Written by Christopher Kelly
Nov. 8, 2019
Christopher: Well, Daniel, thank you so much for joining me here at the Ancestral Health Symposium in San Diego where you were presenting a poster on the use of psychedelics to overcome chronic illness.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. Thanks for having me, by the way.
Christopher: It's my pleasure.
Daniel: It was a wonderful experience. I hope that next year we do a 30-minute presentation, but this time was just presenting a poster on some of the proposed mechanisms and ideas behind conquering chronic illness and also my own story, which is I'm studying to be a practitioner of this. I'm not a researcher. So for me, the benefit of coming to conferences or to be on podcasts, whatever, is to share my personal story and then talk about actual practice and how someone with chronic illness might actually use these things to, in practice, overcome the chronic illness.
There's a lot of proposed mechanisms, and there are just so many things that even researchers have really no understanding of when it comes to chronic illness. We can talk about that, but it's not really my main interest. My main interest is how do we actually do it in practice?
Christopher: Well, let's get into your personal story. I'm very interested in that. It goes back a long way, right?
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, it goes back a really long way. I first started to become ill when I was in college. I went to work in Latin America and do some community service and got amoebic parasite, gut parasite. That took a few years to get a real diagnosis on at the time. I mean, I didn't know anything about gut health. This might have even been before there was any real discussion about the gut microbiome anyway.
Christopher: Right. It sounds crazy, but yesterday I interviewed Lucy Mailing, and gastroenterologists don't really talk about the gut microbiome, not in general. I mean, sure, you’ve heard some good ones talk about it, but in general, they don't. Go see one on your high street and see if they talk about the gut microbiome.
Daniel: Yeah. I was lucky in the sense that diet care in the United States for a little while because I traveled throughout Latin America and would come back and try to get some medical care in the United States, what I considered at the time to be really good care, but really was just the standard, like give you an antibiotic even though I don't know what's wrong with you and some pills.
Eventually, I was living in Mexico City and even though they also didn't have -- I had like Johns Hopkins-trained MDs in Mexico City, but at the same time, they weren't talking about the gut microbiome yet. However, they did have good parasitology labs relative to what we had in the States. They were doing you legit work and it was really affordable. Eventually, I found the gut parasite.
But after I took the standard course antibiotics and thought everything was resolved, of course, I didn't know anything about what I know now about taking care of myself, so I continued doing the same thing I was doing before, still eating crappy diet, et cetera. And very quickly, I would say, in the following year after getting rid of the parasite, I started have unexplained symptoms -- joint pain and brain fog and stuff like that, and that would continue for many, many, many years and get worse and worse and worse until eventually I nearly lost all my cognitive ability while I was in law school.
And then during that whole odyssey, I found the ancestral health movement, which is, of course, why we're here now having this discussion at the Ancestral Health Symposium. That led me down the road of becoming obsessed with all of the ways that we suffer as modern human beings, as modern industrialized human being suffer from evolutionary mismatch. So I trained with Wim Hof and became a Wim Hof instructor and then eventually became a strength coach and started being in the health coach and started coaching people on nutrition and sleep and everything I could think of after I had done it on myself for a number of years.
But then eventually the problem was that -- I worked with Chris Kresser eventually and got really good functional medicine care. We eventually stumbled upon the diagnosis of CIRS, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. This is an environmental class, I guess, you could say, of illness. And it seemed that I was constantly responding to indoor mold.
There's a bunch of inflammatory blood markers that are accepted but haven’t been legally accepted definition because Ritchie Shoemaker, who came up with the whole idea, had to come up with a class of inflammatory markers that would be accepted during some lawsuit, I can’t remember, that he was a part of. But basically, there's MSH.
Christopher: Yes, there’s MSH.
Daniel: There's a few other ones. I want to say [0:04:49] [Indiscernible]. Does that sound --
Christopher: We went to the Buck Institute for Research on aging for Dale Bredesen’s cognitive decline training. I went with Tommy probably a couple years ago now. It probably tells us something that it just hasn't ended up being that useful. I mean, part of the barrier to entry was like the cost of the testing. When I put together Bredesen's panel, it was like $2,000 at Quest. I can't get people to do a $2,000 blood test. This is kind of crazy. I guess you have to be a lot more targeted.
Daniel: Yeah. I was lucky that at the time that I was doing that, I was working a dead-end job in the City of New York because I was so sick. I wasn't doing well at the time I did the testing with Chris Kresser. So I had good insurance, and a bunch of that stuff was covered, a bunch of the blood work was covered. I was fortunate in that respect.
But in any case, we got that diagnosis. If you know anything about that stuff, the treatment is usually remove yourself from mold. That's the most important thing which I really couldn't do at the time. I didn't really understand that I could do it at the time but I couldn’t. And then you go through cholestyramine treatment, which is an old medication, for cholesterol removal.
Christopher: Mark Alexander was on the podcast recently, and he talked about that as well. He was not able to remove himself from the molds-damaged building.
Daniel: No, no, I wasn't either. And even when I moved to a different state and I was in Southeast Florida, which is extremely humid, so that didn't resolve it. I ended up being at the gym that I was coaching in, and the house I was living in both tested positive. I ran a test through Mycometrics where you kind of do like swab yourself right on the place you're living. But in any case, the problem for me was that I had been going down that road of dealing with illness for so long that you get fatigued. You wear down and you want to know why your brain doesn't work. Was it a decade ago?
Christopher: I hear Simon talk about some of these ideas like learned helplessness. It's like, everything I do doesn't work, and I can't understand why this new thing that you're asking me to do is going to work either because --
Christopher: So this idea that you learn to become helpless. And then also we've seen people whose identity is defined by their chronic illness, and that can be a real bugger because when they start to get better, they have this crisis of identity, like this whole investigative health hustle thing was who I am. It's like what defines me as a human. If you take that away from me, then I need to find something else, right? You've just created a void.
Daniel: Let's talk to that one because that's a really important thing to talk about. It's deeply relevant to the psychedelic topic and overcoming chronic illness. So what ended up happening is that I had this feeling like, if I don't do something extreme, in a way, because I haven't figured out the solution yet after I got the diagnosis from Chris, from Chris Kresser, I didn't get better. I now had good care. I really was hopeful. I was incredibly relieved when I finally had the diagnosis because you feel as if you finally have an answer and then to not have it work through no fault of his. I couldn't remove myself from the mold, and then the treatment didn't work.
Christopher: Cholestyramine did nothing for you?
Daniel: No, it just makes you --
Christopher: Constipated. Nutrient deficient.
Daniel: Yeah. I even went and got the compounding pharmacy version which there's no filler just to be sure.
Christopher: The regular stuff has got some ingredients --
Daniel: Yeah. It's super cheap, by the way. If you don't respond to filler, you don’t get to the filler. It's great. It's like six bucks as opposed to a couple hundred bucks a month or whatever it is. So big difference and especially for a guy not making any money at the time, right?
So anyway, what ended up happening was a few years ago -- I had been interested for many years, as I said, in everything related to evolutionary mismatch. One of the things that I come across, both in my interest in history when I was younger and anthropology, was the notion that people access altered states of consciousness throughout human history as far as we can tell, whether psychedelic states or if they didn't have access to psychedelic plants, they used other things.
It's very common to read about people being in isolation, for example, in the wilderness to gain some access to an altered state or drumming and dance or extreme things that are extremely painful that cause you to have to access an altered state. This appears to be universal and in other intelligent animals, crows and a few other animals --
Christopher: It's not something that's unique to human. It's one of those things that, oh, yeah, only humans get drunk. No, actually, elephants do it.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly, but it appears to be in animals that are very intelligent only that we can tell. So I just got to thinking, like I had with everything else, I'm always looking to see what it is that people who have multiple generations of extremely good robusticity in health, what is it that they do? And you can't copy what they do because you're not exactly them, but in my opinion, you should be looking at these people and thinking, what is it that they do? Is there something I can learn?
I don't think that we do that enough. I was talking about this the other day, even in the ancestral health movement, I'm talking to Lucy Mailing, of all people, the person who was just on this podcast, right? I was saying to her, and it took her a little while, and she was like, "Yeah, I think, yeah, that makes sense. I think you're right." Just this idea that Dr. Michael Rose -- you know Michael Rose?
Christopher: Yeah, I do know. I was talking to one of his friends, and he would send me all these crazy papers about machine learning stuff, a super smart dude. His friend as super smart too. I need to look into all that.
Daniel: Yeah. Well, Michael Rose is interesting. He's got a great interview on Dan Pardi's podcast.
Christopher: Yeah. I think I've heard him on Robb Wolf as well.
Daniel: Yes, they're both excellent. The one on Dan's is because Dan is a brilliant guy. He's a great guy. It's pretty detailed. It's probably a little bit more detailed than Robb Wolf. They're both great. But anyway, aside from his interesting ideas, one of the things that he's brought up that I think is really something that all of us in the ancestral health movement would do well to think about is this idea of Trader Joe's Paleo as he called it. So he says "I eat," he eats Trader Joe's Paleo, and there's nothing wrong with it, and it's way better than what almost everybody else is doing. He's of the opinion that people, particularly as they age, need to be eating that kind of diet, and they have less resistance to Neolithic modern agricultural type diet.
Christopher: Is that the central thesis of his work then? When you’re younger, you can kind of get away with a lot of shit.
Daniel: Not only when you're younger can you, but maybe you should because you're adding robusticity and that as you get older, you will not be able to and that things will show up a lot more.
Christopher: I think even my experience of kids has been, it's pretty hard to stop them from -- I mean, they don't have a prefrontal cortex. They don't have the part of the brain that helps you do the hard thing when it's the right thing to do.
Daniel: And also to worry about stuff too. You could feed your dog terrible things, but they're going to be happy. Even if they're not doing well or nearly as well as they could, they're not going to know, the same that we would know.
But in any case, this Trader Joe's Paleo idea as an example of us thinking critically about the way that healthy, robust, non-industrialized peoples live and that we should take lessons from, he points out that that's kind of the way that we do things, and we think that that's really good approximation. My point to Lucy was we still need to do a lot better job in thinking from an evolutionary perspective and really applying it for our lives.
If you look at the way hunter-gatherers live near where I live, I live in Peru, in the Amazon, where people still hunt and gather to a degree, the people that we have contacted, they're obviously uncontacted peoples there that really only hunt and gather, we just don't know that much about them because they're --
Christopher: Oh, you think there are still --
Daniel: Oh, there are.
Christopher: We just watched a documentary on the Matis with Bruce Parry, and there are guys in the village that remember when the outsiders came. It’s not long ago.
Daniel: Right. There definitely are still. We know that there are. We just don't know anything about them, and there's not that many. I mean, at least, we don't think that there's that many.
Christopher: It’s hard to know. We don’t know.
Daniel: Exactly. But there are some pictures or sightings and stuff with people, and we just don't know who they are. So we know that they exist. But there are also people in this place called Manu, in this massive national park in the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon, who have been contacted, but they're kind of just left alone in the park because it's very difficult to gain entry to the park and they still hunt and gather.
So point is that when you look at what people like that eat, even in temperate climates where they have a lots of access to carbohydrate and they have fruit, they have yuca root and stuff like that, it's really instructive to see that they don't eat salad. They don't do any of the things that we do.
Christopher: A clamshell with baby leaves inside, cherry tomatoes.
Daniel: Yeah, with their plants, they have like these incredibly powerful medicinal plants, and they spend a lot of time processing them and cooking them because they're trying to extract medicinal value with the least amount of stress on the gut. And if you look at what anthropologists have noted about lots of people's reference to their food, they will often refer, not universally, but they'll often refer to meat as food, not meat, because for them the animal food is food because it provides the structure and essential nutrients, whereas the plants are oftentimes medicine or some kind of fallback food.
This is why I think we -- you and I talked about this the other day -- I'm somewhat receptive to the carnivore diet. Even though I don't identify as carnivore, the idea is kind of strange to identify as something like that.
Christopher: I was thinking, I saw this in the Smithsonian recently in Washington, D.C., it represents a tradeoff. If I go hunting for animals, that's risky. I might get hurt. I might get lost. I might not get anything at all. But if I gather plants or tubers or nuts or seeds and fruit, something else, that's much less risky. There's a much greater chance that my mission is going to be successful. There’s a lot less chance I'm going to get hurt. So it represents a tradeoff. And it's particularly helpful if you have different people doing different things. It’s like you go hunting, I’ll go gathering. If you get lucky, then great, we've got meat tonight. If you don't, it's not the end of the world. We still got whatever we gathered.
Daniel: Yeah, you see that now with anthropologists’ writings about the Hadza, for example. The women often, I think, almost universally, they gather, and then the men are going to go more often and try to get honey because it's more dangerous and they're the ones that hunt. They're doing both the same time because when the men come back, it's like there's a really good chance to be unsuccessful.
Christopher: There's some super weird stuff -- as a Westerner, it’s hard for me to relate to, but nevertheless, this is what I saw in the Bruce Parry's documentary with the Matis is the women define a good husband by his ability to provide meat. That's how they talked about Bruce Parry. He’s a good husband material because he brought me a woolly monkey. It's interesting. It's very archaic. Thinking perhaps we might think but nevertheless, that's what they said.
Daniel: Yeah. In their particular society, it's true. It's definitely true. But in any case, back to the notion of plants and the reason why I brought all that up is just that I really believe that oftentimes, even in the ancestral health movement, we're actually thinking and talking about these things and the rest of the world isn't yet often.
I still think that we are missing a lot of things, and we end up doing the equivalent of Trader Joe's Paleo. We end up missing some really key pieces of what it is that makes people really robust and what we're well adapted to. One of the things that we miss is the subject of what you wanted to talk to me about which is the psychedelic, the altered state. So for most people in that world, in the plant medicine world, they're not a part also of the ancestral health world. There's some, there's a little bit of overlap. Now, they're doing -- Keith Norris over at Paleo f(x), he has a psychedelic panel every year pretty much now.
Christopher: Oh, really? I didn’t know that.
Daniel: Like in the last four years.
Christopher: It's widely accepted within the community. The use of psychedelics is something that ancestry would have been useful, relevant, and the absence of psychedelics may, or at least that altered state, is an environmental mismatch. Ultimately, that's what we care about is to seek and at least examine, perhaps destroy environmental mismatch in any way, shape, or form.
Daniel: Yeah. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's probably widely accepted, but it's accepted enough that people are coming out to that panel regularly. I still see like when Dennis McKenna, for example, did a talk, I would have liked to see the famous ethnobotanists who study psychedelics. I would have liked to see a lot more people at that talk. I think it was still very much like Aubrey Marcus and stuff was on the panel.
So I think they're bringing some people who are not really into the ancestral health world. They're bringing out some other people who are more just interested in health and wellness and also interested in psychedelics and hearing what people have to say about their altered states, which is a start. But what I'm saying is that what you just said, which is to say, this is the thing that we're missing. This is a piece of the puzzle. That's a really, really, really big piece, from my perspective, and we're missing it. And then outside, where the real discussion is going about psychedelics and in the public sphere, they're totally missing it because from their perspective, you got all the people in Silicon Valley who are in the microdosing, and that's no different than the way that people talk about doing ‘roids. It's like you're doing something to get a specific performance advantage, to get better at coding.
Christopher: Well, have you seen anything in the literature on microdosing? I hear people talking about it but --
Daniel: Yeah, there was recently some stuff. I can't remember the quality of the study, but I think it was about microdosing and LSD. There's not great evidence that it improves wellbeing. I think it increases neuroticism, actually. I could be wrong with that, but I think that's the case and there's nothing -- James Fadiman, this researcher who's been around for a long time. He's part of maybe the end of the first wave of psychedelic research, but he's been around a long time. I think he's the guy that's certainly most associated with microdosing. If people are interested, he did a long interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast a while back where he -- he wrote the Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, which is amazing, and he has done the surveys, the most authoritative surveys and stuff on microdosing.
From my perspective, I've known many people -- I've microdosed many times, and I've known many people. I don't anymore, and I've known many people that have gotten benefit. But again, my perspective is that we continue to miss the boat. We continue to not have the conversation that needs to be had which is what you originally pointed out, which is it is a mismatch. We suffer from evolutionary mismatch in many ways, and one of them is that we're not looking at the altered state and the importance of it in the right context.
So going back to my story, I bought a ticket. I thought about this for many years, and then eventually I was at my wit's end. I was training people and doing health coaching, but I wasn't good better after the treatment with Chris Kresser. I found this woman named Jessica Bertram, who's a wonderful lady, an ayahuasquera at this place called Parign Hak. Parign Hak is a place in the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon where these people, an ethno-language group called the Harakbut, which is composed of a few tribes, they were contacted, very similar to what you're talking about with the Bruce Parry, they were contacted in the 1950s by an artist from New York who went down, and he just was --
Christopher: Wandering around in the jungle.
Daniel: Yeah. Basically, he got to the end of where the Spanish mission was which was itself a hilariously bizarre shit show in the edge of that part of the world, that part of like when you go beyond this, there is nothing.
Christopher: The forbidden zone.
Daniel: Yeah. Going into the heart of darkness like Joseph Conrad style. So he got to the end, and he didn't find the Spanish mission very fun because it seemed bizarre and dysfunctional. There were some indigenous people that would stay near the mission because you could get some food, and you can get some metal tools and stuff.
Christopher: It's such an interesting thing mission to the Matis. It's like golden handcuffs. Once you've been touched by the outside -- this is exactly what they said, I'm quoting them now -- once you've been touched by the outside, you get their diseases. And once you have their diseases, you need their medicine. It's like a golden handcuff. I have to hang out here because if my kid gets sick, it’s going to die unless I go to the outsiders.
Daniel: Yeah. And that's what they were doing. The Spanish missionaries would give them some kind of medicine, and then they had metal tools. So once you get a taste of that --
Christopher: They talked about that. It's such a simple thing, isn’t it? You think that everybody has -- like the hunting dog is a very valuable tool when you get substantial number of your calories from hunting peccary in the jungle.
Christopher: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So this guy, Tobias Schneebaum, he wrote a book called Keep the River on Your Right which is a fascinating easy read. It's really interesting. He ended up going to New Guinea at some point later on, doing similar kind of thing, although I don't think he found uncontacted people. But his stories are really interesting. We know that he was telling the truth because in the 1990s, before he passed away, he went back with a documentary crew, and they all remembered him. So all of the things that he says are -- I would say all because there's a dispute about a major event in the book. But the point is that he contacted these people and then these people ended up coming back from the mission and, of course, then they became officially contacted. And then many decades later, my friend Jessica, after working as a rainforest guide, became an ayahuasquera and brought ayahuasca to them, which is another fascinating thing because just like your example of the dogs, these people did not have ayahuasca even though ayahuasca is from the Amazon.
Christopher: Okay, so we better explain what ayahuasca is now. I think there's going to be a lot of people listening like me that are really naïve, don't know what any of those substances are or what they do.
Daniel: Yes, so is the most well-known foreign, I would say, psychedelic, foreign because the most well-known are going to be mushrooms and LSD. Psilocybin mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms grow in the United States. They grow all over, and they're native to here. LSD is a semi-synthetic, which was invented by Albert Hofmann, discovered by Albert Hofmann in Switzerland. But, of course, LSD is a very interesting -- it played an important role in the history of this country because you have the entire counterculture movement related to it in the 1960s. So people know about those, but the psychedelic that people know about beyond that is certainly ayahuasca first, and the reason why it's kind of hard to say but I think a lot of people have since made it kind of trendy. They've become trendy all over the West Coast.
Christopher: I think I've seen jokes in the onion about, like Silicon Valley executive goes to South America to find himself. He got there and there's all these Silicon Valley executives were queuing up to see the dude that does ayahuasca.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, exactly. If people have done the thing that I find really hilariously distasteful where they videotaped themselves for like a TV show and do this thing. And also it has this --
Christopher: More like Bruce Parry.
Daniel: Well, taking it, taking it.
Christopher: I think he has done all of that. Yeah.
Daniel: I think there's a way you can do it. So it's like if you're doing it in a documentary because you want to show what reality is, that's quite different than doing it like what Chelsea Handler, if you know who she is. She's this, I guess, comedian type personality who had this show. I have never really seen it, but she went to the Amazon and kind of filmed herself doing this ayahuasca thing.
Christopher: It’s purely for entertainment.
Daniel: Being really casual about it.
Christopher: Whereas Bruce Parry is on the mission to spread the word. That's what the people say to him is like, nobody knows what's happening to us. Can you get the word out? What can you do to help us? He’s doing the thing that will --
Daniel: Yeah, that’s a different thing. That's a different thing. I have zero problem with that. In the context of documentary -- I mean, they're making documentaries about my friend Jessica doing super serious work in the Amazon with these indigenous people. The ayahuasca retreat as well, that's wonderful. But once you trivialize it and draw the attention to look at me, I'm doing this, it's kind of bizarre.
But in any case, that's a really fascinating thing, the idea that some people in what we consider the same place -- it's not the same place, the Amazon is giant -- didn't have access to these plants. So in any case, ayahuasca is combination of two different plants. One has DMT, and one has an MAOI, MAO inhibitor, and it inhibits the breakdown of the first plant.
Christopher: It’s like synergistic effect?
Daniel: Yes, exactly. What's really fascinating is that they don't grow near each other. So it's always a question of how people figured that out. If you ask the people, they will tell you that the plants told them, and that's an interesting thing. How do you make of that, right?
Christopher: They did, but…
Daniel: Well, I don't know. I don't know because plant intelligence is something that we're just now starting to really think about. I don't know what I think about it yet.
Christopher: I heard this guy. It was interesting interview with Diana Rodgers, and I've forgotten the guest’s name, but he talked about this, how it's really hard to differentiate between animals and plants if you take certain criteria. It was interesting. I'll link to it in the show notes, so people can listen to that.
Daniel: Yeah, that entire subject is very fascinating.
Christopher: Yes, a whole nother podcast.
Daniel: Yes, a whole nother podcast. That’s how this thing is fascinating. So anyway, I found this woman, Jessica, and I realized after talking to her on Skype, we had a few Skype conversations, I felt that it was do or die for me. It was put up or shut up. I've been thinking about this for a long time and I thought, okay, I think I'm pretty much at the end here, not in a what was me kind of way, but I felt like I was at the end of the rope. I've done everything. I had found the great functional medicine practitioner who actually did a good job.
Christopher: He’s the man, right?
Daniel: Yeah, he's the man, but he also did a good job. It's like, from my perspective, looking at it now objectively, you could say, well, maybe another functional medicine practitioner would have considered this x thing that this one person did and whatever. But from my perspective, I had no money. A couple years back, I had ended the seven-year relationship with the woman I thought I was going to marry. My health still wasn't great even though I had changed everything that I could think of at the time. From my perspective, it was like, okay, well, you did a lot, but you know --
Christopher: Is it now time to chill out. We see that all the time. The final thing that's holding you back is the thing that got you to where you are now, right? This investigative health hustle thing, this relentless pursuit of health and performance is now the thing that's holding you back from the Promised Land. You just need to chill the fuck out. I've heard Chris Kresser talk about this as well. He loves to cite this case study of some dude that they thought he was a lost cause. He just happened to wander back into the office six months, and the thing that he needed to do was just chill out, have a pizza, have a beer and hang out with his friends. It was the missing piece of the puzzle, right?
Daniel: Yeah. Well, I would say that yes, that ended up being true. But for my case, I was still really depressed. So for me, at the time, yes, that's 100% true. I needed to chill the fuck out. But the problems lay, I think, much deeper, and this is what I really want to start talking about with you is, from my perspective, as much as we're improving in functional medicine care, one of the major problems is that -- and this is the mismatch piece, or at least this is part of it -- is that people don't have a lot of insight into their unconscious mind. The problem is that without that, you become fixated. Even if you're doing an excellent job, you can become fixated quite easily on the nutrition, the sleep, all these things, and think in a very mechanistic way. You really haven't done anything about your unconscious mind. You have not resolved your feelings of --
Christopher: I’m not sure that people even terribly why that such a concept exists, right?
Daniel: That's the problem. So one of the things that ends up happening there is that you identify, as you talked about before, with your illness. And it's not simply the fear that if you let it go, that you won't have anything and you won't know who you are. In my case, I was really, really ready to let it go and that ended up being why I had so much success with what we're talking about with the plants. But you also often, one, don't realize that you're identifying with it so fully and then, two, you have no idea what to do about it even if you wanted to let it go. If you wanted to let it go, how would you let it go?
Christopher: Yeah, you reminded me if the metaphor, the Russ Harris's -- Russ Harris had phenomenal books, The Happiness Trap and The Confidence Gap, and he's recently released a training course that's just phenomenal. He talks about this metaphor that's like, be hooked by your thoughts. I think it's very appropriate is shit happens and it hooks you. Your kids, they're driving you nuts. You don't see that there's a hook in your lip, and it's pulling it. And then, first of all, you have to notice that you've been hooked by this thought, and then you got to figure out how to get off the hook, like it's not trivial.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. I was lucky that these things were of interest to me before I ever went. Obviously, that's why I went, they were of interest to me. But I had really thought a lot about them. Even though I had never, as Wim Hof would say, I had never had a feeling is understanding. The way of thinking about them, that would come after I went.
Christopher: You're going to have to explain this a bit better though. You realize that you still had a missing piece of your puzzle that you hadn't fully overcome your chronic illness and that you've met someone, you talked to them on Skype. What exactly was it that you thought that you could overcome? What made you believe that if I go see this woman in the Peruvian jungle, she’s going to prescribe something or do something and that's going to be the final piece of that puzzle?
Daniel: So as it as often the case, the way that you start out thinking about something when you go and you step into a new world is not really close to accurate. However, it might be the thing that you need to start. So what happened was, because I had the Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome diagnosis from Chris Kresser, the idea, the concept in that particular diagnosis is that you've got mold particles which are constantly circulating in your intestines and because of this inflammatory response, you were not able to find and excrete them. So I had the thought, aha, this is the only thing I can think of, aha, I've been reading about ayahuasca for a long time, and ayahuasca is --
Christopher: So there was a prerequisite knowledge that, obviously, not everyone's going to have when they --
Daniel: Yeah. By the way, I could have come at it from a different angle. It's just that I was so fixated at the time with my own chronic illness, that the thing that I was fixated on was this very mechanistic idea that I could dimly understand which was, okay, there are these mold particles, and I knew that ayahuasca is considered a purgative. So people often vomit or go to the bathroom, and they often do so and at the same time, identify the purge with a deeply emotional thing.
Christopher: Okay, so it's different from what my daughter does which is pick some chewing gum off the underside of a seat in an airport, and she has that same vomiting and diarrhea thing. But obviously ayahuasca is a little bit different. It's a little bit different.
Daniel: She's more advanced than we are. She can do it like that. She doesn't have to wait till the emotional crap goes up. Just like, now would be a good time to throw up. But basically, that was my dim understanding. But there was another thing, in retrospect, which was that, I knew that there were things, particularly related, for example, to the end of my relationship with this woman that I thought was the greatest thing in the world and now was no longer with me, I knew that there were things related to that and things related to my parents, my relationship with them that were emotionally unresolved.
And even though I had no clue as to the depth of the connection between all those things and illness, as it would turn out, I knew that there was something there and I knew that people had been dealing with their trauma and their emotional issues and that there was no doubt that these things were related to physical manifestation of illness. I just did not have any kind of understanding at the time before I started the depth of that connection because again there's that feeling is understanding idea, and I was not really well versed in literature at the time of how trauma might actually hold itself in the body.
I had, again, no practical, real understanding, but I did understand enough to say, I know that there's stuff that I'm not dealing with and I know that I don't know what a lot of it is. I'm smart enough. I'm consciously incompetent. I know that there's a bunch of stuff that I don't know that's affecting me, and I don't know how to figure it out yet, but it seems like this is a kind of thing that people have been doing a long time. And I'm not doing any of it nor have I ever. I see a lot of other people who are unhealthy, and I know they're not doing it either. I've done a lot of other stuff, and I've seen a lot of improvements. Sleep and circadian rhythm --
Christopher: So it's not like you're missing the pillars. That's something that the biohackers get accused of, I think sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly, but it's that idea that it's the relentless pursuit of the marginal gains whilst passing up on the massive gains. So the pillars of health, sleep, exercise, eating, drinking, stress management are still left unattended whilst you pursue some nootropic thing that somebody talked about in podcast two weeks ago.
Daniel: Yes. I spent almost the entire time yesterday when I was doing my presentation talking to people about having a map of the world which has explanatory power. So the ancestral health movement is so powerful because it gives you a map of the world. It says, look, here is a theory, basically a unifying theory, which would be evolutionary biology, evolution by natural selection, here is a theory -- and then anthropology is not a theory but it's just a study -- that gives the world explanatory power.
How should you think about sleep? Well, we have ideas. You have principles that draw on to think about your sleep. How should you think about food? Well, there's optimal foraging theory, and there’s thinking about meat as being real food and structure for your body and plants as being medicinal stress and fruit as being an evolutionary strategy by plants to get you to eat them because they're sweet and generally nontoxic and then, obviously, mammals spread the seed of the fruit.
This is a map. The reason why it's so powerful, the reason why I became so driven to learn more about ancestral health many, many years ago is because I intuitively realized, oh, this is a map that gives my life some degree of explanation. What people often struggle with -- and I've coached at this point a lot of them -- is they've yoyoed back and forth between different types of diets. One of the big reasons is that they don't have a map of the world that has any explanation. It doesn't tell you how to make better decisions when the next novel thing comes down the pike. It doesn't tell you how to do anything.
Christopher: That’s an interesting idea. I think a lot about feedback as well, like I don't know, like somebody had this idea I heard about in a podcast and I tried it. I have fucking no idea whether it's working or not. The symptoms are so unreliable. We've had Bryan Walsh, our naturopathic doctor friend, teach some biochemistry interpretation. He teaches these levels of organization thing that I find interesting, and that kind of naturally lends itself into this idea that, well, when is it that you see symptoms? If one cell dies in your liver, do you feel that? What about two cells? Three cells? How bad does the problem be before you start to experience symptoms?
So it's not surprising that you don't get rapid feedback, right? And so I feel like this rapid feedback thing is an important problem that maybe I should solve. I hit something on a podcast, I try it and I do a blood test and then I find out whether it was any good or not. But yeah, you're right, another part of the problem is that the value system is [0:38:44] [Indiscernible]. All along, I've been doing what people told me. They told me to eat margarine and to avoid fat. I did it and it didn't work. So the map is important too, the value system.
Daniel: Yeah. So modern Western people don't have a good map. Their map sucks.
Christopher: And they don't have the feedback either.
Daniel: They don’t have any of it. But we sometimes forget, even in the ancestral health movement, is people that live in nature, they're born with a map. They're born with a user manual. Their elders give it to them. You watch the people emulate exactly what you are going to have to do to survive in that environment well. But that doesn't exist anymore.
Christopher: Yeah, you're going to make me cry because this is the one thing I really can't solve is the environmental mismatch is the nuclear family unit. Stephanie Welch introduced that idea on the podcast a few months ago. She's going to be talking about that this afternoon here at the Ancestral Health Symposium. I should link to that talk in the show notes. I'm really looking forward to that one.
It’s still the hardest thing to solve, right? You're going to have two adults in one house with 2.5 children, a white picket fence, you both get a car, and you have to pay the mortgage and the property tax and the gas field, electricity. Your mom is on the other side of the country, so she's not going to be much help looking after kids. By the way, she not going to teach you what she learned about -- it goes on and on and on.
Daniel: Yeah. But even if you wanted to make the argument, as the evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein has made that marriage is an evolutionary phenomenon and that actually there are some really good adaptations to this nuclear family type deal. The problem is that even then, there isn't a good map. So let's say that that's the right thing and you have a family and you have your two kids with the white picket fence and blah, blah, blah.
Christopher: Yeah, you're right. There's not a good map to that either.
Daniel: The problem is there’s not a good map to that either. It's like, okay, so --
Christopher: Maybe it can work if you have the right map but…
Daniel: Right. So then what do you think about nutrition? Well, people don't know. Why? They don't have a map for that. What do you think about sleep? Well, we don't know. We're just going to watch TV. Well, that's not going to work because you don't have a map that has explanatory power.
So this too far afield and too profound with respect to religion, but this is what Nietzsche meant when he said God is dead, and thus spoke Zarathustra. He said God is dead and we killed him. What he meant was we killed this map of religion and morality that comes in that map. You and I might say, I would say like, well, it's not that great a map. We need some alterations. We need some better stuff. But humans are deeply mythological animals that tell a story at an unconscious level, and religion is a big part of that. And then if you come along and you have rational scientific thought that picks apart all those things, the problem becomes, well, now you've got rid of all these pieces of the map that you felt at the unconscious level were metaphorically true.
So to bring this back to what I was trying to say is that I realized that pretty early on, that this evolutionary view of the world, the anthropological view of the world, was a useful map. And then I saw that all these people were interested, all these indigenous people that had great health and passed it on and had robust health generation after generation, that that was part of their map. I realized, oh, well, I have a map and that fits into it, but I've never explored it. I have to go do that because if I don't, I think I'm missing this massive part of the map. It's like building a topographical map, and you don't have anything where all the mountains are.
You can apply that to everything, and my argument has been that that's a piece of the map that even highly intelligent people in our movement are missing and I would say, without it, you can never be nearly as healthy as you could be. But in the case of people that have chronic issues, they cannot gain separation from their identity with the illness. So many of the people I deal with in the plant medicine world don't have any kind of diagnosed chronic illness. But the same is true, almost regardless of whether they do or not, because they're still identifying with things that don't serve them.
So I stumbled upon ayahuasca, in particular. It's not even the plant I work with now, which we'll get to in a second, but I stumbled upon that because I was purely in the -- I still was in this mechanistic way of looking at the world only which was, well, I have these mold things. I have to throw them up, or crap, I have to get rid of them. I have to excrete them. And then I went looking for the person who might be able to help me do that. I found this woman and immediately I thought, this woman is legit. This woman walks the walk, you could tell. I'm a pretty good judge of character, and she was.
So I went down, and I worked with her in the jungle for a little while and that was the beginning. It wasn't the thing that did it. And then I worked with many other medicines. Then eventually, what ends up happening -- and this appears to be true based on the work of people like Mircea Eliade, who's probably the -- I think he's long dead now, but he's a mythologist and anthropologist who wrote about shamanism.
So what appears to be true cross-culturally is that the shaman is a person who becomes ill often, maybe even has a break with reality, what we would probably call schizophrenic, psychotic break or something like that, and then heals and returns with knowledge and then helps the tribe. In my case, I luckily never had like a psychotic break or anything like that, but I was very ill. And then what ended up happening was, in the work that I did in Peru, I did gain complete separation from the identity of having an illness, then that was removed, and then I started to heal.
Christopher: It's disassociation.
Daniel: That’s right. The separation. You might think of it as the separation, the distance that you get from the stories that you have been telling yourself, the unconscious software you have been running.
Christopher: It just reminds me of what Joshua Turknett said this morning, like the disassociation of your ego with your hypothesis, right?
Daniel: That's right.
Christopher: I wonder if there's anyone in the community we could send them some ayahuasca or something and disassociate themselves with the idea that blood levels of cholesterol have some effect on cardiovascular disease.
Daniel: No, they need to come see me.
Christopher: Yeah, okay.
Daniel: Because the problem there is that that's another mismatch. You see a lot of these people that are doing this stuff in the plant medicine world and again, they don't understand that the precautionary principle -- I think you and Julie and I are somewhat -- I think it was you, Julie and I were talking about precautionary principle last night.
Christopher: Oh, yeah.
Daniel: This idea that, look, you're not that smart. You're a really smart guy, but none of us are that smart. The problem is that you should probably do the things that have always been done, or at least you should err on that side before you have a really good reason to change something.
Christopher: Yeah. It's the first do no harm approach to --
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. So when we look at cultures that do these kinds of things, we see ceremony, we see ritual, we see close attention to guidance. It's not, but most people that are doing these things are often doing them very casually without preparation before, without a lot of work afterwards, and it doesn't have nearly the same effect because it's just a tool. Like every tool, it depends on how well you know how to wield it.
So anyway, I went down there and I got distance from that story in the beginning. Again, if you have a map of the world and these things fit into the map, which is really most of the battle, most of the people that I meet who do this work because where I live, it's legal, so you meet people every day who talk about their experiences in this place that I live. It's a very strange place. What becomes very evident very quickly is they don't have a map of the world in which these things actually have a place.
What they did was they went and they tried to find something outside of themselves, like people do when they rely on pharmaceuticals, to give them an answer that will solve their problem. Most of the time, they don't know what their problems are because it's in the unconscious mind. But they're looking for something. They know something's wrong. But again, you have to have a map of the world that gives you explanatory power. These tools have to be a part of the map.
In retrospect, I went down this path because I had that. And then it's continued, I've continued to kind of build out the map. I continued to provide more details to the topographical map, drawing the rivers, drawing the mountains. So it was very quick. For me, it was very apparent that this was a massive missing piece of the world, of most people's worlds. Very quickly I got distance from the story, and very quickly then I stopped identifying completely with the notion of having an illness, because there is no having an illness. It doesn’t exist. It's just an expression in a moment in time. It's a real thing. It's not bullshit, but it's an epigenetic expression. It's not you have something, and this is the power of one of the many wonderful things about the work of someone like Sam Harris.
Christopher: I knew you're going to say that. Try holding that thought even if it is a negative one. Try holding it there. See if you can do it.
Daniel: Right, because there is no self. The notion that you are Chris and you're riding around in your brain and you are the thinker of your thoughts is an illusion. But once you can feel -- going back to Wim Hof who I found -- he was my teacher but much more importantly, for me, he didn't really -- most of the things that I've learned about cold and the things that I've learned that have to do with many of the things that he actually talked about I didn't learn from him. I learned from the plants. But what I learned from Wim is how important it is to inspire people and also this notion of feeling is understanding.
The problem is it's difficult to explain that to people. But when you get a feeling is understanding, embodied notion of what something means, it's quite a different thing. So sometimes you can start with an intellectual understanding. Like, for example, Sam Harris is well known for having many, many videos and many discussions about the illusion of the self that I just referenced, and you can intellectually understand that. But when you feel what that really means and gain complete separation from it and realize, observe it as the illusion that it is, then you can let go of the identity that was part of that self that you didn't really understand was an illusion.
So that's what happened. And then not that long after that, I received, I guess, you could say I went through a transformative experience where I had a vision that I was supposed to guide people to do this very thing, to basically go through the death of parts of their identity. And then I started to study and for the last several years I've been studying, but only recently I fully officially moved to Peru full time. All I do outside of running my own online business so that I can help people and make a living is I studied the psychedelic cactus known as San Pedro or Wachuma and I'm studying to be what's called a wachumero or curandero, a person that administers that.
Christopher: What's the difference? How is that different from ayahuasca?
Daniel: Well, chemically, it's different. It's a psychedelic cactus with one ingredient which is just the cactus as opposed to ayahuasca which is two ingredients. But it's different in its active ingredients, like San Pedro has mescaline in it, which is the same as peyote, which is found in the Northern Mexico and South Western US. But it's also just from a practical perspective, its interactions with drugs and food is quite different than ayahuasca and its effects are quite different, the experience is quite different. Ayahuasca is a very visionary plant. So you will have hallucinations and see maybe geometric shapes and colors often.
Christopher: There's a lot of [0:51:25] [Indiscernible] involved.
Daniel: Yeah, although as many times as I've done ayahuasca, I never have.
Christopher: Oh, interesting. Okay. So that wasn't given.
Daniel: No, not given. And that's another thing that I love about San Pedro is that for people who are not very experienced in particular, the purge, the physical purge is something that takes a while to really embrace and love because you welcome it. But in the beginning, that's not the case because we have all these ideas. Ivy doesn't have any ideas about the shame of puking in front of someone.
Christopher: Oh, no, not at all.
Daniel: Right, but neither did wild humans. So that's a thing that inhibits a lot of times ayahuasca because people are fighting it because they know, even if they've never experienced it, they know, they've heard, oh, I'm going to do this, I'm going to shoot myself, I'm going to throw up, and that's an inhibiting thing. You're fighting it instead. With San Pedro, there is no such thing. Sometimes people will throw up, but it doesn't have the same connotation, doesn't have the same association with that thing. So people don't basically drive up nervous system arousal in anticipation of it. So that's another wonderful thing. Plus, it doesn't interact with -- ayahuasca has really negative interaction with the amino acid tyramine, so you've got things which are found in fermented foods and red meat.
Christopher: Not tyrosine? It's a different --
Daniel: No, it's tyramine.
Daniel: So that's another thing. San Pedro doesn't have that. So when people work with me -- and I don't administer medicine yet, I will. I work under my teacher, so I take people out with him. But people do consult with me privately for integration work which means that I help them prepare for the experience that they're going to have, whether it's with me or not, and I help them afterwards integrate the experience, what happened.
Christopher: Well, that was going to be my question. We talked about this. It's funny how all these pieces fit together, at least they do in my mind right now. We talked about Lucy Mailing about the gut ecosystem. So if you're going to remove some characters from the ecosystem, then what the hell is going to replace it, do you necessarily have control over that? I wonder if I'm going to disassociate myself with my identity as a chronically ill person, what the hell is going to replace that, right? Do I even have control over it?
Daniel: Well, the answer to that is yes, you do but it depends on the map. So one of the things that I do is I help people -- this isn't even a discussion. The discussion we're having, what's funny about this is that this is not -- I don't want to say no one talks about it ever, but in the psychedelic world, this is not a conversation that's happening.
Christopher: Oh, really?
Daniel: It's not even happening because I don't think people have stepped back and had enough of a view that comes from other disciplines.
Christopher: Exactly. So that's what it is. It's about being a generalist, an opportunistic generalist.
Daniel: Yes, there's no doubt. For example, I'm a fan of the movement coach, Ido Portal. I don't know him, but only in the sense that he's been talking for years before Epstein's book, for example. It's David Epstein that wrote that book about range? Generalist --
Christopher: Oh, yes. I know that Tommy has been reading that, and he really likes it. It’s on my list.
Daniel: Yes. Mike Nelson as well. Mike Nelson says it’s great too. I like Epstein's book The Sports Gene.
Christopher: Yes, I've read that one. It’s great.
Daniel: But Portal talking about it from the movement perspective only. It's like, no, no, no, no, no, you're a generalist. You're not a generalist as a human. Don't get me wrong. If you want to be the best at Jiu Jitsu, you got to practice Jiu Jitsu a lot. If you want to the best of mountain biking, as you well know, you got to practice. You got to do that thing. But don't get it confused. Human beings as wild animals are generalists. They're really good at running long distances. They can run really fast or short distances but terrible compared to most other predators, but they can do -- they can throw. They can do all kinds of things and imitate and move in slow motion. Another guy you should try to get on as John Ratey, the Harvard psychiatrist who talks about neuroplasticity through the movement.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah, Josh has been talking about neuroplasticity.
Daniel: Yeah. Talk to Josh about John Ratey. He needs to check him out as well. But the point is that, yes, I'm definitely a generalist. I've recognized over time that I have to pick one thing because I kept being like a Labrador and losing my focus and be like, I need to know about that. I need to know about that. What about nutritional biochem? I don't have that back then. I need to know about that. So that's how, of course, I found great podcasts like yours. It's like, well, I need to learn about that, I need to learn about that. But what I’ve also recognized is that it does pay to be a specialist in at least one thing because you see the way in all things. The Musashi quote from The Book of Five Rings, right? It's something like, to see the way broadly, you essentially -- I'm paraphrasing now, obviously -- you have to focus and become hyperdisciplined and --
Christopher: You reminded me of the [0:56:30] [Indiscernible] team is I strive to have no specialists. Everybody's an opportunistic generalist. You can talk to anyone about anything on the team. However, I'm never going to get away from the fact that Simon is particularly good at performance psychology, and Zach is particularly good at strength and conditioning. It's just a fact of life.
Daniel: Yes. So I found myself being called to a specific thing. In my case, it's very interesting because when I talk about, it's quite different than the way other people talk about they're calling for strength and conditioning. When you receive it in the kind of altered state vision that you receive it in psychedelics, it is the kind of thing where when you receive that kind of specific message, there can be no other way because you've now done something that human beings have been doing for possibly millions of years if you consider that the genus Homo was likely consuming psychedelic mushrooms or something before Homo sapiens.
So you're doing something that we've been doing for forever, and the way that we think of insight that you receive on these things is of such a clarity that it's not like, when I became a trainer, for example, because I knew I loved helping people and I was very interested in movement and I felt called to do it, it's a different kind of thing. It's almost like it would be laughable to consider doing anything else because it's almost as if you have no choice. To debate the free will thing, but that’s what it feels like. So I went down that path, and that's why I do what I do now. It is the most rewarding thing that I could ever imagine.
Christopher: I understand something about what it's like to witness a transformation, not just your own but somebody else's. You get that six-week call, and someone wants to tell you about all the new hobbies and things that they're doing that they couldn't do before or didn't think about before. It truly makes everything worth it.
Daniel: Yeah, 100%.
Christopher: So what's the time scale we're talking about here? Is it like, I run up in the jungle, take some weird cactus thing, see some shapes in the sky, and then wake up the next day, and I'm totally disassociated with this chronic illness thing.
Daniel: It can be like that.
Christopher: It really can be that fast.
Daniel: Yeah. So much of it is dependent. The reason that the people who are starting to work with me get, if I do say so myself, get excellent results is because it is very dependent upon the map of the world that you have built prior to and the map that you continue to build after because these things are -- they shouldn't be viewed -- you should view yourself, you should conceptualize yourself. Jordan Peterson if you're familiar --
Christopher: Yeah, we were talking about this at breakfast. I realized I am from The Coddling of the American Mind. I've heard him talk. Oh, no, sorry. That's not Jordan Peterson.
Daniel: No, that's Jonathan Haidt. But Jordan Peterson is the Canadian public intellectual.
Christopher: Yes. I've heard him speak in podcast too and his daughter is Mikhaila --
Daniel: Yeah, the carnivore.
Daniel: But Jordan Peterson is, at this point, the most well-known public intellectual in the Western world. He has one of the big bestselling books, 12 Rules for Life and the world. That's a big part of why he's so well known.
Christopher: So many books.
Daniel: The book is a big part of why he’s so well-known is just because what people don't realize that he's doing is he's giving you a way of conceptualizing yourself in the world, and then we can debate whether it's the best way. But it's a way. It's a map. The 12 rules for life thing, it's like, that's a map. Follow the rules. Now, you have a structure because people don't exist without one. They want to believe, I wanted to believe for many, many years that I could, but you can't. Human beings have never done that. They exist within a tribe. They exist within a greater society. They exist within -- and you have a hierarchy of values, no matter which ones are yours.
So my point is, with respect to the progress or the transformation that you can make, let's say, with the plants is it is largely dependent upon your map of the world and then continuously building and kind of filling in the details of the map as you go down this path. But the ability to achieve these states and ability to gain optimal health, let's say, is in large part predicated on the quality of that map. And then, if you view yourself as the thing that can change itself, that is necessary to continuously change. And then when you do and you internalize that understanding, then every time you go to use the ceremony, to do the plant in the ceremony, every time, you can die metaphorically and every time be reborn into something new. That itself is the identity.
So you asked me before, like you lose that, we lose the identity, look what you got. That’s what you have. You have the identity of being the thing that changes itself, and that is the identity that you want to foster because the thing that changes itself can always improve.
Christopher: So that's what scares me about some of this stuff is, what if I don't like what happens on the other side, is that reversible?
Daniel: I've never heard of it because the thing is that, again, even if you don't have a good map, which is almost 99% of people I meet that do this stuff, you don't hear about people being upset with what happened afterwards because they almost always gain significant realization into something. Now, from my perspective, it's very surface area compared to what is possible, but it's still something. If almost nothing happens, it's usually because unconsciously you're fighting that thing, you’re fighting to make sure that you don't lose control during the experience at all.
Those are the rare people I've met, and also I've met some people with some health problems that they don't know that they have. I suspect there's all kinds of excitability neurotransmitter issues like imbalance of GABA and glutamate, for example. This is why and they've got a tremendously disrupted gut microbiome, and this may be why they're not really seeing effects. But beyond that, there is no real concern to be had about you going through some kind of transformation and then not liking who you became because what ends up happening is you gain insight. You gain insight to what you believe is true. You learn more about the consciousness that is you.
Christopher: So the big question is do I need the psychedelic drug? Is there a way that I can achieve it?
Christopher: Because if you pay close attention, it's quite often like signs just in the way that you feel and the energy that's in your voice, like when I talked to Lucy Mailing last night about some of these ideas of doing away with the nuclear family unit and recreating sort of communities across age boundaries, so rather than putting all the old people away and then old people say, "I'm over here," and the young children and the daycare over there, we just kind of bring all these people together and integrate them. There's a certain feeling that I have and maybe a certain energy that comes into my voice that is, oh, that's interesting. Is that something that maybe I should be paying attention to? So I guess that's my question, could anybody notice what it is they're looking for without having the psychedelics?
Daniel: Well, the answer to that question is almost certainly yes, but that's why Buddhists and Taoists have been writing about meditation for thousands of years, for example, and writing about similar states because in Buddhism, for example, the notion of the middle path came about because Buddha, the Siddhartha, was predominantly worried about the question of human suffering and attachment. So people have been writing about these things for a long time and ways that you might get to examine your own mind. So we've mentioned Sam Harris before. He has Waking Up app.
Christopher: Yeah, I've been using it.
Daniel: It's fantastic. It's based on Vipassana meditation. Vipassana literally means insight. So you are trying to get insight into the workings of your consciousness.
Christopher: Okay, so what you’re saying is psychedelics are a shortcut. The Sam Harris thing takes a long time and it's hard.
Daniel: Well, I would say, that definitely is true in one way, in some way, but I also suspect that Carl Jung thought that there was something called the collective unconscious. So Jung is probably one of the two most famous psychoanalysts, the other being Freud. Jung thought that there was this collective unconscious which meant to him that there was kind of like a mythological reservoir that humans shared. So for him, this made sense from an evolutionary perspective. There are things that are buried in our unconscious that go back a very, very long time. I share this opinion. I think that that's true, and I think that there are mythological stories that are buried within us that are likely, in some cases, pre-grammar. So I question whether there is an ability to get to those kinds of states in the same way with meditation, even people who are very experienced. I also --
Christopher: I've actually heard Sam Harris talk about that. I've been doing this a long time, like the glimpses of enlightenment are few and far between.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. So there's that, so I wonder about that. I also think that there may be things that we don't understand, because I know that there are with respect to plant intelligence, that since we co-evolved with these things, that there may be things that they're able to transmit to us and types of knowledge that we could not get alone. That's a distinct possibility. It's not likely to be explored anytime very soon. But I tend to err on the side of that's probably true because plants have their own evolutionary strategies, but there's so much about them. I mean, psilocybin is not even plant, it's a fungi. It has totally different strategy, totally different modus operandi.
So I don't know the answer to that, but I tend to think, well, people have been doing this. Whenever they could, they had these types of plants. They built religions and the follies around them. I tend to think that there's something else besides just them unlocking a way of our minds operating that's going on. There's also the fact that these things have significant effects likely on the gut microbiome and then epigenome in ways that were also -- that was a little bit of my poster, but it's very speculative. We know that these things have antiviral properties in the culture. We know that they have antibacterial and fungal properties. What exactly happens in the gut? You and I have been talking about how there's so much -- we don't even -- what do we know --
Christopher: Right, so much complexity.
Daniel: So much complexity and I don't pretend to know it that well.
Christopher: Yeah. To borrow from Joshua's way, I think he's promoting a top-down approach to this. Let's find out what works, and then you can tinker around trying to understand the mechanisms afterwards. But for heaven's sake, figure out what works for us.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So my thought is that, look, these things aren't really great tools for a lot of people. The reason why is because if you're sitting and listening to this and you have or you know someone close to you has some mental instability, schizophrenic, something like that, no, this is a terrible idea.
Christopher: It's like the physical therapist with a list of red flags -- numbness in the groin. You're going to the emergency. I’m not going to talk about breathing exercises.
Daniel: Right. My guess is that that's increasing a lot because I think that as we become less robust, as we suffer from more and more mismatch, then we have more and more outbreak of what we consider to be mental illness, just like we have more and more outbreak of of metabolic syndrome.
Christopher: Yeah, I've been thinking about this a lot. I just got back from the UK. I feel like the level of anxiety and neuroticism is so much lower in the UK. Maybe someone listening to this who has been to both countries would agree with me. But people are just super chill and super nice, especially so in Scotland, compared to what I witness on a daily basis in Santa Cruz, California. Just bonkers. You can always smell the anxiety. It’s not like I can really describe exactly what it is that I'm experiencing, but you just smell anxious. What's going on with you? I can't put my finger on this. There's something going on in America that's different.
Daniel: Yeah. Well, my view is that I completely agree with you. In Peru, it's far more relaxed.
Christopher: Oh, really? People are just super chill.
Daniel: I mean, it’s a different world. My view of this has long been as you pile up the mismatches and the United States has led the way in mismatches because if you think about post-World War II, the United States became the world's dominant power. We tend not to take long historical views of things, but if the United States became the world's dominant power and invented processed food, they were the leaders.
Again, it's not just one generation. We're now piling up generations that have been affected by leading the way in destructive behavior in the name of "progress." But that applies to everything. We're also the most individualistic society in the world. So we're also leading the way in the mismatch of lack of community. So as we pile up those things, it stands to reason that we're going to lead the way in all these problems, and it will trickle down, like Mexico is fatter than us now. Mexico has more metabolic problems in certain ways we can measure than the United States.
Christopher: Simon talked about that. There's a perfect storm going on there where you've got people who see obesity as a sign of affluence. I'm not working in the fields, look at my gut. And then you combine that with very cheap, available processed food, and it is kryptonite. It’s the perfect storm.
Daniel: Yeah. So I think that that's what you're seeing which means that, in the psychedelic world, I take the unfortunate view or the inconvenient view that even though that is what I do and I've devoted my life to it, I actually believe that we are in more need of them than ever. However, we have less and less people who are great candidates. That's not to say that many people couldn't be good candidates because I also view this as a continuum.
So most people are, since they don't have our background in thinking about movement and nutrition, they kind of think, well, you just are what you are, you're fixed. Of course, that's nonsense. I have clients who come to me and say, "I want to do this experience with you," or "I'm in the United States, I'm coming to Peru, but I decided to do this thing." I say, well, let's see how many months we can prepare you to be as strong as possible, prepare the nervous system as to be healthy as possible to have the best experience because that's the thing is it's just like preparing for a difficult athletic endeavor or at least it ought to be.
Christopher: Cognitive athlete.
Daniel: Yeah, because it's your nervous system. It's your body too. Your whole body is going through something, and you want to be in the best condition possible to make the most transformation. The better you are, the easier it will be. There's no doubt about it.
Christopher: That's amazing.
Daniel: So then you can start to make this drastic transformation. But all of it is connected. If I could sum up the conversation and what I've been doing here at AHS and what I'm starting to do all over, because a lot of this is the kind of thing that we're talking about, like I'm teaching a Wim Hof Method workshop tomorrow and I'm teaching one in Oakland up closer to you the next week, and all the stuff we're talking about bleeds into everything I do now because it's all one thing. It's kind of, as you know, you run a company where you have to coach people, and then it would be utterly ludicrous for you to think, well, I'm just going to talk to them about nutrition. I'm never going to talk them --
Christopher: Basically, what I tried at the beginning, by the way. That was my approach. It’s just amazing how much I feel like sometimes diet is unreasonably effective. The whole 30 is unreasonably effective.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah. Well, that's the first thing like even fully smart strength coaches or trainers, of course, they get siloed. So they start out, and they don't know that much about nutrition, but maybe they know a lot about periodization and weight training. So that's what they start out with, and that's all they do. But then eventually, if you're a thinker and you realize the value of being a generalist and that there are so many things that it should be a part of this map for yourself and for other people, then you have to start thinking about these other things.
Again, to sum up, I'm starting to have one podcast like this and in my events and all the work that I do privately, the conversation has now shifted completely to really role is to gain insight from these experiences that I have and experiences that I guide people with and help other people build the best map they can. My particular specialty happens to be this one psychedelic plant that grows in the Andes and the deserts of a part of South America.
But the map, in my opinion, is generally the same for all modern industrialized people and then it's up to you, the individual, to transform yourself by filling in the topographical details. The topographical details are going to be different for each person by a little bit. But generally, the map, in my opinion, should be the same. It has to have the basis of this ancestral health movement. Then it's just a question of how much can you understand so that you can fill in the map to the greatest extent that you can? That's just the life's journey. That's what you do really and it's what I do. I just do it from a slightly different angle, different specialty.
Christopher: I've got one final question for you which is have you got anything on you now?
Daniel: I'm very careful. I love TSA, apparently. TSA, don't listen to this. TSA, apparently, has stopped looking. I went through a flight once. I don't carry anything ever for real because that's the last thing. I plan on putting out everything that I do and being very public about what I do which, by the way --
Daniel: Yeah. Because at some point in time, hopefully, I'll come back on.
Christopher: This is all illegal in the US, by the way, right? We haven’t even mentioned that.
Daniel: All illegal. They're doing a lot of clinical trials, and I have hope that a bunch of these things will be available for medical use.
Christopher: Right. And even then, it would be with a therapist.
Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So the world I inhabit is quite different which is why I recommend people to actually come because they think a lot of people go on -- and this is important point, I want to make sure I don't forget to say this -- a lot of people are under the impression, so many people in the conference yesterday were talking to me like, well, it's a little bit more money to go to Peru. First of all, Peru is cheap. The money that you're really going to be spending is getting there. So if you save up a little bit and save some time, most people, Americans can afford it.
Christopher: I know. When people say that, I'm like, compared to what?
Daniel: Yeah, compared to what? And what they --
Christopher: Your full-pay flat screen TV or that new car.
Daniel: There's that, but what they're really comparing it to, what they don't understand is they're really comparing it to the experience that they believe is equivalent that they could have underground here. It's like, no, no, no, no, no, that's the problem that you have.
Christopher: It's not a fair comparison.
Daniel: It's not the fair comparison because you haven't built a map where these things fit into. You think they're pharmaceutical. You think you're just going to take this here, it’s the same thing as you took it there. It's not the same thing. It’s not the same thing. The experience shapes everything.
Christopher: Being in Peru, being with you there is like part of it as you can’t separate --
Daniel: Yeah, because your unconscious mind is in a completely different place when you know it's completely legal and everything about what you're doing is accepted and you're completely safe and you’re doing it with other people, it's the same thing, and you're doing it with people who have devoted their entire lives to doing this. That's a different thing. Plus, there's just the notion of the classical mythological hero's journey. You go on a journey to do it, not just go down, drive down 30 minutes in LA, then two days later you're back at work. That's a different thing. The more separation you get -- this is the power, by the way, of retreats. You've been to Ben House's Flo Retreats which you’re telling me about. The power of retreat, in general, aside from having nothing to do with psychedelics, because that's not what they do at Flo, is that there's a separation also from the way you normally live your life.
Christopher: It's a reset. Proper reset, in the true sense of the term, not in some online thing that you heard about.
Daniel: Right. That true separation gives you a separation from the normal life you live and can often make a huge difference in your outlook. One of the biggest transformations I ever had was going to Poland to train with Wim Hof before I was an instructor, and their retreat wasn't even run that well. I mean, no offense to Wim. Wim was wonderful. But it wasn't some brilliantly organized thing. It was just that, for the first time, I was around all these other people who supported me and who lived a different kind of lifestyle. I saw that so many other things were possible because I was able to get distance from my normal life.
But in any case, it's really important that people take these things extraordinarily seriously, the plants, because they're psychotechnology that is a very powerful tool that if you're not careful can be deeply destabilizing. But in the right context, if they fit on your map, to finish with that example, if they fit on your map, well, then all of a sudden, the things that people have been writing about for thousands of years of transcendent states and letting go of attachments and ending much of the suffering in your own mind, well, then it's possible, then all things are possible very quickly. But it's entirely predicated on the work that you do in preparation and then afterwards, which is why, like I said, that's really become the focus of my work. When I come back on, at some point in time, maybe next AHS or whatever it is and I have my own retreats, which is the plan in the future, to combine all of this stuff, then you're really going to start to see people that come through that place completely transformed relatively quickly. There will still always be work to do, but then because the whole focus will be providing them a map and that's when you can really see drastic change in weeks that would take people decades, if they ever figure it out.
Christopher: Yeah. I must admit my transformation is really, you'd like to think that it happens in a 30-day period. It really didn't. That was just the beginning. The whole 30 AIP was really just the beginning, and then that is what this podcast has been over the last five years is an exploration of all the other things that lead to human health and flourishing performance and all the rest of it. Can you condense that down? I don't want to spend 10 years getting to the point where I feel like how I feel now.
Daniel: Yeah. I guess to the answer to that, yeah, I can condense it down a lot.
Christopher: Yeah, that’s great. I like that.
Daniel: But as long as there is zero in authenticity in it and you don't cut the corners, which is what a lot of people are doing, they're trying to get to a place quickly as a shortcut, as you said, two places that Buddhist meditation was talking about, that's not what I mean. What I mean is I want to truncate the period that it requires to make massive transformation, but not because I just want to take something really quickly to make that quick transformation, but because I think we can cut down tremendous amounts of unnecessary suffering and because it's not about the experience itself only. It's about building people's maps.
The tool is just a way to continue to fill it in and to continue to just understand this bigger and bigger and bigger picture that I don’t -- I honestly don't believe we've got much of a shot as far as team human goes unless we start to change that big time. The exciting thing about psychedelics, one of the reasons that people are so enamored with them who are kind of integrative or integral thinkers, to use the Ken Wilber term, is that they have the ability to literally, as Michael Pollan's book is titled, change your mind. It occurs to many people that without changing the fundamental way that people think, changing the way that they run their software, we're not going to solve a lot of sustainability problems, et cetera, and so people get --
Christopher: You just send that with gluten-free versions of the same shit that got you into trouble in the first place.
Daniel: Exactly right. That's exactly right. You get that, and you don't get much else. So without these tools, whether it's Vipassana meditation or traditional use of psychedelics, it's unlikely that we've got the ability to fundamentally shift the way we view the world which is necessary to do anything sustainable for the future. My view is that you have to transform -- I think, it says on the front page of my website -- transform the individual to transform the world. To me, that's what it is, is that you have to start with that individual transformation before you even hope to change anything else. The way to do that, in my little small way, is to help people build maps with explanatory power, and I do it with the help of this one tool. It can be done other ways, but this is just the way that I specialize in.
Christopher: Makes sense. We will be back and see Josh and Doug. I really want to see Stephanie Welch. Who else are we missing? We better go over to the conference.
Daniel: Yeah, we got to go.
Christopher: Yeah. So you've been listening to Daniel Cortez. Daniel, where can people find you online?
Daniel: So my website is my name. It’s danielcortez.com. My company is called Limitless Human, but you can find me on Facebook and Instagram @danielcortezcoaching.
Christopher: Okay. Have you got coaching practice right now?
Daniel: I do. Yeah, I do. I keep very few slots open. I don't take a lot of people because I simply don't have -- the entire premise behind the one-on-one coaching program is it's the first combination that I know of that's basically what people commonly refer to as like a life coach and a health coach and a strength coach. In other words, I take my entire background and I say the person is the curriculum. What does that person need? Some people really need a lot more movement stuff, and some people are coming to me for things that really much more verge on the psychedelic integration work. They're really interested in that and the transformation that can be done primarily through that and journaling practices and working through their psychological issues, and so I don't care because it's all one thing.
So for me, it's what is going on with you. The curriculum unfolds as you can change and progress. But as a result, I only keep five to 10 people max at one time because it's not sustainable. The rest of my work is in the field, like literally in the field with the psychedelic, with the cactus, with San Pedro. And then, of course, I travel to things like this and do retreats. So I only keep a certain amount people, but I do have a few spots left.
Christopher: Okay, excellent. Well, I will look forward to following your work. Hopefully, we can connect again in the future for a future podcast, maybe in Peru.
Daniel: Yes, that would be wonderful.
Christopher: Thank you, Daniel. I really appreciate you. Thank you.
Daniel: Thanks a lot, brother.
[1:24:41] End of Audio