‘We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.’

– Albert Einstein

What is mindfulness?

Before we look into the link between mindfulness and creativity, let’s first define what mindfulness is.

A simple definition

Being mindful refers to one’s ability to be fully present and aware, without any interpretation or judgement.

Cultivating a state of mindfulness tends to be done by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly, and non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting any feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that may arise. Although it is a basic and innate human ability that we all share, reaching this mental state usually requires quite some effort at first.

Mindfulness and meditation: are they one and the same?

The terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used in a similar context, so confusion is understandable; but while they embody many similarities and have incredibly intertwined practical applications, the terms are not exactly interchangeable.

You could see them as mirror-like reflections of each other, with the most obvious difference being that mindfulness is a state of mind that can be applied to any situation throughout the day, whereas meditation tends to be practiced for a specific amount of time only.

Learn more about mindfulness exercises for at the workplace.

Focused Attention and Open Monitoring: the two general categories of meditation

Focused Attention (FA)

Focused attention meditation involves focusing on one object or thought, like the flame of a candle or the repeating of a mantra.

This type of meditation helps to foster a state of stillness and is therefore also called clear mind meditation. Because of its effectiveness in preventing distractions, FA mediation is especially helpful for beginners.

Open Monitoring (OM)

Open monitoring meditation, on the other hand, requires unfocused thought and entails opening the mind and being receptive to all of the feelings, thoughts, or sensations that are present in one’s body.

Although the meditator does not purposely engage in thinking, thoughts will inevitably arise anyway. Whenever this happens, the thoughts are not stopped in a forceful way, but are merely observed with a non-judgmental attitude until they disappear. This practice can help practitioners understand that they are not their minds as it allows them to see that the mind has a will of its own at times.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a unique blend that encompasses techniques from both focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. The goal is to remain aware and non-judgmental of whatever is experienced.

Usually, an attentional anchor point is used on which the meditators put their attention, like breathing, for example. At the same time, they also remain aware of their surroundings and have both a peripheral and internal awareness of all of the different sensations, thoughts, and feelings that are present in the body. All of this is done in a non-reactive way and practitioners refrain from casting judgment and simply accept everything that happens around and inside of them.

Mindfulness meditation helps people to accept rather than react and allows them to gain perspective on irrational and self-defeating thoughts. Because of this, it is often used in combination with psychotherapy.

What is creativity?

A simple definition

Creativity is a complex and multi-faceted concept for which an all-encompassing definition is hard to find, but we can describe it as “a phenomenon whereby something novel (i.e., original and unexpected) and appropriate (i.e., valuable and adaptive concerning task constraints) is created.” (source)

The connection between mindfulness and creativity

Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness has significant effects on both our body and our mind and can thus greatly affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. From better sleep, reduced stress levels, and a boosted immune system on a physical level, to improved mood and decreased anxiety, rumination, and job burnout on a psychological level, to name just a few.

Another aspect of mindfulness that is increasingly garnering more interest is its effect on and connection to creativity. However, as we currently do not yet have one definite and clear explanation of what exactly creativity is, studying this connection is not an easy task. Due to this lack of conceptual clarity, researchers tend to avoid addressing creativity as a whole and rather focus on its particular subcomponents and the different and dissociable processes underlying it.

One of the most well-known studies is the 2012 study by Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt in which they investigated the impact of focused-attention meditation and open monitoring meditation (which are both related to mindfulness) on creativity tasks tapping into convergent and divergent thinking. Another defining study is that of Baas in which he explored the importance of specific mindfulness skills in the creative process.

Convergent and divergent thinking

The terms convergent and divergent thinking were first coined by the psychologist J.P. Guilford in 1956.

Divergent thinking is the process of exploring and creating multiple possible and unique ideas. It fits best with problems that are open-ended and requires a context where more than one solution is correct. In contrast, convergent thinking represents a style of thinking that involves generating one right solution to a well-defined problem. It emphasizes speed and high accuracy and relies heavily on logic and less on creativity.

Although divergent thinking is definitely the more creative one of the two, true creativity requires both thinking processes as they, in fact, complement each other: divergent thinking helps us to generate novel ideas whereas convergent thinking evaluates them and selects the most useful ones. Or in other words: a creative and effective problem-solving process consists of divergent synthesis followed by convergent analysis.

What effect does mindfulness have on convergent and divergent thinking?

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness meditation combines techniques of both focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. 

Through their study, Colzato and Lippelt discovered that open monitoring meditation is highly effective in stimulating divergent thinking. This came as no surprise. More unexpectedly, however, was the discovery that focused attention meditation did not sustain convergent thinking. The researchers suggest that this could be because the meditation practice affected convergent thinking in two opposing ways due to the combination of its focused character and its relaxing aspect. Furthermore, both types of meditation techniques tend to elevate mood in comparable ways, which facilitates divergent thinking but not convergent thinking.

The importance of specific mindfulness skills in the creative process

A couple of years later, psychologist Matthijs Baas expanded on Colzato and Lippelt’s work and demonstrated that of mindfulness’s many different key elements and skills, only one is a clear predictor of creativity (source). 

The mindfulness-related skills he assessed were:

  • observation (i.e., the ability to observe internal phenomena and external stimuli);
  • acting with awareness (i.e., engaging in activities with undivided attention);
  • description (i.e., the ability to describe phenomena without analyzing conceptually);
  • and accepting without judgment (i.e., being non-evaluative).

What Baas discovered was that the ability to observe and attend to various stimuli was the only consistently reliable predictor of creativity. This observation skill, which is enhanced by open monitoring meditation, improves working memory, increases cognitive flexibility, and reduces cognitive rigidity and according to Baas, it is closely related to openness to experience, one of the five personality traits of the Big Five personality theory that is believed to be one of the most robust indicators of creative success. (source).

This shows that instead of a straightforward and all-encompassing positive correlation, there are actually particular mindfulness traits that stimulate creative performance. If you want to improve your creativity, it is, therefore, recommendable to focus on sharpening these specific skills.

Three ways to cultivate creativity

Besides honing your observation skills, there are many other ways to cultivate creativity.

Make time for the Aha! moments

Nowadays, we are constantly doing something. Be it checking emails and social media or worrying about what we will eat later tonight. This is detrimental to our creative flow as it is in states of daydreaming when we are most receptive to new ideas.

An Aha! moment (also known as the eureka effect) is a moment of sudden insight or discovery which usually occurs when your thinking brain is switched off.

Eurekas stem from new neural connections that are formed in your brain. They need time to incubate and usually happen on a subconscious level, when your brain is given the chance to idly integrate new information with existing knowledge. This way it can notice patterns and establish new connections that were not obvious to your conscious mind.

How?

Try to build a habit of making time to allow your mind to roam freely. This can be done while showering, for example, or while going for a run.
Do make sure that these moments are not used to force creative insight as this will most likely have the opposite effect. Eurekas are usually not discovered deliberately and trying to do so can inadvertently stifle the entire process.

Boost your mood

The biggest benefit of uplifting your mood is that it improves your overall well-being and health, but it also affects many other facets of your daily life, such as your creativity. 

While feeling good may not stimulate convergent thinking, other aspects of the creative process, such as divergent thinking, greatly benefit from it.

Our mood influences our perception to a great extent and when we are in a relaxed state of mind, we tend to look at things in a different light and are often able to come up with new and unique ways of approaching a problem.

How?

There are numerous ways to increase your mood, and mindfulness is just one of many. However, thanks to mindfulness’s innate relaxing character and its ability to help us become more aware of our constant mind wandering, it is by far the best tool at our disposal as awareness is the first step to change.
Deliberately letting our mind roam freely can be beneficial, but unintentional mind wandering, on the other hand, tends to quickly turn into rumination or worry. Our ability to think about what has, will, and might happen is a cognitive achievement than only we humans share; but, unfortunately, this achievement comes at an emotional cost and leaves many of us unhappy, worried, and anxious.
Being able to consciously choose whether we are fully present or absent-minded can, therefore, have a very positive impact on our well-being.

Practice later thinking techniques

Lateral thinking, also known as thinking outside the box, refers to the mental process of solving a problem or generating novel ideas and solutions by looking at something from a new and unique perspective. It tends to be creative, illogical, and unconventional and is the opposite of vertical or logical thinking.

The term was coined by Edward De Bono in 1967 in his book The Use of Lateral Thinking.

How?

The PMI (plus, minus, interesting) strategy
PMI is a useful brainstorming, decision making, and critical thinking tool that encourages participants to look at things from more than one viewpoint by listing the positive, the negative, and the interesting.
The six thinking hats
The Six Thinking Hats model is a metaphorical representation of different thinking styles.
The ability to change the way you think about problems can lead to great discoveries and sounder and more resilient decisions. This is why “putting on a different hat” (i.e., examining things from different viewpoints) can be so beneficial.

Introduction to psychedelics

Psychedelics are powerful psychoactive (“mind-altering”) substances that change how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. People have profound insights while participating in psychedelic sessions, with long-lasting impact on their well-being. They have enhanced the life of many humans for thousands of years until they were banned and stigmatized in our modern society since 1960s.

However, the recent developments are promising. Scientists and the medical world are catching up quickly, with promising result for healing mental health issues and personal development. 

The word itself is a Greek neologism that combines the words psychē (ψυχή, ‘soul’) and dēloun (δηλοῦν, ‘to reveal’). To reveal the soul, which refers to the deep insights people have regarding our personal existence and the nature of reality. Sounds crazy? Read on to learn more about the benefits and the history of psychedelics.

Psychedelic Medicine

Psychedelic Theraphy

A Promising Healing Tool for Mental Health

Psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (i.e., aiding the psychotherapeutic process with the use of psychedelic substances) show real promise as a treatment for a number of mental health issues, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders.

Psychedelics could also be used in hospice and palliative care as they have been proven to significantly decrease the end-of-life anxiety and distress that is often experienced by people who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Countless clinical studies are currently being conducted and the results are heartening. This increased scientific interest is in part due to the enormous demand, but also thanks to the numerous scientists who have decided to dedicate themselves to researching psychedelics after having experienced their therapeutic and life-changing effects at firsthand.

Breakthrough Therapy Designated Drugs

The potential is so high that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted various non-profit organizations and start-ups permission to conduct clinical trials. And several substances, including MDMA and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), have been designated as a breakthrough therapy.

For a drug to be granted breakthrough therapy designation, it must treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence must indicate that the substance may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapies and medications (source).

Psychedelic-Assisted Personal Development and Growth

Besides their medical use, psychedelics also offer enormous additional benefits and can greatly improve one’s overall well-being and emotional stability. Many people rank their psychedelic experience among their top five most meaningful life events (source).

In 2005, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and one of the most influential figures in Silicon Valley, highlighted that LSD had played a pivotal and transformative role in his life (source).

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has tried them, as a psychedelic journey commonly ends up being a powerful, transformative experience that offers profound insights and epiphanies. This in turn engenders a new sense of self-understanding and can lead to seeing oneself and the world more clearly.

Because psychedelics tend to generate an increased feeling of closeness thanks to their intimacy- and empathy-enhancing properties, they are also being used more frequently in couples therapy.

This feeling of social connectedness usually also leads to a lasting increase in altruism and generosity, which in turn can catalyze enormous spiritual and personal growth.

The Mystical Experience

A commonly-reported phenomenon is that of the mystical experience. Broadly speaking, a mystical experience is anything that is hard to comprehend or describe with rational or simple language. It is a state of consciousness that grants acquaintance with realities that are not accessible through mere sense perception, somatosensory modalities, or standard introspection. (source)

The mystical experience is usually defined by a sense of oneness with the universe and it is a central aspect of transpersonal psychology, the so-called “fourth force” in the field of psychology, with the first three being Freudian theory, Behaviorism, and Humanistic Psychology.

Whereas the first two forces (Freudian theory and Behaviorism) have a strong focus on psychopathology and mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, the third force (Humanistic Psychology) aims to examine what is right with people and has “self-actualization” (development of one’s capacities) as its key concept. 

Transpersonal Psychology, on the other hand, can be defined as development beyond conventional and individual levels. It goes even further than the previous three forces and explores optimal well-being, human potential, and “self-transcendence” (full spiritual awakening).

The Booming Field of Psychedelic Startups

The newborn psychedelic industry represents a paradigm shift in the approach to mental health, and promising clinical trials, growing public interest, and a positive portrayal in the media are just some of the many factors that are driving its current boom.

During the past decade, a large amount of studies have been conducted and the obtained results support the notion that alternative psychedelic medicine and psychedelic-assisted therapy are not only effective but also superior remedies.

Moreover, with more and more people becoming dissatisfied with the current legal, and often mere palliative, tools that are at their disposal, there is also a growing demand for more holistic psychiatric treatments that are not only effective but also capable of producing lasting positive results. Considering the fact that mental health remains a big problem, it therefore comes as no surprise that the psychedelic medicine market is slowly becoming a thriving new sector that is garnering serious investor interest. Some analysts even estimate that the industry will be bringing in a whopping $6.85 billion by 2027 (source).

You could compare it to the cannabis boom of the previous decade. Psychedelic stocks offer investors multiple advantages over the struggling legal marijuana industry, though, as psychedelics have garnered tremendous credibility through rigorous, peer-reviewed research and sustainable fiscal backing, for example. In comparison with the cannabis industry, there is also substantially less competition involved because of the stringent regulatory and scientific barriers that are imposed.

Over the past couple of years, many startups have already gone to the stock market and several others have managed to make their initial public offering (IPO).

One proven industry pioneer is the Toronto-based Mind Medicine (MindMed), the first psychedelics pharma company to go public, after managing to raise $24 million (€21 million) in a pre IPO financing round.

Another example of a company that has joined the tiny and exclusive club of publicly traded psychedelic companies is the Vancouver-based Numinus Wellness (NUMI.V), the first company that was granted a license amendment by Health Canada to not only conduct psilocybin research but also standardize its production and extraction.

History of Psychedelics: From Sacred Entheogenic Plants to Psychotherapy

Thanks to their mind-expanding properties, psychedelics have played an important role in the development of human society. Understanding their wider historical context helps to fully grasp and appreciate their enormous potential and healing qualities.

Ancient Use of Psychedelics

While psychedelics are finally gaining serious momentum in the Western world, they have, in fact, been around for a long time before their current widespread medicinal use and popularity.

Archaeologists have provided fossil evidence that shows that naturally-occurring entheogens have been used for several thousands of years by non-Western cultures in sacred contexts.

The most ancient example that has been found are the rock paintings of psilocybin mushroom effigies in the Sahara that date back to 7000 BC. Ancient indigenous tribes also built temples to worship mushroom deities and Aztec-shamans refer to psilocybin-containing mushrooms as teonanácatl or “flesh of god”. 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to know for sure since when exactly humans have been reaping the therapeutic and medicinal benefits as Roman Catholic missionaries destroyed records in Mexico.

There is also evidence that peyote, the cactus that contains the hallucinogen mescaline, has been used ceremonially in the Americas since 1000 BC. The psychoactive cactus is also mentioned in Catholic texts throughout the 16th century. 

Ancient cultures mainly used these psychedelic substances as sacramental tools but it is also likely that they have, on occasion, been utilized as intoxicants in magical rites.

Modern Use and the Psychedelic Revival

Although the human exploration of psychedelics can be traced back over 10,000 years, their systematic scientific investigation began much later, in the late 1800s.

Over the years, as interest increased and research methods improved, scientists saw psychedelics develop from scientific curiosities to groundbreaking psychiatric tools and treatments.

The 1960s: the First Wave of Psychedelic Research

In the 1950s and 1960s, the extent of psychedelics’ popularity snowballed massively. This was in part because the enormous impact on personal development was immediately demonstrated.

The interest of scientists was piqued and research quickly progressed to more controlled medical use.

During these years, six international psychedelic therapy conferences were held and more than a thousand clinical papers and several dozen books were published on the subject.

Mental health professionals noted that these mind-altering substances could ‘serve as new tools for shortening psychotherapy’. And psychedelics, particularly LSD, became widely used by psychologists and psychiatrists in research and clinical practice.

The results were promising and early research showed that psychedelics were capable of treating addiction as well as healing various mental health issues when used as an adjunct to psychotherapy in medically controlled settings.

However, due to irresponsible use and political reasons, they were eventually banned from the public in the mid-60s.

The United Nations categorized all substances with a known recreational property under a Schedule I ban, reserved for the most addictive and harmful substances. Opium, heroin, LSD, psilocybin, and even marijuana were all placed on this seemingly all-encompassing list.

Strict and punitive laws were enacted to control and forbid their production and usage, which in turn prevented further clinical research and testing, and a two-decade-long psychedelic research hiatus began.

This was a slap in the face for all the scientists who had devoted numerous years of their lives to studying the therapeutic and medical applications for psychedelics. Especially as they had already managed to prove that they could effectively reduce anxiety and curb alcoholism.

Of course, although Western research was halted, psychedelics continued to be consumed by both indigenous and non-indigenous people around the world for varying reasons.

The Psychedelic Renaissance: the Second Wave of Psychedelic Research

In the 1990s, a steady revival of human psychedelic research commenced and the term “psychedelic renaissance” refers to this resurgence.

After a 25-year hiatus, researchers picked up where their predecessors left off. Over the years, most of the safety concerns that led to the end of psychedelic research in the late sixties were proven to be unfounded or fallacious. And several psychedelics became popularized as a remedy for a number of conditions, such as alcoholism, substance abuse, and certain psychiatric disorders. 

Even though psychedelic research still faces some stigma, many researchers are so convinced of the potential that they are willing to not only navigate the countless layers of red tape and jump through the time-consuming bureaucratic hoops but also risk their careers.

Public funding is scarce, however, and research is still being run on a small scale. Furthermore, in order to garner support and funding, researchers have been forced to solely focus on therapeutic studies and medical research rather than psychedelics’ additional benefits such as their ability to greatly enhance creativity, for example.

That said, the future is promising as revered establishments across the globe are doing their best to help psychedelic medicine obtain its long-awaited legal foothold in the scientific world. And some renowned universities have even created professional psychedelic research and treatment centers, including Imperial College London, the University of Toronto, and John Hopkins University.

Psychedelic Retreats

Psychedelic retreats are a powerful tool for healing and can currently be found all over the world.

They come in different flavors. From retreats that cover the mere basics to truly luxurious resorts and from traditional shamanistic centers to more science-focused ones.

Enrolling in a psychedelic retreat is not the same as following psychedelic psychotherapy, which is currently only available for a small number of patients who are participating in clinical trials, but it does have enormous therapeutic effects and immense transformative potential.

Synthesis, Rythmia, and The Temple of the Way of Light are some examples of world-renowned centers that accommodate a multitude of people at once.

Sharing such a profound experience with others has its benefits, but, of course, taking part in a more private one-on-one session can have tremendous healing powers as it allows you to delve even deeper into the whole experience.

If you are interested in a professional, personal, legal, and rational psychedelic experience that will help you transform yourself and your life then my Truffle Transformation Experience could be perfect for you.

How are they used?

Depending on the desired outcome, different psychedelics are used in different doses. Hereunder you find the different dosing strategies and the most common substances and their benefit.

Dosing Strategies

Microdosing

Microdosing is the act of consuming sub-perceptual (unnoticeable) amounts of a psychedelic on a usually regular basis. This can be done with any psychedelic, but LSD and psilocybin are the most popular choices.

A microdose is roughly one-tenth of a regular dose and it is therefore too little to trigger the typical psychedelic effects. However, users do report other detectable benefits, such as receiving a jolt in creativity, having a sharper focus, and experiencing less stress.

Because of this, the practice has become very popular with young professionals as this non-psychedelic dose range allows them to reap the benefits without impairing their ‘normal’ functioning nor altering their cognition much.

More research is required to explore the potential negative short- and long-term side-effects from ingesting psychedelics regularly, but users report a number of benefits, such as:

  • Boosted physical energy levels
  • Heightened awareness
  • Improved relational skills
  • Increased emotional and mental well-being
  • Enhanced cognitive capabilities
  • Reduced anxiety

Medium Dose

A medium dose, also nicknamed the “museum dose”, refers to a dose that is light enough to be taken safely and/or discreetly in public while also being large enough to produce effects that are easily noticeable to the user. This usually leads to a manageable experience and it tends to be the preferred dosing size for social use.

Macrodose

A high dose tends to generate altered states of consciousness and involves drastic changes to perception and cognitive function. One’s ability for introspection is usually greatly enhanced and regression to primitive and childlike thinking is often reported.

Macrodosing warrants the utmost caution and should preferably always be done under professional supervision, as people sometimes experience intense feelings of fear and paranoia. It is also not uncommon to relive traumatic memories and events, even ones that might have forgotten. This can lead to enormous distress and could have harmful consequences under the wrong circumstances. For more information on how a high dose of psilocybin looks like, have a look at the truffle transformation experience.

A Brief Overview of the Classical Psychedelics

While there are many different types, the classical psychedelic compounds are called serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelics. They can either be completely natural or man-made (synthetic) and their effects are strongly tied to the naturally occurring neurotransmitter and chemical serotonin (5-HT or 5-hydroxytryptamine), which is most famous for its role in regulating mood, happiness, and anxiety, but also has a substantial influence on other important functions, such as sleep, memory, appetite and digestion, and sexual desire and function. In other words, a major player in our overall well-being.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a psychedelic compound that is found in specific varieties of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms or magic mushrooms.

Thanks to pioneering research and a series of clinical trials, psilocybin is moving closer to becoming a licensed treatment for several disorders, including treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD), cancer-related anxiety and depression as well as substance abuse and addiction to nicotine and alcohol.

The potential is so high that the FDA labeled it as Breakthrough Therapy for both treatment-resistant depression and MDD, suggesting that psilocybin therapy may offer a substantial clinical improvement over existing therapies (source).

LSD

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a semi-synthetic psychedelic that is made by combing a synthetic chemical called diethylamide and a natural compound called lysergic acid, which is derived from the fungus ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

It was developed in 1938 by Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist who immediately saw the potential in its psychotherapeutic application. In the following years, LSD was seen as a promising psychiatric tool and it was used in the treatment of multiple disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Now, LSD-assisted therapy is making a comeback, and in 2007, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) conducted the first double-blind and placebo-controlled study of LSD’s therapeutic use since the early 1970s, showing that it greatly reduces anxiety for an extended period of time when administered in a supervised psychotherapeutic setting (source). Numerous more rigorously regulated studies have been conducting since then.

DMT

DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a serotonergic hallucinogen that occurs naturally in both plants and animals, including humans.

It can be made synthetically, but it is primarily derived from the ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis caapi), a plant native to the jungles of South America. The terms ‘ayahuasca’ and ‘DMT’ are often used interchangeably, but this is incorrect. DMT itself is usually smoked and while it is the main active hallucinogenic compound in the ayahuasca brew, it is inactive when simply swallowed and must be mixed with one or more admixture plants when it is drunk—as is the case with ayahuasca (more on that below.)
Indigenous people have been using DMT for centuries to engender healing, and science is finally catching up. After conducting a study on rodents, John Hopkins researchers discovered that microdosing DMT could lead to positive improvements with anxiety and depression (source), and although more research is required, it is believed that controlled use of DMT may also be a useful tool for the treatment of psychosis.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is an ancient and powerful plant concoction that has been used for millennia by indigenous and mestizo groups all over the Amazon basin.

It is a bitter-tasting brew that is created by combining the crushed bark of the DMT-containing ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis caapi) with one or more other plants, including the leaves of the DMT-containing chacruna shrub (Psychotria viridis.)

Although it was originally only found in the jungles of the Amazon, millions of people around the world are currently making use of this powerful medicine for a variety of reasons, ranging from combating addictions and psychosomatic illnesses to expanding one’s consciousness. In fact, ayahuasca has such enormous healing and cleansing properties, that its usage is completely legal in the northern part of South America, and countries like Peru, Colombia, and Brazil offer a large number of ayahuasca retreat centers.
Science is, of course, also picking up. And one study with people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression, for example, showed that 64% of participants reported significantly reduced symptoms after a single dose (source).

5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT (5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a powerful psychedelic compound that shares a name with DMT and also looks alike at the molecular level, except that it has some extra atoms (which explains the additional “5-MeO”).

That ‘tiny’ change, however, makes all the difference and it is, in fact, large enough to produce an entirely different outcome. 5-MeO-DMT is considered to be about five times stronger, for example, and while DMT is very visual, 5-MeO-DMT offers a complete change of perspective and users commonly report a near-death experience.
Scientists are highly interested in 5-MeO-DMT’s healing qualities. And when John Hopkins researchers surveyed the anti-depressant qualities of 5-MeO-DMT in 2019, they discovered that its use leads to improved well-being as 80% of respondents reported extraordinarily positive improvements in self-reported depression and anxiety (source). Another study showed that a single dose produces long-term enhancement of satisfaction with life as well as an easing of anxiety, depression, and PTSD (source).

2C-B

2C-B (4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine) is a rather novel synthetic psychedelic that was first synthesized in 1974 by biochemist and psychopharmacologist Alexander Shulgin. It was created to be used as an aid in therapy and it was considered one of the best substances for this purpose due to its short duration, the relative absence of side effects, and its comparably mild and manageable nature (source).

2C-B is the most popular member of the 2C-x family, a group of psychedelics that are closely related to the classical psychedelic mescaline, which can be found in the peyote cactus.
It has been suggested that 2C-B should be classified as an entactogen with psychedelic properties (source). Entactogens (or empathogens), of which MDMA is a famous example, are a class of psychoactive drugs that enhance feelings of empathy, sympathy, and bonding, making them a useful tool in therapeutic settings.

Mescaline

Mescaline or peyote (2-(3,4,5-trimethoxyphenyl)ethanamine) is a natural alkaloid that is found in several North and South American cacti, most prominently in peyote and San Pedro, but it can also be man-made through chemical synthesis. It is commonly used as both a healing tool and a religious intoxicant by indigenous tribes.

While mescaline closely resembles the neurotransmitter dopamine, it also selectively binds to and activates the serotonin 2A receptor. This explains why it produces effects that are similar to the other serotonergic hallucinogens like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT.

MDMA

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception. For many, MDMA is synonymous with the recreational drug ‘ecstasy’, but even though ecstasy may contain pure MDMA, it is often laced with unknown adulterants, and there should, therefore, be a clear distinction between the two.

MDMA is an entactogen which means that it greatly enhances feelings of empathy, sympathy, and bonding. And although it is not technically a psychedelic because it has an amphetamine base and a different mechanism of action, MDMA’S psychoactive effects can induce states of consciousness similar to those of psychedelics.

Besides its empathy-enhancing properties, MDMA also allows users to access and process traumatic memories. In combination with its ability to increase closeness, this has led to an increase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, especially for the treatment of trauma and in couples therapy.

The FDA even granted it Breakthrough Therapy Designation for PTSD, suggesting that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy may offer a substantial clinical improvement over existing therapies (source).

Ketamine

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) is a fast-acting anesthetic with powerful dissociative and psychedelic effects.

Although it is not technically a psychedelic, but rather a dissociative, ketamine’s psychoactive effects can induce states of consciousness similar to those of psychedelics.

Thanks to its rapid antidepressant effects, it is often heralded as a potential breakthrough substance for treating a variety of psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse, MDD, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
Furthermore, ketamine has been shown to improve symptoms of depression in people who do not respond to other treatments as well as those who suffer from antidepressant-resistant depression (source). Additionally, several studies have shown that ketamine can treat patients in days or even hours, instead of the usual weeks or months (source). And in 2019, the FDA approved Spravato, a ketamine-derived medicine, for treatment-resistant depression (source).

Conclusion

I hope you have gained a better understanding now of what psychedelics are, and how we can benefit from the responsible use of psychedelics. If you want to learn more, please have a look at my truffle transformation experience, microdosing coaching and psychedelic integration coaching.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.

It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

— Albert Einstein

“Mystical” is an umbrella term for the profound personal revelations that someone might encounter. Either through psychedelics or other means.

Broadly speaking, a mystical experience is anything that is hard to comprehend or describe with rational or simple language. It is an experience that grants acquaintance with realities that are not accessible through mere sense perception, somatosensory modalities, or standard introspection. (source)

These mystical experiences can be produced by psilocybin, the naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in magic truffles.

Evidence has shown that psilocybin-occasioned mystical experiences, or psychedelic-induced peaks, reliably produce profound and transformative psychological experiences as well as notable and persisting increases in:

These mystical-type experiences have a lasting impact and are predictive of subsequent positive long-term outcomes after a high-dose session. 

In fact, in a 2006 Johns Hopkins study of psilocybin, 83% of the participants rated their psilocybin session as “among the five most personally and spiritually significant” of their lives…14 months later!

It goes without saying that the idea that a single experience can result in lasting beneficial effects in an individual’s attitudes or behavior is highly unusual if not unprecedented within the modern biomedical paradigm.

Inspired to learn more about psychedelics? Check my What are psychedelics? What does science say? article.

If you’re interested in a personalized psilocybin retreat, please have a look at the Truffle Transformation Experience.

Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.”

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Nobel Prize-winning Spanish neuroscientist

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity or neural plasticity, is the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout your life. 

While it was believed for many decades that our brain was a nonrenewable organ and that brain cells were bestowed in a finite amount, dying slowly as we age. We now know that the brain can form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. 

During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the necessary ones. This process can be affected by inputs from your emotions, behaviors, experiences, and even thoughts.

For example, people suffering from depression or stress-related conditions, often have fewer connections, or fewer overall neurons, in specific parts of the brain.

There are two main types of neuroplasticity:

  • Structural neuroplasticity, in which the strength of the connections between neurons (or synapses) changes.
  • Functional neuroplasticity, in which the synapses change permanently due to learning and development, leading to changes to the actual structure of the brain.

Both types offer exciting capabilities and a study by researchers at the University of California showed that serotonergic psychedelics, including psilocin, increase neuritogenesis (new growth of neurons), spinogenesis (growth of spines on neurons), and synaptogenesis (the formation of synapses between neurons), thus promoting both forms of neuroplasticity.

This partially explains magic truffles’ therapeutic potential. Not only for the treatment of various neuropsychiatric disorders, but also by offering potential avenues for psychological change, such as “opening up the possibility to reinvent yourself and move away from the status quo or enabling you to overcome past traumatic events that evoke anxiety and stress.” (Christopher Bergland)

And that is, of course, great news.

Above: Functional connectivity of a normal brain (a) compared to a brain on psilocybin (b).

Inspired to learn more about psychedelics? Check my What are psychedelics? What does science say? article.

If you’re interested in a personalized psilocybin retreat, please have a look at the Truffle Transformation Experience.

It’s a common misconception that mindfulness requires you to sit with your eyes closed for hours, preferably surrounded by crystals and incense. But that’s luckily not the case, practising mindfulness does not require a lot of time, and you can even practice it at the workplace. Some companies: like Apple, Google, and Salesforce have dedicated meditation rooms. Although you can practice mindfulness easily at your own desk without the need for a formal meditation posture or a dedicated room.

Mindfulness is giving full attention to what is present right now, with full acceptance and without judgment. This can be practised many times a day, and the workplace is a perfect environment to do so. Making the practice a continued habit improves attention and productivity while reducing stress and reactivity. 

Practising mindfulness several times a day at the workplace is a really powerful way to reduce your overall level of stress, which builds up from when we wake up. You can practice mindfulness even when your time is limited! You might find yourself waiting for a meeting, a task on the computer or in the bathroom. Here, you will find 5 easy exercises you can implement throughout your work day. They will train your attention by bringing it to various objects, even while at work!

Awareness of the breath

Bringing your attention to the breath is the easiest and most accessible attention exercise. The breathing is both a conscious and subconscious action, it’s a movement in the body that’s always there. You can practice this several times a day

Take a deep breath into your belly while giving full attention to the sensation in the body. Notice how your belly and chest expands, then slowly exhale. You can repeat this a couple of times if desired.

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is an exercise which can be done at several locations, this of course includes the workplace. When you need to walk to a meeting room, the lunch room, a colleague in another office, or even when you walk to the bathroom, you can practice mindful walking. 

The practice is that you bring your attention fully to the walking itself. Try to notice how your body feels as you walk, notice the movement of the muscles, take in the sights around you and be fully aware of your surroundings.

3-Step Arrival

The 3-step arrival is a short, more formal, exercise which you can use throughout the day. You can use it whenever you feel you have been triggered and need to relax. It only requires a few minutes of time to complete the 3 steps, 1 minute per step is already a good start.

The three steps of the practice:

  1. Bring your attention to whatever is happening on the inside at this moment. You might notice some persistent thoughts, strong sensations in the body or a strong emotion. Try to look at it from a distance and accept whatever you notice, without judgment and the need to change it.
  2. Narrow your focus to observe only the breath now. Observe how the breath moves in and out of the body, and when you notice you start thinking about your breath you redirect your awareness again to the breath.
  3. Expand your attention to include the whole body. Notice sensations that are present without the need to think about them. 

You can find an audio version of the meditation here: XXX

Check-in to a meeting

Most meetings require you to prepare by using your mind and logical thinking in order to be up-to-date with the content of the meeting. But you can also prepare yourself for a meeting by checking-in to yourself, in order to get more out of your time together. 

  1. Bring your attention to how you feel in the present moment. Not trying to change anything, while you observe briefly your body, thoughts and emotions.
  2. Reflecting on what the goal of the meeting is and how you want to be perceived by others.
  3. Set an intention to stay present during the meeting.
  4. Bring your attention to the full body and the surrounding room.

You can practice this by yourself, or in group, which helps to get everybody on the same page. Deloitte Assurance and Advisory Australia has a recorded pre-meeting meditation which you can use as an example.

Mindful Listening

How often are we really listening to someone when we have a conversation? A lot of times we’re more busy in our heads with how we will respond or with something unrelated, instead of fully listening to what a person has to say verbally, but also bodily.

With mindful listening we give our attention fully to the other person and what he says, while staying connected to what the impact is for ourselves. So you’re not thinking about what happened before or the email you need to send later. But you are fully focussed on the words someone is saying and what his body is telling you. This will result in a more productive meeting while building a stronger connection between you and your conversational partner. 

Conclusion

Practising Mindfulness does not require a lot of time, nor does it require you to sit still in a difficult posture with your eyes closed. You can easily tap into the benefits of Mindfulness several times a day at the workplace. I hope you enjoy these easy exercises, and look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments!

Mindfulness is more present than ever in the media and the workplace. Still, many people have no idea what mindfulness is, or they have a lot of wrong ideas. In this article, I discuss what Mindfulness is, how it fits into our working environment, and what science says about it.

So, what is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a practice in which you give attention to your thoughts, emotions and your body. Practitioners develop awareness of everything that happens in our busy minds and bodies, and how we relate to the world around us. They report improvement in attention, relations and resilience to stress.

Through the practice and awareness of the present moment, practitioners learn to accept their feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This acceptance leads to more choice in how one will react in difficult situations and conversations.

Mindfulness, developing awareness of thoughts, emotions and body sensations
Mindfulness- developing awareness of thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

Why do people start practising Mindfulness? 

The most common reasons people start practising mindfulness are to feel more calm and relaxed, and for better concentration. This is really helpful for a lot of people, but others also look for more serious relief. Most commonly they seek to reduce anxiety, regulate emotions more effectively, and to be able to cope with difficult thoughts. 

What does science say?

Since the 1970s researchers have  been interested in Mindfulness. By now over 7000 papers related to Mindfulness are available in PubMed and this number is growing each year. Reviews of the studies report reduced anxiety, depression, and stress associated with completing a formal Mindfulness course. Because participants gain more insight into what is going on from the inside they become less reactive to triggers of stress. This also leads to more compassion and mutual understanding in communication.

More benefits of Mindfulness are validated by science, and are covered in the rest of the article.

Who practices Mindfulness?

All kinds of people practice mindfulness, regardless of occupation, religion or political preference. They all have in common that they want to learn more about how their inner world operates and how to gain more control of it.

Even Silicon Valley has started introducing Mindfulness into the workplace. Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion are the core mental qualities managers and executives need to develop in the 21st century according to the book The Mind of the Leader. No wonder many companies integrate Mindfulness into their culture these days. Employees of Salesforce, Google, Yahoo, Nike, Pearson, and HBO have access to meditation courses and meditation rooms at work.

It’s not only tech-professionals who turn to Mindfulness and meditation. More than 80% of the world-class performers Tim Ferris interviewed for his book Tools of Titans had some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.

In a medical setting, Mindfulness is taught to people who suffer from chronic diseases, depression, and cancer. In countries like England and India, schools systematically teach mindfulness and are setting up their students to become emotionally intelligent.”

Read on to learn more about how mindfulness is practised, how it helps us to become better leaders in the workplace and what science says about it. Or book a spot for one of my Free Online Introduction Session if you want to experience what Mindfulness is all about, instead of reading dry material

What is my relation to Mindfulness

I’ve been practising Mindfulness since 2010, I started mainly to gain more control over my thoughts and emotions. But had to take a deeper dive into my Mindfulness practices while facing severe physical issues and the resulting psychological ones. After 8 months of having severe health issues and pain, which somehow were not diagnosable by the many doctors I visited, I got a diagnosis of Post-Infectious Fatigue Syndrome. 

A chronic diagnosis. Something that probably stays for a lifetime. It was, as you can imagine, a hard nut to crack. Mindfulness helped me cope with the negative thoughts, emotions, and bodily pain related to the whole process. I learned to accept every aspect of my life in which I had no control, like decreased health and fitness and the outlook of having this for the rest of my life.

Not that I gave up hope, I started to research and implement everything I could to improve my health situation. I’m proud that I made huge progress in my recovery and I’m able to enjoy life just as it is in the present moment.

Mindfulness helped me so much that I decided to teach the practice of Mindfulness to others, in the way that I would like to learn it. From a rational and scientific perspective but still reaching to the depths and warmth of the practice. If you want to read more about how it helped me you can take a look at the about page.

How to practice mindfulness?

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon

Mindfulness is experiential. You can only learn it through practise. When practising mindfulness we can make a distinction between formal practice and informal practice.

Formal Mindfulness practice consists of exercises in which the attention is trained by focussing on different objects. Many types of exercise exist, ranging in length from a couple of minutes to over an hour. Introduction exercises bring the attention to the breath and the body. More advanced exercises expand this attention to include sounds, thoughts, and emotions. These exercises are mostly guided by a live teacher or by audio recordings. Most people listen to the guidance of these with their eyes closed to avoid distraction. Although, depending on the exercise, someone with experience can also practice without guidance.

Informal Mindfulness practice is about practising mindfulness during day-to-day activities. It helps to create moment-to-moment awareness of what is going on inside us. For example, it can be practised during walking, sports, driving and eating. It can even be practised during social events and conversations. This is where the magic starts to happen. You become less reactive to stress and are able to respond from a balanced state of mind, instead of getting caught up in your emotions.

Moment-to-moment awareness throughout the day.

How to learn Mindfulness?

Mindfulness practice can be learned in various ways, the most common are meditation apps and courses.

  • Mindfulness and medical centres all over the world organize live in-person courses. These courses are mostly spread out over several weeks. Mindfulness teachers lead the courses in groups that vary from a few people to 30-40 people. A big advantage is the live support of the teacher and the group while going through the process of learning Mindfulness.
  • Some centres and Mindfulness teachers also give Live online courses. People attend from the comfort of their own homes but also have valuable interaction with their teacher to optimize their learning of the practice. You can attend and practice from wherever you are, while still having the personal support from a teacher and the group.
  • Meditation apps like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer (my favourite) are good tools to get an introduction to Mindfulness and all kinds of meditations. They contain various recordings of guided meditations and courses.
  • Several good quality pre-recorded Mindfulness courses exist online, some are even free. Palouse Mindfulness is probably the best known one. And the De-Mystifying Mindfulness course is gaining more and more popularity lately. It’s obvious that this approach is very cost-efficient.
  • At the workplace different forms of Mindfulness courses and workshops exist, both online and in-person. They range from a short introduction session, to multiple day workshops, to full 8-week courses.

When you consider learning Mindfulness there are a couple of things to take into account:

  • The willingness to invest time to learn the practice. The longer the program, the more impact it has on a person. But take into account that personal practice at home and the attitude towards the practice is an even more important factor to success. Participants are suggested to practice daily at home for 30 to 45 minutes over the duration of the course.
  • Do you want it to learn by yourself, or do you want the support of an experienced teacher. The downside of learning by yourself is that this approach lacks support from an experienced guide, which can be necessary if one gets deeper into the practice, as explained more in the Is Mindfulness For Everybody? section below.
  • Where do you want to study? Do you want to meet people in-person and practice in a group? Or do you want to learn from the safety of your home, without the need to get stuck in traffic.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course is a standardized 8-week course and the oldest on the market. The MBSR courses can be attended in person or online and are considered the “Gold standard” in the medical world. They are also the most researched format in the western world.

The MBSR course is developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in Massachusetts. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He was the first to introduce Mindfulness in conventional medical settings in the 1970s. Based on his studies of Buddhist meditation he created an 8-week meditation course in a scientific context. He later removed all references to Buddhism and this course became the 8-weeks MBSR course, now taught all over the world.

You can read more on available on-demand courses for professionals on my website if this has sparked some interest.

Mindfulness against workplace stress

“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” 

― Meghan M. Biro

In Flanders only about half (49,6%) of the jobs are labelled as ‘workable’ according to recent studies into stress by the government (October 2019). In the U.K. a staggering 79% of the employees experience work-related stress. Even more concerning, in the U.S. 75% to 90% of doctor’s visits are related to stress-related complaints. While 80% of the U.S. workforce reports feeling stressed because of ineffective company communication.

Short term stress is related to many negative side effects such as: agitation, bad mood, worry, and a whole range of other emotional and cognitive problems. But it’s not limited to emotional and mental problems. Through the mind-body connection stress has an impact on a physical level as well as a mental one and impacts all organs in the body. Chronic exposure to stress is related to cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal problems, mental health issues- the list goes on and on.

Mindfulness gives people awareness of how stress is triggered in the mind and therefore in the body. Practitioners become aware of its negative impacts, both short and long term. With this awareness comes freedom to choose to reduce the triggers and the impact of the triggers.

A review of 209 scientific studies with over 12 thousand subjects validates the idea that Meditation reduces stress. They found that it does not only reduce stress, but also anxiety and depression and confirms it is an effective treatment for various psychological problems. A Cleveland Clinic study also found that Meditation at work reduces stress and boosts morale, showing a 31% decrease in stress levels and a 28% increase in vitality- a measure of how energized a person feels throughout the workday.

Mindfulness not only has an effect on a psychological level, but also improves physical health. It reduces cortisol production and improves autonomic balance and sympathetic nervous system reactivity.

Mindfulness in leadership

Companies worldwide implement Mindfulness into their culture these days. Big giants like Apple, Google and Salesforce, McKinsey & Co, have meditation rooms in their offices and others provide free Meditation courses for their employees. Google even developed its own Mindfulness program, Search Inside Yourself, which is taught all over the world. They aim to “teach practical mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership tools to unlock your full potential at work and in life.”

If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.

― Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was probably one of the first professional leaders to adapt meditation to the work environment. His own practice was based on Zen meditation. Jobs was a dedicated practitioner and claimed that it helped him to tap into his intuition to make radical business decisions. He also talked about how it enabled him to deliver the simplest designs for Apple’s products.  

Bill Gates says he uses mediation to improve his focus and to step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

― George Bernard Shaw

There is a big discrepancy in how leaders and employees sense their engagement in a company. 77% of leaders think they do a good job of engaging their people. Yet 88% of employees say their leaders do a bad job with engagement. Even worse is the finding that 65% of employees would forego a pay raise to see their leaders fired.

Jacqueline Carter, together with Harvard Business Review, did an assessment of over 35,000 leaders in over 72 different countries. Based on the research she called the situation a leadership crisis. The research found that being mindful, selfless and compassionate are the essential traits of leaders in the 21st century. It also found that leaders who have higher emotional intelligence do a much better job helping people to find meaning, purpose, connection, and genuine happiness in their work. These are the traits one develops while practising mindfulness.

Even more research has been done on mindfulness and leadership. A review of 19 studies indicated encouraging signs that mindfulness and meditation interventions may improve aspects of leaders’/managers’ well- being and resilience, and leadership capability.

Would you like to learn more about how to engage your team with more awareness and a Mindful approach? My most efficient offering is 1-on-1 leadership coaching, for the leaders of the 21-century!

Is Mindfulness For Everybody?

Like all types of training, Mindfulness should be approached carefully. You don’t run a marathon without proper preparation and a careful constructed training plan. The same applies for Mindfulness, and mediation in general.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

When more awareness is gained about internal processes of the mind and what the current state of the body is, people might feel discomfort at first. Reactions to specific circumstances might not be how they want them to be. And when the body is observed regularly and then the body neglected for a while, a need for attention might become visible. This is quite common and part of the process of gaining more awareness. If you wouldn’t become aware of these things, you wouldn’t be able to change the way you (re)act and how you relate to these situations.

Starting this process requires some courage to become more familiar with your inner world, As well as the willingness to change. This will lead you to change how you react to stressful situations and to take more care of your body. Your behaviour becomes more aligned with your values, and in supporting a healthy body.

Some people are advised not to participate in a Mindfulness course or retreat. Especially people with severe mental issues like psychosis and schizophrenia. For people with other issues, like cancer, substance abuse or severe trauma, specific mindfulness courses exist and are given in a medical setting.

Conclusion

I hope you have gained a better understanding now of what mindfulness is about, and how it can fit into our workplaces. If you want to learn more, please have a look at my online courses or contact me directly with any questions.