#38 All Out War | Jesse Gould

November 2, 2021
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After three deployments in Afghanistan as a US Army Ranger, Jesse Gould encountered a myriad of challenges in re-acclimating to civilian life, as do many war vets. Struggling for years with severe anxiety, he decided to try an ayahuasca retreat in Peru having been drawn to its cultural and ceremonial properties. Jesse was profoundly moved by this and soon after he founded the Heroic Hearts Project in 2017 with a mission to spearhead acceptance and use of ayahuasca therapy as a means of addressing the current mental health crisis among veterans. Since its launch, Heroic Hearts has raised over $350,000 in scholarships from donors including Dr. Bronner’s and partnered with the world’s leading ayahuasca treatment centers, as well as sponsoring psychiatric applications with the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Georgia.

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[00:00:00] Jesse: Everything on the outside was tremendous. Uh, but on the inside, uh, there was a lot of issues going on and they just really started surfacing in very bad ways. Severe anxiety, depression, all that being masked by alcoholism to where I was just in a spot where I knew something was wrong, but none of the professionals could really tell me. And so I found myself in a situation where I knew I was going down the bad path. You know, the professionals I trusted couldn't help me, and so I knew I had to take it in my own hands. And fortunately, for whatever reason around that time, I'd heard about ayahuasca, came in skeptical, and I went through, um, in Peru, a week long, multiple ceremonies in indigenous fashion, um, with indigenous healers, and it changed my life.

[00:00:58] Ronan: Hello everyone and [00:01:00] welcome to Field Tripping. Today, we talk with a war vet on how ayahuasca ceremonies can help with PTSD, why improperly constructed emotional containers can rust away, and how the war on drugs has created a D.A.R.E. generation who may now be looking to reconcile with psychedelics for their mental health. All with our guest, Jesse Gould.

Before we get started on our conversation though, I wanted to remind our listeners to subscribe to our podcast so that you never miss an episode. Stay tuned towards the end of the episode for a voicemail from a listener in our "how-to" segment, where listeners call in and ask a question for me to answer. So if you have a question about mental health, psychedelics, or anything we've chatted about, drop us a note at fieldtripping@kastmedia.com or leave a voice recording at speakpipe.com/fieldtripping. And please help us out by leaving a review on apple podcasts if you like what you hear. Just go to our show on the app, scroll down and click five stars, then drop us [00:02:00] a review where it says "write review."

All right, now let's get into it. Here's some news to trip over. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has said publicly that he will consider rescheduling psilocybin from a schedule one drug to a schedule two drug, to enable medical and scientific research on it. If Prime Minister Johnson moves forward with such a recommendation, which is being pushed by Tory MP Crispin Blunt, it would put psilocybin in the same category as cannabis in the UK. And if there's anyone in the world with a better name to be out there pushing psilocybin to be treated like cannabis than Crispin Blunt, then I haven't heard it. With that exciting news out of the UK, we will dedicate the next two stories to trip over to our friends in Jolly Ol. An open-label study conducted by researchers at Maryland Oncology Hematology at the Aquilino Cancer Center in Rockville, Maryland found that [00:03:00] psilocybin can create remission of depression symptoms for half of people for up to eight weeks or longer. Under the trial, 30 patients were assessed using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), a clinician-administered symptom questionnaire. A sustained response, being a decrease of ≥50% in the MADRS score, was seen by 24 patients. 15 patients showed remission of depression symptoms, a depression score of less than 10 one week after a single psilcocybin dose, which was sustained for up to eight weeks. What was particularly interesting in this trial was that the researchers used a group setting to deliver the medicine followed by one-on-one therapy. This is exciting because group therapy is one of the most obvious ways to reduce costs of these treatments.

Our friends at Small Pharma were granted an innovation passport designation for SPL026, and their lead product [00:04:00] candidate from its pipeline of DMT assisted therapies for the treatment of major depressive disorder. This is the UK's equivalent of the FDA's breakthrough therapy designation and makes it the fourth psychedelic clinical trial to be granted such status, after MAPS, Compass Pathways, and Usona.

Finally, our very close friend, adviser and investor Sanjay Singhal, through his non-profit organization, The Nikean Foundation, last week donated $5 million to the University Health Network in Toronto to establish the Nikean Psychedelic Psychotherapy Research Center. This is the largest donation ever in psychedelic science in Canada. Having gotten to know Sanjay over the last two years, I've got to say, Sanjay is one of the best people you'll ever meet. What a poster boy for psychedelic research. He'll be coming on the podcast in a couple of weeks so be sure to check out that episode.

And onto our conversation. Today, we have Jesse Gould with us, [00:05:00] American veteran and founder of the Heroic Hearts Project, an organization, pioneering psychedelic therapies for military veterans. After being deployed to Afghanistan three times, Jesse realized firsthand how hard reintegration as a military veteran truly is, and Heroic Hearts came to life with the intention to address the current mental health crisis among these heroes. Since it's launched, the nonprofit has raised over $350,000 in scholarships from donors, including Dr. Bronner's, and has partnered with the world's leading ayahuasca retreat centers, and has sponsored psychiatric applications with the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Georgia. Jesse, thank you for your service, thank you for joining us today, and welcome to Field Tripping.

[00:05:47] Jesse: Ronan, thanks so much for having me. Great to see you, and very much, very happy to be here.

[00:05:51] Ronan: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining us. So I recently had my first MDMA assisted therapy experience, and I can say with [00:06:00] certainty now firsthand, without a doubt that, uh, among other psychedelic therapies, this is going to change the world. Damn. Uh, regardless part of that experience that I was taken through was to go back to the moment of my conception, which was really fucking cool, I'm not going to lie, and witness my own coming into life. So maybe we don't have to go as far back as to the moment of your conception, but if you remember it feel free, but I would love to hear your story and how you got to this conversation at this moment right now.

[00:06:32] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm very happy to hear that you went through it and it was very productive for you. Um, you know, that's, what's making us all excited in this, in this world, in the psychedelic space is the fact that it's actually effective. Whereas we've been dealing with for decades, essentially ineffective therapies that have been making some people money, but not healing a lot of people. So, uh, my, my saga, my original story starts, at least this chapter, [00:07:00] uh, when I was in the Army, as, as you mentioned. I was an Army Ranger in the United States, military, uh, multiple deployments to Afghanistan and high action sort of capacity, uh, combat deployments. And when I got out, my original, um, profession was finance. And so I, I was ready to hit the ground running. You know, I had this Ranger background, I had an economics degree. I was going had some business finance experience. So I was excited to go into the next chapter of my life. And at first it led up to that. I had some good experiences. I was in a good job. Everything on the outside was tremendous. Uh, but on the inside, uh, there was a lot of issues going on and they just really started surfacing, uh, in very bad ways, severe anxiety, depression, all that being masked by alcoholism, to where I was just, um, in the spot where I knew something was wrong, but none of the professionals could really tell me. And it was just [00:08:00] sort of the, especially through the US VA that the straightest and quickest path to whatever medication they could prescribe me. And so I was, I found myself in a situation where I knew I was going down the bad path and, uh, you know, the, the professionals I trusted kind of help me. And so I knew I had to take into my own hands. And fortunately, for whatever reason around that time, I'd heard about ayahuasca, um, and came in skeptical, uh, had never done a psychedelic, never really seen the value or believed that it could be therapeutic. And I was still even hesitant that I needed therapy, but for whatever reason, it drew me there. And I went through, um, in Peru a week long, multiple ceremonies, in indigenous fashion, um, with indigenous healers, and it changed my life. And that was the inspiration, and also say obligation to start Heroic Hearts Project, where I just myself stumbled upon this, this ancient [00:09:00] technology that had been known for thousands of years. And I'd never really heard it or explored it and had such tremendous effect on me and the people around me. And on the other side, coming from the veteran community, that it was actively struggling, that has a suicide epidemic that's been lasted for over 20 years. And so that was the inspiration behind Heroic Hearts Project of, I don't know how many people this is going to help, but they at least deserve to know this knowledge. They at least deserve to explore these options in a container of support, uh, for their own health, for their own lives, essentially.

[00:09:35] Ronan: Cool. Um, there's going to be a lot of time to talk about ayahuasca and certainly your comment about, you don't know how many people this is going to help, it reminds me of a business that I sort of co-founded with a friend of mine called Starfish. And it was called Starfish because it was the story of a guy walking along a beach that had thousands of starfish strewn on it, strewn along it, and he bent over and he picked up the star- [00:10:00] one starfish and he threw it back in. And some guy was watching it, and he's watched them do it a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And the guy's like, What are you doing? There's billions of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly help all of them. And he bent over and picked up another one. He was like, Well, I helped that one. Uh, and so, you know, it really doesn't matter, uh, if, uh, if you help millions of people or one person, I think it all is, is really important. Um, but before we go with that- and it's just a subject that's really of interest to me, um, What, what took you on the path to joining the Army Rangers, uh, in, in the first place? Like, that's a decision I'm always really interested in, and maybe it's like, maybe it's being like a cosmopolitan Canadian where the military is not so central to like our, our national identity, um, but I'm always really interested in what makes people hear the call to the military?

[00:10:52] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can't deny there's, there's definitely a Americana tinge to it. Um, and, uh, even as [00:11:00] I've been doing this work, we've been fortunate enough to expand our branches to Canada and the UK. And one of the, the learning dynamics of it is that, although there are military and the, they have similar issues, there's different ways of approaching it, there's different cultures, all that. Uh, so that's been a very interesting, uh, learning point for me. Um, so yeah, for me, I actually had the start of a profession before going into the military. So it's a little bit of a unique pathway where I graduated, has an economics degree. I was working, um, in New York at a small boutique investment bank. Um, at that time, you know, I liked what I was doing, but I always had this, uh, desire or some sort of yearning to explore the military, or at least there was some sort of appeal to me. And, um, around the same time, it was just sort of the universe aligned. It was when I graduated in '09, so the big financial collapse, so a very unique time to be on wall street. And it really showed sort of the, [00:12:00] the, the effect greed can have and the self-service. And at the same time I was, you know, my intuition was sort of drawing me to the military, and it was hard for me to explain it at the time while I was doing it. There was definitely sort of the patriotism. There was me wanting to give back to a country that I felt grateful for having, you know, have this privilege of being in those or that, that profession and everything that comes with it. But there was also sort of, uh, what I understand now, a deeper, um, need to explore myself, to test myself on mental, physical, uh, even spiritual levels that I think just wasn't provided for me in the day to day life. You know, I could have continued going on, but I feel like I would have always had this missing part of me of, who am I? What is my, what am I capable of? And the more I've looked into that and explored myself the more I see that is actually a pretty common theme [00:13:00] in older cultures, tribal societies, where they're almost always as this coming of age, becoming a man becoming a woman ceremony or division in one's life and multiple divisions in their life that, you know, the ceremony and the activities, signal that to the body, to the community, everything else. And there is oftentimes that challenging aspect. And I think in Western society, we've really lost, um, some of that dynamic. When we do have ceremonies, they tend to be kind of more superficial or just, let's do this, we don't really know why we're doing this, without sort of the challenge aspect. And so for whatever reason, I think I just was drawn to that very basic calling that a lot of us have of like, let me just go out into the wild and, and test my metal against nature and see where I stand in this sort of complicated, confusing world. And so I, again, I feel very fortunate that for whatever reason, there's been sort of a intuition or a guiding light that when I needed it most brought me to [00:14:00] these things. And I know this again from the Canadian perspective might seem weird of like the military has, you know, just sort of, for a lot of perspectives in the US as well, oftentimes negative connotations and oftentimes the more violent connotations, but there really is, um- there can be a lot of value in it. There can be a lot of good parts of it too. And fortunate for me, my, my path through that did help me find those things inside myself that I was searching for, even if I couldn't put a name to it.

[00:14:33] Ronan: Cool. Thank you. Uh, so most Jewish boys at the age of 13, have a Bar Mitzvah and you decided to go off and have a war mitzvah, somewhere in your twenties. Um, what, what were those things that you were looking for in inside yourself? I mean, I think you're a hundred percent right. Which I think there's a, uh, a negative connotation associated with the military. I think most of that connotation comes from the policy, uh, that leads to the deployment of the military [00:15:00] and not the military itself, where I think the, the principles or the values like valor and honor and dedication, uh, you know, are wonderful, wonderful things and, and are exemplified, uh, it just that, you know, those principles, which like a high, I think high resonance energies get deployed into often very, very purely destructive activities. Um, but, but what, what were you looking for and that experience?

[00:15:28] Jesse: Yeah. And I think that's unfortunate. I think we're seeing that sort of divide right now. Uh, even in the US with all the chaos that's going on in Afghanistan as where you- I I'm, I'm sort of a firm believer in sort of the archetype sort of belief where we, there are, you know, similarities across cultures of, of people being drawn to certain things, whether it's soldier, teacher, um, medicine person, combination of them, um, you know, the sort of these Joseph Campbell sort of [00:16:00] archetypes. And so I do think I was drawn to that. And I do think there is those ideals. And then when you add on the political side where those ideals are not necessarily used for the best purposes or the most thought out purposes, I think it causes a lot of these, these sort of issues. Um, for me, it was really- I was never really- I think it stemmed more from the physical side, but also beyond that the, the utmost physical to where it becomes a mental challenge, as well as the physical challenge. Um, I was never extremely athletic as a kid. I was, I was kind of more of the academic, um, more of the smart kid growing up. And, you know, I think just in terms of confidence in myself, uh, leadership in, in the way that it would be very hard to learn that kind of leadership in any other situation. Um, and yeah, just that, what is the, what is my, my mind, my body capable [00:17:00] of in these extreme settings? And so, especially for Ranger, and I know, I think you had a Marcus Capone on before and, you know, he went through, uh, BUDS. And so the selection processes are very similar to where they're designed to let only a select number of people pass because you have to have a certain mentality of, no matter what the pain, no matter what, you continue on. Um, and so there's like, no matter what comfort you have, they will find it and exploit that, and turn it against you. Um, and so going through that process and being pushed those limits where you're tired, exhausted, hungry, uh, and any still have to continue on, you still have to carry, you know, a hundred pounds over multiple, or like, you know, 10, 20, 30 kilometers, and you have to just keep going, even if everything is telling you to shut down. Those sort of extreme situations teach you a lot about yourself. Um, they kind of strip you [00:18:00] down to your bare core and it's probably not the therapy for everybody, but it can be almost very therapeutic because when you're at your most stressed out level and when you're stripped down to that very basic, what is left? And do you still have the drive to continue forward? And so, even though I didn't know that the onset, I did know, for whatever reason I needed that challenge to kind of have that very baseline competence in myself for the next phase of my life. And I've actually found that very rewarding now, because as challenging as that was, starting a nonprofit, uh, around illegal substances has proven to be quite a challenging burden itself. And so having that, uh, just confidence and drive that was very much instilled in me, and also the leadership side has, I think, been essential into this current chapter of my life. [00:19:00]

[00:19:01] Ronan: So I, I think you answered it, but I'll just ask it specifically- did, did you find what you were looking for through the military experience?

[00:19:09] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. Um, and that, that was the, the very rewarding part. And so even early on when I couldn't- my, my family is not a military family, so this was very left turn. And especially coming from a finance side, it was a complete shock. And when I couldn't elaborate on why I was doing it, uh, you know, it was even more of a shock and frustrating, but when they saw the changes in me- it's similar to a psychedelic experience- it's, it's very impossible to explain it in a lot of ways. It's very impossible to explain the healing or the perspective change. But when people see your actions change, when they see you're living a healthier, more competent life, that's the proof. That, that goes beyond words. And I think they're kind of, there's a lot of similarities. There's a lot of parallels there, where we try to [00:20:00] put things in words and logically understand them, um, because we're not trained to connect to our feelings, to our driving force, our, or what, what w what we need, because we want to put words to it. And so it doesn't fall neatly into one word or the other, and we just kind of cast it off. And so I think the psychedelic process- and I guess mine almost started in that, that military side- was understanding the emotions for what they are without necessarily needing to put words or a logic, or necessarily being able to explain exactly to somebody, um, but understanding and having that benefit. And I guess, you know, like during sleep deprivation, that probably was my first psychedelic experience where after so much lack of sleep, you just start seeing things. You're like, okay. That's, that's pretty interesting.

[00:20:53] Ronan: Uh, that's a really interesting analogy. Um, but I think you're right, like again, coming out of my experience this past [00:21:00] weekend, it made me realize that one of the things that psychedelics do is they like rip you wide open, right? Like you're totally vulnerable and exposed and you have nothing left, you know, really to, to defend against. And, and that sounds like, especially with the Rangers experience, when you're pushed to the absolute limits of your ability. Like you, you've got nothing left, do you have none of those defenses, you know, we've gotten like that deep sense of self that you got to work with at that point. And so it is, and so many, probably less pleasant ways, very psychedelic experience. I think that's totally right. And that's really cool.

[00:21:33] Jesse: And I think to that point, that's why I think you're seeing such a- even, even though it seems counterintuitive where veterans en masse are go into psychedelics, that's where it makes sense, is because it can be one of the most challenging experiences and it can be this sort of like deep dive into yourself, which a lot of veterans understand, especially the special ops side. And so going [00:22:00] into an ayahuasca or ibogaine where, you know, a lot of people will say it's one of the most challenging experiences in their life, um, but they go right back to it because that's what they're built for, of like, you know, there's a challenge there? I'm going to go face it, head on. And that's, that was the same thing for me is, uh, the fact that, that, uh, ayahuasca, my first experience was, you know, extremely challenging- it, you know, kicked my ass for a few nights- I think gave me that respect for it because that's how I understood the world of challenge- you know, progress comes through challenge. Which is a dynamic I need to change a little bit later, but that's what brought me that initial respect of like, oh, this is not this, like, happy go lucky, you know, having a good time in the woods, and like getting high. This was- there's work there. I didn't understand the work at the beginning, but I definitely knew this wasn't like a pleasurable experience that everybody said drugs would be.

[00:22:59] Ronan: [00:23:00] Yeah, no, I hear you. And just as you were talking, like one thought that came to mind- and I don't- it's okay if you have no thoughts or opinions on this but, just using that analogy between, you know, the training, military training, uh, being, uh, an analogy to what happens on psychedelics, which is like, you're really ripped wide open, put to your most vulnerable. There's like a, a parallel or a dichotomy of like all the trauma that veterans suffer thereafter. Like, like a psychedelic experiences are like clearing the traumas, right? And like military, this military experience is, is like in enabling, causing the traumas. And I don't know why, like there's, I think like on a, on an energetic level and I don't mean just being too woo woo, or like on a universal level, but there seems to be some sort of, like, real reason that this works really well for military veterans. And it's not like, because they want to go back and do the hard work necessarily. It's kind of like they're setting themselves up on, on some sort of deeper level to have to [00:24:00] go from, you know, the opposite, the, the yin and yang of the experience of having it in one way, but having the other, you know- I guess maybe it's like the masculine and feminine, it's like the military warrior kind of thing is the purest of the masculine form of that kind of clearing. And then a psychedelic is probably a much more feminine form of, of that kind of clear- I dunno where to go with that. It was just like something that came up to me when, when you're talking,

[00:24:25] Jesse: They're definitely- I mean, there's definitely something there. And there's definitely, if you just look at how many veterans are really getting benefit and being some of the biggest advocates around psychedelics, there's, it's almost this natural alliance that doesn't necessarily make sense in how we've compartmentalized it. But I mean, one dynamic, or one pathway, and there's multiple as with all of these conversations, multiple pathways that you can just talk for hours on, is, you know, one, the military on some levels, it gives you confidence and maturity, but on other levels, it shuts you down. Uh, it makes you compartmentalize very extreme [00:25:00] experiences and oftentimes there's a huge correlation for those that join the military to those that have childhood trauma of some sort, because that's how they understand the world growing up is that the world is a harsh place and mean place. And so the military makes sense and it's actually a vessel for them to, to explore and to utilize whatever skill sets that they learn at that childhood. So it can be very beneficial in that way to where they're not using that aggression in robbing a bank or, or hurting somebody in terms of like on the street, they're, they're being trained to sort of use in certain dynamics. And so it, it can help them give that container. But then, as we know with trauma, if you don't allow the expression of some of these other emotions then that container's just going to like rust away, rust away. And so then I think for those people, the psychedelics can be the other part of it, because oftentimes what we see [00:26:00] is that people go in and they're like, oh, I'm going to, like, this is going to be horrible. Like all the stuff I did in the military is going to come up and all the trauma. Uh, but oftentimes that is sort of a quick, uh, bus stop, whereas once that kind of gets pushed away, it goes back to the childhood stuff. And that is, that is the foundation they built. That's what led to everything else, including their relationships. And so when that psychedelic pushes all this other kind of stuff away, allows them to still, you know, maybe get past guilt or get past any sort of, you know, fear of, of, of, of who they are, what they become, allows them to express their emotion again and allows them to readdress as a stronger person, that childhood trauma. So it, it almost kind of completes their, their cycle, as well as we spend so much time becoming soldiers and without any ceremony of becoming civilians again, it starts out a path of like, okay, this is, I'm a civilian now, and how do I operate in this different world with these different rules? [00:27:00]

[00:27:02] Ronan: That's also an interesting thing I hadn't considered before, but there's a lot of ceremony that goes into becoming a soldier. Uh, and from what I understand, uh, the ceremony that involves not being a soldier is getting your paperwork and walking out the door, right? So, um, there's not that, you know, I mean, there's the pure practical transition of going from a military life to a civilian life, which I don't fully understand, but I can sort of conceptualize of like a very regimented order to a very non regimented order. Um, but there's also, you know, the value of the ceremony of like, you know, making the transition, you know, stating and publicly doing the kind of, uh, anyway, it's, it's interesting. And I think there's. Interesting opportunity to like, maybe be that, right? Like be the- provide that ceremony, uh, in a much more traditional sense. And anyway, um, so you, you left the finance industry in 2009 and you joined the military and then how long were you in the military for?

[00:27:59] Jesse: Uh, about [00:28:00] four and a half years.

[00:28:01] Ronan: Okay.

[00:28:02] Jesse: So until 2014, halfway through.

[00:28:07] Ronan: Okay. And you did read it right, three tours?

[00:28:09] Jesse: Yep. Three, three- so a lot of the special ops are just constantly sort of, uh, rotating and deploying. So it's, it's a very fast paced, high action. If you're not training, you're deploying. And so you just kind of go back and forth. Um, so yeah, for that super fast paced, when I got out, you know, I was ready. I was fortunate enough to, to rank up pretty quick with, in that timeframe, to where towards the end I was in charge of 30 or so individuals. And by that time, by the time I con- worked with contracts, by the time my contract expired, you know, one, the, the dynamics were changing. Um, there's, there's some stuff that really didn't- I felt like I got what I needed, you know, and I was ready for the next chapter of my life. Um, and so I was excited to go into the next [00:29:00] chapter and that was, you know, I had an economics degree. I had some finance background and I, I wanted to use it before it just was like, okay, this is irrelevant.

[00:29:10] Ronan: And if you don't mind me asking, um, you know, I've heard the expression, war is hell. Um, what, what was the experience like being in theater? Is it as, uh, as terrible as you know, one might imagine? Uh, certainly not all the times, I imagine- I expect, but like, is there any way you can articulate what the experience was like?

[00:29:32] Jesse: Yeah. It's, it's, it can be hard to articulate too. And the thing is everybody experiences it differently, the same way everybody experiences or processes trauma. And so it's a little bit- part of like the special ops selection as it selects, I think, for people who tend to kind of be able to process whatever the situation is in a different sort of way, maybe a more detached way or a sort of [00:30:00] zoomed out way as opposed to being completely consumed by it, which can be the very traumatic and the experience sort of situation. Um, and it's, it's kind of like anything else, well war these days, I mean, each one's different, right? So the ones in, in Afghanistan, at least they tend to be more, um, not much going on and then moments where everything just goes crazy, you know? And so it's like these super rush where all of a sudden, you know, something happens, there's gunfire, everything's going on. You have to react in that situation. Uh, with the military, especially like Rangers and SEALS, is that the philosophy is that you're going to train for the hardest most situations possible. And that's why they do all this sleep deprivation, food deprivation. So generally speaking in a lot of the senses, like you're more worn out and you're more, uh, potentially traumatized by some of the training situations, cause they want you to be [00:31:00] ready. They don't want you to be like, uh, shocked by, by the stress. You do these things called stress shoots. You do these, these things where you just have absolutely- you haven't slept in a week and you still have to do these missions and keep, uh, uh, a head about you. And so generally speaking, the deployments are actually- I mean, you're, you're in a mind frame where you're constantly, no matter what, you're on those sort of alert sort of system. And there's- you kind of have to just resolve yourself that you're in a much more dangerous situation, you're you're, you're in a much closer metric to possibly, you know, dying in a lot of sense. And there are people that die around you over there. And so that in itself kind of puts you in this heightened stress mode, but then generally speaking, the vast majority are generally pretty routine, like what you train for. And then it's really the question of like, when it pops off, like that's when the training kicks in, that's the automatic side of it. And so [00:32:00] then it tends to be more of the automatic, okay, like, this is where it all kicks in and you're just reacting to orders. You're reacting to the battle drills and all that, that kind of stuff. Um, so I mean, that's, that's kinda how we train to where, when it happens, it's there. I was fortunate enough to where there wasn't any, anything in that in the moment I would, I would say it was like, oh, this, this was traumatizing. I'm going to hold this forever. Most of it was pretty routine within sort of the stuff we, we trained about. But, like I said, you, you, you're kind of in this very unique state, you do have to switch your brain to sort of a different rule of life and accept sort of the, the situation that you're in.

[00:32:42] Ronan: Totally. Um, okay. So 2009, you joined the military and spent four and a half years there. So in 2014, you're kind of integrating back into civilian life and go back into banking. Is that correct?

[00:32:54] Jesse: Yeah, after the military in 2014, um, I traveled around a little bit. Kind of [00:33:00] used some of the money I saved up. And so I ended up being in Southeast Asia for a little bit, um, just kind of staying, you know, exploring life, um, and, and relishing my freedom. And then eventually I moved back to Florida area and that's when I was like, okay, well I need to- I've slacked off enough. I need to go back into finance. And so around 2015, uh that's when I, uh, when, when found a job in Tampa, Florida working in finance at this big international company.

[00:33:33] Ronan: Gotcha. Uh, and, and so w when did you know, when did you realize that you weren't alright?

[00:33:39] Jesse: Yeah, so when I got into this job, is it was, it was like I said, it was a great job. It was, um, kinda, it was a corporate job, though. And so it became kind of this routine. And on reflection, you know, now that I have some time to reflect on it and see what was going on, I realized that some of these [00:34:00] issues, uh, happened much earlier, that there's already warning signs. Like even when I was still in the military of just unhealthy behavior and, you know, some of this kind of stuff, but it really just became prominent to where kind of what we're saying, I was still kind of in this like, work hard, play hard military mode of, you know, I can just, like, force something through, I could, you know, get drunk on Sunday. And as long as I showed up to work, I can, I can, uh, push, you know, go through. And, um, that just doesn't work in corporate world that doesn't work with like the nine to five job. And so I think it was just sort of clashes of the world. I was, I was customed to, and then the new world. And then when I tried to be living healthier, then I realized that that started on surfacing, a lot of other dynamics, like anxiety and depression and sort of the more the necessity in a lot of ways of the alcohol to kind of what I was using to dampen those and just sort of move forward. [00:35:00] And under all of that, it was just this, you know, dull unhappiness with whatever I tried to do in my life. And so it was just one of those things where progressively as I went on and I tried to do like what was expected of me in life, in terms of, have a good job and have, you know, renting a, a house and, you know, doing, like going to the gym every day. And at the end of the week, I would just be more and more unhappy and I'd just find pleasure in less and less. And I couldn't figure out how to get out of this hole or this rut.

[00:35:36] Ronan: Right. And, and so you said, how did, how did you discover, like ayahuasca? Do you remember, like where you read about it or heard about it first?

[00:35:45] Jesse: Yeah, so it was around that time, like I said, I tried to do more holistic stuff. I was like, fortunately, again, it was, it was some parts of my brain that saved my life. Uh, where I was just like, Hey, this is- whatever you're doing, this is not sustainable. Like, [00:36:00] you're just not living healthy to where you were. You're gonna make some bad mistake. Um, and, so I try, you know, I tried incorporate new hobbies. Like I said, going to the gym, eating healthier, try to cut back on alcohol. I tried to go to the VA in the US. None of that really helped. Um, and I couldn't find any more answers. I could just find blanket answers of like, okay, you have PTSD, take some medication. And that wasn't sufficient for me because I knew it was much more complex than that. And I knew from what I've seen in friends, that the medication side was kind of a hit or miss. And, uh, you know, it was, it was at the end of the day, at the very least, it was just a masking thing. It wasn't a healing thing. And so, while I was trying to search, um, I, you know, I was listening to [inaudible] think for, sort of came up through like a Joe Rogan podcast or something like that, you know, probably had the Audrey Marcus or one of the notable people on there. [00:37:00] And when I first heard about it, um, you know, it was just kind of a typical thing of what you hear, of people talk about it. It kind of goes more into the experience side of it, of like, what do they see and all this crazy stuff and this journey through it. And so it was entertaining as far as podcasts go, but it didn't really appeal to me because I had no desire- I already had my vices, I had no desire to add on a vice and the tripping and this, what it seemed to me felt false. Like profundity of, of the journey didn't seem to lead to anything. It just seemed to be an escape. And so I heard about it and it was like, okay, this is fun and entertaining, but it didn't appeal to me at least on the conscious level. But because I think at the time where of course again, the universal aligned, where I was just kind of at my rope's end. Things were just getting worse and worse. And I heard about this substance that I had no idea about and it can potentially help. And so I just got to that point of like, all right, whatever [00:38:00] I'm doing right now is absolutely not working. I'm not happy at my job. You know, I'm not holding down any sort of healthy relationship. I could just leave and nothing would change, uh, I'd leave, you know, no impact or anything like that. And, uh, I was just like, but I also know if I stay here that it's going to end up bad. And so my brain, again- intuition guided me to, to just, uh, take the shot, take the leap of faith. And the more I looked into it, the more, I think it kind of appealed to me, especially ayahuasca because it didn't fall into sort of that recreational drug that I was kind of pushing against, like the, just say no to drugs, sort of side, ayahuasca had this cultural sort of thing and then a much more rich, complex history. And so through that measure, I could convince myself that, um, it might be something I want to explore.

[00:38:53] Ronan: Okay, cool. Well, that was actually going to be the question I was working up to, which is like, what was it that called you about ayahuasca as opposed to, [00:39:00] say MDMA, um, but again, timing matters because I don't think MDMA assisted therapy was necessarily as prevalent depending on when the timelines were talking about. Um, but, uh, you just answered that question. So-

[00:39:13] Jesse: Yeah, if I had heard about MDMA at that time, I would've been like anybody else, like that's a party drug, like, how's this going to help me? Um, but yeah, I lived in, I had lived in South America before, um, and just that cultural side of it, where it didn't seem like a drug, it seemed like a ceremony. It seemed like an experience. And so for those reasons, like, I have no idea what I'm doing, but apparently the professionals don't have any idea what they're doing. So why not? Like let's just change the script. Give it a shot, worst case scenario I'm out of this job I don't like and just reset and try and figure it out again.

[00:39:52] Ronan: It's interesting that the ceremony appealed to you, cause like one of the things that I feel like I encounter quite often is that for a lot of people, that the ceremony is [00:40:00] the opposite thing that appeals to them. Like it's a detractant because like, uh, it feels so hokey that you go through this ceremony, but for you it was an important, and that's really interesting. And you know, again, based on this most recent experience, I've- I appreciate the value of the ceremony. I think it, I think it, I think it matters. I'm not sure that it's essential, but I think it adds a lot of components to it. So it's really cool to hear you. You just mentioned, you know, you heard Aubrey Marcus trying to articulate what the experience was like. Um, and, uh, and trying to articulate what a psychedelic experience is like is a good reminder of why people should spend a lot more time thinking about poetry and magic in my opinion, but regardless, can you try to articulate what your experience, or your first experience with, uh ayahuasca was like?

[00:40:47] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. And I think of the psychedelics, especially with hallucinogens, um, I'd say the ceremony is very key and crucial to it, especially ayahuasca, where it's very powerful. [00:41:00] Because I've seen just through my own experience outside of working with other vets, uh, those that go through these experiences without the ceremony are just kind of in a soulless or capacity and it can be night and day the, the results. And sometimes, actually, I won't say dangerous, but, um, I just wouldn't recommend it. Especially somebody who is very- has a lot of trauma any time. And so, you know, the ceremony really builds up, it signals in the mind, but there is something to it. And if you look at it, especially in the ayahuasca sense, these are things that have developed over thousands of years. So like any other technology it's evolved through the process to fit the purpose. And so even if we don't necessarily understand it in that way, I think the value that we can kind of be open and exploring and with MDMA and ketamine, I know we're trying to add that. And I think, you know, from your point, maybe for some people might not seem authentic because it's sort of this, you know, the, the Western mode doesn't have the ceremonies, but hopefully we do evolve as a [00:42:00] culture to incorporate that and have our own ceremonies around these modalities. So I do think there there's a, that enhancement just as like music and lighting. Um, until yet my going in my experience from never having experienced anything til that, it was just a complete shock to the system, especially ayahuasca being one of the more powerful, potent ones. And, uh, so my first two ceremonies, two and a half ceremonies- this was a week long retreat, so four ceremonies in total. And the first two and a half, we're just all out war, like beyond any sort of description, but just imagine the most, and I'm not, I guess I'm probably not, uh, uh, getting any subscribers to this, but for me it was what I needed. And, um, it was just chaos. It was just all the traditional sort of psychedelic stuff, the geometric patterns and the things moving and, and, and, um, sort of ancient sort of symbols. Uh, but it was just intense and, [00:43:00] and beyond my ability to handle it. So it was just purging, puking through the night and just completely uncomfortable in every sort of way, and just like, what's wrong, what's going on? And it was just a sort of war. And it was because I didn't know how to let go. I was fighting it tooth and nail, and that was kind of my hardheadedness. So, even to this day, sometimes it's still like go in, fighting it until I remember, like I had just ease into it, let it go. And so the, the metaphor I use, uh, for, for to make it a little bit more approachable is like, if you go to the ocean, and there's some big waves and you just go there and you just start marching out into the ocean and stand strong, those waves are just going to like, keep smashing down, knocking on your ass and you're not going to beat the wave. Like you're not going to beat that power. And it's just gonna like, keep beating you down. But if you go and swim and go with the wave, either with the surf board or body surf, then you're using [00:44:00] that energy. You're working with the water and then it's propelling you into a forward motion and you're almost with it. And it's, it's a different sort of action. So that's the whole psychedelic thing that I actually had to learn. And it taught me through the process by, you know, trial and error, like, nope that doesn't work. Nope, you're still fighting it. And eventually with that fighting, you become so exhausted that you don't put up the mental energy or you don't have the mental energy to continue just holding your ground and resisting. And when you get to that point, That's when you can finally like go and go with the process and go with the wave and that's when it can show you. But for me, it was a very early step of just having my controlling brain and just being like, no, I'm staying in the state I'm controlling. And that in itself, not only on a mental level, but on just sort of that realization level that we do- a lot of stress and anxiety comes from our need as humans, as [00:45:00] organizers to control things, even that are beyond our control. You saw that more recently with, with COVID, sort of this overwhelming existential threat, especially at the beginning, because it just seemed like this uncontrollable thing that was sweeping over us and these things in our lives that we normally have control over, or that we're normally in routine, we no longer [are]. They're just thrown into this chaotic situation on all grounds. And that causes a lot of stress for us as humans, uh, because we really hold onto this [inaudible]. So my first few were just that, and it was just like to the point where I was terrified of going to the third, but I, I did it. I, I drank drank it. It was just like, I don't know what's going to happen to me if I'm going to make it through this one. But through that third process, the, and I say, it taught me because through it, what I saw was a hand almost pulled me out of this chaos, this, this sort of war, and instantly put me into this tranquil spot to the [00:46:00] flow, working with it. And it just felt amazing where I was just finally, like not struggling, not in this complete a hundred percent uncomfortable zone, to finally just like, okay, this is, this is great. And you know, the way the mind works it, my mind would just send me right back to the chaos, cause I'd be like, oh, what about if I go back? And so it was just this learning process of going back and forth. Towards the end, I kind of had a little bit more handle it. And, uh, that's when I started- I had some kind of more profound insights of just where I was at in my life, and just reflections on how, you know, on the outside bad, the situation was before and how fortunate I was to kind of have this new, fresh start. Um, some questions- some answers about, uh, some anxiety I was having about the next chapter of just like, what's my next step? What am I going to do? Just kind of relieving me of like, okay, well, this is part of- enjoy the struggle a little bit, enjoy the challenge, enjoy the fact that you have this ability to, [00:47:00] to explore different dynamics of yourself. Um, but that, that one, that thing of it teaching me to let go. I do think that it almost sort of exercised a muscle or some sort of dynamic in my brain, uh, or opened up some sort of neural pathway in my brain to where and, which directly related to later anxiety. Where before, certain situations that would just send me into this deep anxiety spiral, leading to possibly a panic attack, I could actually let go and sidestep it. I could like, okay, well I'm a little bit anxious today. Or I wake up anxious. And instead of falling into that vortex where it's like, I'm fighting an anxiety, which just adds onto it, I was finally able to figure out and move past it. Um, and so I still maybe have some residual anxiety, but not to the point where it was consuming and, and, and having that much of a control of my life, just because it was more of an acceptance of [00:48:00] what's going on in my body and understanding of listening and then, you know, going with the wave as opposed to just being crushed by it, which is, was my previous M.O..

[00:48:10] Ronan: Yeah. I used to- I remember going to Costa Rica with some friends many years ago, and the game we played is like, you walked out with your arms out, walking straight into the waves and see how many we could get to before you got knocked over. Uh, And I'll probably piss off like any therapist or psychiatrist listening right now, but I've, I've come to the place where I don't think anxiety is actually a condition. I think anxiety is what we feel, but it's something else going on, and the last few times that I've been feeling a lot of anxiety when I lead into it, I realized it wasn't anxiety. It was fear or it was sadness, or it was grief that I wasn't processing properly. Um, and so, I don't know. Um, just as you talked about, you know, how we've learned to process anxiety, one of the things I've found very constructive is that when I'm feeling anxiety, it's not anxiety, there's [00:49:00] an underlying emotion that's being expressed as anxiety. Just like, you know, the underlying emotion behind guilt is actually anger. I think there's often other emotions, um, uh, triggering what we identify as anxiety, but there's no kind of actual holistic, you just experience of anxiety, just my 2 cents on that. Um, and there's a number of other things you said in there that I think were, were super powerful and super relevant. Um, one was like that experience of having that hand pull you out and like kind of bring you to the other side. I've had a similar experience, actually, not with psychedelics at all. Um, actually just through meditation, but like that feeling of like someone actually like getting in there and pulling you out and having your back and defending you is like it for me and was one of the most powerful experiences of my life because something that I'd never let myself feel, but in that moment, it's such a powerful thing being like, oh, there is something sort of deeper and [00:50:00] bigger here that's actually looking out for me. And I'm curious, um, have these experiences shifted your perspectives on spirituality? Were you a religious or spiritual person beforehand, uh, before the military? Um, or has this opened you up or do you still kind of identify as, as not spiritual and just trying to intellectualize the experiences that you had?

[00:50:23] Jesse: I think if any word would be correct, it would be it expanded what I already had. Um, and the nearly impossible for, I think a psychedelic not to expand because it is, you know, it's just in a lot of ways as valid a consciousness as anything else. Uh, where, you know, as humans, we live in a very specific spectrum, which has been evolved to maximize our living potential, hunting potential, all that kind of stuff. But that doesn't mean we see all the spectrums and I used this analogy before of, you know, if we all of a sudden took a pill that allowed [00:51:00] us to see ultraviolet light and could walk around the world and legitimately see it, that would be expansion, right? And that'd be amazing. It'd be, you wouldn't necessarily need to do it all the time, but it definitely gives you different perceptions on the world and see things in a very different way. And I do think psychedelics act in a similar sort of way where, maybe not in the physical side, uh, well, I mean, obviously it's going to make things appear differently in a lot of ways, but I think on that, that mental side, the normal way we interface with our brains, which is oftentimes very much controlled by our, our conscious our ego. Um, I think it allows us to explore that realm in a much different way, in a much more expansive way. Uh, for me, I, I actually grew up in a pretty- exposed to a lot of different religions and cultures when I was a kid, uh, which was weird for me as a kid, but it sort of showed me from an early onset that there is value to it. Uh, but there's also a lot of different perceptions and there's also a lot of [00:52:00] dogma and, and a lot of controlling aspects of it. And so I've always kind of settled more on the, you know, being very happy with, I don't know what I don't know, and I don't need to put a name or a controlling sort of title on it, but also the fact of humility where, you know, there, there, there could be forces outside of me. There could be something beyond or some unfathomable thing that I just don't understand and I'm not equipped to understand. And like I said, like just the courses through my life where my intuition or something guided me, you know, maybe not in the straightest path or maybe there's a lot of struggles, but always in a path that ended up being better for me and saved my life in a lot of ways. And so we could chalk that up to luck. We could chalk that up to parts of my brain are smarter, could chop it up to something more expansive. And so I'm, I'm, I'm fine standing in all the realms without standing in any of the [00:53:00] realms. And so I think psychedelics just added to that perspective of that, where there does seem to be this connectivity, this, this sort of, we're all in this together dynamic that, you know, we're part of, especially on Earth, the ecosystem or in our community where we're part of that the, the community or a system is struggling as sick. That affects every single member of it. The same as if you're in a city with- we've shown, you know, through research that if you're in a city with a lot of parks, uh, and a lot of communal spaces, those are healthier, happier cities because it's this ecosystem that we live in. I think that's kind of on the expanse and spirituality, even though that word now has baggage. But I think there is that I think it is a combination of connectedness, belonging, but then also humility of maybe, you know, we don't know everything or maybe there's, there's things that we can't [00:54:00] just, at this point anyway, scientifically measure right now. Maybe we can the future, but who knows?

[00:54:07] Ronan: Yeah, no, there's tons of baggage associated with the word spirituality. And the thing like at its essence, from my perspective is meaning like connection to spirit, which is connection to those things that we don't understand, and maybe we can't understand, but not necessarily denying the possibility, uh, or fact of their existence. Um, and, uh, now I think, I think that's a very accurate- how many, how many, uh, ayahuasca ceremonies have you sat through now? And a related question, have you tried any other psychedelic assisted therapies and what have you found, um, through those various experiences, if you have had experiences other than, uh, with ayahuasca?

[00:54:50] Jesse: Yeah. So given, given the nature of, of Heroic Hearts, uh, the main, the main one has been ayahuasca, but we do work with other modalities as well. [00:55:00] And we don't recommend anything, or we won't suggest anything to others unless we've gone through it and explored the modalities and the practitioners and all that kind of stuff, you know? So we want- if we're going to have somebody go, we need to speak of it and understand it and be able to talk to them. We don't want to just throw them in the fire. So through that, I've have explored a lot, um, in terms of ayahuasca specifically there's, again, the nature of my job is unless we, for us to use a new retreat center or a new healer, then myself or somebody on our team will go through a ceremony, go through the course, then that way we can, there's a connection. There's an understanding. And just sort of the safety and practicality, uh, because unfortunately as this expands, you know, in, in certain areas, you get individuals that might boast about their qualifications and it might not necessarily be the case, or I have gone through ceremonies where you can tell that the healer is very, [00:56:00] very junior, in the US anyway, some of these underground ones. And there's other ones that are great. And at a certain [inaudible], I'm not, I'm not here to judge. I'm not a master like practitioner, but there are certain measures that we can indicate that they're just going to be safer for the veteran. Um, and so just that baseline kind of thing. So for my own healing, I would say I've probably gone through in terms of like a deep dive, like, uh, about a dozen for, for myself. Um, but I've gone through a lot of different ceremonies, just, you know, whether it's a smaller dose or, uh, facilitating for others, uh, various capacities, countless of those. Um, so through the process, I've done a variety of psilocybin, um, I've done a variety of ketamine. I've done the training, uh, with, with Phil Wilson, uh, who I'm actually going to see tonight, which will be nice. Um, I've done ibogaine, uh, the, the, the, the, the protocol that a lot of the [00:57:00] SEALS are doing, the ibogaine and 5-MEO. Uh, wachuma, which is mescalin for, for people who don't know. So yeah, across a wide variety, just, um, one for me to explore those and see the different dynamics of it and better speak to it. And then also where we're at, uh, Heroic Hearts is as somewhat of a unique organization in terms of, you know, we're, we're often dealing with veterans that are slipping through the cracks, that need help today. Um, and so, you know, great organizations like Field Trip and some of these other clinics, or, um, you know, what MAPS is doing, absolutely essential and is going to lead the way in terms of future therapeutic offerings. Uh, but we're one of the few, because we can work out of country or just facilitate people going that we can actually kind of explore how some of these different modalities work together in a person's own healing journey. Um, and so that's sort of what we're trying to figure out right now. Like, okay, well [00:58:00] maybe if a veteran goes through, you know, maybe a Field Trip might be a first stop and really get them on that stable ground and better understanding. And then if they're still having other struggles or maybe more spiritual struggles, maybe some other modality down the line might be advisable. And so that's what we're trying to figure out right now and sort of expand all of our understanding and, you know, talk with, with you, and with people in your organizations talk with some of these other amazing people that are also on that pathway. Um, and yeah, at the end of the day, every, every substance I think has something to offer. Especially the, you know, the, each one has its own personality. Uh, the, whether it's psilocybin, ayahuasca the, they they're similar, but they're very different. Uh, you can get different sort of things from them. Um, and so that's really my, my sort of belief system and mental health. And I think where we've fallen, kind of like what you're saying with anxiety, where I [00:59:00] think if we, instead of you have anxiety, so this is your protocol, have that as a start case of like, okay, this is a symptom and this is what you're describing. Where is that coming from? Where's- is this depression coming from multiple factors, like your diet, genetics, all this kind of stuff? And then have a better understanding of the individual. And then as we grow, maybe have a better understanding of where or which psychedelic, which substance, which of these newer modalities or at least newer for the psychotherapy world, modalities that might fit with where they're at. Um, cause I wouldn't say, you know, ayahuasca for everybody. And we're actively trying to not just push that mentality of like the psychedelics going to cure all your ailments. And the psychedelic is the quickest path to healing. It's all, as we all know, it takes work, it takes preparation, integration. Uh, but also it takes understanding what the person needs, where they're coming from. So it's, it's been interesting, uh, going through these different ceremonies and even [01:00:00] different healers of how they do it. It can all be very, uh, unique, add different messages.

[01:00:05] Ronan: Uh, two questions, uh, before I forget them. Uh, first one is, uh, have you found the incremental benefit of say the 12th ayahuasca ceremony that you've participated in, uh, has decreased or do you find them equally as meaningful? And the second question that I'm going to ask, just because I'll forget if I don't spit it out right now is what have you found to distinguish, you know, good healers or guides or however, whatever word you wanna use, uh, from those who are less good, certainly experiences a factor, but is, are there other criteria that you've come to find that, you know, affects your opinion of it?

[01:00:43] Jesse: That's a great question, and I get that a lot. Um, and so in terms of the first part, um, I believe trauma is somewhat of sort of a layer system, kind of what we're saying with like veterans, where oftentimes it could be childhood trauma, or there might be different [01:01:00] dynamics that we're able to explore a different parts of real life. You know, sometimes if- you have to build a foundation if you're a very traumatized person, it's not necessarily healthy for everything to come out and either address everything. There's there's little compartments of, okay, let's unlock here. Okay, let's process that. Maybe that goes a little bit deeper. Um, and so there are with any of these in this, you know, ayahuasca is no exception, you do find people who almost form a dependence to where it does provide sort of this clearing out of the system, and this insight, but oftentimes people will just continually go and not make improvements in their life. They'll kind of use as a dependent sort of thing of like, all right, well, I haven't done any work. I'm still experienced the same sort of stuff. Let me go back. They'll get the same lesson. They'll feel great. Okay. I'm not going to do any of the work. They'll go-

[01:01:53] Ronan: Yeah, like going through a car wash and not, uh, not getting the wax, right? Like you're going to keep getting dirty and dirty [01:02:00] and dirty and it's like, yeah, you can keep going back. But if you're not actually addressing it you're just on a different, you know, cycle.

[01:02:08] Jesse: Yeah, like I, you know, I've seen people that just go right to the bar right after their experience. I'm like, okay, well, let's, what's the point, you know? I mean, that's, that's sort of the Western mentality. Um, so for me, uh, you know, it was one just sort of exploring my relationship with it and kind of continuing on down the ayahuasca. So there was, uh, to the point where- I got to a point where I was like, okay, I've explored. And so even now, like when I'm doing, when I'm going to ceremony kind of more in a vetting sort of mentality where I'm not drinking a lot, I'm just maybe taking a micro dose, uh, sitting through the ceremony to see how it, how it goes. Um, also get some nuggets of truth. Also get like, Hey, dummy you're you're you could do this better. And like, Oh yeah I remember that. But generally speaking mine, mine right now where I'm at, I [01:03:00] don't, uh, necessarily need the deep dive at this moment. I know where I'm falling off the path. I know what improvements I can make my life. Whether I do that, whether I have the energy and discipline on a day-to-day basis is that constant, you know, check in with ourselves. And that's not to say down the line, you know, once whatever I'm doing right now, I know what I kind of need to do, and I know what the tools I need to get there. So when I get to that spot down the line, then I'm sure there might be other stuff that I need to address then and open up. And that's for that further exploitation, whether that's a deeper dive, like a [inaudible] and ayahuasca or something else. So it's really- the process is not necessarily the number. The process is coming to understand yourself better, coming to be more connected with your intuition to where, are you saying you need this experience because uh, you're, you're, you're looking for the easy answer and you down everything else, [01:04:00] or are you going there because you legitimately need that sort of reset? You need sort of the, to explore some more tools. And there's no perfect, but it's kind of more of the understanding yourself better. It's all like the emotional intelligence, the more emotional intelligence you have, the less you need other things. You can kind of process trauma. Like you said, of like, if I wake up or in the mid day, Hey, I'm really anxious. And then if you have more of that emotional intelligence, you'll be more connected to the source of that, of like, oh, well, it's because I've been lax on this or because I, you know, have this- I treated this person wrong and I haven't really addressed that appropriately, or I reacted badly to my spouse. What have you. So that's kind of that relationship with it. And in terms of your second question, and then again, I want to reiterate, like I'm not here to put the stamp of approval or denial on a shaman or [inaudible] or maestro. Uh, that- that's absolutely not my job. I have no position or authority [01:05:00] in that. Uh, for our side, it's really just sort of like a safety kind of standard. Um, and, and cause there's a lot of different, uh, there's a lot of different ways of approaching it too. Like, you know, ayahuasca especially coming from Amazonian region and throughout the Amazonian region, there's, there's countless, um, traditions, beliefs, and I don't think it's for anybody to say like, you know, this is the only way, uh, to, to approach it. So for us, it's sort of the safety of like, how do they approach it? How do they prepare people? What is the set and setting look like? How do they bring people into that? What's the environment, the community, how do they approach it? So there is, um, with some of these ceremonies, there tends to be kind of more of the communal gatherings. You know, people who use it, more of that communal setting, who will come to it a lot, have that, have some trauma processing. Uh, but for us with the veterans, we're looking for more of like deep dives, really trauma focused ones, which can be a much more intense and much more, you [01:06:00] know, you're, you're in your own mode. And that really also depends on sort of the ayahuasca itself and the, how the healer moves the ceremony. So looking for those sorts of things. And then within the ceremony, um, there's just a few things of how the person at the center of- the healer runs it, you know, so I've been to a few where it's just a little bit chaotic and there's just a lot going on and a lot of noise and all that kind of stuff. And they just don't have control of the room or control of the energy of what you have. And then there's others where there just seems, you know, myself and other people experience where there just seems to be a disconnect between, you know, what's going on, especially the icaros and the, the, the, the sessions and just their connection to the people as well. So just kind of looking for those and, you know, obviously if there's any major red flags, but at the end of the day, it's kinda more of that baseline, like safety check, because we are dealing with a very, uh, specific population with very specific traumas and poignant [01:07:00] traumas. So we want people- at the end of the day, like we want people, especially healers that knows what they're doing. And that comes from a lot of experience working with it. It's not- there's not ever going to be like, okay, you went six months or six weeks? You're a shaman now. Now it's going to be, I think, more of how long have you been doing this? How have you approached it? And how long have you been working with people? Because the biggest worry is that, generally speaking, those psychedelics do the heavy lifting, they bring people to the spot. So somebody who's never done it, was like, oh, that's an amazing experience. But it really is those cases that are the harder ones I have to be concerned about where the person doesn't know what they're doing and the person's having a particularly hard time or just opens them up and they're, you know, they remain open after ceremony or what have you, um, that, that can actually lead to some, some dangerous situations that we've had, uh, how to deal with, of people going into ceremonies that I wouldn't have necessarily recommend [01:08:00] them go to and then really have to work hard in the integration, have to bring people in that know what they're doing to kind of get them back sort of on solid ground, so to speak.

[01:08:09] Ronan: Yeah. Cool. Thank you. Um, yeah, I guess, uh, it's not as easy as having a shaman who has like that little sign being like, Hey, it's been four days since we had the last psychic meltdown or whatever it is. Um, yeah, no, I think that that's very valid and yeah, I w- I certainly didn't mean to put you on the spot in terms of, you know, stamp of approval, but having had a lot of experience and, and for people who are listening, you know, one of the things that like often is advised is if you're not doing it in a, in a therapeutic center that has people who have qualifications like therapists and all that kind of stuff- and I get that's not always relevant to the forms of, uh, experience we're talking about here, um, it's really hard to tell people, assess whether someone is a competent, you know, shaman, guide, healer or whatever word do you want to use or, or not. So it's, it's always good to get a [01:09:00] sense of, um, you know, how you look at it and, and how you sort of put your expression of confidence behind people. So thank you for sharing that. Uh, I know we're coming up to the end of our allotted time. I had one other- well, I have a few other questions, but I'll limit it to one, to be respectful of your time. Um, and this is something I'm really curious about, cause you kind of grew up in the same, uh, age range as I did. And, and you also referenced like the D.A.R.E. Program, and so I'm curious, based on your experiences, on a scale of one to ten, how much, uh, do you want to turn your old warrior spirits on the people who perpetrated the D.A.R.E. Program on society? You know, the war on drug- I'm only kidding, like in terms of like the actual, like turn your warrior spirit on it. But honestly, with each psychedelic experience I have, my belief that the criminalization of psychedelics was much more criminal than anything pertaining to psychedelics themselves. Um, you know, especially when done in a controlled setting in a therapeutic environment and, and, you know, I think there's probably a lot of [01:10:00] percolating rage that's going to come up as people kind of say, like, why didn't I not have this help before? Or why was this not available to my brother who committed suicide? Um, and I'm just wondering if, if you've experienced all that or you're just kind of pretty copacetic being like what was, was, and, uh, focused on the future?

[01:10:17] Jesse: No, I mean it's, it's absolutely tragic. And I think it gets more tragic on so many different levels, the deeper dives. So, I mean, on the, on one level, like what you're saying is just, if you really consider, especially with all the research that was coming out in the sixties and a lot of the, you know, very, they're very, um, supportive of, of all this work. And you look at MDMA where it was actually used in therapeutic settings where it just kind of got that blanket shut down. And if you just look at that, especially from the Army context of how many people have suffered needlessly, from my perspective, anyway, know from [inaudible] in the army complex- context. Um, and so yeah, you can almost say, like, [01:11:00] there's been generations after generations of people who've been needlessly suffering and, you know, mental health has actually been held back by 50 plus years because of the stigmas, because of these government campaigns. And that deserves, that deserves to be angry. I think it deserves to have anger that is productive though, as all of these. And then from the racial component, that is another can of worms that absolutely does, and that's still continues today, which is a conversation that we need to have of, you know, and it is being had. But, you know, we constantly need to check that out as you, you know, you saw it with the cannabis space where it was predominantly minority communities that got arrested and then it was predominantly, uh, non minority communities that made, you know, tons of money once it became legal. And so can we balance that out with, with psychedelics and policies and, and all this, all this other kind of stuff, there's all sorts of other stuff. Government control, the war on drugs, you can go [01:12:00] deep into the devastation of South America and the con the control factor of the war on drugs and, and the replication, the, the repercussions of all that. So there's so many different avenues, but I would suggest to people not and not to get lost in that. Anger is, is, is, uh, is a powerful, and it can be a good emotion if you use it productively, if you use it to actually understand what happened instead of saying of, 'f' those people, like I hate them, but understand the mechanisms that they- past generations used it to work and make those effective changes to make sure it doesn't happen again. Um, I mean, that's the only thing we can do. So that's my mindset of the psychedelic revolution, I think, is showing all sorts of different holes and flaws and control and manipulation of the systems that, you know, uh, on [01:13:00] many levels we respected, but, or, or should still respect, but clearly have issues, clearly have spots. And you can even just look at the baseline- we all, for the most part, I mean, it's a little bit tricky today, but we all respect research institutions. We all generally respect of like, okay, they're just trying to help humanity doing the scientific method, all that kind of stuff. But when we realize how many walls and limitations psychedelics had needlessly, and still to this day, we're fighting that same cause, that that deserves to be questioned. Why, why are we in this situation? Why have so many people been left without mental health? Uh, and that indicates to me a broken system, a broken political system as well, uh, the fact of how easy the war on drugs was used to manipulate the population, and still today. All these things need to be questioned, understood, dissected, analyze, and figured out how do we make these changes to where we can't [01:14:00] just control people based off of made-up fears. And obviously that's a big task, and I don't, I don't know how we're going to fix it, but it is- in my mind, that's, that's, that's what we can do of understand, uh, what went wrong, where the holes are, what was used, um, in a, in a bad way, and figure out if we're going to reestablish these models of psychedelics in a more progressive way, how do we avoid that? How do we not fall into the same route? How do we actually use this in a productive, healthy way to help everybody, not just the people that can afford it, but oftentimes the disserved communities as well. And still respect the communities that have been saving this and preserving this, this knowledge for decades and not just steamroll their customs and cultures as well. So there's a big, it's a heavy lift. But I think- from what I've seen with this movement, you know, there's always going to be good amount of players, but I've seen some very inspiring [01:15:00] people that have taken the extra time and diligence to ask the questions, to talk to different communities and try to bring in as many voices as possible. It's never going to be perfect, but I have been, uh, cautiously optimistic from what I've seen a lot of ways. So, uh, we're just trying to do our part too, to, you know, respectfully represent the veteran voice as much as the community allows us to, but then also work with organizations like Shakruna and indigenous communities and, um, native American communities as well, in the US, and. you know, not trying to overstep what we're doing, but build this together.

[01:15:38] Ronan: That's awesome. Well, thank you Jesse so much for your time. Uh, the work you're doing at Heroic Hearts is absolutely fantastic and important. Um, and you know, I think especially with the important role that the military plays in the psychology of Americana, um, as we heal [01:16:00] more veterans through either ketamine assisted therapy or doing the ayahuasca work or anything along those lines, it will, uh, disproportionately move the conversation faster in a more productive way because people care so much about, you know, how, how our veterans get treated, so uh, what you're doing is not just helping on an individual basis, which it is on a massive level, I think it's going to amplify your work and everybody's work in the space so much. So, so thank you for what you do. It's, it's great to have you on the podcast and continue the good work and we'll continue to support you as the best we can and then vice versa hopefully.

[01:16:40] Jesse: Yeah. Thank you so much, Ronan. Pleasure to talk to you and looking forward to, to building these, these new systems and helping more people together with, with you all as well.

[01:16:49] Ronan: Awesome. Are you going to be in Vegas or Miami for Meet Delic or Wonderland?

[01:16:55] Jesse: Yeah, I mean, well, for whatever reason, everybody decided the same dates to put everything. [01:17:00] So I have like a series of four different conferences coming up, so I'll be in Meet Delic. We have a table, I'll do a fireside chat. I'm going to try to make it to Miami Wonderland. Um, at the very least we have Brandon Weiss, who uh, did research at University of Georgia, is now at Imperial College. He'll be representing us and representing the research. Um, and then there's Horizons. Uh, there's one in December, but there's also a veteran-specific one, November 10th in New York. Um, and among many others. So I'll do my best to hop around.

[01:17:33] Ronan: Awesome. Well, I'll see you at Meet Delic and hopefully we can chat in person then.

[01:17:37] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely.

[01:17:42] Ronan: A great philosopher once said, hint- that philosophy has me, that the great mistake we make in life is believing that we are in control. And the greatest fallacy we make is that we'd want control, even if we could have it. And as Jesse and I spoke, this thought kept coming back to me. Case in [01:18:00] point, the entire training process for the military and becoming a Ranger is to learn in part to control your pain, to control your emotions. The thing that I think many people forget or ignore, and growing up until well into my thirties, this certainly was me too, is that there is no such thing as controlling your emotions. You can bottle them up. You can put them in a box, but the information in them, the motion in them doesn't go away. It's just diverted. It's like Jesse described how we stopped fighting the waves of a psychedelic experience, trying to control your emotions is just like building a dam. It doesn't stop the flow of energy. It just causes it to build up and build up, build up and build up. And then eventually the dam cracks or overflows. And if you're a soldier, it's not a slow buildup, you get hit by a monsoon of emotional intensity when in the military, and particularly when in combat, and there is no release valve. Not that a release valve would necessarily solve the [01:19:00] problem, but it might mitigate it. But before we potentially castigate the military for creating such an environment of emotional repression, think about what could be if we turn that capacity of a soldier, that capacity of repression, and turned it into a capacity for love or freedom, then such a soldier would be in the words of Tom Robbins, not a fighter, an adventurer. He doesn't attack, he engages. He doesn't defend, he expands. He doesn't destroy, he transforms. He doesn't project, he explores.

[01:19:40] Caller: Hey Ronan. This is Ryan, from Dallas, Texas. As someone who lives with a family member struggling with severe depression and other mental health conditions, what can I do to make sure that depression doesn't rub off onto me?

[01:19:53] Ronan: Hey Ryan, that's a very important and truthfully very challenging question, especially considering that [01:20:00] there's evidence out there showing that living with someone battling depression actually increases the probability of that person who was taking care of them, becoming depressed themselves. It's the old expression of misery loves company. Uh, and there's no perfect answer about how to deal with it. I think the most important things is to, a, have a lot of empathy, you know, at the end of the day, I think empathy is one of the most freeing and powering emotions out there, which is those people are suffering. And it's very easy for us to start blaming them or ourselves as part of the process. And that doesn't lead to anything truthfully productive. Remind yourself that as much as you may struggle with what they're going through, they're probably struggling even worse, uh, and then they're having a hard time. And so just trying to tap into that emotion and, and, you know, center into your heart every time things get challenging are hard. It's not easy [01:21:00] and it's not a perfect solution, but I think if you can find the empathy deep inside yourself to realize what they're going through is probably worse than what you're experiencing, that will help a lot. It's also, I think, important to try and set some boundaries with your loved one and also take time for yourself. And, you know, it's very easy to overcompensate for what they're going through and over-deliver and under serve yourself. And so making sure you take time for yourself, whether that's getting away for a weekend or for a bike ride or heading to the park or meditating or exercising. Anything along those lines, it really is important that you take care of your, your space as well, uh, and your mental health. Oftentimes people feel bad for being happy around someone who isn't and sometimes it can be, uh, sometimes it can be hard to be upbeat around those people, but it's really important that- to remember that this is your life as well, and you need to find [01:22:00] happiness, um, and to make sure that you don't blame them for, you know, what you experienced, but at the end of the day, you're responsible for your own experience. And so you need to make sure that you take care of yourself and give yourself that space and provide a lot of love and empathy for them as best you can. And just to understand that, you know, I'm cheering for you, man, it's, it's hard, uh, and, uh, I really hope the best for you. And if I have any other great suggestions or ideas, um, I'll be sure to share them as they come up.

As a quick reminder, you can record your how to question for us and we will play it on the show. Just go to speakpipe.com/fieldtripping, or you can email us your questions at fieldtripping@kastmedia.com. That's Kast with a K. Also, please follow, rate, and review our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm or wherever you get your podcasts.

[01:23:00] Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast that's dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly, and remember: every day is a field trip, if you let it be one. Field Tripping is graded by Ronan Levy. Our producers are Conrad Page and Harley Roman and associate producers are Sharon Bhella, Alec Sherman, Macy Baker, and Tyler Newbold. Special thanks to Kast Media, and of course, many thanks to Jesse Gould for joining us today. To learn more about Jesse's work with Heroic Hearts, please visit heroicheartsproject.org.

About Ronan

An entrepreneur and a visionary, Ronan is one the founders of Field Trip – with a mission to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy. Concurrent with his work at Field Trip, he is a partner at Grassfed Ventures, a venture capital and advisory firm focused on the cannabis and biotech industries and is Chief Strategy Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading biotech company in the hemp and cannabis industries. Prior to his current roles, Ronan co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, after which he served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. A lawyer by training, Ronan started his career as a corporate lawyer at Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP and Legal Counsel at CTVglobemedia Inc. (now Bell Media Inc.) He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, both from the University of Toronto.