The use of psychedelics is nothing new to society, in fact we now know that many of mankind’s biggest thought leaders and innovators were advocates and users of various forms of them. Paul Austin, the founder of The Third Wave, is here to lead a movement of educating the public in safe, structured, and responsible psychedelic use.
The Third Wave is dedicated to educating individuals about responsible psychedelic use within the context of optimal mind-body-spirit wellness. Their mission is to facilitate the world’s adoption of psychedelics as a catalyst for personal development and collective well-being.Their vision is to co-create a global culture that embraces psychedelics as necessary tools for healing and transformation. The recommendations they make and the content they produce is of the highest quality, backed by research whenever possible.
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Read the Full Transcript
Podcast: The Cured Collective
Host: Joe Sheehey
Guest: Paul Austin
File ID: audio_only.m4a
Joe: [00:05] Paul, we’re here. Live and direct.
Paul: [00:10] What’s good, man? How you doing?
Joe: [00:12] I’m doing good, man. I’m super stoked to have you here on the podcast. We’ve had – I don’t know how many conversations now over the last couple months, but once we were introduced by a mutual friend and I started looking at what you’re doing, I was super stoked to connect with you and support your mission, and get that story out there into the ether. So, stoked to have you here.
Paul: [00:34] Yeah, man. I’m stoked to be here, and this is my story, and a lot of the stories that are happening right now around psychedelics, they’re sort of – it’s like a cultural story over time. A lot of people who are waking up and coming to realize certain things that they hadn’t realized before, so it’s important work, and it’s also fun.
Joe: [00:54] Yeah, and we’ve kind of talked about it a little bit. It’s not easy work either.
Paul: [00:59] No, and whenever you’re sort of at the forefront of the pioneering stage of any sort of movement or technology or industry, there’s always this sense of… you’re kind of that sculpture of the dude who has – Atlas – the dude who has the globe on his back a little bit. So, there’s that burden that you’re carrying with you. But ultimately, that’s where the purpose and the meaning comes from – it comes from that sacrifice. It comes from that wanting to do something and contribute to something beyond ourselves, and that’s what’s great about service.
Joe: [01:36] Yeah, yeah. And that’s… I mean, The Third Wave and your experience with Synthesis and Amsterdam I want to talk about that as well, but it’s all a massive mission to take psychedelics to where they need to be, to the people that need this actual medicine. It’s fuckin’ mission, man, and you have pretty powerful backstory as well. I was watching your promo video for The Third Wave and you discussing your childhood and growing up, and talking about feeling like an outcast and feeling just different from people… you’re not alone, man, but a lot of people don’t talk about that shit, and don’t think that it’s ok and don’t think that like – they think that something’s wrong with them; and I think that’s really important to start the dialogue there and understand how this mission has been built. Where you’re coming from.
Paul: [02:29] Right. And it’s this sense of… you know… I mean, it’s shame. I mean, a lot of it is shame, right? Like, we internalize so much shame without recognizing it and understanding it. Just, I personally, the place that I grew up in in West Michigan, it’s very Christian, it’s very religious, and I grew up with a very loving family; but from a community perspective, it was always… those who think a little bit differently, who are maybe nonconformists who have a little bit of a creative spark, they’re shamed for who they are. And we don’t really culturally have the awareness to value this true sense of individuality, this true sense of living your truth, because most of us are just on automation, in terms of the cultural condition we’ve been subjected to.
Joe: [03:33] And a lot of people never question it.
Paul: [03:35] No, a lot of people never question it because… because the “system” has worked for so many people for so long, and now basically what we’re seeing is the decadence of a system – the industrialization system, the system around… I don’t know, whatever else – and I don’t want to become this sort of “fuck the system” guy, but there is – there’s a level of truth to the fact that what’s normally worked for people in the past is not working anymore. That’s why we’re basically going through this existential crisis where all these stories that people thought were true in the past, when they start smoking cannabis, or when they start to do psychedelics, or when they start meditating or when they have any sort of experience where they sort of get to step outside bounds of normal waking reality, they tend to have this perspective of, oh, maybe everything I was taught isn’t true; maybe there’s a place to reevaluate. I feel like this where both the tremendous potential but also huge risk of psychedelics lies is in that free-thinker mentality. And free-thinkers are always a little dangerous because they threaten the status quo that normally works for the majority of people.
Joe: [04:58] Yeah, 100%, and it’s not like we haven’t visited this before. That’s why you have – that’s why the name of your company exists, right? This is another attempt. This is another wave. And we failed incredibly in the past.
Paul: [05:13] Yeah, we, in a way… I like to think of like, so Nassim Taleb, who’s written The Black Swan and Antifragile– he has this concept of antifragility, which is essentially like the opposite of fragility is not robustness, which is essentially like something can withstand shocks, when instead, the opposite of fragility is antifragility; and that means when we have a huge shock to the system, that disruptor actually helps the system to grow and evolve and develop further. I think that’s really a great way of looking at what happened in the 50s and 60s with psychedelics, is for basically a couple thousand years, we didn’t have these sort of mind-altering substances that were really integrated into our culture and society. It wasn’t since the first wave of psychedelics when we had people like Aristotle and Plato who were having these psychedelic experiences at the Eleusinian Mysteries, and all of sudden, Christianity came around, we shut down a lot of those altered states, those psychedelic visionary states, and then it wasn’t until the 50s when they came back. So, when we had no context for it, we had no prior experience, then all of a sudden, people are taking a thumb full of acid and wondering what the fuck is going on, it kind of freaked out the collective ego a little bit. We had a little bit of a backlash. So, when I started The Third Wave, in mid-2015, it was really, what’s an appropriate way to introduce psychedelics from a cultural perspective; because leading up to 2015, and still today, the main, big push with psychedelics is clinical research, so utility of psilocybin to treat depression, how MDMA’s being used for PTSD, addiction, alcoholism; all these things that it’s being used for. But that was already going on in the 50s and 60s. There were thousands of clinical papers that were published about psychedelics that showed its efficacy for a range of things. Now the big challenge is not to necessarily get it clinically approved – no doubt that’s going to happen – the big challenge is once it goes outside the walls of institutions, how do you responsibly integrate psychedelic substances so as many people as possible have access to these expanded states, and in a way that doesn’t just sort of blow the top off of everything, but really does it in a stepping stone process, bit by bit by bit by bit.
Joe: [07:52] Right, right. So, if we step back to your younger years and the feeling of being different, when did you start exploring psychedelics, and what’s the story around that to like where you are now? Because there’s an evolution and I’m sure, I would guess, that the use case has potentially changed.
Paul: [08:16] Yeah, so essentially when I was 19, I dropped acid. It was awesome. I was with a number of friends, it was an early May day, beautiful outside; there were 4-5 of us in the woods on the beach, sunny, and it was just – it was one of those moments where before and after LSD. Then throughout that summer I – and over the next year – I probably did LSD and mushrooms maybe 15 or 20 times. And the understanding that I would often come to in those experiences is basically life… basically, at the core of it, it was overcoming a fear of death. This fear of death that so many of us have influences our behaviors. It influences our behaviors to make us basically not take risks. So, when I had those early experiences at 19 or 20, I was like, I sort of had this internal knowing and knowledge that I was safe, I was secure, I was loved; and because I had those core, fundamental aspects of safety, security, and love, I felt very comfortable just sort of throwing my hat to the wind and going and exploring a much more unconventional lifestyle because I assumed by spending my 20s pushing as many boundaries as possible, whether through travel or through business, or through going outdoors, or through relationships, that I would significantly… sort of increase the depth and the fabric of my own reality. So, when I had those early experiences, I was like, I could go the more traditional route and get a corporate job or go to grad school or make good money, but the values that that is influenced by are often driven by ego, status, achievement, trying to look good for other people, etc., etc. When we have these psychedelic experiences, essentially the core lesson is that ego is superficial, that having values and principles that are motivated by ego is superficial, and then ultimately it only leads to suffering.
Joe: [10:27] Hmm…
Paul: [10:28] And this is where these fundamental lessons that we learned in psychedelics tie right back into these truths that we have known for thousands of years through Buddhism, various other mainstream religions. So, when I came to the understanding, I was like, if I could live and create any life that I wanted to live, what would it look like? So essentially, I started down that path. I moved to Turkey at the age of 21, I taught English for a year, I hustled on the side to teach myself how to build my own online business, I moved to Thailand, bootstrapped my first business, which was like an online English school; and then, essentially got to a point where I was like, I have a successful business, I’m making enough money… I can go out and now say whatever the fuck I want and nobody can tell me what not to do. Because in mid-2015, you know, it wasn’t really socially acceptable to be very public about psychedelic use; it was still very much-
Joe: [11:17] No, there was a massive shift in 4 years.
Paul: [11:19] Huge shift. Huge shift. So, it was still very much a taboo thing.
Joe: [11:23] And thank you for your piece! Thank you for your piece in that.
Paul: [11:26] You are welcome! It was very stigmatized and I was like, these experiences mean so much to me. And I’m like a logical person and it makes no fucking sense why people want it prohibited. So, what can I do in my own power, what do I have control over to actually take my experiences and try to make them more accessible to as many people as possible by contextualizing them within language that will appeal to a mainstream audience? Because, up until that point in time, as you know, psychedelics were still perceived as this plaything of the counterculture. If you’re a more mainstream person, no one took it serious. So, when I started The Third Wave, it was really like an exercise in branding and messaging. What story can we tell that will help the normal person to understand why psychedelics might be useful for them for whatever reason.
Joe: [12:20] Yeah, yeah. I can see how The Third Wave would build on your initial experience of having an educational type platform through English – through teaching English – but now you’re educating on something else, and you go to the website and man, you… I haven’t even really skimmed the surface of the depths of that website. There’s so much information on there and I know you’re continually updating it. Did Synthesis – was Synthesis born after The Third Wave? Did that happen because of the rules and regulations that we have in Amsterdam? How did that kind of evolve and come to fruition, and… were there some trials and tribulations there?
Paul: [13:08] Yeah. I mean, Synthesis is fun.
Joe: [13:12] It’s essentially [inaudible], man.
Paul: [13:14] Oh, the church that we’ve had and the experiences. I mean, it was… that was a special year last year getting up and going. Essentially, what happened is, so started The Third Wave in 2015; in mid-2017, basically got to a point where I was like, I think it’s now time to figure out how to make this a business. So, I sold my other business, the online English school, and it was at the time where we were able to generate some really good media through a few mainstream publications. All of a sudden, I found myself speaking at a couple major tech and business conferences where we were interacting with a lot of people who were interested in psychedelics, and essentially were like but where do I go do this? I was with a friend of mine who became my co-founder for Synthesis, Martijn; and with The Third Wave, it was an online platform. We had the online course, it was all digital media, and because of the rules and regulations around psychedelics, it wasn’t quite feasible to generate a lot of revenue from it from a business perspective.
Joe: [14:16] Right.
Paul: [14:17] So on a core, fundamental level, I was like I need to figure out a way to continue to make this work; clearly there’s an opportunity to start a legal psilocybin retreat center in The Netherlands; so essentially, with this friend of mine, Martijn, we were like, we have The Third Wave email list, Martijn was Dutch, so he’s from The Netherlands, he speaks Dutch; so we were like, how do we potentially incubate a little retreat for these types of people that we’re interacting with? In April 2018, we incubated the first retreats, we piloted the first retreats. We did 3 retreats for 25 people. It went really well, we got great feedback. A few months later, we did 2 more retreats for another 28 people. Then a few months later, we did another retreat – or 3 more retreats – for like 35 people. We just got to a point where we were like, we piloted, we piloted, we piloted, we brought in facilitators, we brought in a small team, and we just raised a small amount of angel capital. And essentially, that became a place and a center where – not micro-dosing – but people could go to have a high dose experience with psilocybin in a group setting. It was timed perfectly because it came out right after Michael Pollan’s book. So, Michael Pollan published his book in May 2018. After people read that book everyone was searching for psilocybin retreats. SEO I’m a big fan of, [inaudible]
Joe: [15:45] It’s a beautiful thing, by the way.
Paul: [15:49] ‘Cause it’s a long term plan, and we’re building long term assets because this is a long term game. It’s not like – and so it’s like the thing that you go for is the SEO. We had done that with The Third Wave and then built that up through Synthesis. More than anything, it’s just… I had sat for a few friends before, I had taken people out on mushroom experiences. I was the guy in college who held the bag of mushrooms up in front of everyone in the group base and was like ok, we’re gonna go out tomorrow and go trip. So, I was leading that to some degree, but I’d never done it in like a proper ceremonial context with adults. People who were flying from all over the world, paying money – psychiatrists, psychotherapists, executives, founders, really interesting people – and more than anything, it was just such a beautiful experience to be with these people as they were going through, for many of them, their first experience with psychedelics to see just significant shifts, and these were 3 day retreats, from Day 1 to Day 3, and how for so many people it was like a 180. And what we notice in doing those retreats, it’s the way we had contextualized it and sort of sold it was like professional development, like trying to figure out creative blocks or leadership or whatever; but what we came to understand is that for most people, although they might from an ego perspective, or from a very conscious perspective, think they’re pursuing some sort of professional development. Often times there’s an unconscious or subconscious thing underlying there that’s really blocking them, and by going that deep emotional center and releasing it, that often is the… sort of what you need to sort of hit out to really allow the clarity and the openness and the fresh perspectives to come.
Joe: [17:45] Yeah. I mean, it strikes a cord with me every single time as the founder of a company, as an entrepreneur, and as somebody who has met a long of high-performing people over the years, we all have very similar traits; and whether we like it or not, there’s this like – when you’re creating a baby, whatever it may be – there’s this sense of a need to control. Some people are worse than others. I’m pretty bad, I’ll just be honest. But when I get to a place in a journey where the only option is to let go and to dive into my subconscious and to understand my thought patterns, and to understand how I see them come up over and over and over again, that right there is the place to do the work. Because most people are just trapped in that cycle, and I would say that I’ve had several times where I haven’t had proper integration and I go right back to that cycle. That’s what I’m also curious about, is describing and contextualizing and understanding the experience, but also the time after the experience, and what that looks like and how important it actually is.
Paul: [19:17] Yeah. I mean… can you hear me?
Joe: [19:19] Yeah. Did I cut out?
Paul: [19:22] It says my internet connection is unstable, so if that happens again, I’m just going to go closer to the router. I’m kind of in the back corner.
Joe: [19:30] Chase, edit out the last little bit of that.
Paul: [19:34] To clarify, was that a question?
Joe: [19:36] Yeah.
Paul: [19:37] Can you ask that question again just so we can go back to where we are.
Joe: [19:41] Yeah. Basically, the thing is, that I noticed – specifically I’m talking about myself and my sense of a need for control as somebody that is creating a baby, a business. There is a… there’s an inherent nervousness that comes up around building your baby and building and building and building because the – as a good friend of mine just said recently – the fall from grace gets higher and higher whenever you’re building something. Most high performers need some type of a pattern interrupt, whether it be control or whether it just be a need to step into a different creative space and have a different perspective on something; there’s these patterns that we have that need an interruption and we can get that interruption in the experience. My big question is around, ok, having that experience, understand our patterns, seeing an interrupt, but then taking that and integrating that into our lives, and what that really looks like and how important that is.
Paul: [20:54] So, let’s look at things from a couple perspectives. One is maybe a more metaphorical masculinity/femininity perspective. That doesn’t mean necessarily that they’re tied directly to gender, but they tend to be somewhat tied to gender. For you and I both, more masculine dudes, there is this sense of needing to control, this sense of needing to know where everything is, whereas the much more feminine way of being is being more receptive, being more sort of let’s see what happens and go with the flow. Essentially, a big part of why I think psychedelics will become this more and more useful tool, from a leadership perspective specifically, is because they help people in leadership roles cultivate receptivity. The key to integration is then what practice do you have in place, if what you’re attempting to integrate, is that sense of receptivity? Is that sense of not needing to micro-manage? Is that sense of not needing to have your hands in everything? Then, a big part of cultivating receptivity is trust. So, as you’re building a company and a business, ultimately you’re looking for talent, and you’re looking to hire people who you can trust to do what you basically created the space for them to do. And the sense of space creation, again, is a very feminine sort of skill to have. When it comes to just a practical thing, what are we doing on a consistent basis to step back into that place of receptivity. For me, it’s spending time outside, it’s spending time in nature. It’s meditating in the morning, it’s more than anything, checking and rechecking this sense of awareness of the head and the heart. Am I actually feeling my emotions or am I just always going here, here? And I think that’s something emotional intelligence, EQ, however you want to define it, a big part of that is, as men, do we allow ourselves to feel these emotions? Do we understand what sadness feels like? Do we understand what anger feels like? Do we understand what fear feels like? Do we allow ourselves to FEEL that and not just over-intellectualize everything, because when we tend to over-intellectualize everything, then that sense of control and that sense of wanting to put our claws, it tends to manifest. So, a lot of it is releasing, a lot of it is letting go. This is what psychedelics, in many ways, are so great for, is… at our core, feeling secure and safe in that letting go process, and not feeling like things are going to get away from us if we can’t have our hands in everything. This is something I continually struggle with; this is something, you know, I tend to always over-intellectualize; I tend to… it’s one of my greatest strengths because I can communicate and articulate and do things very well, but it also, at times, means I’m not as connected. I’m not as in much of an empathic and relationship building perspective. I feel like this is the work of most men in business, particularly in leadership positions, is basically cultivating connection to themselves first, and to their emotional body, but then through that process to their team members, to their significant others, to their whatever else it might be, community, etc., etc.
Joe: [24:28] Yeah. I just have to say that I appreciate that you saying that it’s also one of your greatest strengths because that’s really important, and I would say that Cured and most of the things I’ve done in life would not be here if it weren’t for that. Sometimes I hate it, right? It’s like the “yes, and…“
Paul: [24:51] Well, this is like – especially like overly “spiritual” circles – there is this tendency, and I see this pop up all the time where it’s like, don’t listen to your head, only listen to your heart. I’m like, no! Because we have a head for a reason. It’s rational, it’s logical, it helps us make good decisions, it helps us to plan for the future. Now there’s a sense of needing to open the heart more, but the rational mind is very important, and it’s something that we need to pay attention to, and it’s something, just like we need to cultivate our emotional openness, we need to cultivate intellectual prowess. Really, the point of [inaudible – unsure], and the point of a lot of this conversation and this discussion, is just balance. It’s just having the awareness to check yourself, and if you’re getting up here too much, just come back here; and that’s why I love when we did Synthesis, we had this dentist metaphor, which is essentially, every 6 months you go to the dentist to get a deep clean in your teeth; but everyday you’re brushing your teeth and you’re flossing. Working with altered states is the same way. Everyday you’re meditating, everyday you’re dropping back into that receptive space, and every so often – maybe every 3 months or 4 months – you’re going in and you’re fucking, just dynamiting and cleansing out the entire bio-psycho-social body or whatever the fuck you want to call it. I think having that as a practice, having rituals, having routines that help bring you back to that sense of receptivity is really a critical key of remaining in that space, after you have the big breakthrough experience.
Joe: [26:27] Right. I wanted to spend a second on safety. I know that through all the education you’re doing, you’re really creating a safe space for people to take in information on their own and educate themselves in a way that everybody deserves to understand. When we talk about the retreat center and however this is going to play out in the U.S., talk about safety, and talk about resistance that might be coming from political systems, agencies, anything that would be asking these types of questions when it comes to the regulatory process, and building a retreat center and how people, one – feel safe there – but as a whole, this industry will remain safe.
Paul: [27:22] Yeah, so the key is [inaudible – setting?] setting. I think that’s the simplest way to put it, is – what’s your mindset going into the experience, and which environment are you taking a psychedelic. Because psychedelics are not specific amplifiers. What you bring into an experience is going to be amplified by 10 or 100 or 1,000 times depending on the dose that you take. Often times, it’s really important to spend some time in meditation, to spend some time in reflection before going into a psychedelic experience, so that you at least have a sense of understanding of what might come up. You know, talking with friends could be helpful for that, talking with a psychotherapist could be helpful for that, journaling could really help for that. Then, we people are going in to have these experiences – this is a big reason why I talk so much about micro-dosing publicly – it’s always like, there’s no reason to just jump in the deep end right away. When we first learn how to swim, we first were in the shallow end, we were in our… what do you call those things?
Joe: [28:18] Swimmies? What are they called? Float-
Paul: [28:21] Floaties? So yeah, you had your swimmies on, you had your inner tube.
Joe: [28:24] What the fuck are those things called?
Paul: [28:25] You got the swimming instructor. Like, Peggy the swim instructor is there, one piece. All the little kids-
Joe: [28:33] Don’t forget the one piece!
Paul: [28:37] Like in her mid-50s. Everyone’s swimming around in the shallow end. You’re getting a sense for it; then, eventually, after you figure that out a little bit, they’re like, alright, we’re going to put you in the deep end. You still have your swimmies on, you got in the deep end, and then, eventually, you take the swimmies off, and you learn how to swim in the deep end. Approaching psychedelics from that perspective is also important – or any altered state. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable jumping right into psychedelics, go in a float tank. First, drop into that space to see what it’s like to go into your psyche. And then, once you’re like, ok, I got a sense for this; I can go deeper into this, then it might be time to go deeper and deeper into experience. So, I think, just from a really practical knowledge recommendation base, I think that’s always the first thing. It’s like. start low, go slow; once you get into higher doses, find a guide or a sitter who can be there with you. But then, the key component in all of this is if someone has a clinical condition, particularly PTSD, but also things like addiction or alcoholism, having someone with a clinical therapeutic background who can basically help you to contextualize and integrate and hold space for that experience is also very important. Because I’ve been to ayahuasca retreats in the past where there’s like 40 of us drinking ayahuasca and you like hear – you hear that shit from when someone was 4 years old and was sexually molested, and that’s fucking intense! It’s not to be fucked with. So, when that opening happens, it’s really important that if someone is going into that vulnerable of a space, that the container is safe, and that it’s tight, and that people feel like that they can release and let go, and then they have the support and structure afterwards to make sure that they don’t have this… I won’t go so far as to say it’s psychotic break, but some sort of like, they have this huge opening and then it can sometimes create more harm than it helps; because a lot of people are then like, holy shit, all this stuff came up that I’ve been stuffed in my unconscious basin for so long, what the fuck is that, and then often can make things even worse. So, I think if looking at it from a clinical perspective, it’s really key to do it with someone who has prior experience with psychedelics, who knows how to guide and experience, and who can help deal with things that, you know, repressed memories and other things that might come up during that process. I feel like that covers most of it without going into deep, deep depth. What I will make is a recommendation. There was a fantastic book that was just published by a woman named Francoise Bourzat and it’s called Consciousness Medicine. If anyone is interested in having a psychedelic experience and sitting or guiding a psychedelic experience, that book is more or less now the best book, like practical reference guide to dig in to start to look in a little bit how you prepare for an experience, how do you have an experience, how do you integrate the experience.
Joe: [31:40] Yeah. I think it’s… it’s super interesting because when we look at the – I mean, basically, you are going to throw up before you ever eat a dose of mushrooms that is going to kill you. Is that correct?
Paul: [32:00] Yeah. That’s another thing. Just on a basic level, psychedelics are non-toxic. They’re non-addictive. They… there’s a risk for [inaudible]. Basically, psilocybin mushrooms are the least dangerous drug, less dangerous than alcohol and cannabis and tobacco, and pretty much everything else. In terms of their safety profile, you can’t find a safer drug than psychedelics.
Joe: [32:26] Which is crazy because that’s… it just doesn’t make sense why things are legal in our world and where we’re at with this, and obviously this is why you are doing this. But that’s the thing I go back to so often, is like, ok, I have a company that sells CBD, but no, you can’t have a bank account and no, you can’t have a credit card processor, and actually, what you’re doing is kind of illegal. It’s just like, c’mon, people; can we wake up and look around? I have struggled with alcohol terribly. It’s killed several people in my family, and it almost killed me – but it’s ok. Are we going to change that? I don’t know, but I think people are waking up to the fact that like, that doesn’t serve us. And there are a lot of other things that will serve us, and they are going to bring up a lot of stuff like you’re discussing, which is scary and I think a lot of the resistance is around that. If people understand – like ok, maybe people think they’re going to be out of control, something crazy’s going to happen, I get it. I get where that fear comes from. But now people are getting more and more educated and I’m curious how much fear stands around – ok, well, now I actually have to look at myself – and that’s a massive thing.
Paul: [33:46] That’s where the resistance is! Then, essentially, what position that places you in is full responsibility. 100% responsibility for everything. Even if it wasn’t your fault – for everything. And knowing that it’s only within your agency and your power, then change it and do something about it. And for some people, like all things considered, I had it pretty fucking nice. I had a loving childhood, and I had great parents, and I had a good family, and I didn’t deal with any many trauma. But I still had shit, I still had stuff, and I think that’s where a lot of the resistance comes, is really when you have these high doses of psychedelics you go into a space where you face yourself. You face everything that you’ve done, and you face all these things that have happened to you, and you have to somehow come to terms with that. For some people, this is where bad trips come in, when they’re not actually ready to go into that space to actually face themselves; so, they come out and they’re like, holy shit, what was that? I’m never doing that again. That’s why it’s really, really important that proper care and reverence is given to preparing for a psychedelic experience, because, like I was saying earlier, when you open that unconscious basement, there’s a lot of skeletons down there, a lot of things you haven’t looked at for a very, very long time. For people who have dealt with some significantly traumatic things that can be very challenging to do. But at the same time, the only way out is through. The only way to real healing is to connection, and connection to source in particular. I think that’s another reason why there is a lot of resistance in our overly industrialized culture, is because… having these experiences of direct connection to spirit, divine, source, or whatever you want to call it, is, like I said, it creates a lot more free-thinkers. It creates a lot of people who think for themselves. That, from a systemic perspective, is dangerous because the status quo continues because we want more people – because people believe in the status quo. So, once you have a wider range of opinions and diverse way of looking at things, it’s just like the powers that be. And it’s not a conspiracy theory sort of thing; it’s just like, look, the political systems that we set up and the reason why people do things is because we live in an industrial culture, and what helped the most amount of people, improved their quality of life and their quality of being, was investing and building that industrial culture. And it’s brought incredible things to all of us. Capitalism has done amazing things. But we’re just at a place now where it’s like we need a new system, because this old system isn’t working. It’s my core belief that psychedelics are one of the few things that give me hope and optimism about actually dealing with this increasingly chaotic and complex and fucked up situation that we find ourselves in, only because what they do is they help us to cultivate that sense of inner resilience. They help us to go inwards, they help us to understand that we can do things in our control, and then what they do is, they give us the agency and the ability to go, ok, not only is this in my control, but now, because my values has shifted and my perceptions have shifted, I don’t really care so much about those ego-driven things. What’s going to bring me the most purpose and meaning and joy is to be in service to something greater than myself. What could we be in greater service than the earth, the community, and wellbeing, and all these things that are becoming more and more mainstream.
Joe: [37:28] Yeah. Man, that’s fucking beautiful. I want to talk about your website more, just specifically, and the content that’s on there. So, there’s multiple sections to it. The one that I’ve been spending a lot of time in is the micro-dosing section. You talk about swimmies and the one piece and the deep end… where do people start? Where do people start – what is… why do people go to The Third Wave and what is the pathway that one walks on through the content that you’re providing for everybody?
Paul: [38:09] A lot of it is just people searching for information through Google. So, we were talking about the SEO game before; it’s a lot of like, people have questions about micro-dosing, they search for a question about micro-dosing, and we’re there; we pop up. That’s about 20% of our traffic. We get about 80% of our traffic from ayahuasca or DMT or LSD or any of the other psychedelics. So, first, it’s just asking questions and exploring. Then, what we’re really trying to bring people on a journey is, once you’ve learned about these substances – and not that we’re trying to convince you to do psychedelics, but that you’ve made that decision yourself based on talking with friends and family, based on the research that you’re doing, based on your own situation – then it’s like, well, if you’re going to do it, how can we make sure that you do it as safely and as effectively as possible? Because as we were talking about earlier, yeah, you can go and just do a bunch of psychedelics, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be particularly useful. To really “get the most” out of a psychedelic experience, whether that’s micro-dosing or higher doses, there needs to be adequate preparation, there needs to be certain things that are paid attention to for when you’re having the actual experience, and then there needs to be an ability to integrate the new insights that you’ve learned. So, really when we have people who are coming to our website, it’s like, well, let’s take them on a journey. We do that through written materials, we have some videos, we have an online course that we take people through. It’s really just in its infancy. The big question, the larger question from a vision perspective of what we’re asking is – if millions and millions of people are becoming interested in psychedelics over the next 10 years, what sort of platform or what sort of system is needed to ensure that all of those people can use psychedelics in a way that’s healing and transformative? That means, A.) it’s education. I think at this point… probably about 1-2%, maybe 5% now, of people in western culture actually have some sort of basic literacy about psychedelics. It’s very, very low.
Joe: [40:18] That’s really low.
Paul: [40:19] Whereas cannabis, it’s quite a bit higher. Cannabis now, I think legalization, it’s like 60% of people believe in legalization. For psychedelics, it’s 10% of people, around there – 10-12%. So, the first key is education. How do you educate millions and millions of people so they understand these are actually proper tools that when used with responsibility, you can [inaudible] tremendous change? And once people have these experiences – or excuse me – once people are educated, how do you then connect them to great experiences? In the next 10 years, there’s going to be thousands of clinics that open up around the United States and Canada and Europe that offer ketamine and MDMA and psilocybin to treat a range of clinical conditions. With all these retreat centers popping up that you can go to in Costa Rica and Peru and The Netherlands, places like this. So, if people are going to have these experiences, how do you make sure that they’re connected with a great shaman or facilitator or psychotherapist who’s going to ensure that they can have a useful experience? That’s just a little bit what we’re doing now. It’s really, right now, an educational website; it’s more wiki-oriented. We have a newsletter, we have a podcast, we have content that we generate and develop and create. Right now, particularly in the psychedelic space from a business perspective, is when a lot of investment is coming in. So, now we’re starting to ask the questions, well, if we can raise significant investment, what would it look like to build the go-to brand in the psychedelic space, to create a brand that’s at everyone’s front door into these incredible substances?
Joe: [41:55] Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of responsibility that’s going to come along with the power of that brand or whoever that turns out to be. I’m looking forward to supporting you in that, like help be like a stilt that you’re standing on, because it is a massive mission, man, and I – one of the things that I wanted to ask about was resistance that you’re running into right now. When you’re talking to people about investments and questions that they may ask. There has to be some sort of a resistance or we wouldn’t be where we are, right?
Paul: [42:30] Right. I mean… one, I think it’s important to understand that because I’ve been doing this work now for 4 years, most of my circles, and most of the people who I’m introduced to already get it. Like, a lot of the investors that I’m speaking to, they’ve already done psychedelics. Now, they’re kind of onboard and they get it and etc., etc. But it’s always interesting to, like I was in a – I went to a family wedding a couple weeks ago in Houston, Texas, and saw family that I hadn’t seen in 10 years. It’s like, they all know what I do; none of them ask me about it, right? It was kind of like, when I brought it up, it was like, ehh, let’s change the conversation.
Joe: [43:11] Really?
Paul: [43:12] And not like in a rude or… it was just like they weren’t really interested.
Joe: [43:16] Yeah.
Paul: [43:18] Now, I can say from my own, personal experience, my parents, right? They’re a really good example of people who, you know, when I told my mom that I was dropping acid – this is when I was 24, so 2014 – her initial response was to freak out and basically tell me that I’d become a wet noodle. I was like, “But Mom! You don’t understand! Aldous Huxley, one of the greatest writers of all time, he used to do acid.” And she’s like, “Who cares?!” So, I feel like one of the best-
Joe: [43:49] I’m an INTELLIGENT noodle!
Paul: [43:53] I might be a wet one, but fuck, I’ll be intelligent. So, one of the key things with a lot of this is to embody the lessons that you learn. In other words, it doesn’t really help so much – we all have this – you know, when I first started doing psychedelics, I was like, “this is the greatest thing ever! Why isn’t everyone else doing this?” When you go – when I had my first ayahuasca ceremony a year ago, a year and a half ago, it was like the same thing. The key is to have, I think, the humility in a way to just embody the lessons that you’re learning, to show up when people know that you’re doing this anyway, and to be receptive and open and non-judgmental when they’re asking questions. To lead with the clinical research, how this is being used for PTSD and depression, and to mention things, often times when I have resistance with people, I just mention cannabis, and like, look – look at the way you talked about cannabis many years ago. And now, obviously, there’s a ton of opinions that have changed, and I really think we’re having this conversation – it’s like, what, September 9th?
Joe: [44:55] Yeah, yeah. The 9th.
Paul: [44:56] It’ll release September, right? I mean, I think at this point, this juncture, we’re actually sort of past the point of no return. In other words, it seems to be like more and more people are sort of getting on board behind this; and whereas before, it used to be – there used to be a reputation of risk to come out about psychedelics. It’s slowly becoming the other way, where now it’s perceived as this thing that developed intelligent “woke people do.” I think that’s also a really cool thing, is when psychedelics become more and more trendy, in a way, when they catch on a little bit, I think there’s a beautiful opportunity then to really come from a position where you’re not trying to convince people, but you really can just be receptive to their questions and to field whatever. So, I think that’s one part. The second part though is – I’d like to talk about one more thing – which is when you talk with traditional VCs who are getting involved in psychedelics. I think this also, you know, the intersection of psychedelics and business represents an interesting inflection point because typical VCs are interested in growth at all costs; they’re interested in scaling something as fast as possible. The thing is with psychedelics, as we saw and experienced in the 60s, if you try to grow and scale something and that’s that chaotic, really, really fast and quick, you’re faced with a backlash. So, I think there’s some VCs who are starting to get involved in psychedelics. There are a couple of companies that raised like $80 million.
Joe: [46:35] Wow.
Paul: [46:36] And it’s just like… what are those incentives – what are we incentivized by with psychedelics? Are we incentivized by getting as many people as possible to take these substances, or are we truly incentivized by what’s best? You know, what’s really best for the individual; because the old pharmaceutical industry, their incentive structure isn’t necessarily dictated by wanting what’s best for people. It’s really looking at bottom lines and-
Joe: [47:07] Dude, that’s like – that’s what’s going on in my industry and it’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating.
Paul: [47:15] In the CBD industry even.
Joe: [47:17] Yeah. I mean, the big thing is that there’s been a massive resistance from pharmaceutical entities. Now there are pharmaceutical drugs that contain CBD. There’s a Sativex that is basically a THC drug. Like, ok, so now you’re telling me that you’re interested because there’s a dollar value behind it. And that can be ok, but the piece that’s frustrating to me and a worry of mine would be just the same – right now, people put CBD on a piece of plastic and you can sell it, no problem; because you got those 3 letters on it. Is that why I got into this business? No, absolutely not; so, there is a lot of responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of these entities. And raising $80 million… I’m interested in what, where they’re going.
Paul: [48:17] Well, one thing is a lot of the money just goes to trials. Because the federal governments have still prohibited a lot of these things, doing wide-scale trials to prove the efficacy of some of these substances, like psilocybin, you need a lot of money. You need a lot of money to get that passed. So, there’s where a lot of it is going. And basically, what’s going to happen is there will be the pharmaceutical approach for psychedelics. You’ll be able to go into a clinic and get pharmaceutical grade psilocybin, and pharmaceutical grade MDMA, and pharmaceutical grad ketamine. But what’s happening with psychedelics, which also is happening with cannabis, is there’s this underground grassroots gray-area movement that’s developing, where now in Denver, mushrooms have become decriminalized. In Oakland, mushrooms, ayahuasca, plant medicines have become decriminalized. That is something that we’re trying to push on a massive scale, because then when you have decriminalization, then it’s less about, ok, I need to go into a clinic and I can get pharmaceutical grade psilocybin, and then a lot of the profits are going back to these people at the top who aren’t really connected to the system, etc., etc. When you’re taking a more decriminalization model, you’re learning to grow your own mushrooms; you’re finding people in your community who you can sit and ceremony with. It doesn’t have – that’s the thing – it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Joe: [49:36] Right.
Paul: [49:37] It doesn’t have to be something that you have to pay $15,000 to go into a clinic to do. With decriminalization, that’s what we can actually put, in a way, the power back into the people’s hands. I think that’s what’s one of the most exciting things about psychedelics, is after the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry is, I think, the 2nd biggest industry in the United States, and the 2nd biggest lobbying; and there’s a lot of bullshit in the pharmaceutical industry. For the most part, the pharmaceutical industry – again, for the most part – there’s some utility of antidepressants and antipsychotics; there’s some legitimate use. But for the most part, it’s overblown, it’s overused, it’s highly addictive, it’s mostly bullshit. So, with psychedelics, we have this, basically, opportunity to totally flip everything on its head and what’s interesting is, the pushback hasn’t started yet from the major pharmaceutical companies, but it will be interesting to see once they start to recognize what level of power and profits they’re going to give up as a result of psychedelic medicalization and legalization; that’ll be an interesting fight. Because, I mean, one of the biggest companies in the psychedelic space is MAPS, and they’re a nonprofit pharmaceutical company. It’s like that’s what’s so interesting about the psychedelic space, it’s the leaders are the people who are like, it’s nonprofit, and they set themselves up in such a situation where it will continue to be nonprofit. So, all the money that comes in from them from doing MDMA therapy will just go back into science and research and more things like this. It’s exciting, it’s fascinating, it’s intense.
Joe: [51:17] Yeah. So, for the listeners of this podcast, what is an ask of them, and where can they go to find more about yourself, Third Wave, Synthesis, everything that you’ve got going on and are excited about?
Paul: [51:36] I think the first ask is if you’ve never done psychedelics or you’ve never really heard much about psychedelics, visit our website or read Michael Pollan’s book, or just learn a thing or two about it. Because the thing is with psychedelics, they’re just going to become more and more prominent, and having some knowledge and understand of how they might be useful is great. So, I think the first step for any listener is just read up a little bit about it. There’s so many articles online and so many things to dig into there. I think if people are really interested in micro-dosing psychedelics – micro-dosing psychedelics in particular – we have a great course. We have a lot of great resources on our website. We have a newsletter that we send out, and an email list; and if people want to stay up to date with what’s going on on a more personal level, my website is paulaustin.co. I’m on Instagram, I’m on Twitter, I update it every now and then. That’s a little bit of a – to get a better sense of kind of where I am and what I’m doing. And the Synthesis, the legal retreat center in The Netherlands, if people want to check out more information about that, that’s synthesisretreat.com. I’m sure you’ll include some of these links in the show notes, but The Third Wave is the educational website. I have my personal website, paulaustin.co, and then synthesisretreat.com, which is the retreats.
Joe: [52:58] Dope. Dope. Well, thanks dude. I’m stoked to have had you on this platform and even more stoked to help in any way I can, or just root you along on this journey because it’s an important one and it’s going to take a massive group of people.
Paul: [53:15] It’s going to take an army. A light warrior army.
Joe: [53:19] That’s the truth, brother.
Paul: [53:21] Thank you, Joseph. I appreciate it.