I grew up in a working class part of London as it was emerging from the Blitz of World War Two, which was a difficult time for England. The weather was grey, the morale of the people was grey, and even the food was a little bit grey too. But children don’t really do grey, and as a young kid I was visited by wonderful experiences I would now describe as spiritual. At the time I called it The Mood, and The Mood was an ecstatic feeling that would just come over me, sometimes when I was in nature (or as much nature as we had out there) and sometimes on its own, uninvited. I felt lifted and excited by The Mood’s visit, but I could never call it up or make it happen by an act of will. It was like the poem by William Blake:
"He who binds to himself a joy does the winged life destroy
ut he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise."
By showing me moments of eternity’s sunrise, the Mood gave me a kind of secret hope, and told me there is far more to us than we think. But the normal events of a normal life slowly ground down these experiences, as I learned to do my homework and conform somewhat to the rules of the day. By the time I was ten, The Mood was mostly a thing of the past. Then came the sullen teens, where the Mood turned to just plain moody.
The sixties were a splash of genuine, if whimsical, colour that came into this landscape, and I took my share of LSD during my college time. It was certainly mind-opening, but at the time I eventually reached the end of the road with acid. It produced fascinating hallucinations, but I felt less and less contact with the sacred, which I was thinking was the source of The Mood.
It was in the seventies that I came to America, and in my first year here I hitch-hiked through Mexico and Guatemala, long before those countries were ravaged and brutalized by our Drug Wars. In the mountains above a little village named San Juan del Pacifico (still famous for its mushrooms), I introduced myself to psilocybin. That was a journey into radically different realms. I remember feeling myself going into the higher vibrations, and I remember overhearing wood elves and gnomes sitting among the trees gravely discussing whether humans were real or mythical. I saw the King of the Birds hovering in the sky, its legs finally reaching down to the ground and becoming the World Tree. And for a few hours on a green mountaintop, I was given the pun-laden message, “nothing matters,” and for that bit of time I was totally in on the cosmic joke.
I settled in New York City, pursuing various careers, until in the 1990s I went to school and became a therapist. I worked as a counselor at a mobile needle exchange on the streets of Harlem and the Bronx, where I got to hear people talk about their crazy, strange, improbable and often very painful lives. I gave them the only thing I really had at the time, which was my listening attention, and wondered – what more can I do? And that’s where Holistic Psychotherapy came along. I saw for myself that the talk of talk therapy can go on endlessly, and though people might find relief at being listened to, it is a terribly slow vehicle for transformation. Instead, I began to ask people to get quiet, go inside themselves, and enter the realm Blake called the “Holy, Eternal Imagination.” That was where things could happen. And for myself, I felt the Mood become approachable again when I quietened my own crazy racing mind in meditation.
In 2003 a therapy client who had taken the powerful hallucinogen ibogaine came to me. All the themes in my life came together there: the inner work of Holistic Psychotherapy, the spiritual connection of plant medicine, the drug use issues I was interested in, and a connection with the great healer itself, our original joyous, fully present Self.
I still give time to the needle exchange, running a holistic health program, but my main work now is with people who have taken plant medicines. I returned to plant medicines myself, taking ayahuasca in 2010, and other medicines since then. I believe the medicines engage us on a journey to core identity, which I believe is what The Mood was about. Taken with respect and clear intention, the medicines are a foundation to a spiritual life, and they remind us to not just care of the place we live on, but to make it even more beautiful than it was before. In the time that’s left, I want to be a part of that healing project.