We just started a new year, and although what day or month or year it is need not necessarily dictate our progression in life, this still tends to be a particularly retrospective time for me. I find it helpful to look back at the past year, evaluate how I spent my time, who I spent it with, and what I learned from the experiences I had. This time around, I feel like I had the most important year ever in terms of inner growth. At the end of this years WSOP, I felt like I'd hit rock bottom. A stretch of negative variance combined with some less than conservative bankroll decisions left me dead broke and without a place to call home. For the last few days of my hotel reservation, I laid in bed depressed and with no idea as to what my next move would be. Fortunately, some loving friends offered to take me in for as long as it took for me to sort things out. Their unconditional love and emotional support, together with a couple profound experiences with psilocybin mushrooms (more on that later), completely shifted my perspective and helped me see that times of adversity are not only something we all deal with as a natural part of life, but they serve as opportunities to learn and grow. I sucked it up, turned off my ego, and started grinding low stakes with a sense of motivation I hadn't felt in years as a professional. I reminded myself that money doesn't correlate with happiness, and just how lucky it is to play a game for a living which allows me to live freely, outside the paradigm of modern culture which I believe prevents the majority of people from truly living. Ever since that shift in consciousness, I have let go of my expectations, stopped comparing myself (and my results) to others, and just let life happen. As a result, events have been unfolding in ways so surreal that I sometimes feel like I need to pinch myself to see if I'm living in a dream state. I haven't had any big poker results or financial windfall, but just little things here and there to remind me that everything is perfectly fine.
Now, back to the mushrooms. In today's society, the word "drug" is used very liberally to describe a myriad of substances which, in some way or another, have an effect on the body or mind. I personally find it ridiculous that we use the same word to describe naturally growing plants such as Marijuana or the Psilocybe Cubensis (one of the more common species of "magic mushroom"), which have proven to pose little or no danger to human health while having a variety of medicinal benefits, as well as substances like heroin or methamphetamine, which are obviously very hazardous while having no real positive effects. Even more baffling, is that alcohol and nicotine, which are available legally on nearly every major street corner, are hardly even thought of as "drugs", even though they are by far the most detrimental to society. As a result of both stigmatic terminology and a great deal of propaganda, we find ourselves with a drug policy which is essentially the complete opposite of what would be in the best interest of human health. We are practically encouraged to drink beer and smoke cigarettes, while getting caught with enough MDMA or LSD for you and some friends to have a good time can land you in jail for a year or more. I could go on forever about how preposterous all of this is, but most of you probably already know, and if you don't there are more knowledgeable sources than me. I have witnessed first hand and can say with absolute certainty that psilocybin mushrooms (as well as other psychedelic "drugs")can have a tremendously positive impact on people, as they were largely responsible in helping me do away with neuroses that were holding me down. Under the right conditions, aka set and setting, they can allow you to look deep within your own consciousness, diminish or destroy the ego's ability to control your thoughts, and perhaps most importantly recognize the connection between yourself and other people, which brings me to my next point.
I just got back from a cruise that is oh-so-appropriately named "Holy Ship!" It is essentially a 3 day electronic music festival held on a giant boat. With unlimited food and drinks, and some of the best (in my opinion) DJ's in the industry playing nearly around the clock, it was easily one of the most unique experiences I've had. The trip was highlighted with a beach party on a private island, which featured a wonderful yoga class and a pirate ship for a DJ booth. Now, to some people, this might all just sound like a bunch of kids getting fucked up and listening to bad music for a few days, but to me, it represents something much more meaningful. While there was of course plenty of substance use, most prominently MDMA or "molly" (which makes you super sensitive to the vibrations of those around you), there was also a wide range of demographics being represented. From older hippies to middle aged couples to millenials and kids who just recently turned 21, everyone was there with the same goal in mind; dance to some music, forget about the monotony of day to day life, leave all judgement at the door, and feel connected to everyone there. The community refers to itself as the "shipfam" and it's full of PLUR (peace, love, unity and respect; the fundamentals of festival culture). I went with three pretty close friends, and I know we all came away from the experience feeling closer than we did going in. Having now attended EDC in Vegas the last two years in addition to this event, I have noticed a consistent theme: non-judgemental adult play. It is vitally important that we allow ourselves to let loose and be silly even as we grow older, and these festivals encourage people of all different ages, races and creeds to come together and feel comfortable being themselves. Whether it be dressing in crazy costumes, tripping your balls off, or simply dancing like nobody's watching, its all good and nobody is judging you for any of it. You can be yourself and not feel like society is pointing and laughing at you for being different. And that's just the thing, although we are connected, we are all unique. We are like one long string of lights, and each one of us is a different color, that's what makes life so damn interesting. This year, I urge us all to look within and try to find who we really are, to express ourselves without fear of judgement, and to be kind to each other. Happy new year!