Click to download our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

Download our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide
Register for free Introductory Q&A on 4/24/24 at 4:30 PST
Register for Free Intro Q&A: 4/24/24: 4:30 PST

Inner Transformation: Psychedelics, Identity, & Equanimity Ft. Michael Wally

In this episode of the Psychedelic Passage podcast, host Nicholas Levich is joined by Michael Wally, a former software engineer turned explorer of the inner world. As they delve into the profound impact of psychedelics, you’ll discover how these substances can catalyze a shift from an external-focused existence to a deeper, more introspective life.

Michael candidly shares his own journey, revealing his struggles with depression, social anxiety, and a relentless pursuit of external achievements to find happiness. Together with Nicholas, he explores the pivotal moments that led him to explore the power of psychedelics and how they shattered his preconceived notions of self.

Throughout the episode, you’ll gain insight into the concepts of identity, awareness, acceptance, and the gradual process of bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to become. 

You’ll also discover how suffering can serve as a catalyst for self-awareness and growth, and how developing equanimity towards external events can lead to profound changes in your inner world. If you’ve ever grappled with anxiety, depression, anger, or feelings of directionlessness, this episode offers guidance on how to start your journey towards a more mindful and fulfilling life.

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Inner Transformation: Psychedelics, Identity, & Equanimity Ft. Michael Wally

Nicholas Levich:

Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Nick Levich, I am your host today, thank you so much for joining us. And this week, we are talking about how psychedelics can often foster the transition from the external world to the internal world.

And I figured the best way to do that is actually with an example of a client, a journeyer, someone who’s actually made this transition themselves. 

And this is something that I had announced as we were shifting into this particular season of the podcast is just highlighting the different perspectives. 

Jimmy and I recorded an episode previously, it would have been episode 21 that was along the lines of defining the work in psychedelic therapy or intentional psychedelic use. 

This is really going to be a complimentary episode, but from the journeyer’s perspective as opposed to from our perspective as facilitators. And so with me in the studio today, I have a client and a friend by the name of Michael Wally. 

We’ve been working together over the last two years. He’s a member of the men’s group that I facilitate. We’ve also been in ceremony together. And so I wanted to bring him in particularly because his transformation is remarkable. 

And just in the couple of years that we’ve known each other and been working together, I’ve seen, um, an arc of transformation that is, is really inspiring. And that’s part of what we’re going to touch on here today, but once again honoring his unique perspective, working through that. 

And I want to give a little bit of background and context on you, Michael. I’ll have you, you know, add whatever you see fit as well. But Michael was previously a software engineer, tends to be more analytical or rational-minded. He’s married, 39 years old and welcome, we’re grateful to have you.

Michael Wally:

Thanks so much, Nick. I’m really glad that you invited me on and I am really, really grateful to you. So thanks.

Nicholas Levich:

Cool. And so I think before we get into the meat of our episode today, which is really around, you know, reorienting our worldview, I’m curious if you could maybe give a little color on like where you started from.

I’m thinking about this almost like a before and after snapshot. And so, you know, before you had embarked on this journey, you know, with psychedelics and personal healing, where were you so that folks can understand?

What Led Michael Wally To Psychedelic Healing?

[00:02:36] Michael Wally:

Yeah. So as Nick mentioned, uh, software engineer and had been doing that for, for a number of years, just kind of finding myself a little bit unhappy, a little bit depressed

Definitely a little bit more introverted, just in general, having a difficult time socializing kind of socially inept, I would say. And yeah, anxious, you know, just a lot of the typical, you know, ailments that we all go through. And I was having a really hard time figuring out what to do. 

Like, I always thought, okay, you know, if I get a house, then I’ll be okay. If I make more money, then I’ll be okay. If I get a raise, then I’ll be okay, find a better job, and, you know, I got so many of those things. 

And there’s maybe a honeymoon period each time but, you know, eventually I realized those things weren’t moving a needle. It really wasn’t making me any happier. 

Eventually things would return to normal and I’d still be my same anxious self, struggling in all sorts of situations. And I wanted something better just in general.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, I hear that. And I just want to acknowledge that here you are on a podcast and it’s feeling shy, introverted and, you know, socially inept, as you put it. And so I think if nothing else, that’s just another amazing marker of, of the transformation that’s been made. 

And so, you know, given that that’s where you were, at what point did you decide that there was actually an issue or something that you wanted to work through and were psychedelics like the first thing that you turned to or what happened?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah a really good question. You know I think one of the first things that kind of gave me an inclination of this inner world of other possibilities of kind of doing the work on myself was listening to a lot of Alan Watts.

I mean he really turned me on to this possibility that okay, maybe the problem isn’t outside of me. Maybe I can do something to change myself other than you know taking more classes or what have you, to really move the needle–

To really change my experience and bring about what I wanted to feel in my day-to-day life. So yeah, Alan Watts was a big influence just in general. 

I also got turned on to Ram Dass and then Terrence McKenna, and Terrence McKenna was probably what brought psychedelics really to the forefront of, okay, this can really make a big difference. 

I started doing some research around that just in general. One thing led to another, I came across breathwork and I didn’t have easy access to psychedelics. 

So I kind of dove into breathwork a little bit first. Um, my early foray into that was more along the lines of hyperventilation and, and very–

Nicholas Levich:

Hahaha

Michael Wally:

–unsuccessful just in general, I’d say, uh, eventually came across Wim Hof and everything that he teaches and started finding some success in that and, and eventually you know, I was able to get myself some, some psychedelics and start journeying with that.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, thanks for that. And I guess I’m, I’m curious because this concept of internal and external, external world tends to be very foreign to folks who haven’t actually experienced it. And so I’m wondering how you would describe, for starters, the external orientation or the external.

The Difference Between External & Internal Orientation

[00:05:56] Michael Wally:

Yeah, I would say that a lot of it’s about identification and how I see myself. And, you know, for me, like I said, that was considering myself an introvert. Honestly, I’d consider that sort of external, you know, defining myself by my career. 

You know, I’m a software engineer. That’s, that’s who I am defining myself by any other labels or, or possessions or something that’s really not essential to myself right something that is very transient. 

That’s what I see as the external, so that can even include thoughts or emotions to some degree right? I mean, it really is a spectrum between the external and internal.

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

So yeah, that’s sort of how I would generally define it. Maybe how many friends I have, things like that social status, all of that very external, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, and I mean, we’ve talked about this on the show in previous episodes, that’s the social pressure and social conditioning piece as well. 

And you touched on this a little bit earlier, but like, how much money do I make? How nice is my car? How much education do I have? 

Like basically hanging your shingle on all of these external factors and what I hear you saying is that at the end of the day, it wasn’t actually moving the needle and helping you feel better, more confident, whatever it was that you were seeking emotionally.

Michael Wally:

Right, right. Yeah. I mean, you know, of course there’s, there’s a little bit of, uh, you know, some, some reward when you achieve, right. And you feel a little bit better for a while, but ultimately it never persisted. 

It never lasted. And that’s, that’s really what made me start turning inward, start looking for alternate solutions, was just realizing that it just doesn’t work.

Nicholas Levich:

Right. I mean, I’ve fallen victim to that myself as far as like trying to overachieve my “not enoughness”. 

Like if I just achieve one more thing or cross one more thing off my list or accomplish one more goal that maybe I’ll feel better about myself and it certainly didn’t work on my end either.

Michael Wally:

Well, you know, it’s so deeply ingrained in us from society and from childhood, from our parents. I mean once we get into school, it all ends up being so externally focused, like grades and how are you doing and comparing yourself really. I mean–

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

–I think comparison is a major aspect of that because you see other people that seem to be happy, right? And it’s like, okay, what do they have? What are they doing? 

Now I’m going to start trying to do those same things. to make myself happy and ultimately realizing that a lot of the people that we think are happy also are struggling, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Well, and I’ll share from my perspective as a facilitator, I’ve seen this with clients a lot where I’ll go to someone’s home and they’re in a beautiful house, like, you know, multi million dollar house.

And we’re in the middle of a ceremony and they’re sobbing going, I have this nice home and all this stuff and I’m miserable inside. And so this dynamic very much exists. 

And I actually, you know, my take on it is that social media has actually made it a lot worse in the sense that it inspires this constant state of comparison.

Michael Wally:

Right, right. And people put on a facade. I mean, we all do because we want to be happy. But when we look deep within, we aren’t happy. And we don’t in a way, we don’t want to admit that to ourselves, let alone anyone else. 

And so, you know, we have to take the smiling Instagram photos and everything and show off our goods and show everything that we’ve got to try and get that validation right? Because we do experience, you know, feelings of happiness and feelings of joy occasionally. 

And it seems to be through external validation, through things that happen externally. But I think that’s where we really misunderstand, right? Because when I got the raise, when I bought a house, I felt really good about myself for a while, right? 

And so that was, in a sense, it was sort of a red herring, right? Like, okay, this didn’t make me feel good. What’s the next thing? 

And eventually, you know, a fool who persists in their folly, hopefully eventually becomes wise and you realize, okay, it wasn’t getting those things that made me happy and you know, I’m always going to be stuck in this perpetual grass is greener on the other side. 

What do I need next? And, you know, fortunately, at least for me, I realized that soon enough before I had to, you know, continue achieving and reach a point where I’m just like, okay, I’ve got everything that I could possibly want. 

You know, I imagine there are a lot of, you know, very wealthy people who are, are just absolutely miserable. They’ve gotten absolutely everything and it just, it hasn’t worked.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, I mean, I often describe it as like this sensation where, uh, you have it all on paper and let, and yet inside you’re kind of hollow. Like there’s something missing.

Michael Wally:

Yeah. And that’s, that’s a very scary proposition because unless you’ve started to recognize this, this internal experience, this internal world, then it’s like, what do I do?

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

You know, it’s like, is this my fate? Am I just doomed to be unhappy?

Nicholas Levich:

Right. And so, were psychedelics the catalyst that helped you discover the internal or, you know, what happened there?

Michael Wally:

Yeah. So as far as some of my early journeys, hopefully some of us get to go through that sort of glowing experience, and for me it was very mind manifesting, you know. I think that’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s also very true. 

It showed me like, okay, what’s, what’s going on in my mind, what’s going on internally ends up manifesting externally, right. It’s like psychedelics amplify your experience. 

They amplify, you know, the mental, the emotional, the somatic. And at times it can, of course, be very overwhelming, but it really shows you, like, very clearly how this internal experience is what you experience just in general, is what you experience externally. 

And it makes you start to kind of turn inward. For me, one of the biggest, most impactful aspects was showing me I wasn’t who I thought I was, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Hmm.

Michael Wally:

Like after journeys, you know, even after the journey had ended, you know, for days after I’d find myself being so much more capable of socializing, I’d find myself even describing myself as extroverted, right? 

And thinking that previously I thought I was stuck that way. I thought that that’s just who I was and how I was. And then to go out into life and have the energy, have the curiosity, even have the mental capacity to engage with people on a much deeper social level. 

It was just, you know, such a drastic shift. It showed me that, okay, something else is going on here. I can change in ways that I don’t yet understand. I don’t know how to do that, but I’ve been shown this other side of myself. 

I’ve been shown this like very loving, deeply compassionate, other side of myself that I know that that’s sort of my actual self, right. But I don’t know how to be that way.

Nicholas Levich:

Mmm.

Michael Wally:

And so after some of my early journeys, it really became like, how do I bridge that gap?

Nicholas Levich:

Right. So I have a question because I think that this is, it’s a hard concept to grasp for folks that haven’t been through it. It’s kind of like one of those, you don’t know what you know, or you don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve gone through it. And so who did you think you were?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, that’s an interesting question.

Nicholas Levich:

I know it’s hard, but I’m curious if there’s anything that may be able to add some color to this.

Michael Wally:

Yeah. I mean, again, I think it really comes back to identifications. I thought I was a depressed software engineer. I thought I was somebody that was incapable of socializing. 

I thought that, you know, I was shy, like I had that label from a very, very young age. And that was something that I very strongly identified with. And I think much to my detriment. 

I also strongly identified with the label of being smart, you know, what you’d think would be a valuable label, but honestly it didn’t manifest that way. It didn’t turn out that way.

I had a problem asking other people for help. And it’s something that I still struggle with, but something that I’m now more aware of and can work with. So I saw myself as, as very independent, sort of a lone wolf, someone who really didn’t need other people very much. 

I mean of course we enjoy socializing, doing stuff with friends to some degree, but there was always just this underlying discomfort in all of that. And so I thought I was just an uncomfortable person.

Nicholas Levich:

Interesting. Yeah, and I think that’s a really candid way of just explaining how you were identifying. We can think about this as how we identify with ourselves or the stories we tell ourselves or the labels that we use to describe ourselves, all of these things. 

What I’m hearing you say is once you went through a psychedelic journey or perhaps several that you started to realize like, oh, these are choices, these are malleable things, and I can adjust the role, the label, the narrative.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s spot on. You know, early on, the contrast between where I would find myself at the end of a psychedelic experience and my day-to-day experience was almost disheartening, right? 

Because at some point you realize that it really doesn’t last. And so, honestly, I was tripping pretty frequently early on. You know–

Nicholas Levich:

Hmm.

Michael Wally:

–nine years ago, I’d trip as much as, sometimes every week, and it was enjoyable, right? But I didn’t have any sense of like, okay, now that I’m outside of the experience, what do I do to be that way without needing the medicine, right? 

What do I do to, you know, I didn’t have a very good sense of integration in general. I mean I knew about journaling and I do little things like that. 

And I, like I said, I had some breath work practices and I do stuff with that, but I really didn’t know how to actually change. I knew that it was possible. but I didn’t know how to do it.

Nicholas Levich:

Right. And I think this is one of those points that so anyone that’s listened to our show has, has heard us drive this home. We’re like, this doesn’t mean anything without integration, because at the end of the day, if it’s not impacting your day-to-day experience of life, what’s the point? 

Otherwise we’re just like chasing these weird peak experiences or altered states, but nothing really comes of it. And so. I’m curious, was there a tool or a framework or how did you get to this point of bridging that gap?

Bridging The Gap Between Our Internal & External Worlds

[00:16:47] Michael Wally:

Yeah, you know, it was very gradual and a lot of it was really uncomfortable. And I would say that the key to it in general, you know, if I wanna generalize it would just be awareness, right, heightening awareness. 

So, you know, like a lot of the people I dabbled with meditation, I tried meditation a lot and kind of similar to psychedelics, there’s some hype around that, like, well, “this is gonna fix you” kind of idea, right? 

The other aspect I think is really, and this is really powerful, and honestly probably one of the more difficult aspects is acceptance, right? Understanding where you’re at and accepting where you’re at. It’s hard to move if you don’t know where you are, right? 

So yeah a lot of it came down to a lot of discomfort and recognizing the behaviors that I would engage in normally that were not supporting who I wanted to be. Acknowledging just that I wasn’t living in alignment with who I wanted to be. 

And so much of that was, was very habitual, very compulsive and unconscious. And a lot of that is, you know, I’d engage in these behaviors as a way of coping with the discomfort, right? 

And so at a certain point, and I think I tend to call it the inflection point, is where you start to realize I need to change my relationship to what’s happening within me. I need to change my relationship to discomfort.

Nicholas Levich:

And so is this the start of the orientation towards the inner world?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think initially there’s this sense of everything that’s happening to me, everything that I’m experiencing is to be blamed on what’s outside of me, right? Somebody says something and it upsets me and that’s their fault, right? 

But eventually you realize that actually, okay, it’s hitting something inside of me. Nobody can sort of read my past and read my mind and know everything that I’ve gone through and, you know, walk on eggshells to make sure they don’t offend me, you know. 

And I think this is where relationships are extremely valuable, because we want to show up for the other person, we don’t want to ask them to, you know, conform to our wishes, because then we’re just controlling them and they’re not, you know, able to be genuine.

Nicholas Levich:

The mirror of relationship, it’s a funny one. It’s something that I have learned time and time again is like, in relationship we hold up mirrors for one another. 

And the question is like, okay, well, who’s responsible if somebody says something and I get offended? And I think different people see that differently.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a good way to put it. And for me, initially, it was if someone’s offending me, and they’re kind of responsible, right? 

And I need to go and try to manipulate something outside of the work outside of myself or even change myself externally, so that, you know, I conform to whatever they’re saying, like they’re insulting me for being a certain way. Okay, well, now I need to change my outward expression, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

Rather than looking at you know, looking at what’s going on within me and in particular that, that way that I relate to what’s going on within me. And I think, it’s sort of very Buddhist, but I think they’re really spot on. 

This, this shift of I’m either relating to something through a version, right? Like I’m uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I want it to change or an attachment where I need this, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Mmm.

Michael Wally:

I need this to be okay. And you know, this is, this is where the middle way comes in. And that’s a matter of relating to things through equanimity, right? 

And so to kind of circle back a little bit and get on this idea of there’s something happening outside of me and then it comes in and then I feel something. 

What I’ve come to discover the inner work really is, is “okay, now that it’s stimulated something within me, how do I relate to that?” Right? Do I relate to it with aversion? Do I relate to it with attachment? Or can I just sort of be with it, without needing to change it. 

And I think that’s something that we really miss. We kind of miss this idea that something’s coming in and it’s stimulating us in a certain way. And that stimulation isn’t something that we’re really choosing, right? It might be thoughts, it might be emotions, whatever.

It’s not something that we’re choosing, which I think is really important to understand because otherwise we’re beating ourselves up for something that we really can’t change. It’s more of a secondary effect. It’s a secondary effect of our relationship to it. 

And when we relate to it with equanimity, you find, okay, my mind is starting to quiet. My emotions are starting to calm down. And that was really kind of a profound shift and something that I really try to emphasize and I share with other people. 

And it’s something that I think you really have to experience, right? I mean, we can talk about it endlessly, but until you make that recognition yourself, it’s very difficult to even get a sense of what we’re talking about.

Nicholas Levich:

Right. I often think about it as like, we’ve probably all had the experience of feeling, um, triggered by somebody and it typically comes with an emotion and it also typically comes with a story or a narrative.

Michael Wally:

Yeah.

Nicholas Levich:

And in my own experience, what I found is that if we’re able to unhitch the story from the emotion, the emotion kind of runs its course and then it’s on it’s way. But if the story stays attached, it just keeps looping and circling and it does not really let go.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a really important point. I mean, it gets back to this idea of what you resist persists, right? 

And what you cling to and what you don’t want to experience, you know, almost, uh, for better or for worse, it sticks around, right? And that’s one of the sources of perpetual, you know, just endless rumination.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah. So we’ve given several examples of the external world orientation. I’m curious if maybe you can speak to what being oriented internally looks like. And we’re touching on it currently, but I’m curious if there’s anything else that you want to add.

Separating Emotions From External Identifications

[00:23:24] Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, probably the biggest change for me has come about to understanding this idea of surrender or letting go. And Michael Singer and his work was very, very pivotal in turning me on to this. 

So what does it look like? Again, it gets back to this idea of something’s coming in and stimulating me in a certain way. And then I’m responding to that stimulation, right? And creating space to recognize that, okay, I’m responding to that stimulation. 

Typically it’s compulsive. Typically it’s more like I’m reacting to that stimulation and that reaction might even manifest externally. But it is something that you’re actually doing. 

And the more that you can start to bring awareness to that, the more it tends to open up and the more that you realize that you’re responsible for your relationship to how you’re being stimulated.

Essentially, you know what it looks like, you know I like to try and make it practical because as we’re talking through it can seem very sort of nebulous like “What is he talking about? What does that even mean?” 

So on a very practical level it’s “somebody upsets me and there’s it causes tension in my body,” right? My shoulders raise up by you know, it changes my posture. It’s becoming aware of that and relaxing that. It’s relaxing your reaction until you kind of get ahead of it.

Nicholas Levich:

And so this is hard. This is not easy because a lot of times when I work with clients, they feel like they are stuck in that compulsive behavior. They’re like, well, I can’t get out of it. There’s no, there’s no perceived choice.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, right.

Nicholas Levich:

And to me, that’s where tools like psychedelics and meditation can be so helpful because it often inserts a little bit of space there between the response and the react.

Michael Wally:

Yeah. And I think in a lot of ways, it comes back to the sense of identification, right? We’re afraid to drop our identifications and, you know, the roles that we associate with. 

And a lot of times our reaction or our response is a product of those identifications and we tend to justify and rationalize. And I think this is where, you know, that analytical mind can really get in the way of making progress. 

You know, I think getting over justification for, “Well, I should feel this way in this situation or everybody else feels this way in this situation.” 

So, you know, I don’t have a choice. I’m just serving this identification. I often like to ask myself when it comes to any identification, is this serving me or am I at a point where I’m serving it?

Nicholas Levich:

Hmm

Michael Wally:

Right.

Nicholas Levich:

Like who’s in charge?

Michael Wally:

Right, right. And I think, especially with our roles, that can be a very difficult thing to recognize. It can be difficult to realize that it is no longer serving me to so strongly identify as this. 

In a way, identification is really the only part of us that’s vulnerable. Say you identify with your role and then someone insults you in your role, you almost don’t have a choice, but to you know, react. 

There’s no space because you’re so tightly identified, you feel like you’re being attacked. If somebody attacks your identification, it feels like they’re attacking you. And so you have to defend yourself.

Nicholas Levich:

So let’s bring this to an actual example. If I’m like, hey, Michael, you’re a bad husband, because a husband’s a role.

Michael Wally:

Yeah.

Nicholas Levich:

What, how do you reorient?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, let me take a moment to really think about how I want to respond to that. Initially it’s about bringing more awareness to, okay, someone has just insulted my role and there’s this other step that’s happening, right? 

They insulted me and I’m feeling it and that kind of compels me towards a reaction but there’s something else that’s happening. They’re insulting me and it’s stimulating me. And I don’t like that stimulus, right? 

So it’s a matter, you know, it gets back to this idea of aversion and attachment and equanimity. There’s this intermediary step and the only way that you can notice this intermediary step is by slowing down. 

So one of the things that’s been very, very important, especially in my recent journey is disidentification with thoughts and emotions and realizing that often they’re a product of the state of our nervous system.

I’ve been turned on recently to polyvagal theory, but you can just see it like this, right? I mean, we’re, we’re very often, and we’ve heard this before, we’re very often in sort of a survival response, right? 

And when we’re in a survival response, when we’re in fight, flight, or even a freeze response, that thinking, those emotions are more a secondary effect. 

They’re a consequence of the state of our nervous system. They’re sort of the ripples in the water, and we’re just focusing on the ripples, and there’s not much you can do about that. 

But when you are able to attribute it to, okay, look, my nervous system is, I’m hyper-activated right now, or even hypo-activated, like under-activated and in a freeze response, and my thinking is more of a consequence of that. 

It’s not something that I’m doing, right? I think that’s an important recognition. I’m not doing my thoughts. I’m not doing my emotions. There’s something that’s occurring, right? 

And they’re, they’re occurring as sort of a secondary effect or a consequence of the state of my nervous system, right? 

Like, when you insult me and say, you know, you’re a bad husband or something that amps up my nervous system that starts putting me into fight or flight and you know–

–using the words like fight or flight or freeze that might seem a little extreme. You know, so even just seeing it, and it is really a spectrum. It’s not discreet.

Nicholas Levich:

But you’re activated.

Michael Wally:

Right. You’re activated.

Nicholas Levich:

You’re activated in some way. Yeah.

Michael Wally:

Exactly. And once you’re activated, when you’re strongly identified with that, there’s no space for acting differently. So a lot of it comes down to learning to dis-identify learning that, okay, I, I am not my thoughts, I am not my emotions. 

I’m aware of them. And in that separation, that’s really where freedom lies. That’s where the opportunity to choose something different lies.

Nicholas Levich:

I certainly walked around for a large portion of my life thinking that my thoughts were me. And I think a lot of people do because we never stop to consider that there might be an alternative there. 

And I think that’s one of the big things I see with folks who do choose to engage with psychedelics in an intentional fashion is they’re like, oh wow, I’m maybe reorienting the way I’m relating to all these internal things. 

Like, you know, for me, I know it could be up for discussion, but like, you know, my thoughts are in my mind, my emotions are somewhere in my body, I’ve got these physical sensations in my body. 

And like, to me, a lot of that is the internal stuff. And so, you know, the arc of this episode is really going from you’re focusing on your job, your house, your car, your partner, your family to like–

–Now I’m cognizant of how I’m relating to my thoughts, my emotions, the physical sensations in my body, the way my nervous system is functioning. 

And so as someone who’s never been this before, it almost seems shocking that could contribute to a better quality of life because we’re programmed to think that a million dollars in a Ferrari is what makes you happy inside.

Michael Wally:

Those thoughts, those emotions, those sensations, once you start to realize that, okay, I’m the awareness behind those things, those things, even those things are external to who I am, really, right?

So, you know, I guess I just feel compelled to throw in that distinction that there’s still another layer, right? Again it’s sort of a spectrum of, from external to internal, it’s not discreet, it’s not like these things are outside of me and these emotions, these sensations, these are all inside of me. 

But this idea of identifying with our thoughts, I think It’s hard to start to realize that you’re not your thoughts, right? Because they’re so personal, right? 

And they’re attached to everything that you’ve gone through and they seem to, in a sense, speak the truth or speak your truth. But I think all of us have had, you know, totally crazy thoughts and we’re like, okay, I didn’t do that, right? 

And for me, I think that’s one of  the first places where you can start to realize that you’re not your thoughts is there are, you know, automatic kind of personal thoughts that are just happening that you’re not doing. And it’s initially kind of hard to make this distinction. 

So I really like this example, tell your mind to say hello, and it does it or think two plus two equals four, right? I mean, you can solve these things. You can have your mind do something for you. But then there are also things that you’re not intentionally doing. 

Like I mean, we think of anxiety or ruminating when we’re trying to go to sleep or something, right. Worrying about money. It’s not like you initiated that you didn’t say, okay, we’re going to go to sleep. Now let me start worrying about money. 

Let me start worrying about all of my problems. You’re not doing that. It gets back to this idea as sort of a consequence of the state of your nervous system in a way.

Nicholas Levich:

So what you’re talking about is that incessant internal narrative that’s always got something to say.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think initially when you start to become more aware of it, you turn to something like meditation, because you’re like, I’m suffering, I need to turn this off, I need to shut my mind up. 

And again, it gets back to this analogy of the ripples, you can’t stop the ripples, right, you have to find the source, like, why are these thoughts happening? And I think that really helps open up this journey inward. Why are these thoughts happening?

Nicholas Levich:

So I know that we have listeners who identify with a lot of the things that you brought forward earlier in the episode around feeling anxious, socially inept, perhaps depressed, maybe some anger, directionless with your life and career–

Michael Wally:

Yeah.

Nicholas Levich:

–what advice would you give to someone who finds themselves in that place and may or may not even be aware of the distinction between internal and external. Like how does one start?

Practical Advice For Shifting Your Own Orientation

[00:34:25] Michael Wally:

It’s an interesting place to start, but becoming aware of suffering. I think suffering really is the catalyst for a lot of this work. And, you know, the more we become aware of the rumination, the more we become aware of what’s going on within us that we’re uncomfortable with. 

It sort of amps up the suffering. And in a way that’s kind of what psychedelics do, it amps all of this up, so where do you actually start with it? I think that’s a really poignant question. It’s in developing a greater awareness. 

And there are so many different tools that you can use to do that. You know, so on the practical level, it is something like meditation, but it’s also understanding how using any of these tools fit into the bigger picture, which is what I struggled with for the longest time–

–Because I, you know, I had breath work, I had meditation and I employed so many of these other tools like journaling. And it just really didn’t seem to do much in the larger sense of things. 

And so it’s understanding how those fit into the larger equation of your experience. And then it really comes down to integration, right. And integration just being so, so important. 

So I’ve sat in meditation, maybe I’ve gained some clarity, some distance between myself and my thoughts, or I’ve had a psychedelic experience and realized, okay, this isn’t who I am. 

That comes down to integration and actually living that. So to me, what really made the biggest difference, I’m gonna come back to this idea of surrender and letting go, is that I am constantly in relationship with the external, right? 

So on a very practical level, Michael Singer who I mentioned uses this example a lot, of relating to traffic or relating to the weather, right? When you’re getting upset by these things that you really can’t change that’s an opportunity to be like, okay, I’ve sat in meditation before–

And I’ve been able to sort of detach from these things and develop a little bit of equanimity towards them now that I’m out in the world and I’m getting upset by these things that I can’t change. 

Now is where the rubber hits the road. Now is when I actually have to do the integration. And on a very practical level, that’s something as simple as, okay, somebody just upset me. I’m gonna take a single breath with the intention of just being, right? 

With not the intention of stopping the discomfort. And I think that’s another really important point is, what is the intention behind employing some of these tools? 

Very often the intention is, I don’t want to feel this way. And I think this tool is going to help me. I mean, especially with something like breathwork, right. And where, and really, I mean, so many of these things, drugs or, you know, intentional psychedelic use, a lot of times it is an escape.

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

Right. And it has to start turning to, okay, this, this isn’t an escape anymore because that doesn’t work. I can’t actually escape these things. It’s the reality of the world.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, I had someone explain this to me very well, and in a way that I appreciated where they were like, that is depression, you’re pressing these things that you don’t want to feel down. 

And it exhibits as this depressed state. And, you know, we did a whole episode on how the psychedelic healing process is not linear because people think it’s like the easy button. 

They’re like, I read the study or I saw the research or I saw the 60 minutes thing where it cured someone’s depression or anxiety. And it doesn’t really work in a one-to-one like that. 

And that was one of the main reasons that I wanted to have, you know, journey or client perspectives like yourself–

–Where you can speak to the fact that it’s not like the easy button. You have to actually sift through all the stuff that you haven’t felt in order to move through it.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, you really do have to do the work. I mean, that’s, that’s really what integration is about. And, you know, to be a little bit vulgar here–

–Any of these tools employing any of these tools, even psychedelics without doing integration is sort of just like masturbation, right? I mean, it makes you feel good. But it doesn’t last.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah.

Michael Wally:

As I mentioned earlier, this idea of sort of bridging a gap. You know, that phrase has been with me a lot, like, how do I bridge this gap? And it does come down to these fairly simple things that we’re doing moment to moment, you know, which, which is really underscored by awareness.

One of the ways that I like to look at any of these tools, I kind of divide them up into, okay, what’s, what’s a skillful way of handling this. Okay. I’ve been upset. Something’s upset me. Now, how can I skillfully handle this? 

And the sort of nuance, the subtle part of this is so many of the tools that we use can be used for good in a sense, can be used for good or can be used for bad, right? 

It can be used as an escape, it can be used as a way of numbing awareness and becoming unaware, or it can be used in awareness to promote awareness, to become more aware. 

And I think that’s a really important distinction to make, especially behind the intentions with… with which we employ these tools?

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

Am I employing this tool to escape this? Am I employing this tool to become more numb just so that I can feel a little bit better for a while? 

Or am I employing this tool because it’s the long game? I’m okay with how I feel, and now I’m going to start to really shift my relationship to the discomfort.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, I think about it as like, do you just want to alleviate the symptoms or you’re actually interested in going to the root of what’s there?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, that reminds me, I was listening to a book recently called Awareness. This author Anthony de Mello, he is a psychologist and he sort of struggled once he had a little bit more of a spiritual awakening, you know, with how to relate to his clients, do I just offer them a palliative?

Do I give them something to ease the pain right now? Or do I kind of let them suffer knowing that suffering is really the impetus. It’s the fuel for change, for awareness. 

I mean, we have to get it to some degree, maybe it’s unfortunate, but I think it also starts to change your relationship to what you might consider suffering. You have to get to a certain point. I love the way that the Tao Te Ching puts it. 

You know, it’s the sage is no longer sick because he is sick of sickness, right? You have to get to that point where. You just won’t accept it anymore and you know you have to change something.

Nicholas Levich:

I think this is one of the hardest parts about being a facilitator is you have to be incredibly okay with suffering because a lot of times we’re actively watching a journey or suffer, like to wail, scream, cry, like suffer, suffer. 

And there’s nothing I can do for that person other than be there for them, like truly be present with them, hold space. And hold it from a place of compassion for what they’re going through and also a deep sense of trust that they can get through it.

Michael Wally:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I’m really glad you got on this topic. It’s the idea of holding space, right? And it’s a spiritual practice in and of itself because our natural reaction is to try to stop the other person’s suffering, is to try to sort of react and fix, right? 

And I think relationships in particular, close relationships really bring this out, where you see someone suffering and it’s hitting your stuff, right? It’s hitting your baggage and that’s making you uncomfortable. And then you want to react. You want to stop doing that, right? 

I mean, of course we might approach it a little bit more gently and like try and offer them a palliative of some sort, but really this is a crux of so much of the work. And for me, one of the more practical ways that I like to integrate this is I like to use slogans, which are just, you know, kind of reminders throughout the day. 

And one of my favorites is “always hold space”. That’s holding space for myself and holding space for others. So when someone else is going through something, I wanna be there, you know, the way that I describe it is sort of silent compassion. 

You know, I love this anecdote from Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda meets Gandhi and he proposes this question to Gandhi, like, you know, a snake is going to harm somebody, do you then harm the snake? 

Do you prevent this by harming a snake or killing the snake or something? Gandhi said, you know, I would rather try to calm my own heart than cause injury to another. 

And I think that really demonstrates, it’s very exemplary, first of all, of someone who’s able to hold just incredible space. But I think it really underscores, what do you do in that case? And I think the idea is you just be, you don’t do anything.

Nicholas Levich:

Well, it’s also the beautiful way to wrap this kind of episode up in the sense of that, harming the snake is the external world example and calming your heart is the internal world example. 

And I think that that’s the gist of the topic that we’re touching on today is like psychedelics, meditation, breath work, all of these, these intentional altered states help us with that transition on this spectrum from external to internal. 

And my hope is that anyone that is listening to this can see this trajectory and perhaps take some of these little nuggets into their own life. 

And I do wanna bring this full circle and I’m curious maybe if you can share a little bit for folks on like where you are now because we painted this picture of where you started, we painted this picture of what the actual work looks like and then so now what?

Michael Wally:

I would say one of the best ways to describe where I’ve reached at this point is accepting where I’m at, understanding that this journey in a sense really doesn’t end, you don’t ever really get it done. 

I think that’s so important because there’s this desire to take a psychedelic once and then be done with it. It’s gonna fix me and then I’m gonna be done. 

The truth is you never, you know, I mean, it’s the good news and the bad news. I’d say the bad news because we just want to be done–

Nicholas Levich:

Hahaha

Michael Wally:

–but it’s the good news because it just keeps getting better, right?

Nicholas Levich:

Right.

Michael Wally:

And where I’m at now, I mean, the change is just something I never would have been able to imagine previously. I’m so much happier. You know, I can cry, I can laugh and those are things that previously I can say that I’d sort of lost that ability. 

I’d become so numb that I couldn’t enjoy myself, and I can do that now. I think the other important part is, I still have a little bit of anxiety, I still have a little depression and social angst, or however you wanna put it, but I see it so much differently. 

I relate to it so much differently. I’m okay with it. I almost welcome it. I see there’s this inflection point where when I’m at my best, I totally welcome the discomfort because I know it’s gonna take me even higher. 

It’s gonna get me even closer to that really wonderful space, that glowing space that psychedelics can get us into, right? 

That we wanna be that way all the time. Well, this is how to bridge that gap. It’s working with the discomfort. And so where I’m at now, I’m pretty happy with all of it, honestly.

Nicholas Levich:

Hahaha

Michael Wally:

It’s been an awesome journey and I really love to share it with other people and help other people get there faster, right? Because coming at it from this position of being very stubborn and a do it yourself-er and not being able to ask other people for help, I drudged through a lot of it.

You know, it took a while before it really started to pay off. I mean, I started. taking psychedelics for this purpose about nine years ago. And it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I saw very significant growth and saw real change. 

So now I try to share that with other people. I try to guide other people to a similar place. And honestly, even that work is really valuable for my own growth and it propels my own growth. And it’s a huge motivating factor for me.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah, I mean, I want to just acknowledge from my perspective, like your level of vulnerability, expression, confidence, your state of being is fundamentally different from when we first met and that’s probably just in about the last two years or so. 

Michael Wally:

Yeah.

Nicholas Levich

And so by working on your internal world, the external world recognizes it and sees it. And I think that that’s the most beautiful part of when we choose to dig into the internal world is other people notice perhaps more than you making more money or having a new house. 

Like it’s this true felt sense of like, wow, this is like a different person and I want to honor that and recognize that within you and just thank you for your vulnerability and sharing today. 

And, um, the one piece that we never really touched on is like you went from uh, being a software engineer to now working on your own, you know, coaching practice. And I’m curious if, if maybe you want to touch on that a little bit.

Michael Wally:

Yeah. Oh, thanks. Thanks for that opportunity. I realized that it wasn’t so much the external. So it wasn’t even necessarily the software engineering that was getting me down. It was how I relate to all of these things. 

And the transition, as I mentioned, has just been so mind blowing in a sense, it’s something that I really enjoy. I feel really rewarded in sharing it with other people. 

It’s like I’ve been there and I know where you’re at and I want to help you. I want to help you move along this path and I want to help you move along it. It’s so much faster than I did.

Nicholas Levich:

Yeah.

Michael Wally:

So now I’m working one-on-one with people. I’ll probably be producing some, some more content just to share with a wider audience, but specifically at this point I’m working one-on-one with people and kind of guiding them to, to be able to do these same things–

–kind of offering insights, you know, doing my best to meet them where they’re at and hopefully accelerating their growth and yeah, that’s currently where I’m at.

Nicholas Levich:

Cool, and if folks do want to find you or connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Michael Wally:

Yeah, probably my website. So it’s walkwithwally.org

Nicholas Levich:

And we’ll put that in the show description as well.

Michael Wally:

Okay great. So you can reach out to me there. You know, I’m all over social media, slowly, slowly building up some content there, uh, email me, book a consultation, whatever, you know, I’d love to just chat even.

Nicholas Levich:

Cool, well thank you for joining us today, Michael, and once again for sharing your story. I know that others will certainly benefit from hearing your lived experience of this story arc that you’re still living. 

And so that brings us to the end of our episode for today. Thank you for tuning in to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. You can find us on all major streaming platforms, whether that’s Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, iHeartRadio, anywhere else that you may choose to listen or stream. 

We thank you all for your presence, your energy, for listening. If you do like the show, we very much appreciate if you rate and subscribe. And if there’s anyone in your network who you think could benefit, please do share an episode with them. 

It’s one of the best ways to get the word out there. And if you do have topics, suggestions, feel free to send those over. We’re always tailoring our content to what you guys want to hear. So thank you again, and we’ll see you all next week.

Enhance Your Psychedelic Journey With Personalized Guidance

Hi there! We sincerely hope that you’ve found valuable takeaways that resonate with your current intentions. To explore research-based education, stay updated with psychedelic news, and benefit from practical how-to articles, we encourage you to head over to our resources page.

If you’re seeking personalized advice and are prepared to take the first step toward a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we invite you to book a consultation with our team of experienced psychedelic concierges.

This consultation is more than just a conversation; it’s an opportunity to be matched with a trustworthy local facilitator. You’ll be seamlessly connected to our rigorously vetted network of psychedelic guides, ensuring potential matches align with your needs.

Psychedelic Passage offers confidence and peace of mind by alleviating the burden of having to guess who’s right for you. If you want to discover how Psychedelic Passage can help you, we empower you to learn more about our services and check out client testimonials from those who’ve gone before you.

Your healing path is uniquely yours, and our commitment is to serve you at every juncture. Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic assisted therapy near you in the United States.

Looking for a professionally supported in-person psychedelic experience?

Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

Related posts​

At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.

Search

Search for anything like: microdosing, dosage, integration

Get Your Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide!

Just tell us where to send it…

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide!

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Congratulations! We've sent the sourcing guide to your inbox. 

You can now close this window.