Couples Therapy

I have often talked about my advocacy for using MDMA* as a therapeutic assist for individuals facing PTSD, as well as a way for romantic couples to keep communication open and maintain a strong love for each other. A while back my partner and I got to experience something else when we had a night “rolling” with another couple who are our friends. I found this experience to be incredibly positive and I hope to relive it again with that couple and others that we know.

There is a false stereotype that MDMA is some sort of “sex drug”. In reality, it opens doors of communication and fosters love and trust between those involved. Due to the nature of the relationship of all involved the only sexual contact occurred between significant others and did so in a fairly private manner. Instead, the whole experience was a lot of discussions about love, life, relationships, and how much we appreciated each other. We  all got to discuss how we face the problems in our lives and what we hope for in the future. We were also able to find out how another couple deals with difficulties in relationship types (both being kind of mixed poly/mono couples). People who love each other should be free to discuss anything openly, but sadly social barriers and our past often prevent that. MDMA helps open that up.

Moving forward I certainly hope we have more experiences like this. With all things pre-intoxicated discussions are key. While I may be comfortable with things like being naked in front of friends, giving/receiving massages, having sex while others are in the room, or even sexual intimacy with others it is important to get these things on the table beforehand when everyone is completely sober… if something comes up of interest during a roll you can always discuss it the next day and save it for another time. It is better to guarantee enthusiastic consent and interest in an activity than risk harming a person or relationship. Basically, err on the side of the most conservative member of the group.

Unfortunately, I am not as outspoken in person with individuals as I am when writing about things as broad issues, so though I may be interested in something I often remain quiet. I’m working on this, and thinking there might be a better way. I’ve seen lists of sexual interests that couples can exchange where they rate things like “I’d love to do that – Maybe under the right circumstances – No way in hell” and I’m sure that could be adapted for couples therapy. Even if new boundaries aren’t pushed, enjoying a loving and intimate home environment while rolling is still one of my favorite things to do, and it sure as hell is a lot safer and cheaper than alcohol.

*Unfortunately we live in a place where men with guns are willing to throw peaceful adults in cages if they possess MDMA. Due to Prohibition the quality of MDMA can be compromised and can become unsafe. Please, please, please, always purchase from a trusted source, use a test kit to ensure quality, stay hydrated, and look out for each other. Rolling is amazing and can be a near spiritual experience, but it isn’t worth taking unnecessary fatal risks.  Be Safe.

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The Rise of “Festivals”

My recent return to Burning Man last week, this article about Taco Bell attempting to reach out to “burners”, and a few conversations about the apparent increase in festival attendance really has me thinking. If there is an increase in participation at “festivals” why is that? As is the case with all my blog posts I basically have no facts, just my own experiences and hypotheses that I think out when I should be working. It should be noted that for simplicity sake I use the word “festival” very broadly and include Burning Man (definitely not a festival in most ways), Lucidity style events that involve multiple days off site and includes a spiritual aspect, and EDC-style events that are more musically focused.

I think the biggest factor is the seemingly unique environment that people in their 20’s and 30’s operate in today. It is no secret that marriage is often being postponed, kids are birthed later in life, and college graduates are enjoying social freedom that is usually reserved for retirees. Many of them, including me, cohabitate with a partner or friends which allows for a lot of disposable income. Festivals can be expensive but if you have two people with college degrees and professional jobs sharing an apartment with no kids it is financially possible to participate often in multiday parties.

These celebrations can often involve intimacy and sex (the Orgy Dome at Burning Man is pretty awesome) but the focus is rarely on hook-ups or “one night stands”. In fact, festivals are very often attended by people in long-term committed relationships. I went with my partner, my best friend has gone with his fiance, our camp at Burning Man has had at least one married couple each year, and two of my dearest friends often go to EDC and similar events together. I also went to two weddings at Burning Man this year, one of which was a couple who got engaged at Lucidity.

Another important factor in festival attendance is technology, particularly the internet. Even relatively small events can spread the word quickly via Facebook to like-minded people across the globe. This is true for big events as well like Burning Man, which has been around for over 25 years, saw themselves face ticket scarcity for the first time thanks to burners sharing their pictures and videos over social media in the last couple years. Musicians who don’t have major labels can also use the internet to attract a fan base and advertise their presence at musical festivals. There is also greater specialization that is possible when people can communicate freely, it is now possible to attract participants to very unique and focused events where in the past smaller cliques would need to participate in big festivals and hope their classes would be attractive enough to get attention.

Lastly, I feel like there is a feeling of lost direction among many people due to the fracturing of society around us. Politicians continue to prove that party doesn’t matter and that they are basically all the same. Traditional religions are fracturing and failing at providing even the bare minimum support for individuals as their beliefs are unwilling to change to accept new scientific evidence. Modern media works tirelessly to tell us all how doomed the world is, despite evidence to the contrary. The social institutions that provide support, love, and comfort in the past have been found lacking so people are looking elsewhere to connect and find family. Festivals, particularly Burning Man and similar events, help fill that gap. At least that is why I go, because I reject violence, consumerism, religious zealotry, and the idea that I need to work in an office for most my life before I can have fun and celebrate life. Festivals give me community, love, support, and acceptance, and I think it does that for many others as well.

Students For Sensible Drug Policy

Well, by time this post I will be well on my way to the Playa dust of Burning Man and letting my freak flag fly. While I won’t be able to do my regular ridiculous Facebook posts about drug policy, libertarianism, love, science, and all things Awesome, I hope that if you enjoy what I share you will take a moment and consider donating what you can to Students For Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

SSDP is the premier organization pushing for a sensible approach to prohibition. By focusing on students they help mobilize the next generation of leaders, encourage the adaptation of policies that actually save lives, and educate a wide range of citizens on the harm produced by such a tyrannical approach to narcotics. They have personally impacted my life in a huge way and I have agreed to match every dollar that is raised between now and the end of Burning Man up to $1000. I wish I could give more but that is what I have right now, I hope you will consider giving a few dollars as well.

I am not a staff member, board member, or anything like that. I am simply an individual who believes in their mission and hopes to see change in my lifetime. We live in a time where medicine is unavailable to veterans suffering from PTSD, cancer patients, and lives are being ruined when students make one-time mistakes. It is time for things to change, it is time for policies to reflect science, and it is time to give students the opportunity to grow and prosper. Every dollar helps.

 

On The Spirit

Dealings of spirituality and religion are a bit difficult to me. I grew up in a Christian home but at some point along the way found it lacking. It isn’t necessarily the teachings of Christ that I found disagreeable, it is more the Church did not reflect what I saw in Christ. In addition, my upbringing denied scientific theories like evolution but did not provide any real counter-theory. I was told to just have faith, I was told “God works in mysterious ways”, I was told that evolution was “just a theory”… things that both insult the human capacity for logic and shows a complete ignorance to what a scientific theory is. They were straw men and when I was presented with evidence, logic, and the scientific method the straw men burnt easily, but the words of Galileo rang true “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

I certainly consider myself a skeptic, and by that I mean I place greater weight in objectivity and science than subjective experiences and faith. But science at this time cannot explain everything and the places where measuring objectivity is not possible (yet?) we must compile subjective experiences, look for patterns, and attempt to formulate measurable hypothesis. Still, we humans lack the ability to objectively measure spiritual experiences, and it may be that we can never measure them. No matter how much we can look into the mind it is difficult, or maybe impossible, to determine the source of spiritual experiences. They may be created and executed completely in the brain or the brain may act as a conduit for experiences coming from another dimension.

I use the term dimension in a semi-scientific way. I admit my knowledge of physics is pretty laymen but it seems it is possible that a dimension may exist in a way that it can interact with ours under certain circumstances. Meditation, psychedelic drugs, near-death, spiritual revelations, and maybe even dreams may act as gateways to another dimension. I don’t know this for a fact, but that is the point. We lack the scientific knowledge to measure and compare subjective spiritual experiences. It is possible our brains are like a water cooler where all the mechanics of dispensing water are controlled in one body, or our brains may be like a water faucet where the mechanics move outside our homes into an area that we don’t currently have access to (at least not without professional help).

The truth is, I don’t know what the spirit is or what spiritual experiences are. I think there is some truth in the spiritual practices that have woven itself within humankind. I feel (admittedly a subjective response) the spirit exists and that we can access enlightening experiences through various means. In some ways whether spiritual experiences truly exist or are simply misfiring neurons in our brain seems of little relevance if they help us live a more fulfilling and happier life. I think the mind, body, and spirit is a triad that encompasses the human experience, and each section must be exercised for complete health. I may be wrong, but in the end it really doesn’t matter to me, this balance of belief and evidence about reality helps me live a life of peace, love, and personal growth, and if there is a meaning to life that seems like a good one to me.

Damn Dirty Hippies

Labels are fascinating (though often annoying) things. I am a libertarian. But my path has been a strange one and I now identify as a hippie also. I was a veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan, I earned a degree in Economics from The College of Charleston, and I worked in the suit-and-tie non-profit world of Washington DC… but none of that felt 100% right to me, the fight against government was not all I wanted. In my experience hippies tend to be associated with “the left” (whatever the fuck that even means anymore) while libertarians have a history of aligning with “the right” (again… WTF does that mean), particularly over economic issues. The focus on economic freedom and aligning with the right has in many ways tainted the word “libertarian” in many people’s minds. Some of the tainting is justified, while some of it reflects a lack of understanding of what it means to be a libertarian.

As a libertarian I believe in the freedom to do what I wish with my body, my mind, and my labor, as long as I am not harming someone else. Being a libertarian DOES NOT mean that I have a slavish devotion to corporate hierarchy, consumerism, or crony capitalism. In fact, I hate all three of those things… though the last is the most offensive because it violates both my personal preferences and my libertarian philosophy. Crony capitalism is the use of government (read: guns) to prohibit others from competing (read: acting freely) in order to make money. That isn’t just un-libertarian, that is evil.

Being against government is the easy part of libertarianism, it is well defined and fits neatly into a black and white world view. Violence is wrong, government action is all violence, therefore government is wrong. While many conversations and debates can be had on issues of practicality or the utilitarian results of reducing government the ethics behind it easily stand. Many libertarians believe that libertarian philosophy stops with government, I am not one of those libertarians. Government is certainly a destructive force posing as the “will of the people” or communal action, our fight doesn’t end at anarchy… our fight continues until bigotry, sexism, and any power that treats one life as less than another or sees equality as the enemy is destroyed. It may be easy to see the government as the only true use of coercion against people but that is not reflective of reality.

Coercion, harm, oppression, and the other ills that libertarians strongly philosophically oppose do not exist solely in the realm of governments and criminals. Mental harm can come from harassment, bullying, and generations of institutional (government or otherwise) discrimination have very real harmful effects. We have learned enough about the human brain to know that it can be harmed, even if it is not touched physically. Libertarians would benefit from recognizing the legitimate claims that harm exist outside of the state and defeat of the state will not solve the destructive forces of racism or sexism.

So yes, I am a libertarian. I believe in markets, economic freedom, and personal freedom to do what you wish as long as you don’t harm others… but I believe that harm comes in many forms and is a more complex concept than “no physical force”. And yes, I am a hippie. I believe in loving people first and foremost, love is limitless, I enjoy expanding my views of the world, I find the body beautiful and enjoy being naked as often as possible, and I believe complete freedom cannot come until we cast of the shackles that we place on others and ourselves. In the end I feel most at home in where my libertarianism and hippyness combine, a place that is peaceful, anarchist, accepting, and loving (ie Burning Man). In the end, the labels are worthless.

I am me, part of we, and that is fucking awesome.

Good Friends, Infinite Love, and a Hot Tub – 2013 Begins

Well, it is the new year. We all successfully hung on to this rock for another trip around the sun. 2012 was a year of great transition for me in my personal and professional life but the vibe that 2013 has started with is very different. I was blessed enough to spend New Years Eve with an amazing group of people who I know mostly through Burning Man.

It is difficult to really break down how I feel around my burner friends in a situation like this. I am still very much an introvert and find myself a little anxious in big groups, even if I am familiar with most of the people. The party I went to had about 25ish people and that is over my general threshold of comfort. Luckily though I still had an amazing time even if I didn’t really talk to as many people as I would in a smaller group.

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My view of the future… face paint to avoid facial recognition technology, clothing that suits the needs of an outlaw, and a sexy beard to help spread the love.

The theme for the party was Prom 2099 and it was incredible to see everyone’s creativity bloom. There was great diversity in outfits, everything from dystopia to a rave future to planet of the apes to Bender from Futurama. One pattern I noticed was the general view that external gender markers (make up, clothing, etc) wouldn’t be really present in the future. Many men wore make-up, wigs, and tight clothes without fear of negative repercussions. I know my big blue eyes certainly sparkle with a little eye-liner. The event was incredible and with the chemicals running through my body the lights and sound produced by the dj bounced around my brain in sheer pleasure.

As is often the case with a free group like this there was great comfort with showing love and affection. There were many kisses at midnight and massages throughout the night. It wasn’t uncommon to find two people cuddling and talking that may be long time friends or just met that night. That is really what draws me to this community, the unashamed love and willingness to be individuals instead of bowing down to social norms. When I finally started to sleep cuddled at 6am in a warm blanket with Molly’s euphoric embrace flowing over my body the sounds of conversation between new friends echoed in the background.

I can’t imagine a better way to bring in the new year. I hope that his means good tidings for an upcoming year filled with community, love, and cuddling.

“Natural” Happiness

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Occasionally when I talk about using drugs purely for pleasure critics respond with “that’s just not natural”. This strikes me as a little strange. There seems to an arbitrary line between what is “natural” and what is “unnatural*” when it comes to enjoyment and pleasure.

If I travel to far corners of the world and witness beautiful scenes and feel pleasure this is “natural” (despite how “unnatural” getting into a metal tube with wings and flying across the world may be). If I get together with friends and take a pill and because of that pill I feel love, comfort, and pleasure this is often seen as unnatural. Pleasure comes from interactions from the brain and it doesn’t matter if these reactions come from visual stimuli, tactile sensations, or ingesting a pill.

This stigma is really not “natural” or “unnatural”, it is a rejection of the new or things that one party doesn’t really understand. It is a push to maintain the status quo and resist innovation. It is much easier to define something as unnatural than to actually hold a real debate about the pros and cons of a certain practice because to open the door to debate means the possibility on being wrong.

If you truly love someone you will celebrate all the joy they feel, regardless of whether it comes from holding a new child, skydiving, travelling the world, or taking a pill. Joy is joy, pain is pain, they are little more than reactions in the brain. The source should have no impact on how you view a person. There are many other things to worry about in this life, if a loved one feels joy that itself should be supported.

 

*Unnatural is actually an awful word to use. To say something is “unnatural” is to say it doesn’t operate or exist in nature and obviously everything we interact with exists in nature or else we wouldn’t be able to interact with it like we do. It is a deceptive word that is used when people are trying to say that what you are doing doesn’t conform with their moral code.