BOOK REVIEW: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

39203791Title: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by 

Author: Michael Pollan

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 42 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Psychology, Health, Philosophy

Read Start Date: March 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 6, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “A brilliant and brave investigation by Michael Pollan, author of five New York Times best sellers, into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs–and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences. When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into the experience of various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan’s “mental travelogue” is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both struggle and beauty, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives”

My Review: This book was interesting, but not one of my favorites. Although I liked some of the anecdotal stories that Pollan tells about his own personal experiences with psychedelic drugs (from magic mushrooms to frog venom), I found the science aspects of the book to be rather dry — but I guess that is just the nature of very scientific subjects.

I had such high expectations of this book, based upon the raving review of my boyfriend, that I felt a bit disappointed by my lack of enthusiasm in reading it. I thought it was going to be some enlightening story, that drugs like LSD, etc., would suddenly make sense to me. That I would “see the light” so to speak. Maybe I am just skeptical that a drug which admittedly alters ones perception artificially can somehow treat mental illnesses. That could just be “the establishment” brainwashing me to be against drugs, but who knows.

But the book had its redeeming qualities as well. I found several stories very intriguing, especially those about Paul Stamets, a mycologist (a scientist specializing in mushrooms). Pollan described several interesting patents that Stamets held, including one for a mushroom which was used as a natural ant killer. How do you ask? You should read the book to find out.

Being somewhat of a Startrek fan, I also found it very interesting that the creators of Startrek Discovery decided to name a character Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, and that such character knows more than anyone in the world about space mushrooms. Coincidence? I think not.

Despite my failure to be blown away by the subject matter, I did find it interesting overall. If you are looking for a scientific read that pushes the boundaries of societal norms, then I would recommend to read this book.

 

Living the “Less Experiment”: Week 1

As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, In December/January, I read the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. It has inspired me to try my own “less” experiment. Since I know that it will be difficult, I want to try it 1 week at a time.

mug photoThe “Less Experiment” started out as a spectacular failure. On Monday, I had two cups of coffee, a piece of chocolate for someone’s birthday, and because I had already failed by eating junk food, I stressed ate a handfull of chips before stopping myself. I worked until 7pm, and wasn’t able to muster the motivation to arrive late to my German lesson. My boyfriend insisted that we watch Bandersnatch (the interactive Black Mirror movie on Netflix). The movie was good, but I probably could have spent the 1.5 hours doing something more productive. Lastly, even though I didn’t go shopping myself, my boyfriend bought a package of apples wrapped in plastic.

Tuesday and Wednesday were no better than Monday. I worked again until 7pm both days, which meant that I missed my German lessons. Since I was so stressed at work, I ate some chocolate to keep me sitting at my desk. By the time I got home, made and ate dinner, there was no time left to do any exercise. In the last three days I have only walked about 10,821 steps (only about 30% of my goal).

By Thursday, I decided that I had to give up. When I analyze why last week went so wrong, I came to the conclusion that it was because I was working until 7pm every night. When this happens, I don’t have time to do anything when I get home. Therefore, I am renewing my goals for this upcoming week. Wish me luck!

photo-1489533119213-66a5cd877091

  1. Leave work by 6pm;
  2. Excercise for at least 30 minutes per day, with 10k excursions on Saturday and Sunday;
  3. No alcohol (for losing weight reasons);
  4. Write my book for at least 30 minutes per day, but in a week write no less than an additional 1,000 words;
  5. Declutter the living room area;
  6. No Netflix;
  7. Study German for at least 30 minutes per day
  8. Don’t buy anything containing plastic
  9. Only buy things based upon need and not want

 

 

My Own “Less” Experiment

In December/January, I read the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. It has inspired me to try my own “less” experiment. Since I know that it will be difficult, I want to try it 1 week at a time.

My rules for the first week of less, starting on January 21, 2019 and ending on January 27, 2019 will be a little different from the rules set out in the book. I am not so worried about shopping, as I do not have a shopping addiction, except for maybe books. Therefore, I will not be allowed to buy any books. I will be allowed to check out books from the library and to get them free from Netgalley.

less photo

The 2nd rule, is that I am not allowed to watch any television (which means Netflix since I don’t have a T.V. or cable). This will be rather challenging, since I usually watch television at night while I am preparing and eating dinner. I also tend to watch movies on the weekends.

I am hoping that by banning television, I will use the time to listen to books on tape, or other things such as learn German, clean up my apartment, and write more blog entries.

The third rule is that I am not allowed to buy anything containing plastic. This will be rather difficult, because mostly everything at the supermarket comes in plastic packaging.

My goals for the first week also include, 1) walking / running 70,000 steps, 2) writing 3,500 words of the fiction book I am writing, 3) only drinking water — the only exception allowed is 1 cup of coffee per day and kombucha (but without syrup), 4) no junk food including but not limited to chocolate and chips, and 5) attend German class.

I hope that I will succeed!

Kombucha Honey Mustard: Part 2

How to make delicious kombucha honey mustard:

  1. Brew kombucha like normal, and wait until it becomes vinegar.
  2. Place 1/2 cup of yellow mustard seeds in a jar, and cover them with the kombucha vinegar.  It is possible that the seeds will plump up slightly as they soak.  If the mustard seeds start popping over the top of the kombucha vinegar, cover them with more kombucha vinegar.
  3. Let the seeds soak for at least 3 days (I waited 6 days).
  4. After waiting the sufficient amount of time, pour the whole jar into the blender
  5. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons tumeric and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  I added 1/2 a clove of garlic, but at the end of the day I didn’t like the taste of it in the mustard, so I would say to not use it.
  6. Add 5 teaspoons of honey
  7. Blend.  If the consistency is too grainy, keep adding more kombucha vinegar until smooth.

20181026_1240381211778419.jpg

 

 

 

Kombucha Honey Mustard: Part 1

I remember the exact moment when I first tried kombucha. I was in the passenger seat of the car in the parking lot of a Whole Foods in Long Island New York.  My ex-husband had bought a rather expensive (something like $3) green carbonated drink, which he said was supposed to be really healthy.

I took a sip and was like, “uck, that’s disgusting!”

It was super sour and the base flavor was not that great. It would be my first taste of G.T.’s, one of the the biggest kombucha brewers in the US.

Since it was supposed to be good for me, when we went back to Whole Foods the next weekend, I tried it again, this time the Passionberry Bliss flavor.  My second try went much better, and I was soon hooked!

Since I was on a limited budget (damn law school loans), spending $3 a bottle a day on kombucha (x2 people), was just not in the budget.  I was seriously bummed out. However, after doing some research online, I was delighted to discover that I could brew ‘buch at home for a fraction of the price!

mustard seeds from Sonnentor soaking in kombucha vinegar

Since I have some extra kombucha vinegar laying around, I decided to get creative.  Eric and Jessica Childs (founders of Kombucha Brooklyn in New York City) in their book Kombucha! had a really interesting recipe for kombucha mustard.  I like mustard, so I decided to give it a shot.

Stay tuned for the results!