Sam Harris on Psychedelics, How to Cope During a Pandemic, Taming Anxiety, and More (#433)

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“Nothing’s changed, but yet, on some level, everything has changed, and I feel like I’m in a spaceship where at any moment, the leak or the breach in the wall can be catastrophic. It’s a very bizarre feeling, which I know everyone is sharing to one or another degree.”  Sam Harris

Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) is a neuroscientist, philosopher, and author of five New York Times bestsellers. His work covers a wide range of topics—neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, meditation practice, human violence, rationality—but generally focuses on how a growing understanding of ourselves and the world is changing our sense of how we should live. His books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz).

Sam hosts the popular Making Sense podcast and is also the creator of the Waking Up app, which offers a modern, rational approach to the practice of meditation. Sam has practiced meditation for over 30 years and has studied with many Tibetan, Indian, Burmese, and Western meditation teachers, both in the United States and abroad. He holds a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.

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You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#433: Sam Harris — Psychedelics, Meditation, and The Bigger Picture
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear Sam’s previous appearance on the show? Check out this episode in which Sam discusses guided meditation, the optic blind spot, the distinction between meditation and psychedelics as tools, Sam’s post-MDMA perspective of spirituality, and much more.


SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Sam Harris:

Website | Waking Up (App) | Making Sense (Podcast) | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

SHOW NOTES

  • In the midst of a pandemic, is the time nigh for meditation, psychedelics, pangolins, musings on nuclear annihilation, and other dangerous ideas? Let’s see if Sam’s commitment to making the worst episode of the Tim Ferriss Show ever aired pays off. [04:16]
  • Three things Sam has learned about fear. [08:18]
  • A situation in which Sam was experiencing acute anxiety or fear and used mindfulness as an intervention. [11:37]
  • How long does it take to clean and reassemble the gun of mindfulness? [18:41]
  • What has Sam changed his mind about recently? [24:21]
  • Is there anything Sam has been particularly surprised or excited to learn about in the past year? [30:27]
  • Where can curious listeners find out more about Sam’s recent mushroom trip? Where can twisted listeners find out more about crocodile rape? [38:07]
  • Did Sam notice any persistent changes to his perception or behavior after the immediate effects of the mushrooms wore off? How does it compare to other psychedelic experiences he’s endured? [39:36]
  • Navigating time and in-between spaces on different psychedelics — in different increments — and returning to planet Earth and its delicious Triscuits. [46:05]
  • Can psychedelics kill you? Why does Sam prefer to err on the side of more over less when it comes to taking them? [50:28]
  • Is MDMA a psychedelic? What constitutes I? Another consequence to consider when underdosing without a sitter. [55:57]
  • In his youth, Sam’s LSD experiences were free from the famous “bad trips” everyone warned him about — until they weren’t. [59:42]
  • What we hope to see in the future for the use of psychedelics and empathogens as therapy. [1:02:32]
  • The messiah complex in novice users of psychedelics: You’re not Jesus. You’re not even Woody Allen. And against all instincts telling you otherwise, your grandma, nephew, and Sunday school teacher probably don’t need to do ayahuasca. Here are some great reasons to hold off on being a psychedelic evangelist after only trying these powerful compounds once or twice. [1:05:32]
  • Is self-quarantining an ideal time for an introductory experience with psychedelics? Well… [1:11:21]
  • Honestly, you couldn’t be blamed for wanting to do crazy amounts of drugs of every variety right now. These are trying times that make all of us question everything we know. [1:17:33]
  • What methods of relief would Sam recommend to people who are scared and suffering right now? What’s the best thing we can each do to make things easier for all of us? [1:23:22]
  • Worthwhile nonprofits and the most important four-word sentence you can be asking in abundance right now. [1:31:15]
  • Why it’s worth remembering how disruptive this emergency really is and why the stress you’re feeling is not a character flaw, but something everyone on the planet is enduring at some level right now. [1:34:20]
  • Stray bullets and silver linings. [1:38:34]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:44:14]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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23 Replies to “Sam Harris on Psychedelics, How to Cope During a Pandemic, Taming Anxiety, and More (#433)”

  1. Hi Tim, loved the chat with Sam. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD (age 41) after years of misdiagnosis (or at least prioritising) anxiety and depression. I was writing if you had any recommendations of which of your previous guests I could go back and listen to again with my new perspective?

  2. There are many gems to take away from this call. Having the big perspective and that humans are so adaptable that after a huge crises or a celebration we tend to go back to normality.

    One question to think about it how to get the most useful lesson as possible to help us this normality to be better than before and not worse?

  3. Regarding 5 Bullet Friday and your audio hack – I immediately thought of Boom app I use to increase my max volume and add software EQ. Usually the first thing I install on OS X. Give it a look. Nice update this week.

  4. Wow, this episode was so exciting for me. You and Sam are my middle aged meta-cog-geek version of Tiger Beat pin-up guys! Two very sexy brains. I am glad that toward the end of the episode you did get into psychedelics a bit, even though you were unsure of the appropriateness of the topic for an episode focus right now. I literally cannot tell you how personally relevant that topic is to me – for serious grownup reasons, but I am grateful to both of you for moving the meter on the topic in recent years and helping make it one that we cannot brush off. The research in this area is going to be even more relevant and important as the side effects of a pandemic and it’s social isolation requirements become more clear.

    I am nervous about the ways the media is choosing to talk about this reemerging topic after what happened in the 60s. I have no strong opinions on where we should be going in regard to recreational use of mushrooms, but as medical advocates are trying to get serious support, does it damage the cause when the media is most drawn to headlines that use terms like “magic mushrooms” and conjure up images “counterculture” hippies? Partial legalization of cannabis took forever, in my opinion largely because of the stubborn perpetuity of this kind of imaging.

    There are A LOT of people who are clinging to the potential in these studies as the only real hope they have for treating chronic debilitating medical conditions. Conditions that society does not yet allow them to speak openly about because of ill informed social stigmas. The importance of this topic is increasing by the day.

    There are ballot measures in some states right now in effort to legalize mushrooms. People need informed scientific wisdom on how to proceed with this effort. We should be talking about it because it is a very present issue in the real normal life issues that march on in spite of the pandemic conditions. I hope you will revisit it soon. <3

  5. Episode #433 with Sam Harris, wow, it’s a good example of why one should not take drugs. He is a philosopher of gibberish nonsense. You should listen to these his talk at the speed of tortoise and trying to relate how COVID is helping global warming. Really?! Btw, it was just released in the news that there is a decline in sub spots and cosmic rays will change weather to include cooling! And not in a good way at all. I can’t take you serious Tim.

  6. Hi, Tim. What would you say are the best 5 ways to learn the top 20% of a new study. I have no idea how to do the following but I would love to be an expert at Coding / Blockchain, Financing, Passing a multiple choice test etc. using the 80/20 rule. They major problem is, if I don’t know anything about the subject how am I supposed to know what the top 20% is of what I need to know. If that makes sense. Thanks Tim

    #4hourexpert

  7. Your discussion of fear in the early part of this episode reminded me of the book “Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert M. Sapolsky. It’s a great read, which I definitely recommend checking out!

  8. Hi Tim! I had just purchased and started reading your book, Tools of Titans, a few weeks ago… and it is probably one of the best books that I have ever read! It’s my book of everything because there are different people in it and each one is able to give me so much information and teach me about life by just 3-4 pages. Since reading your book, I have also started writing down the little bits of advice that I resonate with and find relevant and useful to me and that I can apply to my life in many aspects. I woke up today and started with another chapter, and thought to myself – “This is a damn f*cking great book!” so thank you for creating this.

  9. I have been mixing my play list from your podcast with some of those episodes from the beginning and some of the last ones. I realized that even in 2014 most of your topics are so relevant to today!! I just love Sam Harris and thanks for bringing him to your show again

  10. I am not sure I understand why you and Sam say at the beginning that now is not a good time to grow spiritually through the use of psychedelics or herbal medicine such as Ayahuasca. Since it is a period of decreased speed of life and increased introspection I’d argue the opposite…as long as the person taking it is not clouded by fear about the current Covid-19 situation. Thanks for the good content Tim!

  11. Tim I like your books and am thankful for much you have to say. Passing on the rants of a person who touts the benefits of psychedelics and writes books that focus on disrespecting the religious beliefs of huge chunks of the population comes close to totally loss of faith but that would be harsh and not very Christian of me for sure. I am not going to lose faith in you and I do hope you do not consider this rude but rather just a fan sharing his concern to someone I respect. I would rather write you directly (and privately) but this is the only forum I have to reach out, that I know of, to express my thoughts. Thanks for listening!

  12. Dear Tim and Sam, Mission Accomplished! By this I mean the worst PodCast in the History of Tim Ferris Podcasts. I am a huge fan of you and Sam and subscribe to his app… What a provocation of fear this was. I shake my head in disappointment that Sam is so out to lunch here. Great question however, about his change of opinion. He struggles with this as it takes a big man to admit when he is wrong.
    See video from yesterday May 18 [Moderator: YouTube link to “Inside a hospital coronavirus unit fighting to save sickest patients” from Channel 4 News removed.]
    where a doctor in a hospital has 18 beds and has 17 patients with “Corona”.
    Look at the numbers guys, they don’t lie. And the one that matters is the “death due to”.
    Fact is, normal influenza kills and killed more people every year, and so do cars for that matter.

  13. Thank you Tim again for sharing this. Very insightful and I loved the analogy of the airplane taking off and getting stuck in the clouds. That’s what I find attracting – breaking through the clouds to see what lays beyond.
    We’re living historical moments that will be spoken about for quite some time. Gaining perspective and distance on it as an individual can only help cope with it better,

  14. Hi Tim, This was a great episode, I find the ‘free’ talk so much more relatable than the usual control of structure. I wanted to ask you a question in connection with this interview and the one you did with Kara (Recode) with regard to your investing in psychedelics (thank you), which is the issue about pharmaceuticals especially their role in lobbying against this work and even, equally, their for-profit mindset interest. Thank you, Vanessa

  15. Good Afternoon, Tim. I’m making my first ever comment on your blog because I am wondering if you’re still a big fan of Evernote? You were an early adopter and sang its praises in 2015/2017, but with the speed of tech these days I’m wondering if anything else has emerged that has replaced your note-taking system?
    My reasons for asking are personal, since I am about to wade into the pool of psychology research and I want to find a good method for organizing information. (Your reputation for information acquisition is legendary, so I figured I would consult a pro.) Is Evernote still your go-to app?

  16. Big fan of Tim and Sam both, great episode.
    Is there any way for me to find a place/therapist for MDMA therapy?

  17. Sam Harris said in this interview that meditation can’t provide 100% certainty that there is no self the way that drugs can. I had an experience that said otherwise, and wrote about it, thought you may be interested to read it: [Moderator: link removed.]

  18. I love Tim’s effort and the great work he is doing bringing this to the public consciousness .

    Just a word of warning, when you hear people talk about 5 gms of mushrooms and they don’t talk about the species of mushrooms, you are not getting the whole story, they could probably do with a little bit more education.

    Not all 5 gms are created equal. Different Species can have a lot of difference in the active components.

    If you overdo it just enjoy the different perspectives it reveals.

  19. You’re the 6/22/20 quote on the Momentum personal dashboard: “People are smarter than you think. Give them a chance to prove themselves.”

    At an earlier point I may have agreed with you. After this year, however, I’m deeply disturbed that my fellow human beings (and especially my fellow Americans) appear to be much, MUCH stupider than I ever dreamed possible. 

    Do you still stand by this quote? How do you account for people thinking that “covid is over” because lockdown restrictions are loosening; or that the virus was never that serious; or that masks are completely unnecessary or even *harmful* to the wearer? Just what?! There’s science-based evidence that masks slow infection spread. Why are Americans so pigheaded about everything pandemic-related?

  20. Hey Tim–Although I dont agree with Sam but it was a good episode to hear his perceptive. I have reservations it may another rationalization for someone to hide their addiction in.