How to Change Your Mind
What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
Michael Pollen made me crave psychedelic mushrooms. Mega-star nonfiction author Pollan changed American food culture almost single-handedly with The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This one won’t do the same for psychedelic drugs, but perhaps it should. Pollan’s gift for weaving his own experiences and perspectives with historical and scientific research and firsthand accounts makes this compelling and digestible. He makes a near-watertight case that the closing off of these drugs to (at the very least) scientifc and pharmaceutical research and testing makes zero sense. Along the way, there are interesting insights into some of the recent literature on neuroscience and neuropsychology.
I read this one in the “green tunnel” of Oregon, dodging mosquitos, swimming in cool lakes and watching as the mushrooms proliferate to disturbing density on the trail. If it was a sign for me to turn my trip into a trip, I wasn’t bold enough to do so. But it got me thinking about suffering, joy, perspectives and consciousness. Just like the trail itself.
- Penguin (2019), 482 pages
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Now on Netflix as a 4-part documentary series! “Pollan keeps you turning the pages . . . cleareyed and assured.” —New York Times A #1 New York Times Bestseller, New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018, and New York Times Notable Book A brilliant and brave investigation 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 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 inadvertently 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 suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives. (Publisher’s Description)