What on earth are cyberdelics? What is mental wealth? Great questions both and part of the dialogue that is being conducted at the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence as we try to think out of the box about new ways to support well-being and thriving for all. There is an urgent need to find new therapies to stem the rising tide of mental health problems, and particularly to help those who are not currently well-served by our ever-decreasing mental health services.
Cyberdelics refers to the immersion in cyberspace as a psychedelic experience. In the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, even covered by the UK’s Radio 4 (!), might this be a “non pharmacological” variant of the transformative experiences reported by psychedelics such as LSD, DMT and psilocybin? Check out this talk by Imperial college’s Rosalind Watts sharing the benefits of magic mushrooms for depression.
You might also like this video by Professor David Nutt a former UK Government Drugs Advisor and key campaigner for more open thinking about how to open minds.
According to Professor Nutt, psychedelics are helpful for depression, alcohol dependence, smoking dependence, obsessive compulsive disorder and the mental health struggles that are associated with terminal illnesses. Whether this is also true for cyberdelics is an open question that requires research.
The evidence for psychedelics is mounting….but the researchers are still advising caution. Set and setting remain vital ingredients and screening and support is essential.
The data on cyberdelics is currently sparse and at the theory generation stage in the health field. However, tech giant Microsoft’s researcher Mar Gonzalez Franco has suggested that by 2027 “we will have ubiquitous virtual reality systems that will provide such rich multisensorial experiences that will be capable of producing hallucinations which blend or alter perceived reality.”
Let’s make sure we are using this tech in ethically informed ways – to heal rather than harm. For mental wealth rather than material wealth.
The mechanism of psychedelics and cyberdelics is obviously different (chemical changes in the brain from ingesting a compound versus experience dependent changes triggered by audio and visual input) but the same triple network (attention, default mode and salience) can, with mindful and heartful design, be activated in the cyberdelic experience. These three networks are the ones that get a workout in a mindfulness exercise and have been implicated in a variety of mental health conditions. These are many ways to tame, train and transcend the mind – but the speed and methods are very different.
Given the rise in mental health problems in young people, and the likely controversies of giving psychedelics to those under 18 (!) cyberdelics may also be a viable alternative. As they are delivered via technology, this may be an additional benefit as young people are already immersed in technology. This may be a route to foster healthier relationships with technology, a re-connection with self, others and the planet.
However, there are still questions to be explored, including a key one – who’s trip is it when it is external derived? Are the transformative effects the same or different when the primary prompt is external and how long might the changes last? Who does it work best for and is there anyone who it would harm? As with any therapy, there is work to be done to determine what can be helpful, without harming.
Our current mental and emotional landscape is certainly impoverished. Maybe it’s lucky our attention is totally captured by the external world, it can be pretty scary when we do actually pause to look inside. What we find with the mindfulness work is that we are not as good at paying attention as we think, we are not great listeners, we are highly distracted and often distressed. It’s no wonder we have such an addiction to technology and television.
In our society, we routinely observe the consequences of poverty of thinking (poor attention, shallow thinking, lazy decision-making and an over influence of bias), poverty of feeling (emotional numbing and addictions), and poverty of connection (with ourselves, each other, and nature). How can we reverse this trend and generate mental wealth – the capacity to think, feel and connect in deep and meaningful ways that are actually PRICELESS and yet are the heart of our human experience?
Let’s general mental wealth rather than material wealth so we can all thrive.
Event Feb 6th 2019 Let’s talk about using cyberdelics for mental wealth……
Come and join Dr. Tamara Russell and Jose Montemayor Alba on Wednesday February 6th at Coaldrops Yard for a mindful multi-modal cyberdelic experience (note there will be strobe lighting) and discuss the possibilities of using this technology in mindful and heartful ways to heal and transform.
This event will be hosted by Chris Conners from Be-Box. The Be-Box mantra is “sometimes you need to get into the box in order to get out of it“. So, when thinking about the disconnection that arises from mindless consumption of technology, might the poison be the cure? Can transformative technology, used wisely and framed within a neurocognitive Mindful 360 design process, be the cure for isolation and disconnection? Come and hear our preliminary reflections and get your voice into the debate.
Jose Montemayor Abla is the founder of the Cyberdelics Society which has as its mission “to provide immersive tools, methods, and techniques for catalyzing introspection, widened perception, and expansion of the possible realities within our reach.” This intention is very much aligned with the MCoE program of work to support paradigm shift in all sectors, and explore the ways in which mindfulness can help us to see how things can be different. This is especially now in these modern times where both our individual and systemic habitual thinking are actually harming rather than helping us thrive.