I’ve traveled many places around this globe and talked to many people, some of whom have very interesting views. Today’s guest is one of those people. Rachel Harris has written a book called “Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction and Anxiety”. Over her thirty-five years of experience as a psychologist and 10 years of scientific research, she’s received multiple awards from the National Institutes of Health and published more than 40 scientific studies in peer reviewed journals.
Rachel joins Brilliant to talk about her book and about ayahuasca, the benefits that it might have for humanity and what the potential risks are. As a disclaimer for this interview, this substance is currently illegal in the United States. While this subject may not appeal to everyone, there is a lot to be learned from Rachel and her perspective on how this substance has helped her and others on their quest to good living.
“You know, this is outside the Western world view and it’s very threatening.”
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Rachel Harris [00:00:00] The process of using Ayahuasca is all about developing a relationship with the plants..
Brilliant Miller [00:00:17] Hi, I’m Brilliant, your host for this show, I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success. And I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do, have, and give more, this podcast is for you.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:40] If you know me, you know that my work is really centered around a single question, what does it mean to live a good life and how can we do it? That inquiry has led me to travel many places around this globe and to talk to many people, some of whom have very interesting views, very different views, one of them is the lady I talked with today, Rachel Harris. She’s written a book called “Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction and Anxiety”. Rachel is a psychologist. She had a private practice for thirty five years. She was a researcher for 10. She’s received awards from the National Institutes of Health and she’s published more than 40 scientific studies in peer reviewed journals. She’s also worked as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies. She has a website called ListeningtoAyahuasca.com. In this interview, we talk about ayahuasca, what it is, what the potential benefits are, what the potential risks are, the dark side, if you will, that’s a disclaimer that I really want to stress here is that this substance is currently illegal in the United States. There are special exceptions for people to use it in religious ceremonies, but it’s a little bit out there. So with that, I realize it’s something you might have heard of. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve tried. But I hope through this conversation you get a better sense of what it is, the benefits that it might have for humanity, or maybe the idea will come clear to you that it’s not for you, wherever you are, that’s just fine. I realize this interview won’t appeal to everyone, but I don’t think there ever will be an interview that will. And if there was, probably a boring interview. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Rachael Harris. Rachel, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Rachel harris [00:02:29] Thank you. I’m really glad to be here.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:31] Yeah, I’m glad you’re here. Will you tell me, please, what is life about?
Rachel harris [00:02:36] Oh, that’s right. You start with those kinds of questions. You know, I actually have an answer for that. I think life is about learning. And if we don’t get the message, life gives it to us more dramatically. So I think it’s really about learning and sort of a side, a secondary corollary, is maybe healing. And I mean, I’m at this stage of life where I’m saying I have to get this worked out because I don’t want to come back next lifetime and face the same shit. OK, can I say that the same stuff all over again. So I think it’s learning and healing.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:17] OK, so thank you for that view and then I just
Rachel harris [00:03:22] I want to say something something else about that, I understand that’s probably a minority point of view and that for a lot of people, life is about making money. So I you know, I don’t want to ignore that. And I’ve seen people do that most of their lives. And then as they begin to realize that death is approaching, that this is, you know, they’re not going to take it with them, they begin to switch. And so that’s a very interesting phenomenon. And then there’s another one where you might want to look at a book called “Quantum Change”. And can I go off on this? Can I talk about this? And so it’s based on the book is the popular version of a couple of psychological papers that were published in professional journals. But the study was done in actually New Mexico. And the psychologists advertised for people who had had a spiritual experience of any kind that changed their lives. And they got like 50 or 60 people that they interviewed. And one of the ways that their lives changed was in terms of their values. And they went from, you know, money, power, fame, something like that, to contributing and helping and personal development. Their values really took a major shift. And the psychologists 10 years later found most of these people and interviewed them again. And those new values that they had taken on after a spiritual awakening, really, they had maintained consistently. So these people really changed their lives and it was a permanent change. And that’s remarkable that, you know, people don’t I mean, psychotherapy doesn’t reliably do that. It was a spiritual experience that really shifted your question. What is my life for?
Brilliant Miller [00:05:34] Yeah, I think this is so fascinating because these spiritual experiences, what you’re talking about, perhaps spiritual awakenings are things that not everyone believes in. Not everyone has. Many, many people do. Of course, for some people, they’re precipitated by a trauma, by other people it’s some kind of inspiration or maybe grace, you know, something like that.
Rachel harris [00:06:01] Exactly.
Brilliant Miller [00:06:02] And this is something that you have devoted your your life to, at least your professional life for the last 40 years. Will you talk about your background? What is the work that you do? What is the work that you’ve done? What’s led you to have this insight that this is what life is about?
Rachel harris [00:06:18] Yeah, well, my father was not happy this was what my life was about. He was a business man. So this you know, this was not what he thought life was about. But my mother, on the other hand, was a mystic. And so she was very happy about this. I mean, she would you know, I remember when I was a little bit older, you know, in middle school, I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and she would go down the shore. And what she would do is she would just sit and watch the waves. Now, you know, this was in the 50s. So who does that? So, you know, that was sort of the the what was in the atmosphere in the home and that. And so, you know, my interest in spiritual experience started very, very young. And my mother, you know, talked about it. So it wasn’t foreign to me in any way. And that was the guiding light for me.
Brilliant Miller [00:07:27] What kind of what kind of business was your father in?
Rachel harris [00:07:30] And he was a CPA, but an archetype CPA, and he loved his work.
Brilliant Miller [00:07:38] It sounds like, this is this is proof positive that opposites attract if you’ve got this very business minded person with this mystic who watch them.
Rachel harris [00:07:45] Well, it was the marriage was a disaster that was never going to work, you know, so they momentarily attracted, enough for me. So for me, it was part of the air that I breathed from very young and I remember, you know, when I graduated from college, I went right to Esslin into a what was called a residential program, and I don’t know if your listeners know what Esalen Institute is, they can Google it. It’s really the first growth center that that sponsored workshops in human potential. And it’s in Big Sur, California. So it’s had a lot of press over the years. And so I was all of 21, fresh out of college, went right there into the residential program, which was focused, it was just 11 handpicked people. And we met together for 50, 60 hours a week and it was six months. And that program was all about meditation and body work and psycho psychological work, healing.
Brilliant Miller [00:08:51] And this is what you had studied in college was psychology?
Rachel harris [00:08:54] I was a psychology major, but I was searching for this sort of thing. And this was not traditional undergraduate psychology. I mean, I’m talking about 1968. So this was before people would talk about humanistic or transpersonal psychology. It was just beginning. So I got the standard undergraduate psych education. But Esslin was a real center for exploration. And I have always said that’s been my foundation. That’s more of a foundation for me than than my graduate degree is so legendary. Right.
Brilliant Miller [00:09:34] I know you had the chance. You’ve had a chance over the years to interact with some very well-known, very respected names, people like Houston, Smith, people like Variety and Graff that some listeners will definitely be familiar with. Right. And maybe we’ll we’ll come back to that. But part of the reason that I that I’m asking about this professional background, I just want to lay a little groundwork here, because part of what we’ll talk about is, a lot of what we’ll talk about, is your book, “Listening to Ayahuasca”. Right. Which is something that many people either don’t know about, are afraid of, misunderstand, you know, want to do, but aren’t sure it’s safe, you know, this kind of thing. And and people write about this plant medicine from many different angles. Yes. Right. But part of what I really appreciate about your work is I think that it’s grounded in a background while there is this spiritual, and maybe even mystical, aspect to it, there is a western, rational, scientific approach, as close as there can be, as I understand that I have my
Rachel harris [00:10:43] My graduate degree, the Ph.D., is in research, right. I was I was at a medical school in a research office for a decade. We did grant writing and, you know, we wrote articles for professional journals. So it was all statistical and and it was science.
Brilliant Miller [00:11:04] Yeah, so maybe we’ll just jump right to the book, so you’ve written this book “Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD and Anxiety”. Let’s just start with what is what is ayahuasca?
Rachel harris [00:11:18] Yeah. So ayahuasca is is a concoction of two plants that are found in the Amazon and the indigenous tribes throughout Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, use it as a medicine. So it’s considered a healing medicine. And the shaman who use it, they have medical clinics. It’s really the major medical provider for these indigenous tribes. And Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants. And so it’s kind of the one of the the you know, the teacher plants, you know, the main plants. But they also use all kinds of other plants. I mean, the shaman are pharmacists. They know about thousands of plants and what they’re good for and how to use them. And and so when when the clinic is open and the shaman is treating people, he, he or she has, you know, a whole library in in the jungle of what plants to use for what ailments. And when the anthropologists and botanists, the academics came into the jungle and found this medicine that the indigenous natives were using, they said, well, how did you know to combine these two plants to get this response in the human being? Because it’s a it’s a biochemical interaction between the two plants that leads to a psychedelic journey. And, you know, the native the shaman would just look at them kind of curious and say, well, the plants told us. And you know, the Westerner’s, that doesn’t make sense to us, we don’t know what to do with that, but that’s a really, really important little story because, and this is outside the Western scope, but the process of working with ayahuasca is all about developing a relationship with the plants and it’s ayahuasca and then maybe it’s tobacco, and so the the shaman know which plants to use because they have a relationship with those plants.
Brilliant Miller [00:13:33] Yeah. You know, when I hear this, I think of something I read once about George Washington Carver that famously has a relationship with the peanut, right?
Rachel harris [00:13:43] Oh, yeah. Right, right, right.
Brilliant Miller [00:13:46] And I remember reading just a little vignette about his biography and how he became so proficient with the plant. And it was that, as I read when he was young, he would just walk through the meadows, he would walk through for it, and he would just pay attention and he would listen. And I’m certainly not an expert on his life, but I read that he basically said a similar thing like the plant would tell me what it needed, it would tell me how to nurture it and how to foster it.
Rachel harris [00:14:15] Yeah. You know, a lot of. Yeah. Gardeners and botanists, people talk about that. There you know, there’s an Italian oh, the book is “Thus Spoke the Plant” and I’m not going to be able to call up her name. It’s an Italian name and she’s a botanist working in Australia. And I’m sure, you know, she had a growing interest as a young scientist and she had a promising career, and then she drank ayahuasca and ayahuasca, basically told her what what research study to create what plants to use for a research study. And she did it, and she found… It’s an amazing book, it’s easy to read, too, it’s not it’s not a scientific article, that the plants learned and communicated with her. And so it was kind of a breakthrough research study. But because she said she was told to do this by a plant, it’s hurt her career. I mean, this is not acceptable.
Brilliant Miller [00:15:28] Yeah. Which in in that I’m reminded, too, of how many, like the history of science is the history of being wrong and and people who now certainly not everyone who challenges convention is right. So just saying that you have a contrary point of view doesn’t in and of itself prove anything. However, I sometimes marvel that we don’t have more of a like an understanding or the possibility that someone could be right, that we do attack people who have these dissenting points of view. It’s to me, it’s very remarkable.
Rachel harris [00:16:02] You know, this is outside the Western world view and it’s very threatening.
Brilliant Miller [00:16:07] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And in talking about threatening the idea of this, well, before we leave this topic about the plants and listening to plants and and maybe the role that plants play in existence or in our lives that they can, I remember reading something once that Terence McKenna suggested about, perhaps plants are actually the more evolved on this planet and that they’ve been here for millions of years.
Rachel harris [00:16:36] And what they’re really doing less harm than we are
Brilliant Miller [00:16:39] now, Lezama. And this idea was for me, just to entertain it as a possibility, was kind of amusing that many animals evolved to help move plant seeds around.
Rachel harris [00:16:51] You know, they do do that.
Brilliant Miller [00:16:53] Yeah. And I was like, that’s a really interesting view. And not one, as we’re talking about in this Western paradigm where we’re at the top. Right. And these are natural resources to be used and consumed, and exploited. Yeah, absolutely. But with with what we’re talking about, with this being threatening, and certainly ayahuasca is not the only plant that’s threatening right now, with this being a schedule one controlled substance here in the United States and so forth. Why is that? What’s your understanding of why is this illegal in the United States?
Rachel harris [00:17:28] Well, they all were made illegal. This was Nixon’s war on drugs. So they were all made dangerous Schedule one in the early 70s, and this had a racist tint to it. I mean, by making this whole list of drugs illegal, it was a great way to throw people in jail. And most of the people who were thrown in jail were brown and black people of color. So it’s beginning to change and it’s beginning to be acknowledged that it had that Nixon had this racist tinge to his policy.
Brilliant Miller [00:18:06] Yeah, so with that, OK, so we’ve talked a little bit about what it is, we’ve talked about the threatening nature that that many people associate with it and other other plants and substances for sure. But let’s talk now about what are the potential benefits? What are the potential benefits of of doing ayahuasca?
Rachel harris [00:18:31] Well, Ayahuaska, like all the psychedelics, raises serotonin levels in the brain, and that’s the same thing that antidepressants do. And so, you know, this is one of our most anti-depressants or one of our most popular prescriptions in the country, besides the painkillers, people seem to like those, too. We’ve had Prozac for 40 years now, and people use it every day for the rest of their lives, it’s not so easy to get off some of these SSRI antidepressants. You really need a doctor’s oversight to stop taking them. So they’re powerful drugs and they raise serotonin levels. And that’s what the psychedelics do. All the psychedelics raise serotonin levels. And so there’s a boost that’s an antidepressant, and it lasts. You know, the research on ayahuasca specifically is it you can see the chart, there’s a boost and then it begins to decline. Mood is boosted and then mood begins to go back down over like a two week period that’s measurable just biochemically. And there are some ayahuasca churches that use the same medicine, the same mix of the two plants as their sacrament. And before they had known this research, they often would have ceremonies or church works, church meetings, every couple of weeks. So the people were getting boosted on regular intervals. And so the most common question is, well, are they getting addicted? Are, you know, is this an addiction? And the answer is not anymore an addiction than Prozac is. It’s not an addiction. You don’t build up a tolerance. It’s just that the impact has about a two week period. Prozac has a 24 hour period of effectiveness. So it’s just, you know, using the medicine as needed, which is about every two weeks. But it was interesting to me that the research studies actually confirmed what this established church has been doing. And this is a church that’s based out of Brazil. But there are, you know, satellite churches in Oregon and Texas and Europe and Canada, Netherlands, they’re kind of all over, I think in Japan. So the sacrament, it’s not wine and a wafer, it’s a drink of this plant mixture, ayahuasca. So people have visionary experiences during the church service and they sing hymns. I mean, it really is very close. It’s a syncretic church with Catholicism and a religion from West Africa that came over to Brazil with the slaves, Umbanda, which is a lot about mediumship. So working with spirits and healing spirits.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:52] So, yeah, as you’re seeing in this and there’s this is I believe it’s called the Freedom of Religions Act. Right. The same act that allows certain Native American ceremonies to use peyote. Yes. And so, as you’re describing, there is limited legal use here in the United States. And many people will travel to South America or to illegal gatherings in the United States to participate in these ceremonies. And I realize that human beings are motivated by many things. But at the same time, there are probably fewer things than all these unique motivations. Right. What are people ultimately seeking? What do you think people are really looking for, at least people here in the United States when they’re willing to take these risks, even break the law, travel to South America, try something new. What are they really looking for?
Rachel harris [00:22:46] Well, there’s the desperate motivation is the most I think, the most important. And these are people who have a sort of a treatment resistant depression. So they’ve tried everything. I mean, the antidepressants don’t work for everyone. And so they’ve suffered with depression, usually all their lives with no respite. And so when they hear that, oh, ayahuasca may be helpful. I mean, they’re willing to try anything. And so, you know, your heart goes out to these people, really other people are looking for a spiritual experience or a psychological healing, that kind of thing. And then there’s always just the adventurers looking for, you know, they’ve heard something. And it sounds fabulous and I’m going to try that. But this is not to be done lightly. And I tell people certainly never do it alone and don’t do it in a group unless you’ve been screened, unless someone has done an in-depth medical screening so they know what medications you’re on, what your psychological history is. And if nobody has done that, don’t go to that group. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:24:06] You talk about this treatment resistant depression, and I’m amazed, I’m constantly amazed at how many people in our society and more maybe now than ever with what we’ve all been through with the pandemic, the mental health issues that have been created or have surfaced. But clearly, there are many people that are struggling with depression and anxiety and loneliness and other things. One article that you mentioned in your book that really raised a lot of awareness and interest is this one written by Kira Salak in National Geographic Adventure magazine. Yes. About an experience she had when she went to Peru. And you talk about this for a couple of reasons, I think. But will you share a little bit, just a little bit about that article and why you referenced it so early in your book?
Rachel harris [00:24:55] It was one of the it was one of the first articles that came out about a Westerner traveling to an indigenous ayahuasca ceremony, and she had suffered with depression all her life, even though she’s a great adventurer all around the world. And this article, I had a communication with the editor and he said he’s gotten more letters of inquiry about this article than any other article they ever published. This was, I don’t know, 2004, early 2000’s. Now, as it turns out, and she talked about it as a miracle cure. So, I mean, if someone’s been suffering all their lives, who wouldn’t, you know, get on an airplane and try this? But she uses the medicine in the way a lot of people use it. It’s not like she went once and is cured and has never been depressed again. She’s continued using these ceremonies in her life. I don’t know if she still is now, but it was a process for her. And that’s true of most people. There’s a process involved in the healing. Some people have such a powerful experience, we don’t know, but it turns their life around and that’s enough for them. But other other people and most people who go to these ceremonies go over time and there’s a healing process. Yeah. And the best example of that are the veterans. There are veterans who have suffered with PTSD and depression and anxiety and been given tons of medications by the VA. I mean, when they speak at the psychedelic conferences, one of them had a slide of his medicine cabinet. He said that doctors at the VA prescribed 20 different medicines for me. Now, nobody should be taking 20 medicines. Just nobody. And it was a panel of four people and they all said we used marijuana to get off of these prescription drugs. And once we were off of them, because you can’t be taking prescription drugs and use ayahuasca, especially antidepressants, once we were off all these prescription drugs, we then went to ayahuasca ceremonies and did the healing work. And so the veterans know it’s a process and goes on over long periods of time and requires daily awareness and work to deal with, you know, remaining symptoms and life.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:33] Yeah. You talk about this healing process that some people experience, and one of them is addiction, right? You talk about in your research that you encounter many people who, after even a single ceremony, a single encounter with ayahuasca, quit drinking like give up addictions. I mean, and as you’re saying, it’s not always one time. It’s often a process. But for some people it is.
Rachel harris [00:28:03] For some people.
Brilliant Miller [00:28:05] Yeah, that’s that’s pretty remarkable to me as well, that people could struggle with an addiction like that for a lifetime or the better part of a lifetime and in one instance be transformed.
Rachel harris [00:28:18] We don’t have really a way to explain that. I mean, the the research at Johns Hopkins is using psilocybin to treat tobacco addiction, smokers, who have tried everything. And you know, people generally fail at quitting cigaret smoking. They have to do it repeatedly until they hopefully quit. But there are again, there are some people who do just quit. But most people it’s a process. And with a psilocybin experience, I think they’ve got 80 percent of the people quit and they don’t take their word for it because everybody lies about quitting smoking. They they actually do, you know, blood tests to see if there’s tobacco in their system. So they’ve got good data showing that people are quitting and then they follow them up. I think they’re following them up a year excuse me, a year and a half. And they have really quit.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:21] You mentioned that it’s there are some dangerous one of them you just referenced was about taking antidepressants while doing ayahuasca. Why is that a bad idea?
Rachel harris [00:29:30] Because you get an overdose of serotonin. So it’s called serotonin symptom and it can kill you.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:37] What are the other risks associated with with doing ayahuasca?
Rachel harris [00:29:41] Well, if there’s a history, you know, the general recommendation is if there’s a history of bipolar, manic depression, any of the psychedelics can send someone into a manic episode. So there’s concern about that. There’s some people who say that’s not true, but most people say don’t do it. Don’t take the risk. If there’s a history of schizophrenia, psychosis, certainly paranoid schizophrenia, you know, you can have a break. So that’s a very dangerous situation, especially if you’re out in the remote jungle where you’re not near any Western psychiatric treatment or emergency rooms or even if you’re at a ceremony where the people are not sophisticated or well-trained, they might not even know that you’re having a psychotic break exactly. Until it’s so florid that now it’s an emergency. So these are rather scary stories, and then there’s always the risk of, you know, a heart attack and some complications like that. So you really do have to go over a medical history.
Brilliant Miller [00:30:52] No, not to be taken lightly. Right. Something I thought was really interesting in reading your book and learning more about ayahuasca was how it differs from many of the other or maybe all of the other known psychedelic substances in that people who do ayahuasca report a much higher incidence of having had a spiritual experience rather than just an amazing experience is the way I understand.
Rachel harris [00:31:22] No, I don’t think that’s accurate. What’s different about what they report is they have a personal experience with the spirit of the plant so hence grandmother ayahuasca. So like the people at the Hopkins study, they’re taking a pill. They’re taking psilocybin, which comes from a mushroom, but they’re not reporting and maybe they just don’t want to. But I don’t know that this happens through a pill. They’re not reporting a relationship to the mushrooms, whereas people who eat the mushrooms report a relationship to the plant. And so if it’s a plant based antigen psychodelic, often there’s a relationship with the plant spirit. And so that’s that’s the case with grandmother ayahuasca. And I did an original research study, you know, around 2008. It was published in 2012. And I’d be happy to send that article to you if you want to put it on a website. And I think it was eighty one percent of this. No, no, it was 74 percent of eighty one. It was eighty one subjects in the study, 74 percent, almost three quarters reported an ongoing relationship with the spirit of ayahuasca. So these are Westerners and the criteria was they had one or at least one ayahuasca experience in North America. So I was not looking at the the the the tourists. They had done it in North America at least once, three quarters had a relationship with the plant spirit, which is not something Westerners usually talk about.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:06] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s pretty remarkable to me because in some of the. Like maybe in Christianity is a perfect example. We accept that there are these phenomenal occurrences, an immaculate conception, right? Like, yeah, maybe spirits or holy angels or Holy Ghost appearing to certain people. So in certain like acceptable ways, we’re willing to accept these extraordinary accounts of something. Yes, someone has an experience with a plant medicine and they report that they have an ongoing relationship, maybe hear a voice or something, which is what I want to know more about. What does that relationship look like? But we then tend to discount that. I think that’s really interesting.
Rachel harris [00:33:50] It is. That’s an interesting juxtaposition. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:53] When you say that many of these like like three quarters of these 81 subjects in this research report, having an ongoing relationship with the spirit of the plant, what does that look like for people?
Rachel harris [00:34:05] It looks a little different for people, but there’s certainly a theme, and that is that people can feel like they’re communing through meditation or quiet time or people dream, have grandmother ayahuasca appears in a dream and she may appear as a beautiful woman in a dream. So she’s not always just grandmotherly. And even some of the indigenous tribes don’t even consider her female. So you know, there are different versions of this plant teacher plant spirit, but they’re all very similar in that there’s some kind of exchange. Some people hear her voice. Some people sense her presence inside. Some people call on her when they need help and support and they feel like she’s almost like a good mother. I remember this one guy, a graduate student in psychology. He said, I thought she was angry at me because she told me to stop using cocaine. Sort of good advice in general. And and he said, I didn’t. And I thought she was angry at me. So people have different kinds of relationships. One of my favorites is this young guy, you know, asked for her advice, you know, in this sort of respectful, serious kind of way. And she said to him. What was it? Go home, clean up your room, and cut your hair. So it’s very grandmotherly and she can be tough on some people. She can be harsh. So it’s, you know, very different. I sort of have a very therapeutic voice that comes to me. That’s not my own voice. That I hear it inside, but it’s an external source. I’ve never had this before or since it. And this is outside, certainly I’ve heard her voice during ceremony. I’ve also heard it outside of ceremony when I’m not under the influence of anything
Brilliant Miller [00:36:11] that is, I think is so fascinating because in my experience and in my learning, my understanding is there are many incredible things that pretty much all of us experience, whether it’s in dreams or sometimes it is in what we now consider like psychotic breaks, you know, mental breakdowns or other things. Sometimes it’s just like feelings, like premonitions and and things like this. But we don’t talk a lot about it, you know, out of body experiences, near-death experiences, this kind of thing. But as a society, I don’t think we really have a way of honoring those things
Rachel harris [00:36:50] and we don’t
Brilliant Miller [00:36:52] And so where I’m going with this is is I if you will, I’d love to hear you speak a little bit about some of the people you reference in the book who will talk about almost maybe an inability to reconcile different worldviews. And they just almost compartmentalize, like I forget the gentleman’s name. But you mentioned something in the book about like when he’s with indigenous people, there’s no question or concern.
Rachel harris [00:37:20] Isn’t that interesting when
Brilliant Miller [00:37:22] Will you talk a little bit about that? Because I think part of what we’re talking about really comes from a very different world view that’s really hard to understand inside our own world view.
Rachel harris [00:37:31] Right. I’m sort of the poster child for struggling with this. I was raised in a very agnostic household. And so I didn’t have, you know, belief in the religious stories of the burning bush or immaculate conception. And none of that was treated seriously. And so this one guy says, you know, when I’m in Peru and the indigenous village and I’m in the middle of it, I don’t have any doubts. I know this is real. I know there are plant spirits. They talk to me. I talk to them, absolutely real. Then I go visit my family of origin, you know, back in Texas somewhere. And he said, I sort of lose that conviction and I can’t maintain it. So, you know, he’s back in his family of origin worldview. And so he moves back and forth. It’s you know, but the physicists, they have changed their worldview with with string theory. And, you know, the way they talk about time and light, I mean, they don’t have the concrete, materialistic worldview that I grew up with. They’re very what I would say, they’re very trippy. You know, the physicists. I mean, if you hear them talk, it’s like, it’s mind blowing. Yeah, so they have already broken through that materialistic world view, but it’s a tough leap. It has been a tough leap for me. You know, I have a friend who’s a cognitive scientist, so he’s a brain researcher. And he goes to the neurology professional meetings and he basically presents papers on the mind is not the Brain. Well, then what is the mind? Well, of course, you know, we don’t really know, but it’s far more than just the material brain. He’s just a very quiet, sweet guy, kind of a Buddhist meditator. Just, you know, there’s just an innocence and he gets attacked at these meetings viciously, he’s like the last person who should be attacked like this. And people just get very defensive about, you know, anyone challenging that materialistic world view, even though the physicists, the quantum physics has moved way beyond it.
Brilliant Miller [00:40:02] Yeah, it’s remarkable, and talking about attacking people, something that comes to mind is this idea of openness has a personality characteristic, right? Because right now, the prevailing thought, as I understand it, about personality and in the Western world view is that it’s relatively unchanging. Right. There’s the five major characteristics, theoretically,
Rachel harris [00:40:28] theoretically, this is what I was taught many years ago.
Brilliant Miller [00:40:31] Right. And that it’s and that they’re relatively fixed. But one of the things that we’re learning is that psychedelics, like ayahuasca, can actually change one’s personality, in particular their openness. Will you talk a little bit about what you know about that?
Rachel harris [00:40:44] Yeah, I know that this was a groundbreaking study came out of Hopkins, a young woman researcher. I don’t know what led to her collecting data on the variable of openness, but yes, openness is one of the five variables that is supposed to be consistent across life, across the lifespan. And so, you know, they took before and after scores. But, you know, the subjects filled out questionnaires before and after a couple of psilocybin experiences and they became more open, which should not have happened according to the theory that I was taught as an undergraduate. So it it really it should be disturbing the psychological theory about how personality doesn’t change. You know, I read somewhere that the psychedelics are going to revolutionize psychiatry. And this is just a good example of that beginning. We have to begin to think differently about people. Yeah, absolutely. You know, there’s another statistic that comes from the Gallup poll. And what’s the other big one? That there are two polls that measure, you know, collect data on nationwide, Gallup is one, and I forget what the other one is, but they have consistently asked over 40 or 50 years, have you had a religious or spiritual experience that changed your life in some way?
Brilliant Miller [00:42:17] Is this Pew?
Rachel harris [00:42:19] Yes, it’s the two, Gallup and Pew. Thank you. And every decade that percentage of people responding has increased. And in the 2000 aughts, it was up around 50 percent of the people.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:34] It’s amazing and yeah,
Rachel harris [00:42:36] and often they have not told anyone
Brilliant Miller [00:42:38] yeah, that’s that’s exactly right, what I was saying before. And yet there seems to be more, more and more intense division. Right. Or just what we’re seeing now with the Black Lives Matter movement and more conversation about maybe reparations for the systemic inequality that exists in our country. So it’s interesting to me that this research is showing we’re having more spiritual experiences. Yet there’s still a lot of social tension that exists within.
Rachel harris [00:43:14] You know, that’s a nice way to put it. You know, back in the 60s, because I’m a child of the 60s. Back in the 60s, we really thought that the psychedelics would change the world for the better. I mean, we really believe that. And my generation, I think, is more marked by that movie with the famous line, Greed is Good, like Michael Douglas, Wall Street. Thank you. And you know, we have the Beatles and all this optimistic meditation and psychedelics and then we went into greed is good. And that has not been good for our country or our culture. No. And I don’t. So I no longer have the belief that, oh, if everyone, you know, just took a psychedelic and opened up, everything would be different. I don’t know what will help us. But I don’t think the answer lies just in psychedelics.
Brilliant Miller [00:44:17] Yeah, I think you’re right, there’s no single thing. There’s no simple answer.
Rachel harris [00:44:22] There’s no simple answer. And I understand the question. It’s where I think many of us are asking this question. It’s a very worrisome time.
Brilliant Miller [00:44:29] Yeah, well, let let me ask you this. What else what haven’t we discussed anything from your book that you think might be of service to a listener? Anything else you want to talk about?
Rachel harris [00:44:43] You know, I do want to talk about what’s called spiritual bypassing, OK, which is in some ways, the Western culture has sort of glorified ayahuasca and the other medicines really in hopes, again, of you’ll have a mystical experience, everything will change, everything will get better. You know, I just heard the other day about someone dying during a ceremony. You know, they had a heart attack and got to the hospital and died. You know, this is not all flowers and light. There are risks. They can change and feel better in many ways and still behave badly. I mean, that’s what the greed is good. You know, people from my generation with all this, you know, love and light, they still behaved pretty badly. And there are plenty of religious teachers and gurus and roaches and shaman who are raping, you know, participants. So there’s a dark side to everything. And we know in the jungle, you know, there are indigenous competitions between tribes and shaman are killed from one tribe to another, sometimes mysteriously, sometimes just brutally. So there’s a real dark side to everything. So if someone is on, you know, this is a fabulous experience. It will change everything. You’ll be enlightened. Always, be cautious. There’s another side to it.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:27] Yeah. Thank you for pointing that out. I think that’s really important for people to understand. OK, I’m just looking through my notes to see if there’s anything else I wanted to be sure to ask you about related to the book and its contents. And if something more comes up as we go on, we can certainly come back. But if you’re OK, then let’s move on to the next part of our interview, the Enlightening lightening round.
Rachel harris [00:46:51] You’re good with that, you know? Well, this might come up, but I want to say another thing because of my understanding of some of the coaching that you’re doing, and that is that psychotherapy is good at certain things. And you know, I spent most of my life doing psychotherapy. I was only in a research office for one decade, but I was in my psychotherapy office for three and a half, so. Psychotherapy is not very good at one on one, psychotherapy is not great at addictions, it’s not great at getting people to exercise or eat healthier. What else can’t we do? We’re not very good at you know, nobody walks out of a psychotherapy office saying, I just got enlightened. You know, maybe I had a good insight, but not awakened. And we don’t always focus on helping people clarify their life purpose. And in a kind of spiritual way, what’s their calling? That is not often focused on. We’re very into symptom relief. I mean, I didn’t work this way, but most graduate students are trained in behavioral psychotherapy and looking at symptom relief. And the antigens are very good at all these things.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:21] Which is maybe not surprising and it’s interesting to me that you used the term entheogen here, because I think people listening won’t know what that means. OK, explain what that term means.
Rachel harris [00:48:34] Well, it means awakening the God within, connecting you to the God within. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:46] Something that I really appreciate about this book. And like I feel mentally like I’ve been chewing on for the last couple of weeks, as I’ve been reading, is the distinction between the psychological and the spiritual. Right. So no surprise that psychotherapy wouldn’t necessarily be effective in helping people achieve what is perhaps a spiritual result, right. Of letting go of addictions, finding a calling, things that might represent a spiritual transformation. And there’s a term you use in here. And you quoted I think her name was it was Bonnie. I think it’s Bonnie Glass coffin. Yes. It was actually here.
Rachel harris [00:49:23] Yes, yes, yes.
Brilliant Miller [00:49:25] Yes. Which I thought was interesting. Yeah. I think it was an intellectual framework to an ontological experience. Like kind of these are very different things. Right. And I’m reminded of this when I listened to an interview with Michael Pollan on how to change your mind. And he’s talking about some of these plants and he talked about when people were involved in research, addiction research with psychedelics and smoking was an example, as we’ve already talked about. And he would say that some people, they found it after one psychedelic experience, one entheogen experience. They just quit and they would say, well, why? Why? Why did you quit? Why was it so easy? And people would say things like, oh, I realized that the breath is important.
Rachel harris [00:50:12] I know. I know. It’s very difficult to understand.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:16] What’s your take on? Because this I don’t even have a well-formed question here. I don’t think. But I’m really curious about is how can we. With or without the help of a plant or a substance, translate something from a merely intellectual or anteological experience to
Rachel harris [00:50:35] it, but I realize the breath is important, is not an intellectual experience when you realize that under the influence of a journey. Yeah, the message has tremendous power. And it comes in to your bones in a way that you know it in your heart. So it’s not just like a commercial on TV saying don’t smoke or, you know, something or eat your vegetables. It’s not like that. You know, I had an interesting experience because I heard so clearly in a ceremony, alcohol is poison. Now, all my friends know it’s almost not worth dirtying a glass to pour wine into my glass because I’ll drink maybe half an inch. I’ve never had an issue with alcohol, but it was so clear alcohol is poison. I mean, that went into me as if I needed to hear that it was just amazing. Potato chips, on the other hand, still call me. So I have not broken that addiction or sugar, you know, a little junk food, sugar. So, you know, I’m still waiting for that awakening and that healing. So we can’t order these. So I got an addiction healing that I didn’t need, and I’m still waiting for the one I need.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:02] Yeah, maybe. But maybe that’s it’s time to cultivate the relationship with the spirit of the potato.
Rachel harris [00:52:07] Yes. Something else. So you can’t sort of order these things up. You kind of take what you get.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:16] Yeah. I think that’s so fascinating. And I’ll continue to think of that. I really do. Thank you for just helping me. I mean, I’ve been aware. Right, there’s mental, intellectual, psychological, spiritual. Like these are different. They are different things. Yeah. Your book just helped me kind of view that a little differently in a way I feel is is useful, even if I still don’t know what to do with it or how to, you know, how to use it.
Rachel harris [00:52:40] And they and they do overlap.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:42] Yeah. For sure. Yeah. OK, well we’ll keep going. OK. All right. So the Enlightening lightning round, this is a series of brief questions on a variety of topics. My aim for the most part is to simply ask the question and kind of stand aside. You’re welcome to answer as long as you want. OK, question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a.
Rachel harris [00:53:10] A challenge.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:12] OK, question number two.
Rachel harris [00:53:14] Yeah, well, I just want to say something, you know, something came up in a panel I was on about, you know, they don’t want to say bad trips anymore. They want to say challenging trips. Well, I’ve had a very bad challenging trip. But you know what? Life is also challenging and who hasn’t had a bad trip during life where something happens that’s a tragedy. So I think life is a challenge. And the question is always, what do I learn from this? How does this change me?
Brilliant Miller [00:53:50] Yeah, for sure. OK, thank you for that. OK, question number two here. I’m borrowing the technologists and investor Peter TEALS famous question. What important truths do very few people agree with you on?
Rachel harris [00:54:09] Is he the founder of Pen Pal, no not that, PayPal? So I got a little distracted with that because I have a problem with him. I boycott PayPal, ask the question again. Let me get over that, OK? You shouldn’t have given me his name.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:28] What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Rachel harris [00:54:32] You know, I hang around with people who are also on a spiritual path, so we have a very similar orientation to life. I think the way I’ve lived my life for my truth is not part of the majority culture, and that would probably about be about consumerism and money. I mean, the culture kind of works on that, and that has never been a goal for me.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:05] Which might be part of why you live on an island for eight months of the year
Rachel harris [00:55:10] in a little cabin. Yes.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:13] Is it as wonderful as it sounds?
Rachel harris [00:55:15] Yes, yes. Yes, absolutely. The Internet connection could be better. That’s why I’m in the library. But it is as wonderful as it sounds.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:26] Awesome. OK, question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or phrase or saying or quote or quip, what would the shirts say?
Rachel harris [00:55:37] I would say “breathe”.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:40] OK, question number four, what book other than one of your own have you gifted or recommended most often?
Rachel harris [00:55:48] Here’s here’s the one I’ve gifted most often. I don’t have the exact title. It’s a book about Stanley Kunitz, who’s a poet. He’s gone now, but he died like a hundred and four or something. And it’s this wonderful, kind of interview of him in his garden in Provincetown, Cape Cod, and with his poems. He was you know, he was a national I forget what it’s called, but a national. He’s a very famous poet. And I had never met him, but I know people who have worked with him and he evidently was a very kind man. His poems are beautiful. And he shared his process of dying and leaving and his relationship to life. It’s a beautiful book. It’s probably the last book about him and it has photos. And I’ve given that book to more people than any other book. I just don’t know the exact title of it. But it’s it’s about Stanley Kunitz and his garden. And it is beautiful. It is, yeah. And at this stage of life, I think life is about learning how to die. I’ll be 75 so you can do the math, right. You can do the arithmetic. And so you know what? What do we do at the end of our lives? What’s life like as as we prepare to leave?
Brilliant Miller [00:57:31] Beautiful. OK, question number,
Rachel harris [00:57:36] OK,
Brilliant Miller [00:57:37] question number five, so you’ve traveled a lot in your life, what’s one travel hack, meaning something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Rachel harris [00:57:53] You know, I actually want to disagree with you, I’m given the the current generations, they are really global. I’m really not. I have traveled, but yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:07] What about you go back and forth because I understand you spend four months a year in Napa. I do. The other eight you spend on an island. Is there anything you do when you get ready to move from one place to the other that you’re sure
Rachel harris [00:58:16] know besides my computer, um, I would say I never leave home without my electric toothbrush.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:27] It’s important.
Rachel harris [00:58:28] Yeah. Yeah, you know, I’m just clearly tied to my computer, I have books on it, I have reading material on it, I take notes on it, so I don’t have a great answer to that.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:44] OK, that’s wonderful. Question number six, what’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Rachel harris [00:58:55] Well, the big thing was I stopped my private practice, and that’s that was a real loss. I was very sad to give it up, but it was important to stop. And it’s allowed me to write the book and also to focus on my own end of life. And to you know, there’s actually some research that says people in their 60s and 70s, these are the happiest decades, we don’t usually think of this, but as long as we’re healthy, they’re very happy decades. And I think letting go the private practice allowed me to be happier.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:46] Wow. And I would imagine that part of it is having done that with such dedication for three and a half decades.
Rachel harris [00:59:56] It’s also like enough already. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:59] That’s beautiful. Question number seven, what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Rachel harris [01:00:07] Oh, I, I do wish we knew that we had more of an international perspective, how other people see us.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:15] Yeah, me too.
Rachel harris [01:00:16] You know, our egos, the American ego. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:21] My my answer to this just kind of goes along, I think, with what you’re saying is I wish every American knew a second language. Yeah.
Rachel harris [01:00:31] Do you have a second language?
Brilliant Miller [01:00:34] I do. I speak Japanese. I was a foreign exchange student. I studied Japanese for five years, lived there for one academic year. So keep up with it. But I can still read.
Rachel harris [01:00:46] But it was there. Yeah. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:48] Good for you. Yeah. OK, question number eight. What’s the most important or useful thing you’ve learned about making relationships work?
Rachel harris [01:00:57] Well I’ll answer in terms of friendships. OK, and that is to really listen to the other person and not judge them to listen openly.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:18] All right, and question number nine, aside from aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Rachel harris [01:01:28] It’s not really related to happiness. Yeah, yeah. I think actually the research is that if, you know, 70000 is what you need each year to cover comfortably, you know, life, basic living, that’s not going to send your kids to private school, but you can maintain a comfortable life and that, you know, if you keep going up and up, it doesn’t really add to the quality of happiness.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:59] Yeah, I know. I know. That’s been very well researched. And yet I think there are many people that don’t believe it.
Rachel harris [01:02:05] Yes, exactly.
Brilliant Miller [01:02:07] It’s kind of like I heard someone once say, I’ve taken a vow of poverty. To test me, send money. Yeah.
Rachel harris [01:02:16] So that could that could that could answer a previous question on what do I know is a truth that most people don’t believe.
Brilliant Miller [01:02:24] Yeah, OK. Well, speaking of money, one thing I have done as an expression of gratitude to you is I have gone on Kiva.org, the micro lending site who loans money to entrepreneurs around the world. And I have made a micro loan to a woman named Sally who’s in Burkina Faso. She’ll use this money to buy rice and spaghetti and oil to sell and help support her five, she has six children. So I just wanted to thank you for giving me a reason to do that. And hopefully our conversation is doing some good in the world, even if we’ll never meet the people who listen or who are touched by it.
Rachel harris [01:03:03] You know, that really brings tears to my eyes. Thank you so much. That’s a wonderful thing.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:09] It’s my pleasure. Well, we’re almost at the end of the time, I do have just a few questions if you’re still good to keep on writing and creativity, OK?
Rachel harris [01:03:20] Oh, yeah, right. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:21] So, OK, good. Well, then let me start with this. When did you first know you were a writer?
Rachel harris [01:03:32] That’s that’s very young, that’s very young. Yeah. So. Maybe middle school, I would say.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:42] And how did you know, what brought about the awareness?
Rachel harris [01:03:48] You know, what’s interesting is I gave the talk at graduation for my middle school and remember, this is a small town, and so the local paper covered this big event. And and they quoted me and my father pointed out to me that they quoted my writing. Wow. And that, I think, was the first kind of acknowledgment of it. And oh, and I also want a writing award in middle school. So it was beginning right around in there.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:21] That’s pretty cool. Yeah. It has been influential in your development as a writer. And what have you learned from them?
Rachel harris [01:04:31] Well, I’ve taken you know, I’ve gone to a lot of writing workshops, and I was the worst student in an ongoing poetry class in Princeton when I lived there. I was consistently the worst poetry writer. I have to answer. It’s not it’s not about the technique of writing, it’s more about. It’s more about some of the spiritual training I’ve had to to really center in my heart and right from their. And so it’s been the spiritual training.
Brilliant Miller [01:05:15] Yeah, I think that’s a really beautiful view, and I’ve been really kind of fascinated by the idea that with any communication spoken or written, that there’s the content, there’s the literal meaning of the words intended meaning, but then there’s perhaps an energetic quality. Yes, well, right. And these are not always congruent now and not always powerful. One might be and the other might be weak and so forth. But when you talk about this kind of spiritual training or spiritual development is what’s been very influential in your development as a writer. How do you cultivate that and when you sit down to write, how do you if you do consciously like, how do you draw upon it? Yeah.
Rachel harris [01:06:04] I ask for help. I edit from my heart, so it’s is this what I’m really wanting to say and also just because of who I am, and at this point in my life, I am saying to myself, put it all out there, don’t hold anything back. Put it all out there, share everything.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:41] . What is your routine like when you’re in the process of writing a book?
Rachel harris [01:06:46] Yeah, I’m the the least disciplined person you’ll ever meet. And so I do everything wrong. I mean, everything every guidebook says, you know, you get up and you write every morning regardless. No, I don’t do any of that.
Brilliant Miller [01:07:05] So I think there’s hope! It’s great because you’ve published I know of at least five books.
Rachel harris [01:07:12] I think you got it. Yeah, I’ve managed. And so, you know, I’m working currently on a new book and I sort of say because of Covid, but actually because of a series of surgeries I had this past year and I’m perfectly fine and healthy, but I had some surgeries. I lost a year, so I got a year’s extension. But I’ve had to kind of work through this, what I call my year of dismemberment, which is a shamanic term. But I just have not been ready. So I’ve been kind of, you know, trying to get myself ready in an inner way in order to write. And so I have to get to the right place inside to write this book. So that has nothing to do with discipline or routine, you know, but that’s the real answer to how I write. And the book is based on interviews I’ve done with women elders in the psychedelic underground. So these women have been working with these entheogens for at least 20 years, some of them 40, 50 years. And they’ve been the original guides that Michael Pollan went to when he wanted to have a safe guided experience. He went to a number of these women and because they are still working and it’s underground, they cannot speak publicly. So I’ve been interviewing them and learning from them. And so the book is about that.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:54] Amazing. When when is the anticipated publication?
Rachel harris [01:08:58] Oh, God, it could be two years from now. I mean, it’s still a long way off. Yeah, it’ll be. What is it 21, 20? It’ll be in 2023. All right.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:11] When you sit down to write, how connected do you feel with your reader? What’s that relationship like in that in the moment of writing or editing?
Rachel harris [01:09:30] That’s not that’s not the key relationship for me. And I’ve had people give me advice that imagine someone sitting at your desk and you’re speaking to them. That’s not what works for me. It’s bouncing it against my heart. Is this saying what I wanted to say? Does this capture my inner reality? My inner sense, is this capturing what I want to put out into the universe? So it’s not as personal as directly to the reader. I mean, one of the ways this ayahuasca book surprised me is so many people have said I bought your book to give to my mother so that she would understand what I’ve been doing. And I thought, oh, well, I never thought of that application for this book. But I’ve have felt great about it. So for me, it really is, again, back into the heart. Is this am I matching my inner knowing with what I’m putting on paper
Brilliant Miller [01:10:31] when it comes time to create a book like when you’ve settled on a topic, what’s your process like to go from that idea to the finished draft? I know that’s a big question, but what’s the sketch?
Rachel harris [01:10:47] The thumbnail to put out a proposal to a publisher, you have to have the outline of ten chapters. So you have. But then, you know, I change it a bit and I have a relationship with a publisher and an editor where I have more freedom. You know, I worked with one editor who said, look, this was the proposal, this is the contract. You write the book you proposed. And and I thought, well, I’ve sort of shifted a little bit. It’s more, again, finding that right place where I’m going to come from and and then, uh, sort of getting the global view of the material, which may or may not agree with the original proposal, but it’s the work for me is getting to that right place inside me that I’m going to communicate from for this book. And so here’s what’s been in a way difficult for me, is the Ayahuasca book. I absolutely had help from grandmother ayahuasca. I mean, I had help. I mean. Well, I’ll tell you, there was one you know, there’s a chapter on brain research. Well, we didn’t even have brain research when I went to college. So, you know, it wasn’t in graduate school. You know, everything I know about brain research, I’ve studied on my own and I wasn’t entirely sure. And I needed a neuroscientist to vet this chapter for me. I said I’m one or two people away from the Dalai Lama, but I don’t know anyone who knows a neuroscientist. A few days later, a friend of mine told me about a neuroscientist friend of hers, now a professor at Berkeley. He read the chapter for me. He corrected one footnote, just the format of the footnote, and the chapter was fine, but I needed it vetted. So that’s help. I mean, that’s such serendipitous help. Yeah. So the contrast with writing about these women elders who are guides working underground and have used a variety of medicines is I’ve had to kind of shift my orientation from grandmother ayahuasca to antigens in general, which is like an energetic shift somehow. And so that’s that’s that’s a different orientation for me.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:25] Yeah, that that makes sense.
Rachel harris [01:13:28] Oh, good, I’m glad, I thought this sounds crazy.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:32] I mean, as you were talking about, you know, people have a relationship, people who do ayahuasca, many of them are having a relationship with that plant. Right. Doesn’t seem surprising at all that writing about a different, you know, different
Rachel harris [01:13:44] has a different range. Different.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:46] Yes, for sure. What advice or encouragement would you give those listening who are involved in their own creative projects, their own writing, their own books, or it’s a dream they’ve had for a long time that they maybe haven’t started on. What do you say to those people?
Rachel harris [01:14:00] Yeah, I actually have advice. Don’t read anything that’s badly written, read the most beautifully written, whatever, whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, the most beautifully written material. Don’t read a badly written book. It’s just not good for your brain, it’s not good to have that in your head, so I really protect myself that way and. And if you’re stuck wanting to write, read something that’s closely related to what you’re wanting to write. And that will kind of get a flow going. So writing is as much about reading as about writing.
Brilliant Miller [01:14:47] I love that in that thing you’re talking about, don’t read bad writing. I reminded of this this programing term. Garbage in, garbage out.
Rachel harris [01:14:57] Yeah, really
Brilliant Miller [01:14:58] no surprise for sure. OK, well, with that, the last thing perhaps that I’ll just touch on and maybe I can do it. Maybe I ought to do it after we wrap the interview.
Rachel harris [01:15:14] Go ahead.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:15] What about just in the email we traded was about the experience I had with the rabbi. Yes, if you if you’re interested to hear that, it’s please, it’s pretty simple, right? But what it was, was about 12 years ago, I was about 12 years ago during the most difficult I think it was during the most difficult period of my life. A lot of things seemed to be going wrong. You know, my dad died. He’d been in poor health for a while. I had a son who was born prematurely. He spent nine months in the neonatal intensive care unit. 20 brain surgeries, my marriage was falling apart. I wasn’t enjoying my job. I didn’t really know what to do with my life. Just a lot of things came together. And I was looking for a perspective that could help me. And by the way, I have struggled with depression for as long as I’ve known myself and in my teenage years, fortunately survived a couple of suicide attempts. And so just was in a really dark place and and having thoughts of maybe checking out. And I was looking for some some guidance outside the you know, the answers I’d always been referred to that didn’t seem to be working. And I had learned about the rabbi who does work in our community. I think it’s actually a really beautiful story because his rabbi sent him here from Milan more than 30 years ago and he stayed. He’s put down roots and he works with at risk youth and helping care for people who are not doing well financially or medically or whatever, or meanwhile, the Mormon missionaries go all over the world.
Rachel harris [01:16:54] Yes, right.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:55] It’s great and
Rachel harris [01:16:57] ironic, isn’t it?
Brilliant Miller [01:16:58] But I just love that. So I’d heard of his name because he’d he’d written asking for financial assistance to to our family. Yeah. And my dad had not yet gotten around to honoring that request. So it was one of the last things he instructed my oldest brother to do was like literally on his deathbed, hey, Greg. You know, and so so the rabbi’s name went in my head. And when I was in this dark place, I thought maybe I’ll go see if the rabbi can shine any light. Right. That I haven’t heard before.
Rachel harris [01:17:27] And to try anything place.
Brilliant Miller [01:17:30] Exactly. And so he was kind enough to make time. And we sat down and and he asked me what was going on. And and I laid out this really sad story that was everyone else’s fault. Right? None of it was my own creation. And he listened very compassionately. And there was probably near the half hour mark in our conversation, he invited me to try something. And it was he said, I want you to close your eyes and I want you to picture everyone on the planet just going about their business, you know, being born, raising families, going to school, going to work, so forth. And he asked if I could picture that as if maybe from above or something. And I said, yeah, I can picture it. And he said, Now I want you to imagine that you are the only thing I want you to imagine you’re gone. But that’s the only thing that’s different. Everything else is happening just as it was. And he said, can you picture that? And I said, Yeah, it’s not hard. Then he said, OK, good. Can you feel the difference that your absence makes? And I said, nope, not a bit. And he said, that’s it. That’s your problem. You said you haven’t found your purpose. You haven’t found the difference that you’re here to make and went on to assure me that I have one and that it’s unique and no one else can fulfill it and so forth. And, you know, I’d heard things like that before, but they never really landed with me. And for some reason when he said it to me, it just it felt true. And, you know, he stopped short of telling me what the purpose was. I didn’t have that piece of the puzzle. But just leaving that conversation, believing really for the first time that I had one just sent me on a path to find it and live it. And that, like I said, it was just over 10 years ago and I’ve been endeavoring to do that. So this conversation is part of that. And that’s what I’m grateful to.
Rachel harris [01:19:28] That’s a fabulous story. And and it wasn’t that he just told you, oh, you need a purpose in life. He led you through an experience that really touched your heart and opened something up inside of you. And then you get this message and it goes right into your bones. And, you know, certainly there were no drugs, you know, this was not a psychedelic experience at all, but there’s a similar quality to it and that I understand how that it seems almost simple in a way. And yet it was life changing. And I understand how that message got into you in such a totally different way.
Brilliant Miller [01:20:14] Yeah, I’m really grateful. You know, I don’t know what my life would be like without that one conversation.
Rachel harris [01:20:22] Isn’t that something? Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:20:24] So thank you for asking about that in the email. Yeah. OK, well, with that, thank you, yeah, my pleasure, this is Rachel. This has been so great. I know I told you in my in my request for the interview that I found your book in a bookstore in Sacramento. I didn’t just buy it on Amazon. I paid full cover price.
Rachel harris [01:20:46] Blessed, good.
Brilliant Miller [01:20:48] So that was it was really a joy to find it in a surprise. And I’ve enjoyed reading it. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. And I don’t know when or where or how our paths will cross again, but I’m pretty sure they will.
Brilliant Miller [01:21:18] Hey, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the School for Good Living podcast. Before you take off, just want to extend an invitation to you. Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life still isn’t working for many people, whether it’s here in the developed world where we deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, divorce, unfulfilling jobs or relationships that don’t work, or in the developing world where so many people still don’t have access to basic things like clean water or sanitation or health care or education, or they live in conflict zones. There are a lot of people on this planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people or even if your life is working, but you have the sense that it could work better, consider signing up for the School for Good Livings Transformational Coaching Program. It’s something I’ve designed to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through, whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve gone through a divorce or you’ve gotten married, headed into retirement, starting a business, been married for a long time, whatever. No matter where you are in life, this nine month program will give you the opportunity to go deep in every area of your life to explore life’s big questions, to create answers for yourself in a community of other growth minded individuals. And it can help you get clarity and be accountable to realize more of your unrealized potential. It can also help you find and maintain motivation. In short, is designed to help you live with greater health, happiness and meaning so that you can be, do, have, and give more. Visit goodliving.com to learn more or to sign up today.
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