All life on earth is one evolutionary family tree with shared roots. Many animals, plants and fungi on widely-spread branches of the tree share the alchemical ability to arrange the elements into the remarkable molecules we call psychedelics. Our own brains even seem to synthesise trace amounts.
Participants on our retreats drink a tea of cultivated 'truffles', descended from a single wild mushroom discovered in Florida in 1977, and barely seen since. These truffles contain inactive psilocybin, which our collaborating bodies deftly trim into the psychedelic psilocin. Almost identical in structure to our own brain messenger molecule serotonin, psilocybin clicks neatly to our serotonin receptors and temporarily retunes our minds, as if to another frequency.
It is rarely admitted how little we understand, but there remains a vast gulf between what scientists can tell us about the effects of psychedelics in the brain, and the lived embodied experience. It seems that adult human brains have settled into relatively ordered, efficient patterns of activity, as if we're a jazz busker who falls back on a small repertoire of classic tunes. The melody we play most repetitively, without even having to think, is the one we call our sense of self, or ego. Psychedelics relax those constraints on our brain networks, allowing the music to flow spontaneously with novel improvisational twists, flourishes and medleys.