Psychedelics & Diaspora with Omar Thomas
In todays show, we are joined by the wise and wonderful Omar Thomas. He has extensive experience with psychedelic healing and is dedicated to introducing this therapy equitably and responsibly in Jamaica. As a retired US army veteran, African Panamanian-Jamaican, and unique origins, Omar's navigation in life has brought him to do the important work he does today. With a focus on empowering and healing African diaspora (people who are dispersed from their original homeland), his organization offers mushroom ceremonies, affordable education on self sustaining practices, and so much more. Omar shares his experiences and realizations from his deep work with mushrooms and mindfulness, and eloquently describes what it means to Be Here Now. He also speaks about being an African diaspora and offers wise words for reconnecting and healing to fellow diaspora.
Omar is the founder of Diaspora Psychedelic Society.
His heritage of Jamaican and Panamanian ancestry led him to search for non-traditional answers to his own PTSD and trauma issues in the early 90s. His search eventually took him to Mexico where he underwent 30 days of fasting, isolation, and intensive sacred mushroom work under curandero guidance. Now with over 20 years of mushroom experience he is returning to Jamaica to collaborate with a variety of organizations on projects that promote responsible, sacred plants use and equitable access to plant-based therapies for all.
Through Diaspora Ministries, Omar offers private coaching, sacred plant guidance, and integration services that focus on the daily practical application of the psychedelic experience, mindfulness, and overcoming generational trauma as it applies to members of the African diaspora of Caribbean, Latino, and African American descent.
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Omar is a retired US Army veteran self sustainability consultant and longtime practitioner of fourth wave principles. He is the founder of diaspora psychedelic society, almost heritage of Jamaican and Panamanian ancestry led him to search for non traditional answers to his own PTSD and trauma issues in the early 90s. His search eventually took him to Mexico where he underwent 30 days of fasting isolation and intensive sacred mushroom work under current guidance. Now with over 20 years of mushroom experience, he is returning to Jamaica to collaborate with a variety of organizations on projects that promote responsible sacred plant use and equitable access to plant based therapies. Through diaspora ministries. Omar offers private coaching sacred
Thank you so much for having me. I'm glad to be here.
So before we dive into your work in Jamaica, we're eager to rewind and hear more about what led you into this mission. So your search for healing with your own PTSD and trauma, kind of his work catalyzed your work with mushrooms? And could you talk a bit more about this? And maybe if there were any other factors that led you into focusing with healing plant?
Sure, sure. Um, I am the descendant of Jamaican and Panamanian parents, as you said, and they've always got some sort of herb or ointment, you know, from nature, that was sort of our cabinet growing up. So I had a innate sense, you know, of plants being sort of the go to way of addressing personal issues, at least as a, as an initial self care protocol. I was raised in Panama by my grandfather, who was basically known as a man of knowledge there, he founded a few organizations that dealt into spirituality and connection with oneself, things that didn't make sense to me as a kid, but I was raised with him by him until I was five years old, I ended up in New Jersey raised by my ultra conservative Christian parents. And that was the beginning of a journey, basically, of opposition and sort of turmoil. I ended up a runaway at the age of 14, really rebellious sort of spirit. Unfortunately, this was in the middle of the crack epidemic of the 1980s. And so I was exposed to the streets, a lot of, you know, unsavory elements and so forth. But that's basically the backdrop for a lot of what led to me coming in contact with with mushrooms. I was in the military may of 1996, serving at Walter Reed Army Center in DC, where I was diagnosed with bilateral idiopathic kidney disease, basically, there was no good reason that I had it, I was really healthy and in my prime at the time, so it didn't make sense, the confusion and going from an active and capable, you know, member of the Armed Forces, to becoming disabled and ultimately on dialysis, and receiving a kidney transplant. All of that was part and parcel of my journey in coming to terms with accepting disability, accepting, invulnerability, and so forth. So when it came time for me to reach out, I had been reading Carlos kasta data as a younger man and sort of had this idealized version of what shamanism in Mexico might be like. And those sort of things all pointed me in the direction of Mexico. So when it came time to search, and I left the military, I sort of made it my my, my object and passion to get here to Mexico and seek out healing In a way that was sort of consistent with my belief that the answers sort of had to come from nature and my willingness to submit to something I was completely unfamiliar with, but but had a chance of being successful.
Can you talk more about your experience during the 30 day fasting isolation and intensive sacred mushroom work under corn and detto guidance?
Sure, I'd be happy to I was involved with a girl years ago, whose family was connected to the plants, I began to share some of my stories with her and she suggested I met with her grandfather, and he was in a town called San Jose del pacifical, in wahaca. So I made my pilgrimage there. And because of her recommendation, he took time and he sat with me, ended up opening up his home to me and I could stay as long as I wanted, fast friendship sort of developed. And I submitted to mostly daytime fasting with one meal in the evening of a certain kind of broth. In order to this philosophy was that in making the body weaker, we would make access to to our spiritual selves, a bit more accessible. So the fast was a very important part of it. In struggling with myself and my nature, it was what he deemed a warrior's journey. So being someone who would been in combat in the military, and having to deal with those kinds of issues. It was no integration really involved. It was much of his apotek style of plant ceremony, very animistic. Folks are quite familiar with Maria Sabina and her magitek style. Does Apotex do not include any Christian iconography or syncretism really, in their expression during plant use. So I got a real in depth sort of plunge into this world of sitting with yourself and surrendering, really finding strength through surrender as the means of moving forward that nothing happens until I stop resisting. So it was it was really, really arduous. It never got easier, any point from the beginning till the end. Because dosing is not something that is generally even a word you hear in association with, with traditional plant use. So it was constant ingestion and downtime to reflect. And I realized the things that I had been running from as a child, my, my sense of feeling extracted from my Panama, my grip, Mike Pena, my experience with my grandfather of growing up, and being thrust into sort of New Jersey, North American values and things that just really really didn't, didn't sit well with me with without much explanation, I came to realize that that was at the heart of my sort of rebellious attitude and lack of respect for authority, which doesn't play very well in the military, by the way, um, but I carry, I carried it with me even there, so that the time really showed me what it was that made me tick, in the sense of dysfunction, and then gave me a sense of hope, here, I was losing my kidney function, and still trying to find what that would mean, I could be dead in a few years, I could possibly get a transplant and not get one. So it was wrestling with all those sorts of things come to find out I was told I had one year basically, before my kidneys would fail. But because of the
I love that word response-able.
Yeah. Thank you.
So I'm curious about I mean, not many people have spent 30 days with mushrooms like that is impressive. And I know you mentioned it never got any easier. But was it predictable? Like, what sort of? What was the journey? Like? Was that like a roller coaster of predictability? And then infallibility? or What else can you say about the kind of the benefits of doing such a prolonged journey with them?
Sure, at first, the difficulty was in in my running was in the complete saturating immersion of the experience, not being able to be in control in the way that perhaps my military instinct or my street sense told me, You know, I needed in order to get through it. It was in ggressive, and increasing realization that abandoning what I thought was real, would give me a sense of what was actually real, that it was a disconnect between my perception of reality and reality itself, so that the lessons intensified in the way that I was given more and more examples, deeper examples, from conversational situational awareness of how I would behave to my very the idea of my very death and needing a kidney transplant and what those things would mean. So in that way, it never got any easier, the scope of the introspection, kept hitting places that were closer and closer and closer to home. But that were my real fears, you know, I was afraid that I would die. And so the confrontation with my death was one thankfully, that came later in the experience, maybe two and a half to three weeks in. But I had already began to learn the idea of letting go, the idea of, of there being nothing here to hold on to, so that the very act of holding on was sort of futile, that I would be carried, you know, that I would be okay. And I just sort of recklessly abandoned myself to whatever fate would come during the mushroom experience. And I think that's why I got so much out of it, learning to get over the resistance learning to really understand that I don't have a real concept of what it is to be in control. And to be okay with that, that many of the mechanisms that I had learned for coping and for getting by on a day to day basis, were really at the heart of blocking me from my real expression of things because I would evade and I would dull experiences rather than feel them full on and accept them. So those were the, at the crux of all of the struggles was my sense of self. And, and sort of relinquishing what that meant. And I began to quickly see a pattern that in relinquishing and in sort of, you know, letting go is a is a term people say a lot but I mean really, truly mentally, spiritually just surrendering. That that took me to places where I can say, I've had contact with with ancestors. I've had contact with my deceased grandfather. And these were really moments I don't talk about with with most people, but they were so personal and so tailored to me in my exact situation. It wasn't like when I go to church and I would hear generic You know, platitudes about what's good, what's right or wrong. This was a tailor made message directly to me, for me about me. And that sort of blew me away, you know, I felt prior to that a little inconsequential, you know that I didn't matter in things. And it's funny that I learned, on the one hand, I don't matter, when compared to the all and everything that's come before, and all that's going to come and so forth. But that I'm here now and in this moment that validates me, just by sheer merely being here, and being able to connect and interconnect and create and co create, you know, with life, I went from a non believer in in there being a real spiritual aspect to life, to understanding that spirituality is not a shirt you put on, it's not a certain drum or rattle, it's not a certain song. It is. It's your your willingness to be in the present moment, undistracted and connected to the root of your actual being, and being comfortable with that. And that was a process, you know, but that's the process the
I think one big thing that I deal with, and a lot of people deal with is being self centered around a lot of traumas that come up in the sense of blame, like it's my fault, or I'm the problem, when, you know, trauma can be scientifically proven, it can be passed down nine generations, to kind of let go and realize that we're just consciousness being conscious of consciousness itself. And, you know, along for the ride, it can be really powerful. And, you know, one of the, I think the most primary examples or teachers of this, in my, in my experience would be working with sananda. These eyedrops, and if you fight it, they'll burn like shit. For as long as you fight it, and the second when you let go, it actually turns into a beautiful heart opener and, and something to connect you to, to a greater love and connection. And it was, it's one of the I feel like the primary teachers of that lesson for me, in my experience, and mushrooms do the same. And I've had many, many experiences of what a lot of people say, is ego dissolution, and just kind of connecting to nature connecting to one and stepping out of your own way. Sure, you know, it can be really powerful. And apart from letting go and kind of stepping out of your own way. What do you feel like is crucial for people journeying with mushrooms and working with PTSD and death? And these really dense issues? What what sort of lessons have you learned that you want to share with our listeners if they are scared to work with their PTSD working through it, death or any other kind of hard problems that humans face in this life?
Sure, I think that when we are confronted with what we're afraid of what gives us anxiety, we have the natural, human urge to run, sadly, we run to the past, we run to other people, and rarely Has anybody taught us that that there is some place to run to the biggest lesson I've taken away is that the present moment is an actual place. It's an actual location, it's when and where your life is happening right now. So any other thought to the contrary, is part of the perceptual illusion in terms of trying to get control whether I think when a problem, and I go backwards, and I put my mental faculties to analyzing it. Typically, what that has done for me is basically it plunges me back into the feelings I had at the time without really addressing necessarily anything about it, I found that the concepts I've learned about the present moment aren't just something that a lot of people say, again, be present. But there's a much deeper and deeper sense of being present. And I mean, as a meditation, as a constant walking meditation, to be here in your life in your body, to know the position of your spine, to know the rate of your own breathing, to know yourself and body in time and space. That this is the basis for any practice. Yoga is really good for this and breath work and meditation and so forth. But personally, I don't follow any of those things. Because I've identified at least for me, something that's a little bit more pure into the heart of it all. And that that is the idea that when you want to run from a thought, that's uncomfortable, run into the present moment, literally begin a protocol of assessing your body, assessing yourself, in terms of is this danger occurring right now. A lot of times we're having the same physiological response from the memory as we had from the actual experience. So, sort of learning to see how the system gets hijacked through this abandoning of the present moment, in order to entertain some other thoughts from another time, it just seems to me that, you know, a great percentage of pain and suffering is attributable to our departure from the present moment, or departure from the present moment, you know, we'll find that oftentimes, the things we're afraid of are not literally present. Now. They're not in the room with us, you know, but we become the embodiment of these things, and we bring them back. So the mushrooms really, really taught me this idea that whether it's my own death, death, my death date was born on my birthday, everything that has a beginning, as an end, sort of a practical, non Whoo, look at what this human thing is all about, you know, we don't know why we're here. What, what's the point of it all? mushrooms haven't told me that in a way that I feel comfortable sharing. But I can say that it has taught me that the present moment is more than just a place from which to decide I'm hungry, or to entertain myself, it is literally the source of my being it is quite literally, the only place from which one can have strength, the only place from which you can truly solve a problem is from a practice of running into the present moment, it's a mental exercise that acts ultimately like a walking meditation, because you can do it at any time, during any activity, I try to teach my kids and I did when they were really early, when we're sitting outside, I mean, just look at the various shades of green, you know, oftentimes, we just think we're seeing green, and it's much more complex, there's much more going on around us all the time, trying to feed us information, trying to give us data that would both inform us and sometimes comfort us, you know, by showing us see that thing is not happening now, something beautiful is happening now. So learning to take a bit of control of my mind, and bring it back always to the present moment as a practice, I think, is something that I've tried to incorporate, with the retreat work here in Mexico. And it's what I think is really, at the heart of all the various integration models, if people don't get into the idea of the present moment, what it really means and what it could mean, if one were to really harness it in the way that in the way that it has significance, I think a lot of anxiety would sort of naturally step to the background, but it is a process, you know, there's no magic or silver bullets, you know, it's a constant dialogue with with the self to remember to stay awake and awake can only be a present moment activity. So, you know, the idea of now is talked about in just about every spiritual practice and religion. And I think, you know, rightfully so for a reason, the, the gurdjieff work in the fourth way really impressed on me that, you know, regardless of culture, or plant work or or not, it was still crucial enough concept to get my mind around. And once doing so, I just started to see all kinds of other things open up, you know, and an appreciation for, for the beauty of this current moment, for the million miracles that are occurring, just so we can sit here and have this conversation. You know, to me, that's at the essence of a spiritual life and sort of makes me okay with the idea of death, the idea of the larger things happening, because they, they happen, but they happen Against this backdrop of me, discovering my moment to moment, sense of self, because at the point of death, that's really what's taken from us, you know, the, the ability to record anything, to think anything to be the things we think up and so, I've really learned to cherish and hold on to what life is which is great for me because at a time I was willing to give it up and be suicidal and all kinds of other things, but to see that transformed through a process and nothing else worked for me didn't work on the, you know, as transformative as they are, won't change your life. magically, they will hint at the truth they will urge us on to, to better ways of being. But if we don't do certain things in our lives that support the work, I found that people go around in circles and end up having 20 Iosco sessions and, you know, 42 mushroom sessions are constantly going in to deal with the very same traumas, and a quite a large portion of that, for me, I've identified as being a sort of disconnect from the present moment, you know, so a lot of work has just been really getting into the body getting into now. And, and the sense of that, that enlightenment isn't some far off thing to grasp, that it is basically an awareness of the truth of all that's happening around you as much as you can be connected to it. And that state itself is enlightenment. It's the lights being turned on. It's you being aware of your life as a tap You know, so I guess that's that's what I would bring to the conversation.
Thank you for all of your observations and advice is so valuable. Yeah, if you have PTSD or not like this, this is such an important and useful observations of Thank you. It reminds me of a T shirt that Alex just got from a friend. And it the T shirt says home is ceremonial. It's beautiful. Totally, it's really on point with what you were just sharing. So what do you think is crucial for leading a mushroom ceremony? And it seems like you've been through the gamut. And what do you think is crucial for leading a mushroom ceremony,
personal work. If we're talking from a leadership point of view, you can't really assist people beyond the point that you've journeyed yourself. So a life that is really steeped in not only work, but in undertaking the challenges that come from work, facing with a bit of sobriety and maturity, the idea that we can change, sort of sitting with the truth of what we have been like, what we are like, and simultaneously what we could be like.
And, and entertaining those thoughts, mostly on the end of what we could be like, because there's hope in that. So I think, for someone to lead a retreat or to lead a session or ceremony, they've got to be committed deeply to their own sense of work. That being said, I learned here in Mexico, that there was no need for me to take on the accoutrements of another culture, in the sense of appropriation, or in any sense that it wasn't the shirt that I wore, or the posture that I maintained externally, that was that made me effective or ineffective, it was the ability to strip down to what my own work required me to do to my own essence, to sort of abandon even the masks that we hold up during ceremony, the temptation to call oneself a healer, or a shaman, it seems to be a popular trend for folks to have a bit of mushroom experience, and then take on a title, and I get it, you know, it's, it's sort of a normal part of the way we operate. But at the more mature end of the pool, so to speak, there's the need to even put that down, that that's a really heavy masks to uphold. And we're much more effective to others when we're an empty vessel, and we can hold their stuff, so to speak. So I think it's really circling back, you know, personal work and a dedication to it. And I don't think that we can call ourselves to do it, I think we find ourselves just sort of inexplicably meeting the right people at the right times, and sort of some magic happens with mushrooms, um, that you're, they can facilitate all kinds of things, it seems. connections with the right people. So I don't know that everyone should or could go out and start their own retreat business, I don't recommend it. There's a lot involved. As a matter of fact, I've been, I'm leaving the retreat space myself as a model for doing things. Because to me, personal ceremony, and one on one work is really where, where it's at. Now, I would like to see the dismantling of the retreat structure. And that's funny coming from a guy who hosts them. But it's, it's, you know, if I'm going to be honest with myself, it's part of the lesson in that I don't believe it's the most effective way to deliver access, certainly not equitable access to, but it's one way, and I would much prefer to see family units and communities and you know, loving, wellness centered groups of people coming together, you know, around people with more experience helping those with less experience, but until that reality is is legal, and Okay, everywhere, you know, I don't really fault anyone else that's in the retreat business, I understand. Most of them have good intentions and what they're trying to do. But I've also found a lot of people who are not committed to a personal sense of work, you know, they see the retreat business as a business. And, you know, there's room for everybody, I guess, at all levels. But my personal experience is just that if one is going to be involved in this kind of thing, it's got to be something that you don't really self appoint, in a kind of way. I mean, at some point, we agree to it, but a lot of ego can get in the way of the work and make us sort of ineffective containers for others. So I would just really stress the personal work so that we can give our best quality selves to others who need us to hold space. Can you define diaspora and how the name reflects the world You do? Sure, um, diaspora to me is the I use the definition to dispersal of people from their homeland or from their place of origin. But I apply that to myself. And in sense of the African diaspora I got my DNA test test done recently as part of my journey and found that I'm well over 80%, close to 90%, African in DNA, and the rest is European and Latin American. So the idea that I come from a group of people that are removed from their homeland, by for a variety of reasons, whether it be slavery and things of the past, or just migration, that there's a wealth of story in me about all of that dispersion. And when I think of diaspora and the dispersal of things, I think of homecoming as well. And that's so much of the experience has been about coming home to myself, coming home to accept the story of how I got here, through a Jamaican father and a Panamanian mother, and what that might mean culturally, why I never fit in, in the US and just about any group, culturally, socially, what was the disconnect? And I realized, I mean, I was 40 years old, realizing I had an immigrant story, that I'm not just an African American, you know, like, I never stopped to think about it. So when it really hit me, diaspora came to mind in the sense of, you know, people who are far flung from their origins. But by the same token, homecoming can be had, you know, one where we reconcile the idea of being dispersed, and that that's not necessarily a bad thing. Know how it happens, of course, we can experience as a bad thing. But, you know, we are where we are, I wouldn't trade my circumstances because their mind to be lived. That's, you know, being a person of color of African descent living in North America at the time when I was, and feeling what that felt like, what that meant to be disconnected. And what's the disconnect real? For me, diaspora sort of encompasses all of that, and sort of the layers of, of what that might mean for my identity, and for other people like me. Because I've been involved in work for a while, and I'm one of the few people of color that I've run into as many retreats, I'm the only one I ran into. So that it began to raise certain alarms for me and, and ideas of, well, how can we do things differently to be more inclusive? How do we, you know, the many reasons why people the Diaspora are sort of afraid to get into work or not included in research. I mean, they're probably multiple, multiple reasons. But I think whatever they are, it's time to start to address them. And for myself, there's a deeper meaning to the diaspora, our common origins, as modern humans out of Africa, you know, to me there, there are layers to it. It's personal, and is part of my philosophy that we share a common human ancestry. And I wouldn't care what continent that story began on. It's just the fact of it, the fact that we are more similar than we are dissimilar, that the human experience is one of scattering and coming home. So that's what diaspora sort of means to me,
And was part of your reason to take this to Jamaica so that the community you worked with was, you know, more, it was more appropriate to these missions, or what exactly brought you to Jamaica besides having origin there?
Well, nothing besides that, you know, it's again, finding where home is, for me, was really important. I mean, I'm a permanent resident of Mexico as we speak. And I have yet to get to Jamaica, where I'm reclaiming my citizenship and doing all kinds of other things that are in support of all this. But for me, it's been sort of addressing the discomfort that I felt that disconnect. I began going to Jamaica about seven years ago. And the feeling of that homecoming was so strong, to see faces like me to realize that I'd never be stopped by a police officer and shot not because of my color. I mean, that's new, that was something completely different as a paradigm, you know, that there was a world in which I was already steeped in was in me, as a matter of fact that it sort of came out while I was there. And so the the link that was just, I couldn't doubt it anymore, I realized that I knew I was home. And I've been sort of working to get back home. All this time. This COVID-19 sort of outbreak has facilitated a reset and a pause for everyone. I personally have chosen to use that pause and reset to, to take the skills that I've learned here in Mexico, because while I have been embraced by Mexico, and I love it, it really doesn't feel like home. It really isn't home in the way that Jamaica is home. And right now there are a lot of companies going through Jamaica, a lot of things happening in psychedelics and psilocybin in Jamaica, and but there are a few people representing Jamaicans, as all this happens, you know, a lot of outside interest and so My hope is that my presence in Jamaica, my involvement in the scene there will facilitate Jamaicans be more included. And I don't mean as day laborers and such. But stakeholders, I'm hoping to increase knowledge in Jamaica about these, there's a stigma to a lot of silicides, as far as a local population is concerned, because a long time ago, the conservative Christian attitude was sort of set up on the island. And they were taught that anything having to do with their own ancestry with plants, with psychedelics, that there were also a black magic. So there's this sort of an opposition, ironically enough, in a place where it's legal to do so about those very substances. So I'm hoping to take the fight to ground zero, so to speak, my ancestral homeland is the place where the very activity that I'm involved with is legal to do, it just feels like a natural fit to go home. And to open up the dialogue on on a community level, have Jamaicans start to realize that there's nothing to be afraid of that, you know, suicide isn't the only intervention from nature, I'm hoping to be bringing Yoga microdosing, to Jamaica, as well, because it's a West African plant. Many Jamaicans are of West African extraction. And with the absence of stigma, it would allow for a dialogue, you know, so I'm less concerned with business than I am with with creating a bit of a sea change within Jamaica, that includes Jamaicans their voices, even their fears about the, but I think it has to come from the inside, from one of them as much as I am, in their perception, one of them. So yeah, that's the what the homecoming to Jamaica is about, for me,
That's so important, and the, you know, amongst the institutions in Jamaica right now, who were developing a community around healing plants, what percent of them are Jamaican and having this focus on supporting and empowering the local community?
None. As far as I know, I helped at the very beginning found psilocybin retreat that's in Jamaica, now, that's considered successful, we had ideological differences, and I walked away. But I don't believe that helping Jamaicans means simply employing Jamaicans, I believe it means again, creating the cultural context through dialogue for Jamaicans to understand rather than fear what's happening with psilocybin, because I'm afraid that if that doesn't happen, there'll be a backlash, there is a 90% plus conservative Christian presence in Jamaica, that is mostly against what it even means to be intoxicated, as far as they understand that. So there is a pressure to do things in a particular way that is respectful of Jamaican cultural standards and norms. It's important that that our work is not perceived as a bunch of you know, like here in Mexico, gringos coming to get high, or to trip out, you know, that it the proper context, is framed, and created. And I think one of the best ways to do that is to be inclusive, and to, to show Jamaicans that they can be involved from the end of cultivation, and being a service provider, to the Jamaican psychologists and therapists that exist on the island, from the clinical side of things, gaining an understanding of these, and how they might be used culturally to address certain ills. So with that in mind, we have a prisoner community reintegration program that we're proposing the Department of Corrections in Jamaica, which would have prisoners begin take psilocybin or Iboga, one year prior to the release one quarterly administration of the, so they would have four before they were out process. And in the meantime, we use community resources, churches, and so forth to help transition this person who has agreed to submit to this experience, it's very much like what's happening in Brazil, with Iosco in the prisons, it's literally modeled after that program, which is again, just another way of bringing the the rubber to the road, so to speak, in terms of how concil assignment of these directly address an ill of Jamaican society, whereas they may not be interested in at first receiving information about psilocybin. They're certainly interested in learning about anything that can help reduce recidivism, that can help reduce violent crime. And with all that we know about the, I thought that the prison population is a very good place to begin. And it also tactically is a good place to begin because it's a place that Jamaicans see as a stain on themselves, you know, some of the violence that can happen and crime and so forth. So, it allows for an easier exchange, once they understand that it's about fixing those kinds of problems. And I think now is the most crucial time because we We can learn from our past, you know, with watlow, de Jimenez and wahaca,
Mexico with, you know, tons of people on this Exodus to experience Salafi. And with that it brought this same kind of feeling to a lot of the locals which, in my experience, going have and interviewing people have. Yeah, a lot of the locals don't want anything to do with mushrooms anymore. And they don't want anything to do with a lot of the, their roots because it's tarnished. Now and, and I think it's slowly coming back in a way but you know, we don't want that to happen again. And so I think the work that you're doing is incredible. I had had the chance to go to Jamaica a few years ago on a farmer to farmer grant. And just helping some local mushroom farmers with their operations just with you know, oyster mushrooms and things like that and, and was actually staying at a community in St. Thomas called this the source farm and one of the owners Nicola, Nicola, she's amazing woman, and she's a Europa priestess. And, you know, in the Europa, tradition, mushrooms are huge, unbelievably huge and Paramount and, and, you know, they're doing great work not only with issues around food security, and teaching permaculture and organic farming, which I think is great. They also have a retreat center, I'm not sure the details that haven't stayed up to date with with where they're at now, but it's great to seeing, seeing, you know, Jamaicans offer this for other Jamaicans. And, yes, I also had a question about bringing plant from from Africa and kind of retracing the steps, this this information transfer. And, you know, a huge, it seems like, there's a huge sacred mushroom history and presence stemming from Africa, you know, everywhere from Egypt and having mushrooms and the hieroglyphs and pictures and history. And also, you know, with the testily cave paintings in Algeria, of the bee, shaman holding mushrooms, and so many other places have this rich, rich history with mushrooms hearing. I don't know, if you've had the pleasure of hearing kalindi talk? Yes, I have. Yeah, I mean, some of his stories are remarkable. And then I'm just curious if you've had a chance to bring any tradition ceremonies, stemming from any countries in Africa and, and how much of that is wrapped in your work,
To be honest, you know, that is part of what I've been trying to reclaim, you know, on my personal journey. And, you know, I got my DNA test to sort of help facilitate that journey. I identified my, my personal tribal group is based, basically in Nigeria, of the Eco tradition. So I do understand the Europa tradition a little bit as well, and my studies now but I got a, I've got to admit that I don't have the kind of connection that I would hope to have my my desire would be to go to Africa to go to the places of my ancestors, and to inquire and engage in in work. And there's so many people like me, though, who have that same disconnect, we're told that our stories are dark and dangerous and evil. And our practices are also equally bad or wrong. And so there's a reluctance for a lot of us to delve into them because we feel we're betraying something. By doing so. Personally, I've been able to reconnect with much of the cosmology and the mythology of the bow people. And so much of it I see as connected to a sort of precursor material for what comes and shows up in other religions, um, that that sort of show up on the scene after the fact. So for me, to answer the question, there's been not as deep connection as I would like, to African traditions, certainly not in the way that Baba kalindi was able to bring into his work. But for me, that's the ongoing journey as a person of the Diaspora who comes through Latino parents who come from Jamaican West Indian, Caribbean parents, you know, the, the African pneus of all that has morphed into other ethnic cultural expressions, you know, like, like the idea of, of rasa and one love and what, what does that mean? That, you know, in, in my personal story, so, I have not been able to bring over ritual, but what I have been able to do is to reclaim for myself personally, and I think that's even more important, a sense of my connection to people. If that doesn't Start with slavery. It doesn't start with, you know, the 1600s and the 1500s, that I go back to people who were self sufficient and connected and explorers who helped populate the world. And this is all of us, though. It's not just me. You know, if you go back far enough, we're all indigenous at our roots, you know, people who lived very close to nature, who hunted and learned from the lessons in nature. And sadly, we've been sort of divorced from that. And we think we're civilized and modern. But for me, the answer is going back to reclaim some of the things that we've lost. And that's culturally, and it's a knowledge base, as well. You mentioned permaculture, earlier and organic gardening and farming, it's sort of why I've come around to embracing all of those things, and realizing that we won't be truly free, like the sort of calls us to be if we continue to live and think in the same old ways that has to do with how we we generate and produce our food, how we treat things in terms of currency, and what is real currency. So I'm really big on bartering and exchange and acting like community, you grow some of this, I grow some of that we share it, you know, those kinds of ideals are sort of what my work is harkening back to. And, and I think that based on where things are in the world now with COVID-19, if we don't organize, and I think the psychedelic community sort of has a responsibility to perk up to this idea, first, you know, we get our sense of connection from nature, we seek out from nature, I think the advocates for nature should be us, primarily, advocacy doesn't mean the same thing to everybody. It doesn't always mean marching or, or taking on political issues. But the most political thing you can do is changing the way you live, changing the way you secure food. The pandemic has taught us nothing, if not that there are problems in the way we live supply chain wise, if there is a run on food, what do people do, you know, hope for the system to provide, I think that sort of thinking and the idea of acquiring more and more and more in excessive living, all these things sort of have to be purged out of us if we're going to truly, I think come out of this lesson, this current global lesson in a way that's intact and thriving.
Yeah, it's the way things are built right now is very unnatural. And I noticed on your website, just how prominent this topic of sustainability is. And it's amazing to see all the different workshops that you're offering. Could Could we talk a little bit more about what's actually being offered at the center. Besides facilitated ceremonies, I saw things like microdose hikes and workshops for creating a spirit molecule workshop, all of these look really interesting. And yeah, if you could just touch on the variety of services and education that you offer,
yeah, gladly, at the heart of this all for me is the idea that knowledge is really integral to liberation, the ultimately has called me to, to freedom, freedom from harmful voices, you know, in my own head of freedom from expectations that don't suit and serve me, those kinds of things. So it was an easy sort of extrapolation to think that this idea of freedom could be taken further, what does it mean to be tied to a paycheck, and if it stops coming, it doesn't seem or feel free to know that there's food until there isn't? You know, these those sorts of basic existential questions come to mind for me, and it's really just a pragmatic and practical argument. If we're happy with the way the world is, then let's not change anything. But I think all of us now are sort of being called to the idea that something is off, and that we should or maybe could do something. And most people don't know what, for me, the first thing is to let's pause and personally take time to inventory and get better that whether that be through work or not work, people should know how to grow food. It's just tactically smart, it's practically smart. People should know going forward what it is to build their own home. Now everyone will be able to do this. But for those who are inclined to doing so I just think it's part and parcel of an overall survival strategy for going forward. Which is what I've been really meditating on these days, you know, doing and under lockdown conditions, you know, how do you empower someone to not think that everything has gone to shit and it's not not worth doing anything about anything? Because we're to past a certain mark. I think that we are clearly in a dangerous and unprecedented time, but that the answer is what it always was. And it's for those of us who have the light on to keep it on, you know, and to personally live as examples of what should be, you know, I am student of Lucia Lin of was an eco designer and builder from Russia. In South Africa, I first got into the idea of how can we build housing. First of all, that's climate change proof, you know, he builds with something called air Crete, which is an air entrained concrete mix, that's really light and durable. And at the right thickness, it's bulletin radiation proof even, you know, so I got kind of turned on to what does that mean? Because he was teaching, hey, you can build your own home for under 10,000 US dollars. And so I was turned on to pursuing these avenues. And through my friendship with him, he developed a course which does exactly that. He goes from beginning to end teaching how to be completely power, independent food and water, self sufficient, and just seemed to me that this is really at the heart of what people need right now. Practical, proactive things that you can do. For worst case scenarios. I think this situation we're in now is going to prompt people to reclaim knowledge and information is really key. So I tried to house everything in one place. So the permaculture courses are online courses, because it can be dangerous for a lot of people nowadays to get together in groups. So I tried to think how can it be most useful with this platform that I've created for getting knowledge in the hands of people with the full understanding that, you know, there are safety guidelines that are in place now that it's a whole new reality, and that retreats and workshops that are live aren't necessarily actionable right now. So with that in mind, there are a variety of online options for learning, which I tried to keep as economical and affordable as possible, sort of no brainer kind of stuff, the Eco course that teaches complete, you know, solar independence, and creating constructed wetlands and gray water and all that stuff. It's a $99 course, you know, and for that low amount, anyone can have access to the information. So trying to make not just accessible, but information accessible, empowering information, to me as part of the solution, because it can be so difficult to go through work at a retreat, or otherwise, only to sort of go back to the reality that your world is what it is, you know, you are dependent on food being in the store, or you're not having any. And I'm hoping that people can sort of wake up to the idea that they don't have to accept things as they have been that personally they can do things. So I'm an advocate for forming conscious communities for doing things like investing in kids domain, can can domains are generational properties of a certain size, that are self sufficient, and literally passed down from generation to generation within a family. I think some of these old ideas and techniques and multi generational living are the answers to some of the social ills that we we face. You know, grandparents in nursing homes might be better served in a home where their wisdom can be drawn on and they can receive better care. So I have this sort of a African and African and immigrant sensibility about it all, that the answer isn't coming together as family coming together as community, and anything that can teach people how to feed their own family feed themselves, and to create community. That's really the mission at this point, because personal work is good and really at the heart of things, but what to do after you know what to do with myself when this is all over. So even our mycology courses that we're teaching stateside, we're working in collaboration with Veritas mycology, and a copy mycology to to open labs in the US that are fully functioning, accredited and legal. They don't deal with the growth of selasa b directly. But of all mushroom species as part of someone's sort of self self sustainability toolkit. You know, they're an amazing life form and food and, and so forth. So getting that kind of information into the hands of the average person or seeker. Is is the point of this new organization.
Do you have any words to give to our listeners that may be directed to the dedication and healing the empowerment of the children of the African diaspora?
Sure, the members of the African diaspora in the United States sadly, tends to get their sense of self from things like Black History Month, slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. As if that is some sort of origin story. I would encourage members of the African diaspora to, to delve back to allocate a little bit of energy into finding out something more about themselves. A lot of times, that's difficult to do because our stories are lost, through name changes, and all kinds of other things that colonialism brought about. But with DNA testing, if one can afford to do so I would say do so. It isn't all in everything, but it gives some glimpse into the idea that you are multifaceted and incredible thing you know, that does not begin with slavery. You know, I find that I'm 10% European 2%, Portuguese, 2% French to present Scandinavian like, that's all amazing to me, you know, you wouldn't, you wouldn't know it looking at me. But it just goes to show that we are so much more than we walk around knowing, you know, sort of getting in tune with comfortable with our melanin with the fact that we can be upstanding, and righteous, you know, and not the labels that are sort of thrown around. And that if we were to ever stand up as leaders in our household and our communities and in the world, that that would be really part and parcel of the sea change that we're looking for. Because no one can hand you liberty, no one can hand you a sense of self. That's something you have to have already. So for me, creating Cote dia, which is an acronym for children of the diaspora, it was an attempt to try to reconnect the idea that we all come from one common story, no matter how fragmented or no matter what time is done, to dull the reality that we are connected, I'm hoping to just turn that light back on again, and through creating a safe place of shared stories of shared grief and shared hope people of the African diaspora Can, can finally integrate some of that pain, some of that, that sense of not being wanted around anywhere, you know, it's important to have your own somewhere to be, you know, and and I've been playing with the idea of what that can look like, it hasn't gotten a lot of traction, yet, a lot of what DPS is doing is in sort of the launch and prep phase, thanks to Corona in the inability to make some of this stuff actionable. But I would definitely encourage members of the Diaspora to to really engage in some self reflection, that the enemy that seems to be outside is often within us. And that if we begin to address some of those things, the nature of the perceived enemy also changes, you know, and the dialogue perhaps can be had, and then something real and transformative can happen. Now, the problem with America is that like any individual who doesn't integrate, you are setting up for future pain, future lessons on a particular subject on the issue of race in America, still divisive, because nothing was ever done, to truly integrate the experience and the fact that it happened. So a certain kind of dialogue needs to happen, but whether it happens or not, it's still incumbent upon us to seek out our own healing, to not wait to be included in studies, but to organize our professionals, and create the studies, you know, create spaces, do things that uplifts as a group, because that's the only way we'll ever be able to properly merge and be cohesive with other groups of persons. Now, I don't believe in all the division but the world operates, the way it operates. In order to get to some sort of wholeness amongst people, I think each group of individuals needs maximum healing, in order to do so to to be their best and most mature version, you know, at the table. So there's a lot of work to be done to sort of undo what colonialism has done, the identity issues that even I struggled with, you know, as a person of color, and where did where I fit into the, to the system and took to all of it, the system seeming to not want me, you know that a lot of that is about about internal stuff, you know, that we can have a dialogue about and start to make some inroads in breaking generational trauma that is associated with the American experience.
And I believe that the system means just as much healing as anybody who is negatively impacted by it. And I think that your work and your Self Realization, and just massive healing that you've done is such a beautiful blessing to the world, because that's just going to ripple and we can't thank you enough just for existing and doing what you do. And Jamaica, Mexico, the world, wherever you are so lucky to have you. And thank you with this wisdom. Yeah. And we're so thankful to finally get you on the show and just really lay down these ideas and help our listeners who I believe will also be empowered and inspired and take a kernel of healing from this podcast.
Thank you so much for saying so. And thank you again, for having me here. It's um, I haven't done very many podcasts over the past few years. You know, that's also part of my coming out, you know, allowing myself to sort of be scrutinized and to hear myself say these words, you know, it's been a very private and personal journey. But, you know, the time is sort of is now to to act if we're going to act. So yeah, I feel humbled that I can even be involved in this kind of thing. Whether I'm one of the only ones of my kind or not, doesn't really come into it. It's just the idea of, for me, it's about collaboration, this very proprietary sense that goes into I've learned the this emerging psychedelic industry that people feel they have something to protect and treat as a commodity. I sort of reject and resist that idea. Pretty, pretty important. Honestly, you know, I'm, I'm all about the idea that we can all come up together at the same time. No. So the way DPS is organized is that you know, for bringing the mycology courses we're doing. So by working with another organization with shared values, who can help provide a service, we can perhaps take our experience in the retreat and organization business to help facilitate things that spread knowledge and bring real integration based sort of services in the places where they, they may not have such access now, I mean, that may truly My heart is for, for things to be different in the US with the various decriminalization movements and so forth. But, you know, I don't know, personally, the perfect one best way to do things, you know, but I think that, um, working and talking to people like you and sort of being more open is really part of the answer.
Definitely. It's requires a lot of teamwork.
So how can people follow you work? You You have a website, right? And is there any other platforms where people can support you and learn more about the work you do?
Well, the website is probably the best diaspora psychedelic society.org. But I've organized things sort of neatly via DPS, hyphen, links, comm so it's DPS with a dash links, plural.com. It's sort of a smart link that's organizes all of our work. So if somebody wanted to click on, exploration, it would take them directly to all the things we offer, if they wanted to hear about our, our, you know, listen to our Spotify playlist, you know, they could sort of find all of our all of our content and stuff there. So,
So we're coming to a close. And we have one question that we ask all of our guests on our show. And that question is, if mushrooms had the microphone, and could say one thing to the whole human race, what would they say?
Oh, wow, that's huge. They would say that the answer is in unity, in cooperation, the mushrooms themselves play a particular role in the niche that they inhabit, biologically, and that we do the same. We also have a niche that we inhabit biologically, and that we are not using our best practices. And that if we would do so, we could see a golden age, we could see a resurgence of truth and rightness, you know, amongst our kind, and a balance with nature that we dream about, you know, could could actually be real.
Thank you. Oh, my so much. You're welcome. Everything.
You're very welcome. Thank you guys so much for having me here.
So everyone, make sure to check out diaspora psychedelic society.org and also DPS, hyphen, links, or what do you call it a dash,
It will all be in the show notes so you can easily click.
Great, perfect. Thank you so much, guys.
Thank you everyone, for tuning in today. We'd love all of our listeners. And we want to thank you for for buckling your seat belts and going on another journey with us. And, you know, we love you. We're sending everyone a big virtual hug. We're missing everyone in person. You know, it's a weird year. 2020 is strange one. But you know, it's all part of the journey. And we want to thank everyone for tuning in and trimming in again. And we're always here. So please reach out if you have any, you know, ideas for future topics that you want us to geek out about or guests that you want us to bring on our show. be more than happy to go down that journey. If you want to check out more of our podcasts or blog posts or full line of functional mushroom products, you can check out mushroom revival calm and as always, much love and may the spores be with you.