with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 062: Exploring your shadow and healing your traumas (with Aurora Quinn-Elmore)

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July 26, 2021

What is metamodernism? How does metamodernism relate to spiral dynamics? What does it look like to apply a metamodern approach to large-scale problems? What are shadow traits, and what is shadow projection? What do our reactions about others' behavior tell us about ourselves? What's going on psychologically and physiologically when we relive past traumas? What dosages of psychedelics are most effective in a therapeutic context? How soon will psychedelic substances likely be decriminalized or legalized at the state and/or federal level in the United States? How can we enter into blissful, ecstatic, intense, or other less common psychological states without drugs or alcohol? What are the pros and cons of (especially intergenerational) co-living?

Aurora Quinn-Elmore is on a mission to understand "what's going on, and what should we do about it?" As a labor of love, she executive produced and published an audiobook version of Hanzi Freinacht's The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics. Professionally, she is on a mission to expand legal access and to speed adoption of psychedelic therapies shaped by the wisdom and insights of the deeply rooted psychedelic guide community. She also leads the SoulSupport team at SoulPlay, which is a substance-free festival focused on ecstatic dance, contact improv, and tantric connection games. She helped form and lives in a beautiful intentional community of 12 "hackers, hipsters, and hippies" in Berkeley, California, who use the tool to manage covid risk in a household of diverse needs. Feel free to reach out to Aurora on Facebook at @aurora.q.elmore.

JOSH: Hello, and welcome to Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg, the podcast about ideas that matter. I'm Josh Castle, the producer of the podcast and I'm so glad you've joined us today. In this episode, Spencer speaks with Aurora Quinn-Elmore about reactions to modernism and post-modernism, theories of societal dynamics and personal traits, physiological reactions to stress and trauma, and psychedelic therapy and community practice.

SPENCER: Aurora, welcome.

AURORA: Hi, thanks for having me.

SPENCER: So there's a lot of different theories about how to make the world a better place. Sort of, "What is structurally wrong with society?", or, "What can we do to make the future bright?", and as I understand it, one of these perspectives comes from this idea of meta-modernism — which I actually don't think I've ever heard that term until you mentioned it to me. So do you wanna start by telling us about what is meta-modernism and sort of what is its approach to thinking about making good world?

AURORA: Yeah, yeah, certainly. And I think you're totally right. There's a lot of different approaches, there's a lot of different frames that I find useful. I really liked the idea of exploring different options out there and different ideas out there. So with meta-modernism, it takes this focus that tries to understand how emotional development and intellectual development, and ontology work together to shape how individuals understand the world around them, how they respond to it, and then, how that also informs civilizational level behaviors and institutions. So it tries to look back in history, and looks at the ways in which our ancestors lived and made sense the world around them. And the degree to which we're living in a relative Utopia compared to them — in terms of having a lot of our material needs met, in terms of food and shelter, as well as medical needs, as well as to a great degree of self-expression, ability to worship as they want to, ability to vote for the political candidates that we want to. So as a starting point, it's kind of looking at, "where are we now" in comparison to "where we were in the past", "how did we get to where we are", and "how might we be able to shape a brighter future going forward".

SPENCER: So what are some of the things it says about how we got to where we are today?

AURORA: Yeah, certainly. One of the things that it emphasizes is trying to kind of understand the shift from more of a traditional perspective that had a strong emphasis on religion, on how life was lived before, and having that strongly inform how we live our lives today. And then looking at this shift from more traditional values to more modernist perspective, where there's this strong drive to categorize the world around us, develop mechanistic models for how it works from sort of disease, to chemistry, to biology. And then, there's this shift over time, from this modern perspective to more of a postmodern perspective, which we see as strongly ascendant today. And the postmodern perspective is looking at the ways in which the modern perspective is very much shaped by privilege, by power where it kind of tells one part of the story, but not all of the story.

AURORA: Yeah, exactly. So it's kind of doing both. So meta-modernism is kind of the stuff in Human Development according to this frame that comes after post-modernism. But it also kind of takes maybe more of a meta-perspective — which makes sense given the name. So it kind of holds us object — these different ways of making sense in the world that have been dominant in the past. And something that's different about meta-modernism that I really appreciate is that it has a bit less of a conflict-oriented stance towards other positions. So if you're talking with someone who has a very strongly modern frame, it's pretty common for them to be dismissive of religion or traditional societies, and also be somewhat horrified by sort of post-modernism and the idea of that kind of undermining everything that we know and the traditions that have allowed us to create a much wealthier, more harmonious world. So if you look at some of these other stages, they tend to be pretty dismissive or antagonistic towards other stages, something that's different about meta-modernism as it tries to hold those different ways of understanding the world and being in the world as object trying to kind of see their virtues — not just seeing sort of the shadow aspects of them but seeing the virtues, seeing the value of that, and thinking about how might we create a world where people are able to live good lives in the context that they have. And that there's not sort of this idea of everyone must be a modern in order for them to be living good lives or acting in a sensible way.

SPENCER: So is meta-modern, so speak, after postfire? Is it post-postfire or is it kind of looking more holistically at these different movements?

SPENCER: This is starting to remind me of the idea of spiral dynamics. Are you familiar with that?

AURORA: I am, yeah. I think it got a lot of strong overlap, I've gone more deeply into meta-modernism than spiral dynamics. I don't think it covers 100% of the same material but it does have a strong overlap. Is that something you've gone more deeply into?

SPENCER: Yeah, I've looked at it. It's sort of an interesting perspective on how civilizations develop — with the idea that at the beginning, you imagine you have a single animal or single creature, and it's just trying to survive in an environment that's hostile. It gives kind of names, the stages with colors aad so that is often called the beige stage. And then eventually, you get creatures that are in small groups — a group of rabbits or a small tribe of humans — and then that creates a sort of different dynamic. Now, it's like the whole tribes kind of survive against the world. And then there's certain kind of things that happen within a tribe when you have a small group of people. And then you kind of get it — that's often called the purple stage. Then you get sort of competition between tribes, right? One tribe fights another tribe. And then it's, "Well, which tribe is more powerful?", and more powerful tribe beat the weaker tribes. And it's a very might-based world — and that's the color red. And those kind of it doesn't really remind me of what you're talking about. But then, when you get the next stage, it starts really reminding me what you're talking about which is, the next stage is sort of now these tribes get really big, and you start having what we might call civilizations, and civilizations kind of — it can't be held together by like personal relationships, because just much too big, it can't have a city of a million people or knows each other. So you have to have these ideas to hold it together like religion, where everyone kind of can cooperate because they can have the same ideas, the same this, the same beliefs, the same superstructures, and philosophy or whatever — so they call it the blue stage. And that started to remind me of the first thing that you said —which I don't know what the name of it is a meta-modernism, but sort of like the religious perspective, then after that, in the spiral dynamics model, you have what they call the orange stage, which is sort of individualism and capitalism, and everyone trying to become the best version of themselves and optimize the world. And that reminded me of the next stage that you mentioned, which is sort of the modern stage. And then after that, in spiral dynamics, you get the green stage, which is sort of reaction to capitalism, and it's sort of, "Oh, we all work together to improve the world and write all these wrongs that are being created by capitalism", stuff like this. And this kind of reminded me a bit of that third stage — the postmodern. Although it's not — I wouldn't say that the Green says exactly postmodern but anyway, I just was noticing the kind of analogues there.

AURORA: Absolutely. And there actually is pretty close mapping of that. And the book itself kind of goes into some details around the similarities and differences, and there is pretty direct mapping. I didn't talk as much about the aspects of the meta-modern frame that kind of goes into some of those earlier stages. But that is something that the author maps out also.

SPENCER: Got it. Even the meta-modernism itself seems to map because the next stage after green is what they call yellow. And yellow is sort of like a synthesis, like viewing all the prior stages...

AURORA: Right?

SPENCER: And kind of noticing the strengths and weaknesses, which sounds a lot — we've met and measures and trying to do, at least based on your quick description.

AURORA: Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's also heavy overlap with integral theory in terms of the integral phase mapping to the meta-modern stage. So the way I kind of think about it is that if it's all the same territory that's being looked at, in terms of phases of human development and how we mature as individuals and civilizations, if the territory is the same, if what we're looking at is the same, it makes sense that we might have different maps that emphasize different parts of it but there might be a lot of features in common. So I consider meta-modernism sort of one expression of these ideas, along with spiral dynamics integral theory. And the thing that I found most useful about meta-modernism in what I've looked at, is kind of the way that it reflects in detail a lot of the things that I see in our current social environment, as well as some of the ideas that it has around political actions that individuals might be able to take in order to usefully shape a path forward. So I haven't gone as deeply into spiral dynamics or integral theory, I imagine it offers useful paths forward also.

SPENCER: So what are some of those paths forward that you see coming from meta-modernism?

AURORA: So the strongest emphasis that I find really useful is kind of trying to understand different groups of people at different stages of development, but then also different political coalitions — kind of trying to understand them from their own perspective. One aspect that I find really useful here is the idea of Shadow and Projection. Is that something your familiar with?

SPENCER: I mean, I knew about the idea from psychodynamic theory of projection where you have some flaw and because you have that flaw you projected onto others or something along those lines is that same idea?

AURORA: Exactly, exactly. It's like the idea of maybe I have an impulse toward selfishness and myself or I have some impulse towards anger in myself. But that's for one reason or another feels really unacceptable for me, psychologically, to have that behavior come out. And so I've kind of almost hidden it from myself. So something that's really interesting about Shadow aspects is that often people that are close to us who can recognize our shadow, can notice maybe that I have a pattern of getting triggered and really angry, in reaction to a certain kind of conversation. But if it's a shadow aspect of me, I'll have disowned it such that even if I'm quite angry at the time, someone might point that out. And I might say, "I'm not angry". And so it's this funny thing, where it's the part of me that I cannot see is the shadow aspect. And the biggest clue to that to where my shadow might be lurking, is to notice in my day-to-day interactions, what are the behavioral patterns or the personality characteristics that really upset me about other people. If I get really upset by a housemate, who I think gets angry and goes-off the handle and treats me in a way that doesn't feel good, that might be true and that might be something that I need to address directly. But it's also kind of a hint to look inward and see what are the times and ways in which I'm expressing anger (in a direct or subtle way) that I might not be willing to deal with and confront. So that's kind of the shadow aspects that's disowned. And then, the projection where I emphasize it in someone else, and I react to it in someone else. So it's kind of the a psychological frame that we can then apply in a broader way and kind of the meta-modern context to try to understand different groups and the conflicts that emerge between them.

SPENCER: So going into Shadow for a second, a shadow trait is one that you don't see about yourself and can't see, does it have to be a negative trait?

AURORA: It usually is. The idea with the shadow is that it's some trait in us that part of us believes is not okay and unacceptable. So we kind of suppress and hide from ourselves.

SPENCER: Because we don't want to believe that we're bad or—

AURORA: Exactly. Too much internal self-punishment, if I'm able to see that in myself and so to protect myself from self-punishment, I hide that behavior or that impulse for myself.

SPENCER: Interesting. Thinking about projection, why might we actually take a trait that we have, and then actually see it another's? — And one possible explanation for this is kind of a typical mind fallacy that we just tend to assume other people's minds work like ours does.

AURORA: Right.

SPENCER: It is really common assumption. So let's say, "we are greedy", we might just assume other people are much more likely to be greedy and they really are. And therefore, start noticing greedy in other people more so that it's actually happening, because we're actually 98 percentile, let's say — so we actually have it much more often. I've actually seen this happen — just as an example this, in people who are highly sexual, they assume other people are like seeing the world through this highly sexualized lens when in fact, other people are like, I thought this is completely black. And they sort of have trouble seeing that other people are in this platonic state. But yeah, so I'm curious if you have a reaction to what I just said.

AURORA: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. The way I usually think about it — which I think is not in opposition to what you were saying — but the way that I usually think about it is — I remember you did a podcast recording with Divia Eden, where you were kind of going into some of the parts work and IFS. And that's a model that I found really helpful. And the aspect of that, that I think applies here is the idea of, if there's something in me that I reject, such as anger, then there's probably a part of me that thinks that it's not acceptable for me to feel or express anger. And so that part of me is, always actively searching where am I expressing or feeling anger, kind of on the alert for it in order to try to suppress that or punish that when it's expressed. And so the way I think about it is that while that part is doing self-monitoring, it's also doing monitoring externally, because it's something I've found very consistently — as I've been doing my own personal work around this stuff is that when I have internal dynamics, such as that punishment or suppression of anger internally, then there's usually ways in which I punish or suppress anger in my interactions with other people. And it might be subtle, it might be overt, but that I just kind of see it as the ways that my parts interact internally. And then sometimes one of those parts is in the driver's seat in myself and then interacts with people in the external world in the same way that it might interact with that part internally.

SPENCER: Do the example you share either once your life or a hypothetical.

AURORA: One really interesting example of how this played out was that with one of my housemates, I had kind of an ongoing pattern of conflict where she and I would tend to be in the same room together, and there'd be a lot of tension in my body and emotionally. And it wasn't clear why it was there. But there'd be small judgments that would come up in my head around how the way she was behaving wasn't acceptable. And then it would often turn into one of us sort of needling the other. And then one of us kind of getting frustrated or criticizing or blowing up at the other. And so there was this this ongoing pattern where we both had a strong narrative about the other one being the person who was causing the problem. And we tried to do some mediation, we tried to talk through it. But I ended up just doing an hour and a half therapy session where I was deep diving into this area with like a strong focus on identifying what are the narratives, what are the judgments that I have about her, and then noticing the ways in which those were judgments that I had against myself or fear that I had against myself, and then sort of spending some time with the part of me that was criticizing those behaviors, or emphasizing that fear and kind of spending some time with that part, comforting that part, giving it kind of loving, attention, and appreciation for the ways that it was trying to take care of me. And that's a fairly standard move in IFS and parts work to just kind of encounter and hold with loving kindness, the part of us that might be generating behavior that is not desired. And that tends to really settle it down, essentially, relax it a lot, where it feels like kind of my adult more resource, self is paying attention to what it's trying to do. It tends to feel like it can like relax a little bit and release a little bit, which I noticed I was pretty surprised. But as far as I could tell that deep dive therapy sessions seem to unilaterally seeks my relationship with my housemate 70 or 80%. So I had all these narratives about it being her problem, but really, it was —I think, both of us were creating the dynamic, but I think either of us had kind of the power to unilaterally roll it back.

SPENCER: That's really cool. So was it that you realized that the way she was behaving was ways that you were worried about yourself behaving? Or that you were afraid that you actually represented traits that you actually have? Or what exactly?

AURORA: Yeah, yeah, so it's often something... because I have this really active self-monitoring around that it might be something rare — I don't really express that trait, or only sometimes express that trait, or when I express that trait, it's in a kind of sneaky, sideways sort of way, because I have that really active monitor. But there's some part of that that then gets outraged when it sees a more full expression of those traits in the real world because I've worked so hard to suppress that trait in myself.

SPENCER: Interesting. So there was a study that sort of has gotten some controversy over how to interpret it, or what it really means. But basically, what they did is they brought women in, and they said, "Oh, we're gonna — this is a waiting room. Can you just sit here, before we start the study?" but really, that was a study that women didn't know it. And then what they did is they had like a lab tech, a female lab tech come in, who was dressed in a way that would definitely get your attention, very short skirt...

AURORA: Right, right.

SPENCER: I think that's spot on and a great example of it. That's increasingly why I find this concept really interesting when we're thinking about the meta-modern frame and how to resolve sort of larger scale group conflicts because I think that this is often part of the dynamic that's going on, in terms of when one group of people is outraged by another or when there's this sense of norm violation within a tribe. I think there's often some aspects of shadow there.

AURORA: Reveal cleavage, etc. And then basically, what they were doing is monitoring how these women sitting together reacted to this woman. So then it turned out when she left, they immediately started commenting on her very negatively. And I don't know if they've used the word slut, but they use derogatory words towards her and stuff like this. And I wonder — again, there's been debate about how to interpret this, or what's really going on here — maybe if it was a male coming out dressed inappropriately, they would have been same thing sort of unclear. But anyway, I wonder if this is sort of pointing a little bit at what you're talking about, where, let's say, "People work hard to be sexy, but in a way that's considered socially acceptable and fits the norms of what you won't get criticized for". And then another person just is, "No, I'm just gonna put it all out there". It's like, "Oh, well, but I'm working so hard to do it within the sort of rules of the game", and this person is just like violating rules of the game. Do you have any thoughts on that?

SPENCER: Yeah, cuz so could you elaborate on what is the meta-modern perspective on how we improve society or how we get a better future?

AURORA: Yeah, absolutely. One book that I found really useful around this recently is My Grandmother's Hands, I believe the author is black and a body worker. And something that they spend a lot of time talking about is how trauma stored in the body informs racist patterns of interaction between people in the United States and in other countries, but they're specifically looking at the patterns of generational trauma from the European population, with hundreds of years of conflict back and forth. And then also looking at generational trauma in the black population in the United States, from Slavery Jim Crow, and onwards. And it looks looks at a couple different groups there. But it's kind of looking at how deeply rooted racialized trauma is, in terms of how our bodies react to each other when we encounter folks who are read as other or a threat one way or another. So this would include both how white folk react to black folk and other bipoc, or how black folk might react to white people or police officers, for example, with kind of the familial knowledge and maybe personal knowledge of violence encounters with police officers, for example. So the way that our bodies respond with fear when encountering the other, and how that can kind of contribute to patterns of racist interactions. And so as an example, this book kind of emphasizes very strongly, the importance of individuals doing their own personal work to tune into, how their bodies are interacting to people of their own racial group, as well as to other groups, and essentially, healing that trauma as a important step, particularly for white people to be able to kind of make sure that they're not perpetuating that harm going forward. So I find this model really, really helpful in trying to understand some of the steps that need to be taken in order to build a world where we can live better together. I think that the concept of shadow projection comes in here for me with some of the harshness that I see from the left, particularly kind of well meaning white progressive folk who are hyper-aware of racist behavior and words in the world, which may very well exist — often do very well exist. But I think that there might be some internal pattern of sort of fear of what are the ways in which I have racist beliefs or behaviors and a rejection of that, and an emphasis on that in the real world and among others, because it's too hard to sort of look at it internally. So I find that to be a particularly interesting onem in terms of how can the shadow projection model inform the work that we need to do in order to deconstruct racism and reduce the harm that we're perpetuating going forward.

SPENCER: That's really interesting. I have about seven questions for you. [laughs]

AURORA: Great. Sure, sure.

SPENCER: The first of all, you mentioned your trauma in the body. And I'm wondering what that means? Because I've struggled somewhat to understand that kind of conceptualization.

AURORA: Yeah, the book The Body keeps the score does a wonderful job of laying this out. The idea — as far as I've encountered — it is the idea that when something really big and scary happens to us, there is activation in the body kind of the fight-flight-freeze response. And that is a well-crafted response to kind of get us through immediate danger, particularly in the ancestral environment where there's an immediate threat, but that our current society doesn't do a very good job of making sure we kind of discharge that physical energy in a way that can kind of keep cycling and never kind of move through. And so the thing that a lot of therapists and bodyworkers that have this kind of trauma informed approach —something that they really notice — is that as they start working with folks to touch on material that is connected with past traumas, whether that's physical traumas, sexual traumas, or even developmental traumas, in terms of ways in which parents were abusive or neglectful, that there's often very strong physical sensations that come up for people where when they access those memories, they seem to come back to a physical state that was likely present for them when the original trauma happens. And one really good path for helping people heal from the thing that happened years or decades ago, is to get back to that bodily state that they were in when the trauma happens, and work with the body to transition that into kind of allow that trauma to complete. So there's ways in which the body has stored the exact state that the system was in when that trauma happens. And that by returning to that, and kind of gently guiding it towards completion, it's possible for people to heal and have that incident no longer create as much disruption and distress for them.

SPENCER: I think a lot of people believe in this sort of body based view of how we deal with trauma or stress. And I think I've always struggled to really get what it is — what the claims he made are? So it's obviously true that for a lot of people, when they're in such a situation, they have a physical reaction to it, they tensor shoulders, or there's often people who are stressed a lot, we'll have shoulder neck pain, right? Because there's just literally is muscle tension in response to that. And that makes sense evolutionarily, right? If you see something that might be dangerous, you want to tense your body up, getting ready to run or getting ready to fight or protecting your body. So that kind of makes sense. You also get other physiological changes, your heart races when you see them dangerous, and your respiratory rate increases. And you can imagine, if you are having these trigger feelings of danger throughout the day, your respiratory system, and you're heart, or going up and down, and up and down, all day long. And maybe that has like physiological changes. Or when people are really stressed out, they get all kinds of chemical changes about the game you get things tingling fingers, and all this kind of stuff. So yeah, that I totally get, I guess I don't quite get the idea of like storing it. Is it a claim, or it's actually literally stored in the body or just a brain state, a memory, essentially that's stored in the mind. Yeah, I'm unclear on that point.

AURORA: Yeah, I'm not actually sure what the exact physiological claim is. But I think that this is probably something that we're maybe most familiar with in the context of PTSD, where if someone was in a war zone, and experienced really horrifying things there, that when they — years or decades later in normal society, they can hear a car backfire, or a firework go-off. And then they get really tense in their bodies and freaked out in a way where their emotional and physical system is acting as though they are back in the experience that was the original trauma years or decades later. So that's kind of the overall pattern that we're looking at. And the ways to unwind that I'm not actually sure about this specific claims around it being stored in the body physiologically versus the mind kind of recreating that state.

SPENCER: Right. So I guess, there's two interpretations of that same event, where someone who saw their buddy get shot in the war. And as PTSD gets retrigger by, let's say, a loud noise. Now, one interpretation is, they hear the loud noise and some part of their brain is, "something really bad happened in our past, when there was a loud noise", "oh, no! Something really bad might be about to happen". It makes this prediction something really bad might be happening. And then, the whole body yours up as though something really horrible is about to happen, right? The heart starts racing and by tenses up, and all those kinds of things, and maybe the person has a panic attack or something like this. That's one view. Another view is that somehow the body has stored that state, and then that old state is being pulled back up and — I don't know, I guess I tend to doubt the first view but I'm not actually sure what the two different views actually predict differently about the world. So maybe it doesn't matter too much which which one it really is?

AURORA: Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that I've heard described to me by people who have gone deeper into bodywork and therapy than I have, is kind of perspective I trust, is the idea that through body work with no specific reference to traumatic events in the past, that often there can be some tension in the body or something that the body worker perceives as kind of stuck. And when they put attention on it, then it can often release really strong memories and emotions of a specific traumatic event. So I thought—

SPENCER: This would be like massage or something like that?

AURORA: Sure, let's call it mission massage with a particular focus on finding these places where there might be trauma stuck.

SPENCER: Right. What's it — so that's a kind of interesting phenomenon. I think I know what you're talking about. I guess there are different ways to interpret that kind of experience to. I've heard of people doing these really intense stretching classes — that tried once as well — where people will sometimes start to cry during them. And it's that seems kind of odd. These are well, you stretching one position for 10 minutes, it feels way too long stretch in one position, and then people — but they're not crying out a pain. It's not they're in excruciating pain. There's something else going on that I don't quite understand. It seems somehow there's this link between manipulating the body and then, these emotional responses coming out.

AURORA: Yeah, yeah. And that would be, I think, more aligned with the second version that you're pointing to in terms of it's being stored more physically in the body. So, again, that's not an area I've gone deeply into. But it certainly seems a rich area to explore from what I've seen so far.

SPENCER: Just to throw out a few kind of frames on this. One is it somehow these emotions are stored in the body? And if you manipulate that part of the body, they come out somehow — and I don't know, mechanistically, what the claim would be there "How exactly it works?". But that's sort of one viewpoint you could have. Another viewpoint you could have is that, as the brain sort of interprets the activity in that part of the body, that is sort of triggering a memory or something like that. Right?

AURORA: Right.

SPENCER: It's sort of if you smell cinnamon, and then that makes you think of that time when you we're sitting in front of the fire, and there was a cinammon smell or whatever. And it's something about being pressed in that spot, or whatever. It is triggering some memory, which is this reactivating this thing, and there might be other perspectives on this too, about what's going on. Maybe there's just sort of some kind of — you know the idea that different parts of your body connect to different parts of your brain, and it can be sort of unintuitive, the way that works. For example, if you kind of imagine the full three dimensional human form, somehow, every part of your body that you have the ability to feel the tip of your finger, all the way down to the tip of your toe has to map somewhere in the brain, right? So you're mapping this three dimensional thing into the brain somehow. And then, that can actually create interesting connections where maybe getting touched somewhere in your body is connected to some part of your neural network. It's right next to some other part of your neural network, right? And so, maybe you can activate things adjacent to that in the neural network. So anyway, just starting out some ways of looking at that.

AURORA: Absolutely. And I've also heard this connected to chronic pain in pretty interesting ways, in terms of back pain, for example, maybe starting with a physical injury, but then continuing past when the physical damage is healed. And some of the theories I've heard around that is that can often be kind of the body expressing psychological or emotional pain through a physical channel, that would be one interpretation of this that's kind of aligned with that, in that when someone starts using introspection, or body work to try to tune in to what's going on with their back pain, they might notice that there's a lot of anger there. And they might notice that a lot of specific memories of times when they were angry, and they suppress that came up. So that would be one frame on how kind of psychological distress can actually generate physical pain in a way that is sustained and ongoing. And that physical pain can often, not always, recede when the underlying psychological distress or emotional pain is addressed.

SPENCER: Yeah, I think it's quite interesting cases where no physical problem can be identified and yet, someone has a lot of pain ongoing. And then you can kind of talk about, "Okay, what's really going on?", and of course, there's always a possibility that, "Okay, just because a doctor can't find the physical problem doesn't mean there isn't a physical problem", right? Over time, we get better and better at diagnosing things. And maybe there is something problematic there physically in the structure that just like doctors don't yet have the ability to diagnose, such as possibility. But it does seem pretty clear that there's also cases where there's sort of nothing physically wrong in the normal sense. And yet, you've got this firing a pain that you're experiencing again, and again, and again. And I know some people in those situations when they really seem to build a rule out any kind of structural issue, or any kind of disease issue, they sometimes actually find it can get dramatically better doing things — just acting as though there isn't pain, even though there is pain or doing things that sort of counterintuitive, where you think the pain is telling you to not do anything, but actually not doing the thing seems it can actually cause a sort of spiral with a things get worse and worse.

AURORA: Right.

SPENCER: I don't know, if you have kind of experience with that.

AURORA: I haven't delved into that myself. And I've been lucky to not experience too much severe pain. But from my perspective, whether the generator is physical, or emotional, or psychological, the suffering is real. And I think it's really important for us to keep finding more ways of treating that.

SPENCER: Absolutely.


SPENCER: So going back to meta-modernism that sort of looked at from a bird's eye view, what is your sort of summary or takeaway of how we can use these ideas to make a better world?

AURORA: One set of concepts that comes up in the meta-modernist book is the idea of trying to get really clear on, what the zero sum games that are played out between people, and groups, and nations to try to kind of understand? What is the competitive landscape that is happening today? And how we might be able to shift those games in order to make the outcomes better for more people? So an interesting example of this might be dating and the scarcity that many folks feel around finding the right love connection, finding the sexual partners that they're looking for, or the long-term partners they're looking for, to form families with. So one way of thinking about that problem might be, "I'll focus on my own marketplace value", "How might I make myself more attractive, physically and more desirable, socially?”, "How can I raise my own value?". But if we step back a little bit, and look at the larger perspective, there's the idea of — in a given social group, let's say, there's 100 people, there's going to be some distribution of desirability of those people, as partners. And it's not going to be exactly the same, my taste and someone might be different than someone else's tasting someone, but there's often going to be kind of some rough ranking of desirability. And so, one option is to kind of raise one's value on that hierarchy. But one way to kind of look at it from more of a systems level would be, "how might we shift the resources and skills that are available to individuals to raise all of their values as mates". So that while there might still be kind of a distribution of desirability, most of those 100 people or all of those 100 people would be perfectly fine dates, perfectly fine people to build a relationship with. So something that the some of the social prescriptions that the meta-modernist text has is, "how might we kind of raise the bar of human experience in terms of emphasizing practices (like meditation), emphasizing nutrition and physical health, emphasizing trauma healing". There's really good reason to think that adverse childhood events tend to have really devastating outcomes in terms of people's mental and emotional health. So if we can reduce the overall trauma that people experience, they're going to be much happier, healthier adults, and more desirable as long-term partners. So I kind of that idea where if we raise the overall desirability of the full population, as romantic and sexual partners, then if I ended up with a partner who's 80th, percentile desirable, that's great. But if I end up with a partner who's 20th percentile desirable, they're still a pretty solid partner. So I kind of that idea of how can we create more of those win for all scenarios in normal day-to-day life for individuals?

SPENCER: So raising the emotional and maturity baseline society, is that's kind of the idea?

AURORA: Exactly. Exactly. And dating is one example. But there's lots of other ways in which that can show up in terms of desirability as employees, desirability as friends, etc.

SPENCER: Cool. And I understand that you were so taken with these ideas, you actually ended up convincing the author of one of these books to let you turn his book into an audio book, is that right?

AURORA: That's right. Yeah, I got a lot from the book, I found it really helpful as one of many frames on what's going on in the world today and what should we do about it. It's Listening Society behind the fine arts. And the second book in that series is Nordic Ideology. But Listening Society goes through a lot of these ideas of meta-modernism — I found it really helpful, I mentioned it to a few friends. And I found that many of them had heard of it, but very few of them had read it. And it was only available as a Kindle or paperback. And I know for myself, I get through many more audio books than books that are only available in text. So I had this hypothesis that if it was an audio book, many more of my friends would encounter these ideas that I found really helpful. And so I reached out to the author — the authors, actually, it's two authors who are behind the persona of Ponzi fine art — But I reached out to them and got their blessing to create the audio book, I found a really wonderful Narrator on Upwork. And then I've been working with him to create all the audio files, and the audio book should be available around the time when this podcast goes out. So excited to link to that in the show notes.

SPENCER: Yeah, that'd be great. Two things about that. First of all, it's rather ironic that book of Listening Societies was not available as an audio book.

AURORA: That is ironic, isn't it?

SPENCER: [laughs] The second thing is that I just think that's an interesting example of the sort of thing that people don't normally do. People don't normally see a book. They're like, "Wow, this book is great", "Man, there's no audio book, okay, let me contact the author".

AURORA: Right?

SPENCER: “Okay, get their approval, then, Let me go on Upwork and find someone who will narrate it". Okay, and so on. And so I think that's really cool. It's just a really nice example of just being an agent in the world and taking matters into your own hands. So kudos to you on that.

AURORA: Thank you. I appreciate that. I did credit becoming more agency over the last year due to deep dives in therapy that I've done like that getting out of my own way has been incredible for that.

SPENCER: So it's awesome. So we've talked about this one perspective on how to make the world better. A completely different one that I know you're really interested in is psychedelic therapy. So do you want to tell us a bit about why you're really excited about, what that is, and so on?

AURORA: Yeah, so I think a lot of people have read Michael Pollan's book, How To Change Your Mind. And he covers a lot of that history there where groundbreaking psychiatrist started using various psychedelics including LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA, starting in about the 1950s. And they were noticing that they got really, really dramatic results, treating patients, often who had treatment resistant PTSD, depression, and addiction, where they had tried other treatments to try to address these issues for themselves, and that none of them had worked before. But that different psychiatrist found working with LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA to treat different types of issues, that they were able to get kind of breakthrough results. And then there was this sort of tragedy in the United States where there was kind of growing discomfort with the use of these substances, particularly as they broke out of the lab and out of the therapeutic context, and started being used much more recreationally in the club scene. And then also, in the 1960s in particular, there was a strong perception, which I think was correct, that the use of LSD was causing a lot of young folk, in particular, to challenge the power hierarchies and challenge the narratives of how people must live in the kind of society that we needed to have. So there ended up being a very strong public reaction against these medicines that were being used recreationally and for changing consciousness. And all three (MDMA, psilocybin and LSD as well as other psychedelic substances) were set to schedule one in 1970s. Which essentially means by definition, that they have a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic potential, which from my perspective is just an abuse of language and categorization. Perhaps schedule three would be appropriate, where there's some risk for abuse, that there's also high therapeutic potential. But all three of these substances were set to schedule one. And so that ended the ability for a psychiatrist to use it as powerful medicines to address PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, etc. And it also made it much more dangerous for individuals to use it in a recreational context. So that was the 1970s.

SPENCER: Yeah, it's kind of remarkable how much less just things that people do regularly. That being said, I've talked about this in previous podcast episodes, I do think there are some dangers to psychedelics, I do think that the pro-psychedelics people tend to downplay those dangers, because they want them to be legalized, they think they're beneficial, I get that. But I will flag that I don't think they're totally safe, I think they should be used responsibly. But that being said, they also clearly are life changing for some people. So many times, people will have a second experience, and they just feel like things are way better after that. And it's kind of a turning point in their life. And this happens often enough, that should be taken extremely seriously. So I'm excited to see the continuing research done on to try to figure out sort of, "what is the best time to use them", "what are the best conditions to use them for", "what are ways to mitigate those risks", and so on. So yeah, I'd love to hear more about your thinking along these topics.

AURORA: I think I'm most excited about the therapeutic potential in terms of the potential for reducing suffering, as well as the potential for it to be in service of healing some of these underlying patterns around shadow projection, scarcity, more materialist values. I think that there's kind of ways in which it has huge potential to raise people whose day-to-day experiences far below the baseline due to PTSD, depression, addiction, etc. So I think there's huge potential to reduce suffering. But I also see it as having a huge potential to unlock self-actualization and personal development that I see as really important. Particularly, I think it's important for everyone — but particularly amongst power and money elites. I think it's really important for us to find ways that our world leaders aren't projecting their mommy and daddy issues on each other and like playing chicken with dangerous weapons, for example. So I am very excited about the potential for the use of these across a broad area. I think on the recreational side, there's definitely reasons for concern, particularly with LSD and psilocybin. I know there's some risks, particularly for people who are probably at risk of mental breaks, it can sometimes speed that along or cause that to happen. There's some MDMA kind of needs to be used with caution in terms of frequency and dosage, because there is a frequency or dosage that can be bad for the brain, whereas LSD and psilocybin doesn't really have any physical risks. So I definitely think that there's a need for more caution on more of the recreational side, but I also kind of think about it as how dangerous is it compared to the other recreational substances that we have? So I would certainly consider psilocybin and LSD much safer than alcohol, for example. Both in terms of direct physiological risks, as well as behavioral risks when someone is high on LSD or drunk on alcohol, I think there's much greater potential for sort of violence for others on alcohol, as well as much greater physical damage that's done to the body.

SPENCER: Do you have a sense of what kind of dosages are most therapeutic? Whether there tend to be lower doses or higher doses?

AURORA: That's a great question. From what I've looked at around the research with psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD. My sense is that the dosages used in a therapeutic context are pretty similar to normal doses that are used in a recreational context.

SPENCER: Got it. It's interesting because there's also been this increasing trend towards people micro-dosing, where they'll take like, some small amount, and use it — let's say, once every two weeks, for a while, as opposed to doing a larger dose twice a year or something like that. I actually don't know if there have been many scientific studies around micro-dosing, or if they've mainly focused on sort of large dose, I get the sense that most of the studies have been more around, use a large dose in a very controlled context with certain playlist of music and someone watching you, and so on.

AURORA: Yeah, I haven't looked deeply into the research. But I do have the sense also that there is research on both micro-dosing I think that typically, would be for psilocybin, often people do a three-day cycle where they'll take it one day and then have two days for they don't take it and then they'll take it the next day. And that's for micro-dosing for psilocybin, I believe there's pretty strong effects around relieving depression for that. And then the alternative would be psilocybin taking in a much higher dose with a therapist actively present. And that's usually done in the context of other sober therapy sessions. So there might be a series of therapy sessions, and then the journey experience where they go deeper, and then additional therapy sessions afterwards to kind of integrate and set intentions for the next deep dive.

SPENCER: One of the things that I think seemed to be almost like a universal truth was kind of self-improvement type stuff. Is it the same things don't work for some people? For example, you could have one person that takes an SSRI, and just feels like, "wow, I'm just way better off on this", right. ? It's night and day, you have another person who takes it, and they're, "I can't even tell the difference", or, "maybe I even feel worse". And I think the same goes for psychedelics. And so one of the reasons I'm really excited about, just having more tools in the arsenal is that, it just gives more options, and for one person psychedelic might be perfect thing for another person, maybe they're not willing to try them, or maybe they try them and just doesn't do anything. And yeah, they just need a different approach. To seems like just having a broader set of techniques that sometimes really helps someone who's depressed or sometimes really help someone who's anxious, it actually increases the total percentage of people that ultimately can get helped. Because if you're doing a study, and you're giving a particular treatment to everyone, you're looking at sort of the average effect across broad population. But in real life, you can try one thing if it doesn't work, "Okay, put that on the side. Let me try the next thing", "if that doesn't work, let me try next". So having these sort of independent mechanisms by which you might be able to help with your condition is actually super valuable, especially if they work on really different mechanisms from each other, because then one of them not working doesn't make it that much less likely that another one will or won't work.

AURORA: Yeah, I think that's a great way to think about it. And that's one of the reasons why I've become really interested also in use of ketamine in this context. So ketamine has a long history of being used as an anesthetic. But then there's also been a number of studies that have found that it has remarkably powerful effects in terms of relieving depression, as well as potentially anxiety and pain, but the strongest evidence I've come across is around its ability to very, very quickly relieve severe depression and suicidality. So typically, the way that that's administered is it'll be a series of relatively high dose ketamine treatments, either IV or intramuscular or they have lozenges that they sometimes use or there's an nasal spray that can be used. So ketamine can be administered through any of these pathways and the typical protocol is to do three to six medium to high dosage in a relatively short time period. So about 10 days to two weeks, and then a large portion of people will see pretty dramatic relief from their depression symptoms. And then often there's a need to continue treatments every two or three weeks, sometimes tapered out to four, six weeks. But that people are often able to keep their depression symptoms at bay in that way using ketamine, which is it works a lot more consistently with more people. And it works a lot more quickly than any of the antidepressants that are out on the market today.

SPENCER: Got super promising seeming?

AURORA: Yeah, yeah.

SPENCER: I will just give a kind of word of caution, though, which is that, unfortunately — if you look at like the history of treatments, what happens very often is initially studies show extremely promising results. And then like over time, as larger trials, more rigorous trials, and especially trials done by more independent groups that are not so gung ho, on the treatment protocol, so happening is the effect size get weaker and weaker. So I'm just going to flag that sort of this is my expectation, just from prior experience, looking at data on a lot of different treatments that what looks like miracle cures very rarely is and usually, those first days turned to be turned out to be inflated effect sizes for various reasons. But still, I mean, again having another tool in our arsenal, especially one that seems like it may really help people who haven't been able to be helped with other ways. It seems super good to me. So, I don't mean to poopoo it. Yeah.

AURORA: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's spot on in terms of how this tends to go. And one more tool in the arsenal. And I think it'll help a lot of people and relieve a lot of suffering. And it's not necessarily going to be the panacea to solve all of our problems for humanity.

SPENCER: For those issues in space, there's actually now a few different publicly traded companies that are working on psychedelic therapies. And so there's even a way to invest in the space now, which is kind of interesting for those who think there's going to be the future.

AURORA: Yeah, there is — and I quit my job in tech about two months ago, in order to shift towards pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities in the space. So I've been having a lot of fun kind of running some experiments and kind of doing some consulting as I get to know the problem space in the solution space. So I've been pretty focused on ketamine right now, just because that's what's legal. But there's a ton of interest and a ton of opportunity across the board, since there's good reason to think that California might legalize or at least decriminalize a number of these substances in the next year or so. And particularly with the maps research around MDMA and other research on psilocybin, it seems quite likely that we'll get that on the federal level also.

SPENCER: So if it gets legalized at the state level, not the federal will people deal to us as a treatment or they have to wait the federal results.

AURORA: I mean, thinking back about how that works with cannabis today, I remember seeing that cannabis was approved for medical use in California. And it was still illegal on the federal level. But there were doctors who were actively writing prescriptions for the use of cannabis to treat a variety of issues people were experiencing, and they didn't seem at risk of losing their license as far as I could tell. So I'm anticipating that as soon as California approves MDMA, psilocybin and other substances for the use in a therapeutic context that a lot of licensed medical practitioners will feel comfortable moving into that space.

SPENCER: It's just amazing how much ground has been gained on sort of acceptance of substances like marijuana, and now psychedelics. It's just kind of crazy the extent to which even 10 years ago, the composition was totally different.

AURORA: Yeah, yeah, it's moving very fast. And I think there's important social justice aspects to that in terms of not punishing or criminalizing substances like this that do far less harm and potentially a lot more good than substances that are legal and widely is.


SPENCER: You mentioned that you might be pursuing some opportunities around psychedelics. Can you tell us more about that?

AURORA: Yeah, certainly. So I think there's a lot of different companies that are seeing growing opportunity in this space, particularly with Michael Pollan's book — How To Change Your Mind. There's a lot more patient interest in exploring these treatments. So demand is exploding and because ketamine treatments are the only thing that's legal right now, there's a lot of clinics that are starting to open up. So the immediate work that I'm doing is partnering with a doctor who's expanding his practice in order to open a clinic that's focused on ketamine treatments. And something that I'm really passionate about is that it's not just treated as a clinical intervention, that there's also therapeutic aspects built around that. So some work that I've been doing has been to try to bridge the gap between therapists and coaches, sometimes they're not licensed therapists, but they're very skilled coaches, who have a lot of training around how to work with patients in this expanded state that can happen from ketamine from MDMA, from psilocybin, etc. So something I'm really passionate about is kind of bridging the gap between those coaches who have the skill to guide people in a really beautiful way in these expanded states, and connect them with prescribers, who are able to prescribe ketamine today as a treatment for depression and anxiety. And the future will be able to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin, for example, because I see that in the in the underground of therapists who have been doing this work for decades, there's a ton of wisdom and a ton of skillfulness, that's built up. And I think it would be a real pity if, as this industry kind of exploded above ground if we kind of lost track of that wisdom and that skillfulness. So right now, I'm working on connecting those coaches with this doctor that I'm working with. And I'm very interested in connecting with other prescribers who are interested in seeing how ketamine can help their patients, but maybe don't know exactly how to guide that experience. That's pretty different than sober therapy. A lot of organizations that are moving into this space that are opening ketamine clinics, both see that there's a lot of demand for that, which is the legal option today. But then they also see that the setup that they need for ketamine clinic, private rooms, where the coach or therapist can be with the patient for the hours that the treatment takes is the same setup that's needed to start delivering MDMA and psilocybin therapy. So a lot of folks who are moving into the ketamine space, see both that immediate opportunity as well as the opportunity to pivot to MDMA and psilocybin treatments, once that's legal.

SPENCER: It seems like there's a lot of opportunity to get better outcomes by working with the patient in that state and not just leaving it up to whatever they happen to think about. It also maybe risk reduction, because it — maybe that like an experienced guide could steer them away from having a bad trip and that kind of thing.

AURORA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And the research on ketamine treatment is still relatively new. But the maps research on MDMA did find this in terms of they tried out three different conditions — the control condition was where the person just received intensive therapy, and they actually saw really good results for that. So people coming into the trial all had treatment resistant, PTSD. And for those who are in the control group who only received the therapy, I think about 20% of them got better by the end of it. So the therapy really does work. But then for the ones that got the therapy on the MDMA, I think it was closer to about 50% of people got better, and were no longer diagnosed with PTSD by the end of the trial. And they also tested the condition where they gave just the MDMA, I don't remember what the results were for that, but I think it was closer to the results of the control condition where they just received the therapy without the MDMA. So at least in the case of MDMA, there's good evidence to suggest that it's the substance combined with the therapy to get the best results, but that therapy is also useful, and that the medicine of MDMA is useful in isolation also, but that together, you get the best results.

SPENCER: Yeah, you can certainly imagine that the MDMA or other substances put you in a mind state where maybe you're more flexible in a certain way, maybe more willing to kind of stare at difficult truths, or consider thoughts that you normally don't let yourself consider and so on, and that a skilled therapist, can then help you in that state to kind of use those thoughts most productively.

AURORA: Yeah, absolutely. And there's kind of the idea of every time we bring a memory backup, that it's kind of re-encoded. And I think that's part of what's going on with the MDMA that we're bringing up traumatic memories in a context where we're able to feel very centered and open hearted and okay unable to kind of encounter that very hard memory in that activation in that state in a way that causes it to be re-ncoded in a much less upsetting way — again, that's a laypersons explanation but that's my understanding of at least some of the mechanism of what's going on there.

SPENCER: Before we wrap up the conversation, I wanted to do a couple rapid fire arounds with you talking about topics that I know are of interest. So one of those is Co-living. Did you want to talk a little bit about your scripts with Co-living and in particular multi-generational co-living.

AURORA: So I fit in co-living for in the Bay Area for maybe eight years or so it's really delightful adds a lot of richness to me just living with caring, talented people to solve problems with and bounce ideas off. I love that. And in the community I'm in right now. One of the houses is owned by my housemate. And then we have a second house that we're renting that we're in conversations with the owner of potentially buying, we're looking at financial structures that would allow for us to kind of co-own the house together. So having it owned by an LLC, and having members of the LLC. And so that feels wonderful for me. And a number of us in the community are starting to think about having kids — I'm actively dating at the moment with an eye towards connecting with a long-term partner to raise kids with. So if there's anyone in your audience who wants to reach out, who knows what happen.

SPENCER: I could explore on that.

AURORA: [laughs] Excellent, excellent.

SPENCER: Well, one of my friends did create a survey where you could fill it out if you're interested in dating her. And she's sort of a little bit of a celebrity. And so she had something like...[laughs]

AURORA: Yeah. Right.

SPENCER: 8000 people filled out something insane like that. I don't know exactly but I —

AURORA: Right. I don't know that I get 8000 suitors but I am open to new connection. Anyways, so a lot of us are kind of starting to look at what would it look like to raise kids in community. And that's really important to me. But another aspect of that (that I've been thinking about), particularly seeing how helpful it is for my sister, and she has a three year old and a newborn. And it's really, really helpful for her to house my mom live an hour's drive away. And she's able to kind of come and help with the kids once a week or every two weeks. And so it's incredibly powerful to have the grandparents generation built in as their young kids around. And something I see in our generation is that not everyone in my social group is having kids and a lot of us are delaying having kids until a little bit later in life. And so I have this perception that there might be a lot of people in the grandparents generation who are getting worried that maybe they won't have any grandkids to play with, or they want grandkids to play with now, even though their kids aren't going to have kids for another couple years. So I've been starting thinking about the idea of our community, potentially finding a third property in the same cluster, ideally right next door, that could be a dedicated place for the grandparents generation to live so that they could be in community with us. But still having a little bit of distance, a little bit of privacy. Another thought that I have is that I can — imagine it working really well for that grandparents generation to still be responsible for their rent and their food and potentially collectively paying for someone to be a home health aide that's in the house with them. So that a lot of their immediate needs are taken care of, but that they're able to be in community with myself and the rest of my housemates because a lot of us want a greater connection to other generations. But it's not kind of the default to it for our society, the default for our society is to have the generations pretty strongly separated.

SPENCER: It seems just to be a devastating loss in our society, of not having other generations involved in child rearing. I mean, it's still done, to some degree, but so many people raise their kids alone, so many couples, or even single parents raise their kids alone. Whereas it just seems like throughout history, the norm was that there multiple people involved who are not the direct parents, and the child is just constantly getting sort of looked after by other people in the community. And you can imagine, if you live in a tribe of 50, or 100 people, everyone's gonna know your kid super well, and anyone could look after your kid. And just like what are a huge amount of burden that relieves from the parent?

AURORA: Yeah, I think we are we are definitely trying to create a model that's maybe closer to what you would have had in a small village for most of human history or a small tribe and most of human history. And I agree, it's devastating and isolating and creates a lot of overwork and distress for parents, I think to have kind of the standard nuclear model that we use. And I think that is also pretty lonely for grandparents to not have young ones around to look out for.

SPENCER: I've heard that under COVID a lot of these intentional communities and houses that have like sort of 10 people with them or seven people in them have have closed down. Has that been your experience to see people around you?

AURORA: Yeah, a lot of communities didn't survive the pandemic. And I think it's been really challenging for a lot of communities to — there are a number of factors, everything from folks not being able to align on how they manage COVID safety. And then other questions of when they're all work shifted to remote and a lot of people lost their jobs, then there was need for folks to move out of the urban centers, which is where a lot of these co-living houses existed and find somewhere cheaper to live. Or maybe they wanted to run-off and hang out in Hawaii, while COVID raged. So yeah, there were a lot of factors that caused a lot of houses to fold. And I've been really, really grateful that we've been able to stay kind of aligned and strong throughout.

SPENCER: Well, hopefully, there'll be a resurgence again, as things start to settle down.

AURORA: I hope so. And I expect so yeah, I think it's a pretty powerful model.

SPENCER: So the last topic before we go is about the Soul Play Festival. Do you want to tell us about what that is?

AURORA: Yeah, Soul Play is wonderful. So there's a number of festivals that I've really enjoyed going to kind of around California — I think they exist all around the country, but often kind of in the the spirit or culture of Burning Man in terms of silly costumes, and certainly some of those psychedelic substances we were describing. And a lot of activities, focusing on opening the heart and connecting with the body and generating peak experiences in a variety of ways, music, dance, etc. But something that I really liked about the Soul Play Festival — that happens twice a year in the Bay Area up north a bit — is that it's a substance-free event. So people aren't using substances to create those peak states. But there's still that dancing, that music, there's a lot of eye gazing. There's the activities that are built in there have kind of a strong focus on ecstatic dance as well as sort of tantra practices. So connecting with different energies in the body with a particular focus on generating sexual charge and playing with that. And so something I really like about the Soul Play festival is that it seems to create kind of a more slower, more grounded, more intimate feel than I get at a lot of the other festivals — which are also a lot of fun, but that something about substances can make it a little bit harder to really drop in with folks and be there with them. So I really enjoy the Soul Play Festival. And starting this year, I'm actually joining their team to help out with community development with a particular focus on recruiting and training the soul support team — which is a team of folks who are there to help out in the case of emotional distress, as well as if there's any issues with consent violations or problematic behavior. They're kind of there to step in, get support, give support, and resolve conflicts as they come up.

SPENCER: It's funny, I've thrown so many events where there's no alcohol because I don't drink alcohol, generally speaking, and never really been interested in it. It just never really appealed to me. And it's so normal to me that sometimes it surprised me when people are like, "oh, there's no alcohol here." and I noticed that they're surprised me and I'm like, "oh, yeah, I guess that's not that normal" to just sit there but that's a really cool idea that say, "can we actually have as much fun", "can we have the sort of intense and maybe even high-like experiences but without any drugs or alcohol", and just took a preset naturally or try to present to play I think that's really cool.

AURORA: Yeah, yeah. And I've increasingly found that's better for me for parties and dancing to go in sobers is kind of my preferred state now.

SPENCER: Why do you think that is?

AURORA: I noticed that particularly cutting out alcohol, I noticed that my energy stays better, my attention is better. There's not really cycles spent on, "How drunk am I?", "Am I making sense?", "Am I gonna have another drink or stop here?". So I think there's a lot more clarity in how I show up and I'm able to connect a lot better with people in that state.

SPENCER: That makes sense. Yeah. I feel like I've increasingly seen more and more people over the years, stop drinking and being good. The risk benefit is not as that being said, there are obviously some people that really enjoy and get a lot out of it.

AURORA: Yeah, well, I think it's probably something that happens in our 30s and into 40s. When people notice that might not be serving them.

SPENCER: Yeah, absolutely. I have memories from childhood where I was — really I showed up at a party and people wouldn't let me into the party until I drank alcohol. Oh, and I just I just refused. I just thought there until eventually they caved in on the end of that alcohol.

AURORA: Yeah, yeah, I would be very curious to look at that research around patterns throughout lifetime in terms of weekly drinks, probably start for some people in their teenage years, increasing perhaps in early 20s, and then I would hypothesize that you'd see things kind of even out in mid 20s, and then start to drop in 30s. I'm 31. And I've certainly noticed like that drop off in the last two years or so. That'd be very curious to look at that.

SPENCER: I just pulled up a graph. And at least if this graph can be believed, yeah, it kind of shoots up as you go into your 20s. And then kind of slowly goes down all the way towards for the rest of your life keeps going down. [laughs]

AURORA: Right, right, we learned our lessons.

SPENCER: Yeah, hopefully. This is really fun. Thanks so much for coming on.

AURORA: Yeah, I'm so glad we got a chance to chat. Thanks for taking the time.





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