5 things I learnt this week: 20th July 2019

The more I learn about psychedelics, the more fascinated I am, and the more excited for a future where these drugs can have huge benefits for everything from PTSD to patients staring at a terminal cancer diagnosis. Last year I read Stealing Fire, which is an incredible book on how to harness higher states of consciousness to increase performance (and enjoy life more). While meditation is pretty much as far as I’ve gone with his recommendations (!), I really recommend it. This week Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, appeared on the Goop podcast and was well worth a listen to. Also Tim Ferriss hosted an amazing panel on psychedelics at the Milken Institute and the accompanying notes on his website contain everything you ever needed to know about psychedelics. The podcast recording of the live panel is a brilliant listen and has prompted me to read Ayelet Waldman’s book, A Really Good Day, next.

Pitbull, about whom I knew very little beyond Timber, is an incredibly inspirational guy and a wonderful philanthropist. His short (<30mins) chat with Tony Robbins on TR’s podcast is peppered with great soundbites and life advice. His biggest tip? FOCUS. Cut out the noise in your life.

I learnt A LOT about our nervous systems over the last fortnight as I waded through a very technical book, The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory by Dr Stephen Porges. You can read my post on how the nervous system really works here. The main takeaway was that as well as our parasympathetic (social: rest & digest) and sympathetic (mobilizing: fight or flight) nervous systems, we have a much older, reptilian system that immobilizes us in times of fear of death. Similar to a mouse playing dead in the jaws of a cat, humans can enter a disassociative state when faced with trauma. The bottom line of the theory is that to socialize, create and thrive as humans we need to feel SAFE – something many institutions from workplaces to hospitals and schools would do well to examine further.

“In 1842 the average age at death of a labourer in Bethnal Green in East London was just sixteen years.” I am halfway through the Lifebook Online programme at the moment (more to follow on this amazing programme) and the programme designers & hosts, Jon & Missy Butcher, talk a lot about how looking at history helps to shape their world-view (many of their biggest mentors are historical figures) and also their sense of gratitude, for the hardships that we see today have nothing on the relentless hardship and tragedy that mankind has suffered through the ages. I was reminded by this as I’m reading Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World (whence the above quote came from). How far we’ve come and how lucky we are.

Last but not least, I have had the great pleasure of seeing humanity up-close, in all its magnificent imperfection, in therapist Lori Gottlieb’s new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. It chronicles her sessions with some former clients as well as the sessions she has with her own therapist in the wake of a personal heartbreak she suffers. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that cracks open the struggles that we all face, which feel abnormal while being universal. Our journeys as human beings are stunningly woven into the case-studies in this wonderful book. I realise that it’s given credence to one of the main beliefs I (try very hard to) hold about life – that we are all doing the best we can – and it’s a book whose wisdom will stay with me for a while.

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