On February 16th will start the course ‘Working Miracles: Mindfulness & Psychedelics’, a six weeks online course imparted by Dr. Galia Tanay, who is a practitioner of various ancient ways and teacher on the path of freedom. Galia spent many years in deep traditional Buddhist practice and had been teaching intensive meditation retreats for the past 11 years. Galia is a certified Yoga and she holds a Phd in Psychology.
We spoke with Galia about plant medicines, meditation, the online course and the pressencial course that will be held in Catalunya next April 2023.
Here you can listen and see the complete interview:
I’d like you to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background with both psychedelics and mindfulness.
When I was 20 and I started it in India and Nepal. I met the Buddhist teachings in a very traditional context and I fell in love immediately. I was after a turbulent adolescence with struggling with depression and different kind of life questions as many adolescents are going through, and I found in Buddhism kind of a way out a real promise for a total change of perspective, and like a radical way to live my life. So between the age of 20 and 26 I was a very strict Buddhist. I didn’t even drink glass of wine! I took the I took the teachings really seriously. I’ve spent the long durations of time. So I did like a four months retreat on silence and a very traditional meditation center in the Burmese tradition, and I really kind of dive deep into this way of mind-altering practices.
How was the effect of that deep dive in meditation?
It kind of expanded my way of getting to know my own body in mind and, through this Dharma teachings, liberate myself through many of the patterns and many of the things that have been bothering me and kind of caging me within my own personal path. And then, when I was 206 almost 27, I already started to study in the University. I started a multidisciplinary path that led me to study psychology… I was just about to start my clinical master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, when all of a sudden appeared in my life this new calling in the form of ayahuasca ceremony. Actually the first time I drink ayahuasca was the same day I landed back from another three months trip to India and the two of my friends have decided to a to ceremony for their marriage and they invited me.
Ayahuasca after Vipassana. That should be a strong experience!
It was! I landed in the place where this ceremony took place and immediately like few hours after I’ve landed from India. I was already in this new ceremony and I really felt that after almost seven years of not consuming any mind-altering substances a new chapter in my life have started literally and I really felt like I’m leaving one cycle of spiritual growth and I’m entering into a whole new dimension of spiritual growth that I never could imagine existed when I was doing my Buddhist practice. I remember actually throughout this night throughout this first night that I was constantly thinking to myself “Jesus, how people are doing that without the preparation I’ve had and how do they how are they how are they able to take this intensity?” So this was the actually the opening of a very fascinating and long way that I’m 41 now. So it already is lasting for 14 years this first step.
Which tradition did you work with?
On the first years. I’ve worked a lot with ayahuasca mostly through the Santo Daime teachings. It’s a syncretist way of working with ayahuasca that combines influences from Christianity and Umbanda and a lot of forest Amazonian kind of local traditions. And I’ve had the real privilege to be exposed to this with amazing teachers and kind of really learn and deepening my way with the Santo Daime, and learn this kind of work that also integrates in a very interesting way a lot of meditation within the ceremonies themselves, a lot of emphasis on group work on discipline of the mind and body through the work with the substances. But this also was also just my first step in the world of psychedelics because from there things have started to open more and more and I have found my way to the work with the mushrooms, which I would say that now are my main psychedelics allies. I’ve started to work deeply with philosophy and mushrooms. I’ve started to explore in less authoritarian contexts. So upside trance festivals and working with friends in nature, doing a lot of work within my own home with my partner, who is also a long time psychonaut, so really kind of carving and building our own way to ceremonies, receiving our own songs and learning how to work with this medicines extracting and and finding the way to make them into our own spiritual practice.
Did you feel any contradiction between psychedelics and meditation at that time?
Well, in the first few years, I had a lot of conflicts. It took me a long time to bring together those contradicting ways. That one eve is saying that it’s even forbidden to think of consuming this substances. And it took a long while I would say about seven years of molding in these things together.
Until I really reached the point where I felt okay for me. There is no more contradictions and even the contradictions that exist. They are just enriching each of the ways… so I’m really excited to offer this course because I feel it’s like a beautiful fruit or like a culmination of many of the things that I’ve been exploring inquiring in my own personal path.
Sure enough, the psychedelic experience could be overwhelming for an untrained mind. For me it was also like a new level for the meditation process. Do you feel like this?
I feel it’s the totally feel that there is a very reciprocity between both. They are distinct ways of reaching altered states of mind, and I think this is the beauty in this tension between this disciplined and kind of solitary way of the meditation offers us a very gradual and arduous way. It takes a lot of effort and you’re doing it by yourself and I think this is very beneficial and helpful when you dive into the psychedelic room, but I have to say I constantly see the other thing happens just as just as well. So the opening into the psychedelics could reveal the real potential of the human consciousness to the person. I constantly see how when the same person is coming back into his personal meditation practice without any substances something profoundly is moved and changed by these. And I think this is why we see so much interlap and interconnectedness between these two communities: This is why so much of the psychedelic communities really interested in meditation and in mind altering practices that are not involving substances and a lot of the practitioners even though they’re doing it sometimes silently and they’re concealing it because maybe it’s not considered as legitimate. At the same time, I do see a lot of interest in the Buddhist Community with Buddhist teachers and Buddhist practitioners that are looking for this allies. This non-human beings that will support them and kind of push them to open more and to reveal more within their own personal practice completely totally see this.
This course about psychedelics and meditation is called “Working miracles”. Can you explain a little more about the word “miracles” in this context?
So I think both words –“working” and “miracles”- in this are really important because the first word is “working “and I want to put the emphasis on the working because this course tries to offer a new perspective on how we can incorporate psychedelic practices into our lives and how we can do this work. I mean I come from the Santo Daime, where they use the word “trabalho” (work) instead of “ceremony”, and I really am very deeply connected to this concept of the psychedelic and never to take the delicate journey as a way of working towards different means.
About the other word, “miracle”, it’ a very beautiful quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, which was a great Buddhist master who passed away recently that says “The real miracle is not to walk on water, but to walk on the ground of this Earth mindfully every moment”, and I think that this is the essence of why I have called this course working miracles because what I would like to offer in this course is offering people a perspective that will help them to make friends with this allies, this non-human beings these plants and mushrooms, these molecules and to make this alliance into something that transforms every breath every step into a miracle.
The miracle of breathing…
This is what I think about when I say a miracle because for me as a long-term practitioner, for example, when a person starts to practice many times they would sit and they would say “well, it’s so boring to look at my breath. There is nothing there!”. Then, through the integration of these two beautiful ways, after a year after and some ceremonies after, we contextualize this work and we take the inspiration and the help and the aid of this non-human beings suddenly, we sit with our breath and it’s like “Wow!, the breath is so miraculous, it’s so interesting!” It’s so rich with whatever substance it was that you were sitting and like your breath was like most amazing beautiful thing. This is the miracle that I want us to perform together in this group. And this is the Miracles that I really think worth working hard for. When I come to the miracles of loving, your children, your partner, forgiving yourself being whole feeling, this is such a radical thing in our modern world: just to be content and filled with joy, calmness and tranquility. Those are the miracles I would like to perform with the participants in this course.
Being in the present moment is the other miracle that we are letting go…
Yes, completely and I think this has to do deeply with that idea of a miracle because sometimes it feels and our day-to-day life it takes a miracle to bring us back to the present, with all this powers and all this influencers that constantly are trying to rob or attention and put us in a war against our body against our heart, against our minds. I think this is really very essential and I would definitely think that this is one of the places where these two practices totally converge because in a real peak of a psychedelic experience you are in the here and now, even if you are traveling in another dimension, there is something that is so much connected to what is and so much filled with this ability to be present. And I think it’s really crucial and we will definitely touch on how to use this or how to make the best integration so that this would keep going with you in your daily life. Not just when you eat mushrooms or when you smoke cannabis, because I think that many of the times when people are going to substances they make this binary or dualistic division. I want to work on in this course saying that the medicine is not just a material thing that you’re consuming. It’s not that we shouldn’t be having this consumerist approach towards this non-human allies. We need to start working with them in a way that keeps them alive or they continue to accompany us, even when we do not ingest them.
Should the people that wants to join this course have an experience in any of these two fields psychedelics and meditation?
In you that, you already will understand what I’m talking about because I relate to this states [of mind] in different ways. But I also think it’s a good introduction for people who want to start on this path and wants to get familiar with this integration between these two great ways and they want to have right mindset or the right perspective on how to start. What is creating a ceremony? What is altered states in general? What is mindfulness? So I would say that each one of the people that would join would get from this course related to where he/she started from. If you have a lot of experience in both fields, I think you would relate to many of the things that I’m saying or many of the suggestions that I will suggest for practice from a place that already explored it and already know this in a way but get a new scheme to look at that in a different way. And if you’re absolutely novice and new to that it would be like a great first step on how to make this exploration in the safest and in the most like beneficial maybe way, this is what I would hope it would help people to do.
The course is starting on February and it will last six sessions, but before that we are doing you are doing these free webinar next January 11th: “Psychedelics as a spiritual practice”. Tell us a little bit about this.
Maybe we can even call it “Psychedelics NOT as a medical practice”. I have a PhD in Psychology and I’ve been working for many years, first as a therapist and then as a supervisor and a teacher. I come with a very close experience with the psychiatric and psychological mainstream systems. So what I’m saying is not based on some kind of new age not wanting to get closer to psychiatrist psychology, but quite the contrary it’s coming from a very deep understanding of how this systems function. What are the guidelines? What are their principle? What are like the philosophy that is coming that is based that these two practices are based on? And I think that we are actually facing a huge challenge now in the psychedelic community because medicalization is trying to monopolize the use of psychedelics and this is a real problem for me.
How are they trying to do so?
It’s not only trying to monopolize through the very explicit means of like writing a patent on philosophy. This is a very brutal and evident step that the pharmaceutical industry is making, but I think there is a lot of war on consciousness right now through public relations and media campaigns and different ways of trying to create what my good friend Ido Hartogsohn, which published a very important book called ‘American trip’ about how cultural setting is actually creating the perspective through which you are grasping this substances and it is affecting what will happen in your trip. And I think there is a huge effort now and a lot of money that is being spent on trying to sell psychedelics as psychiatric medications and I think personally is -coming from so many years in the psychiatric system, working with clients, therapists and social workers- this is a huge mistake.
Because philosophical foundation of this system is inadequate and it’s not the right mind frame to incorporate the work with altered states and psychiatrists and psychologists. Because of their training, I would say that I think there are the least appropriate people in our society to accompany this mind-altering experiences actually and I would think that things that we are seeing now for example in the United States and countries that there are working on legalization and decriminalization of the substances and offering something that is called ‘adult supported consumption’, which is non-hierarchical which is dealing with the problem of suggestability under psychedelics. When I am, as a medical doctor, telling you that what you have a biological disease and I’m going to give you a molecule that will cure you, I’m creating a suggestion. I’m convincing you in an idea that I’m having and if I’m using psychedelics to enforce this idea, which we already know in most of the psychiatric problems. This idea does not function, and biological psychiatry is facing the biggest crisis it has faced in the last 20 years; it’s a very severe state of a very extreme crisis in which people are saying “the biological model of mental suffering is not working” and then, suddenly, psychedelics appeared to save this model!
Think Tank founded in Great Britain in 1998 by Amanda Feilding, a pioneer in psychedelic research in the field of mental health and on Drug Policy reform.
The world’s leading psychedelic research organisation. Rick Doblin’s MAPS is a global leader in training programmes for psychedelic therapists.
The figure of Stan Grof in the history of psychedelics has reached legendary status. His legacy takes the form of a comprehensive psychedelic psychotherapy training programme.