convinces us that we are that person. But it’s a mask, a costume that we’re wearing. When you get beyond that, it becomes immediately obvious.
My interest is how to work with that as a tool, because it’s the ego – the narrative we create about ourselves – that causes 99 percent of our suffering, which dissipates when we realize that literally we are all one. It’s not a new age statement. It’s reality.
Isn’t there a danger in confronting the sense of the ego as the false sense of self? Trauma if you don’t surrender?
My most recent book is about learning how the ego exists and reacts and how to move beyond that, and more importantly, how to integrate the experience. Because the real question is, how are you living moment to moment, day to day? Do you focus on what’s present, or are you lost in thought and the conflations of your ego?
But don’t ever let anyone talk you into taking a psychedelic. If you want it for yourself, if you feel ready, that’s the time to do it. Not because you’re curious, or your friends are doing it, or even to support your lover or partner. Because this is about actualizing your own authenticity and taking responsibility for yourself. It’s a very self-centered practice, not in the egoic way, but in that you are in charge and there will be consequences. Your world view is going to be challenged. Your sense of self is going to be challenged. If you don’t want that, don’t do it. But if you do, find a good practitioner who can help guide you through, which makes a huge difference. And don’t let fear stop you. That’s the primary tool of the ego: to keep things under control.
If it’s such a great experience, why wouldn’t you want to just be on it all the time, and live in that space of nonduality?
Because there’s no sex or chocolate or Game of Thrones. It’s just infinite unity. Which is beautiful and wonderful, and gives you a baseline for understanding your experience of reality. But the joy of reality is the game! The goal of the game isn’t to get out of it and be absorbed in the infinite forever. It’s about being aware that you are the infinite enmeshed in this incredible game where everything you interact with is yourself. And it’s a lot of fun, and it’s scary, and painful, and immensely pleasurable – a whole spectrum of stuff. So, it helps you to know who you are, so you can then move in the game with clarity and grace.
What about issues such as “bad trips” and flashbacks?
The biggest drawback is that it’s illegal. So there are no regulatory systems to ensure that you get treated by someone who knows what they’re doing. These are very powerful tools, and we should be able to do them above-board. Because in the hands of someone inexperienced, you can freak out and have trauma. It’s not common, but it is real.
Speaking of which, how are you able to be so open about these psychedelics given that they are still illegal?
I am a cultural renegade. I’m convinced of their value and benefit, as they’ve only improved and enhanced my life. So, I’m not afraid of the consequences. For a while, I had a sense that they’d come get me some day. But I’m well beyond that now. Truth is more important than my own personal well-being. That’s why I’m very open. I made this my job because I wanted to communicate it. Like with gay culture just a few years ago, there’s a “coming out” of the psychedelic closet. It’s a human rights issue. People are afraid to be open about it, but it’s changing.
The nearly half-century old Human Awareness Institute has a new executive team in place and has revamped its website, its description (now “An Institute of Workshops + Community + Trainings”), and the organization and titles of its nine-level training weekends. The entry-level offering is now called “Connecting in Love”, the first of three course in the “Loving” series that also includes “Loving Yourself” and “Loving Your Choices”. But no matter the semantics, HAI is still all about love, intimacy, and sexuality, as well as relationships, communication and being authentic.
Get a clearer picture at a free “Mini” workshop 6 to 9 pm this Saturday in Santa Barbara that carries the theme “Deepening Intimacy – Introduction to the Tools”. Participants will have the chance to start the journey of developing a greater depth of intimacy and love as a HAI presenter leads a series of exercises designed to expand your heart and connect to yourself and others in a new way. There’s no cost or obligations, though attendees are invited to register at a discount for a first full HAI weekend workshop, which in Southern California are held in Joshua Tree. The mini is held at Santa Barbara Body Therapy, 516 N. Quarantina Street. To register or for more info, call Niki Schmid at (408) 805-5440 or email Niki.Schmid@hai.org. HAI’s website is at www.hai.org.
Satsang to Shed Light
The final of three Satsangs with Krishna Gauci, who assists people worldwide in their quest to know themselves and live in the truth of their own experience, takes place Sunday, March 4, in a private home in Samarkand. The meeting consists of silent sitting and a short talk followed by interactive dialogue with Krishna that clears doubts and sheds light on the most important matter of all, which is the active realizing of our original nature. Krishna – who was impacted by the direct and simple message expressed in the nondual Advaita teachings of his spiritual teachers, the European Advaita master Jean Klein, Krishnamurti, and the living disciple Ramana Maharshi, as well as in the pure Buddhist expressions of nondual realization in Zen and Dzogchen – has been offering satsang meetings around the world to share the message of that which you are is ever awake, bright, radiant and present, right here and now. The final in the Santa Barbara series takes place 7 to 9 pm on March 4, by donation. Call Joyti at 563-4904 for reservations and directions.
Lion, Gale & Britta – Oh, My
Maya Shaw Gale and Rudi Lion are hosting Restoring Relationship: Finding Your Way Back to Deep, Respectful, and Passionate Connection, a free event for couples at Yoga Soup on Friday night, March 2. Couples of any configuration who may be experiencing boredom, irritation, distancing, a lack of communication, or a feeling of having lost that “spark in the relationship are invited to attend the informative and playful evening to discover new possibilities for a closer and more empowered connection with each other. Lion is an MFT specializing in couples, while Gale is a life coach, somatic therapist, and the creator of Mindful Reconnecting™. Call Maya at 857-1789 to register for the 7 to 9 pm event on March 2.
Britta Gudmunson, the Yoga Soup instructor, co-creator of the new inCourage Chorus (which meets there every Monday night), and the host of a monthly Yoga Soup series on healthy eating, is also an integrative nutrition health coach who is the author of the book Eat Here Now: A bite-sized guide to ritualize your life, nourish your body and feed your spirit. Her workshop, The Art of Mindful Eating, which takes place 7 to 9 pm on Wednesday, March 7, is for those who want to create a spiritual practice with their food. Get support in extending mindfulness onto the plate and improve your relationship with food in the workshop that will explore specific techniques for specific health issues and deepen connection with the body. Admission is $15 in advance / $20 day-of. Call 965-8811 or visit www.yogasoup.com.
Paradise Found, the Spirit Owl and SOhO are collaborating in hosting One Heart Community Gathering to support those affected by the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudslide/debris flow. The event, slated for next Thursday, March 8, is created as a gathering of hearts to share in an evening of comfort, peace, compassion, and love. Among the offerings are music, song, meditation, and spoken word, from various guests and members of the community, all coming together as one. Doors open at 5:30 pm for mingling, visiting, and sharing in food and drink before the formal program begins at 7 pm, at which point the doors will be closed. Seating is limited for the program portion, which continues until 10:30 pm, and there will be a guest list at the door so you must RSVP to reserve a place at Greetings@ParadiseFoundSB.com or by phone at 564-3573. No charge, as the gathering is offered as a complimentary giving of hope and love.