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Psychedelics, Harm Reduction, & Helping Men Heal

In this episode of “Law, The Universe, And Everything”, host Pacifico Soldati introduces us to Nicholas Levich, co-founder of Psychedelic Passage. Discover how Nick’s path led him from a background in finance, real estate, and legal studies to becoming a guide in the realm of psychedelics. 

Learn about his transformative apprenticeship under a shamanic practitioner and the profound insights he gained through his own psychedelic journeys. The hosts delve into the intersection of psychedelics, men’s mental health, and societal transformation. 

They examine the societal shift from prioritizing productivity and output growth to embracing the humanness of individuals, and they highlight the importance of recognizing each other’s humanity and the subsequent implications for advocating for basic rights and freedoms. 

Through their dialogue, they challenge the conventional norms and control mechanisms embedded in society, including the war on drugs and the need for honest drug education. 

The hosts discuss the significance of safe use and harm reduction practices, advocating for transparent drug education, drug testing at festivals, and the integration of psychedelics into mental health support systems. 

Time Stamps:

  • 00:00 Show Intro
  • 01:43 Guest Intro – Nicholas Levich
  • 02:12 Interview begins
  • 02:24 Becoming a psychedelic guide
  • 04:00 Spiritual apprenticeship
  • 10:56 Psychedelic Passage
  • 14:25 The evolving psychedelic industry
  • 20:33 Destigmatizing psychedelics
  • 30:47 The right to explore your consciousness
  • 36:15 Helping men heal
  • 44:21 The reality of individualism vs collectivism
  • 47:18 The need for men’s healing advocacy
  • 55:07 The kindest thing anyone has done for Nicholas
  • 57:00 Show Outro

Law, The Universe, And Everything – “Harm Reduction and Helping Men Heal With Nicholas Levich”

Pacifico: Hello and welcome to Law, The Universe, And Everything. I’m your host, Pacifico Soldati. This show explores topics from law and business to consciousness, spirituality, and everything in between. We feature accomplished leaders across many fields to help you get more out of your life. 

You can learn more and stay up to date at theluepodcast.com. If you’re not familiar with my background, I’m a helper, parent, marketer, attorney at law, certified mediator, story brand guide, omnist, yoga teacher, and a former paratrooper and award-winning army chef with the 82nd Airborne Division and US Army Special Operations Command. 

I’m the founder and CEO of The Soldati Group, a marketing agency helping startups, small businesses, and law firms leverage the power of story to grow their businesses. 

Law, The Universe, And Everything is a production of The Soldati Group. All opinions expressed by the hosts and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of The Soldati Group or guest employers. This podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only, and these discussions do not constitute legal or investment advice. 

Today’s episode is brought to you by Prosperitas, an animated video agency that can help you bring your company’s ideas, values, products, and messages to life with the power of video storytelling. 

Whether you strive to win more customers, engage or educate your audience, Prosperitas will craft each video specifically targeted to fit your brand and vision. Visit prosperitasagency.com today to learn more. That’s P-R-O-S-P-E-R-I-T-A-S-agency dotcom to find out how Prosperitas can create the best videos your company has ever had.

Introduction to Nicholas Levich

My guest today is Nicholas Levich. Nick is a cofounder of Psychedelic Passage. He serves as a psychedelic guide that facilitates ceremonial experiences in the United States with an emphasis on safety and harm reduction. 

He also does prep and integration work with an emphasis on the intersection of spirituality and psychedelics. Outside of medicine work, he facilitates men’s groups to provide men with support, accountability, brotherhood, and initiation. Thank you so much for joining me today, Nick, and welcome to the show. 

Nick: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Pacifico. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Pacifico: Pleasure is all mine. And so, I’d love to know, take me back, what first inspired you to become a psychedelic? 

Nick: It’s funny, because I don’t think it was a conscious choice in the sense that I set out to do this at a young age or anything of the sort. My background is actually in finance, real estate, and legal studies. 

It took me about three years of working in corporate America before I literally had the soul sucked out of me and realized I couldn’t do that anymore. And that basically contributed to my dark night of the soul. 

I ended up meeting a shamanic practitioner, an ayahuascaro, who in hindsight became my mentor. I had no idea that was how the relationship was going to go at the time. I was basically just trying to figure my own sh*t out. We ended up embarking on a four-year apprentice where I really learned the ins and outs of facilitation men’s work spirituality.

Eventually, he always told me from the get-go like, “You’re destined to do this work.” My ego had such resistance to it. And over time, those walls and barriers started to crumble and I realized, “Oh, wow, I really do enjoy serving humans.” And eventually, he gave me his blessing to continue doing this work, and that’s how I got to here in a very high level. 

Pacifico: Wow. So, how long have you been practicing? 

Nick: Psychedelic Passage was started about 18 months ago. And so, that’s really been my formal foray into this work. 

Pacifico: So, tell me more about this apprenticeship that you took on, what was involved? 

Nick: The vast majority of it from my perspective is becoming embodied yourself. And so, to me, this is what’s missing in traditional Western healthcare is that you can go to school and come out with a therapist degree, but no part of that degree is predicated on doing your own work, exploring your own psyche, and embodying the qualities of, call it, peace, love oneness, these higher frequencies. 

This work was truly a journey and embodiment. So, everything from various spiritual initiations to doing medicine work, myself as a participant, to then learning how to facilitate medicine work for others, and learning how to do men’s work. And so, it was a lot of different stuff. 

My first initiation, I fasted for 14 days on water only, and that truly rewrote my understanding of how I relate to my body in particular, but also just the interwoven nature of mind, body, and spirit. 

Pacifico: Wow, that sounds wicked intense. 14 days? 

Nick: It was more like 19 days without solid food, because it was juice on the front and the back end. But yeah, water only, no calories for 14 days. I’m 6’1″. By the end of it, I weighed 118 pounds. I had no more fat to give. 

Pacifico: Wow, that is so wild. Yeah, that’s a journey right there. [laughs] 

Nick: Yeah, it was really profound, honestly. And that really is what really opened my eyes to what we as humans are capable of, and that so much exists beyond what a lot of us experience here in the Western world. 

Pacifico: So, were you out in– not necessarily desert, but were you in some isolation or were you still just at home and you had to really work even harder to suppress the urges and stuff? 

Nick: Oh, yeah, I was at home and I had roommates at the time, and they’re cooking-

Pacifico: Oh, God. 

Nick: -and they are cooking [crosstalk] doing all kinds of stuff. 

Pacifico: [laughs] God.

Nick: Your sense of smell becomes so acute, because it’s the hunter mentality where if you’re an indigenous tribesperson and you haven’t eaten in several days, your sense of smell becomes really acute. So, you can go hunt or gather food. 

And so, I could smell like someone cutting an apple in the other room, which I had never experienced before. Yeah, it was brutal at a certain point, because I’m just watching them munch down on all this delicious food and I can’t do anything. 

Pacifico: Oh, my God. Yeah, I feel like I’d rather be in a sweat lodge or just in a tent in the middle of the desert with nothing to actually tempt me. That’s definitely way more hardcore to be just living a regular modern life, especially with roommates. Yeah, that’s wild. 

Nick: Yeah, it’s funny. I actually had to sign a contract with the naturopath that was overseeing the whole thing to basically say that I wouldn’t leave my house, because your blood pressure and blood sugar gets so low that fall risk is very high. 

So, he had a Marine that he worked with that he took on a fast. And one of his rules is that, men have to sit down when they urinate, when they’re fasting. This Marine thought he was tough sh*t and couldn’t or didn’t need to do that, and he hit the deck into the bathroom. 

Pacifico: Wow. 

Nick: It was a learning experience on a lot of different fronts. And honestly, the fasting itself was easier than the refeeding process, because that’s where the problems really arise. It’s like, you have to ease back into food at such a slow rate. It took me about three months to get back to my body weight pretty fast. 

Pacifico: Oh, wow. That is an intense and– Yeah, that is a long experience. And so, that was a requirement of essentially the program you were doing? 

Nick: None of it’s a formal program. The teacher that I’ve studied under and still work with today, it’s all intuition. And so, based on whatever it is that you as the student are working through, he devises stuff specifically for you. 

Pacifico: Okay. So, it’s a little more like way of the peaceful warrior. Like, you’ve just got a guru and they’re like, “All right, here’s the sh*t you got to do.” 

Nick: Correct.

Pacifico: “Just take care of it.” And it’s just about making sure you’re not faltering in their eyes in some ways.

Nick: Correct, because these guru or teacher type people, they can see through all of your sh*t. They have such an expanded level of awareness and such a strong intuition that they know exactly what’s going on even when you don’t know what’s going on. 

And so, everything was devised to coax you through dealing with your wounds, your triggers, your own problem areas. And so, this was very much a personalized experience. We were spending four hours together every week just working through my stuff, so that I could basically– 

The whole purpose of this, from my perspective, is to polish my own mirror, so that I can be an accurate reflection for others without infusing my own ego into the mix. 

Pacifico: Yeah, that is super wild. That takes definitely a hardcore level of dedication. I haven’t talked to anyone who’s done something that’s significant even in this field. So, that is very impressive. 

Nick: [chuckles] Thanks. At the time, I don’t think I knew quite what I was signing up for, but here I am. 

Pacifico: [laughs] Yeah, for sure. So, you mentioned you had a finance and legal studies background growing up and even in young adulthood. Did you ever have any inkling that you were interested in or going to go down this route? Were you spiritual at all or was this just the universe just came and swept you along in this journey? 

Nick: Oh, no, I got swept pretty good. I actually had gotten into law school, put that off. My whole track growing up was to be businessman, lawyer, or whatever. My family never told me what I could or couldn’t do, but I think there’s these subtle energetic pressures to conform to these various tracks that are very well defined. 

The school was pretty easy for me. I never really found it very challenging, but it also wasn’t fulfilling. And so, I had no real concept of self, and so I honestly picked a major that made the most money, which is so crazy to think about now. 

And so, it was basically a series of trial and error for me where I realized that everything I tried after I got out of this defined track just still left me feeling hollow inside. 

Pacifico: Yeah, I could definitely see that. Wow, hell of a journey. I’m just still wrapping my brain around all that. It’s so wild. So, what kind of psychedelics do you work with now? Is it primarily just ayahuasca, or do you have a range of things that you work with? 

Different Approaches in Psychedelic Use

Nick: We primarily work with psilocybin now, because the way that we’re set up with psychedelic passage is we don’t provide the substance, which is what allows us to do this legally inside the US. 

And more often than not, we’ll travel to someone’s home or private residence and facilitate a ceremony for them there, and they supply the psilocybin, which as far as psychedelics go is one of the easiest source, given that you can grow it. 

And there’s also companies literally shipping psilocybin direct to consumer right now. They’re willing to take the risk. And so, from our perspective, we fit into this interesting area, where given the legal landscape of psychedelics currently. 

This is one of the only options in the US aside from full blown underground practitioners. Other than that, you’ve got ketamine or you’ve got to go out of the country. And so, there’s a lot of people, especially in the midst of COVID, that just don’t want to leave the country or don’t have the means to. And so, we fit into this in between space. I think it’s inevitable that our service model evolves as the legal landscape evolves, but for right now, this has been a really great niche to be in. 

Pacifico: Oh, it’s fascinating. It sounds like you got your start maybe around like 2015-ish. And so, what has it been like from beginning that journey with your mentor in that apprenticeship, and then all of a sudden, having multiple cities and states be like, “Oh yeah, we’re all in on mushrooms. 

Oh, yeah, boga, cool. Let’s just start decriminalizing psychedelics and making sh*t happen.” That now there is people put it on LinkedIn now like, “I’m a psychedelic such and such, a guide, a therapist, what have you,” that we now have this burgeoning cottage industry just seemingly out of nowhere while we still have cannabis as a schedule one drug. 

Nick: I think it’s pretty cool. It’s funny, because part of my transition out of the corporate world was into entrepreneurship, specifically in the cannabis industry, because when that switch first happened in 2014, a light bulb went off and I’m like, “This is going to explode.” 

And everyone was too scared to get involved. I’ll never forget the look on my boss’s face when I told him that I was resigning to start a company in a cannabis industry and he’s like, “What the hell?” They just couldn’t figure it out. And lo and behold, what cannabis really did was it paved a way forward for medicalization and decriminalization. 

I think the downside to cannabis was we were not taught what intentional use looks like. You have a lot of people engaging with this plant that can be very powerful and profound without any real guardrails on the experience or any understanding as to how to consciously engage. 

I’m very grateful for what happened with cannabis because of this path forward that is now following suit with psychedelics. But I do hope that we don’t see the same level of commodification, and we introduce some more of this intentional use idea. 

The War on Drugs and Cultural Conditioning

Pacifico: Yeah, it is fascinating, because like you said, unlike cannabis, there’s really some multiple tracks going on within psychedelics where there’s people going, “We’re going to make a startup and we’re going to get FDA approval for such and such.” 

But then there’s people trying to patent sh*t, which I think sucks. But then there’s also– I was just speaking with a naturopathic doctor, like I was telling you that does ketamine assisted psychotherapy, and we are talking about how for pharmaceuticals, for antidepressants and stuff, you have to be a psychiatrist in order to prescribe those. 

But within psychedelics, it’s actually been much more decentralized, which I think is the best possible approach. I think it’s better for getting it out to as many people as possible, because there’s obviously a fairly limited number of psychiatrists in the country versus the number of therapists, psychologists or people like yourself who otherwise can be “guides” or take on other types of titles. 

That really can allow for the dispersion of psychedelics, so that people can be engaging in this without having to go to seven years of schooling or something, so that we can actually get this in people’s hands. 

One thing he was also saying, I asked him about how important is it that people actually have used psychedelics versus the average psychiatrist has never taken antidepressants, I’d imagine, and definitely it’s not a requirement. 

And he said, it’s absolutely a must. Like, you can’t really facilitate the best possible experience for someone if you don’t know what it’s like to hallucinate, or experience ego death, or go through some of these transformations. 

Nick: I couldn’t agree more. I tell people, it’s like trying to teach someone how to fly a plane, but you’ve never actually flown it yourself. To me, that means a lot more than just one journey. 

Like, you have to intimately understand how these substances work within your own psyche before you can even get close to helping someone else work through their own stuff. 

And I also agree that it is really nice that consumers are going to have a choice between the more medicalized model. If you want to go into a clinic and have a doctor and be fully monitored, great. And if you want the more ceremonial model, that’s also available to you. 

Different people are going to resonate with different models. We see this time and time again. We have a surprising amount of people that call into us after having horrible experiences with ketamine treatment, because there’s no regulation or oversight of these clinics.

And so, they all have different protocols. There’s no standard. We’ve heard some crazy stories about people’s past experiences with “medical professionals.” It’s shocking to me that some of this stuff is even occurring, but it is. And so, I think it’s really important that consumers have a choice as to which track they choose to go down. 

Different Models in Psychedelic Therapy

Pacifico: Yeah, it was actually really fascinating to me, because I’ve had friends that went to ketamine clinics before and I was like, “Oh, so do you just go into a K-hole each time, and just step outside yourself, and play observer for 45 minutes?” 

And they’re like, “Oh no, it’s just a very mild dose, and just takes the edge off life.” And I was like, “Oh, but then when I was talking to this doctor.” He was like, “Oh, there’s that model.” 

But my intent is to give people the actual psychedelic experience which is essentially putting people into a K-hole, which is that’s full-on ego death, right? That’s not a comfortable experience for most people, but it is a very transformative experience. 

So, it’s fascinating to me to see even within that specific ketamine assisted psychotherapy that there was actually a huge range of the way people were using it. It’s made me think that I would then guess that the people who are just doing low dose ketamine therapy have probably never done ketamine. 

It’s probably a little more clinical, and that it’s more– This guy was a naturopathic doctor, and so that’s a little bit more, I don’t want totally say woo, but it’s not just like the white lab coat kind of approach, impersonalized or depersonalized medicine, really, especially, which is ironic, because there is no better depersonalization tool, I would say, than ketamine and definitely a K-hole that can really kill your ego, make you step outside of yourself, and see things from different perspective. 

But it is a severe experience, and it can really– I’m not surprised you’d have heard people that I’d imagine if you went into a clinic, if you went into a doctor’s office that was like that white lab coat approach, and they don’t necessarily get the dosing, you end up in a K-hole, you’re probably not going to have a great time with that, and they’re probably not going to go, “No, the best way is to help you.” 

Nick: That just goes back to me to the importance of preparation. It’s not the ego death that creates the issue, it’s the not knowing what it is or not understanding that it’s a possibility. It’s the surprise that creates the trauma. If you’re aware of what it is and the value of it, then you can hold it with a bit more grace. 

Pacifico: Yeah, it really is about managing expectations, because it’s not like ketamine’s like Salvia, where it’s like he’s a violently hallucinogenic experience of being ripped out of the present reality that you’ve come to know and love, and visit other dimensions or universes or something like that. 

But yeah, it is just fascinating to see this really widespread, broadly different approaches to this burgeoning thing, whereas for the most part, like you’re saying, like cannabis, it was just, “Okay, we’ve got the illicit market and now we’ve got the medicinal market,” which was functionally just like a quasi-legalized market in most places. 

That was the point of it more to keep people out of jail than actually to provide patient rights or help people in that sense. But I think I’m really encouraged by what states and cities are trying to do, because they’re like, “Hey, we’d rather people do mushrooms than opiates of all kinds.” 

Like, “We don’t want people dying of heroin in our streets or fentanyl and stuff like that. Let’s just let people do mushrooms and things can be cool.”

Nick: Totally. I think people are seeing– God bless, Michael Pollan for writing that book, because I think that really changed the stigma among the older generation, the baby boomers, and even the people older than that. 

And then, you’ve got the credibility of the Johns Hopkins stuff that’s coming out. I think with each passing day, there’s more and more proof that these are helpful compounds when used intentionally. 

Pacifico: Oh, totally. Oh, yeah, my last guest brought up Michael Poland as well. I think, yeah, it was really a sea change in the industry from a totally, I would think, for most people, unexpected source, someone who might write mostly about food and some other various topics to then just be like, “Hey, yo, go get some mushrooms. 

Go trip ball somewhere and change your life, and change the way your mind works, and just get a different perspective on things.” I’m all about helping people reimagine life, and what their life and relationships and business and society can be, because a lot of times, you’re just born into whatever society you’re born into. 

But every single society on Earth, there’s just so much cultural conditioning that then when you reach adulthood, you’re mostly taught not to question anything and just be like, “Hey, this is the way it is.” 

Then eventually, you start to come out of all that, hopefully, and that you’re then like, “Oh, wait a minute. This isn’t just like the natural evolution of things. This is the result oftentimes a lot of sh*tty decisions.” And in this country, mostly by white men throughout history, to subjugate others and control others. 

Actually, we don’t need to run anything this way. There’s literally an infinite number of ways that we could design society, our economy, and multiple other things that can center human dignity, human happiness my entire life. 

We’ve never been anywhere close to the top happiest country in the world, but people just are like, “America’s number one.” It’s like, “Who gives a sh*t?” 

Like, “You’re not even focused on any of the really the right things that really matter in life,” when it’s like, “Why do you think people are happier in countries where healthcare is guaranteed?” Because you don’t stress about getting hurt. You don’t stress about going into massive debt.

Even I was in the military and had essentially socialized medicine, government paid healthcare, it was just a stress that didn’t exist in my life. It was just like, “If I get sick, if I get hurt or anything, I will never have to worry about this.” 

And then as soon as you get out, “Oh, I have to worry about this. This is like a new stress in my life that I wasn’t experiencing for years.” People just don’t even think about how much just that stress, that mental toll takes upon people, because so much of our physical problems in this world are really psychosomatic.

It’s just your mind being stressed out or having different issues that aren’t being addressed maybe, because you’ve had past traumas, and then it starts to manifest in horrible ways in your body. And that’s another way I think psychedelics are so important. The cannabis is nice and all, but cannabis more just takes the edge off life. It’s not like an introspection tool like most psychedelics are. 

They can be like, “Oh, hey, wake up. You actually were abused as a child and that’s why this sh*tty thing happens to your body or your mind or just other various things that it can help uncork your brain a little bit to remember who you are, and remember why you’re here, and what you should really be doing with your life.” 

Nick: Totally. I see cannabis as what I call an ally plant and psychedelics as teacher plants. They are definitely different, but they both have their merits. 

And to me, what you were talking about is, to me, is the essence of the fact that we have lost sight of the humanness in our western world, at least in the US.

Everything is based on productivity, output growth, and we’ve totally lost sight of humanity. And to me, when we start to recognize each other as humans, then this idea of basic rights doesn’t seem so farfetched. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah. This country was born just on a legacy of control, and every religion is really just about control. They’re all things that are just taking us away from who we are as humans, who we are as immortal souls, having this human experience here. 

I think there’s always just been a strong push, especially in this country. But for societies like immemorial really to push people away from things that will wake them up to those realities. 

So, in this country, it’s like, even in 1960s and 1970s, they didn’t want people dropping acid, because you drop acid, you’re not going to want to fight in the Vietnam War once you’ve dropped acid. 

You’re not as likely to want to be a cog in the machine if you’ve dropped acid or you’ve done other psychedelics that are like, “Oh, hey, you’re just like one with the universe. There is no other,” and revealing these universal truths to you that otherwise have been massively suppressed by our cultural conditioning. 

Nick: Totally. And so, it is funny that we’re in the midst of this third revolution of psychedelics, because it’s nothing new. These things have been used for tens of thousands of years. We just refuse to acknowledge that they actually can be agents of profound transformation and healing due to some very well thought out D.A.R.E programs. 

Honesty and Education About Drugs

Pacifico: [laughs] Oh, God, D.A.R.E. Oh, man, that takes me back. I haven’t heard that in a while. It’s funny too. I remember thinking back on D.A.R.E, I was a first grader and they were introducing us PCP. 

It’s just like, what do you need to be teaching a first grader about PCP for? I am all for drug education, and I think that’s an important part. We need to actually tell kids and teach kids about drugs, and tell them what they really are, and tell them what they all really do, and then be like, “Hey, your brain doesn’t fully develop until you’re 25.” 

I don’t think we should set 25 as the age which we allow people to do drugs, but I think it’s just set it at 18 and just be like, “Hey, this is when you’re allowed to start doing these things.” 

Obviously, kids are always going to try and do stuff when they’re younger because they want to. But actually, being honest about things, I can’t even count the number of people that I knew that D.A.R.E and programs like it just made them want to do drugs, because they just be like, “Oh, this is really taboo, but it sounds cool as hell.” 

There were certain stuff like watching videos of people on PCP, and stuff that that are just going raging and fighting people and stuff like that, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I don’t want to ever do that.” 

But it is fascinating just to see how the war on drugs has just been so inept, because it’s just like tried to be this system of control rather than under the guise of education when it’s just really been nonsense. I think it’s just really led people to trust the government even less. 

Imagine having a government that is, “Hey, cannabis is awesome. It does these things, but it has these drawbacks and it can go through with every different drug.” From my perspective, I think it’s interesting your dichotomy of the ally plant versus the teacher plant.

I think that’s very much true, and I think there’s even different dynamics within psychedelics themselves of what the sort of dynamics are, whether it’s something for you to learn on your own, which I think is the case with LSD versus things with ayahuasca, where it’s like, “Hey, I’m the universe here to teach you a lesson and let’s go.” 

But for me, I think all drugs, to me, I think of them as cheat codes. And so, it’s a way for you to pierce the veil, see beyond what our reality is, think about things in a different way. I think each drug is a cheat code into a different thing. So, cannabis can help you sleep, or reduce your anxiety, or reduce your depression, or has all these different roles. 

If we can be open and honest about all of those things and teach children maybe starting at 12 or 13 when they’re old enough to handle the concepts around it and be like, “Hey, here are some different things that exist, just like all these different foods exist, music exists.” 

I think that I’m also someone who I’m like, “Oh, anything can be a drug.” Like, music can be a drug, food can be a drug in that sort of broad umbrella sense. But I think really being open and honest with our youth is a much more important approach and will get us much better outcomes long-term. 

Because like you said, it really is about managing expectations and it’s not just about ketamine. I think it’s about everything. People are going to have experiences and they’re like, “Oh, why did this feel like this?” 

Some people, cannabis is just not for. Whether it’s 10% or 15% of the population, it’s just going to cause you unnecessary anxiety even if it’s an “indica,” which we’re not supposed to say, because it doesn’t exist or whatever. 

But even if it’s that kind of strain that doesn’t produce anxiety in most people, it can cause problems for people. I think it would just be better to be honest about all that. And having a society founded on maximizing happiness, and maximizing honesty, and openness, I think would just be a much better way to run a society. 

Nick: Oh, I agree. It’s a tough sell, because you can’t monetize happiness or measure it, per se. And so, it’s just an interesting– We’ve just gotten ourselves into a very interesting period where I think people are waking up to the fact that this old way of doing things is not really that sustainable. 

There are alternatives that perhaps we haven’t even considered yet. What you were speaking to me is the difference between teaching safe use versus teaching abstinence. Like, we know abstinence doesn’t work. 

People are going to engage with these substances in some way, shape, or form. We may as well teach them honestly how to do it and let them make a decision. From my perspective, we’re all entitled to explore our own consciousness and the depths of our own psyche regardless of which tools we use to do so. Yeah, I totally agree with you. 

The Need for Intentional Use and Conscious Engagement

Pacifico: Oh, I couldn’t agree more on that last part. If I were starting my own country, I think more important than freedom of speech is like the freedom to explore your own consciousness, because really, it’s the government preventing you from really inhabiting and exploring your own mind. 

I don’t think there’s anything more fundamental than that. Speech is actually towards an external goal. Obviously, you want to express yourself or whatever, but that requires another party. But to say that you can’t do these things by yourself is to me just absolutely crazy. 

I think the other thing about safe use and really teaching safe use is like, “Hey, sh*t can happen.” Not so much with benign psychedelics that aren’t going to kill you or something but, “Hey, if people are using drugs that you could actually overdose on.” 

For example, it’s way better to teach people about those dangers and what to look for. So, if you’re out with your friends, and you guys are doing a bunch of ketamine or you guys are doing a bunch of cocaine or whatever it’s going to be that if someone does a little too much and gets into a troublesome place that you’re able to actually find the best way to help them, and also to not have that stigmatized. 

I know there’s some Good Samaritan laws out there now around not prosecuting and not arresting people who are helping other people that are doing something that is illegal for either or both of them. 

But to me, the fact that we even need to have Good Samaritan laws is insanely f*cked up. It should just be, “No, our default standard is help other people, help other human beings.” 

And so, if you see someone in need, make that should be cue to you to go and help them and not to be scared that, “Oh, if I help this person who just overdosed, I’m going to get arrested.” How massively f*cked up is that? It’s crazy. 

Nick: Oh, it just shows where the priorities are. We don’t actually care about the safety of our citizens. If we did, we would allow companies like DanceSafe to have testing booths at festivals. 

But no, because of the RAVE Act, too dangerous, crosses some legal line that we’re not allowed to drug test at a festival, because that would encourage drug use. No, in reality, you would save a lot of unnecessary overdose with fentanyl-laced product if you allowed the opportunity to just test substances without repercussions. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah, it’s so wild to me that with the rise of fentanyl and fentanyl lacing, they didn’t just scrap that and say, “Okay, yes, please test everything.” 

Because you’re just going to have more and more dead kids, dead adults, and it’s f*cking pointless. And for what? Some puritanical ideal of how people wanted us to live in the 1600s and we still have to abide by that. 

It’s total bullsh*t. if only more people, more communities would really get on board, okay, we need more needle exchanges. We need more ways to make things safe, because people are going to do what they’re going to do. You can’t control that with any laws. They’re just going to do it. 

Look how big the illicit market is just for cannabis. People are going to do their own thing. So, let’s at least make it as safe as possible for them. 

And like you said, your work is focused on safety and harm reduction, and I think that is such an important principle to not just the psychedelic movement, but the movement towards legalization overall. 

Look at Portugal. It’s literally on the same planet, and they’ve been decriminalized for everything for what, 20 years now? And Portugal still exists. It didn’t break off from Europe and sink into the ocean. Come on, it’s just asinine that we’re still dealing with this nonsense at this point. 

Nick: Totally. The good news is, as we’ve highlighted, change is coming. I’m hopeful that we are trending in the right direction here. I’m doing everything I can to stand up for everything we just talked about, which is safe, expanded access, the ability to educate honestly and authentically, and the ability to be truly supported by another human. 

In your experience, we basically encourage underground use that is unsupported in the current model, and that just has to change. It’s amazing the amount of people that reach out to us after reading something like Michael Pollan’s book and they’re like, “I read the book. 

I have mushrooms, but I’m still too scared to do this on my own.” Good, that is the perfect opportunity to reach out and ask for help, so that you don’t find yourself in one of these situations where you’re calling police or first responder, and they have no idea how to deal with you either. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah, those are the last people we need involved in this, especially what’s going on for the past hundreds of years really. Yeah, I think there’s– [crosstalk] 

Nick: Denver started a really cool initiative where they’re actually teaching first responders how to deal with people under the influence of psychedelics, because they’re not taught that. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah. Just being able to recognize and be able to talk someone through it without making it much worse and definitely not that a first responder is going to come with a violent approach when the cops show up and they’re just like, “Oh, this person’s crazy, let’s shoot them.” You could have just talked to them, everything’s going to be okay. 

Nick: Yeah. How about words? 

Pacifico: Yeah, that’s so wild. So, tell me, what drove you to focus on helping men live better lives? 

What Inspired Nicholas to Focus on Helping Men Heal?

Nick: I just saw the pain and suffering that men were silently harboring under the guise of being tough or macho or whatever the case was. As I continued to do my own men’s work and peel back the layers, I started to really realize that the vast majority of issues in our society stem from men feeling like they’re not enough in the present moment. 

So, whether that’s violence, control, greed, any of these things that we know are not great, to me, there is almost always a root in this not enoughness or lack of self-worth and self-love. 

Men also don’t have safe outlets currently to do that kind of work, because that work is so highly stigmatized to break down and cry, to talk about your feelings, to really dig deep as a male. 

Once I had exposure to men’s work, men’s groups, and these various outlets that I didn’t even know were a thing, I was like, “Wow, these are truly powerful and transformational, and I feel called to offer this for others,” and so that’s how that all came about. 

Pacifico: So, do you integrate psychedelics into that work as well? Or, is it more like a sober focus on, “Hey, let’s be accountable to each other. Let’s express our emotions. Let’s get in touch with who we are and heal our inner children and so on”?

Nick:So, it’s a mix. The men’s groups that I run, the sessions that we’ll do twice a month, those are sober. But almost every single male that I have worked with has or will have some kind of experience with psychedelics to support their own internal transformation and growth. And so, whether that’s with me or not, I don’t really care as long as they feel like they have the support that they need. 

Pacifico: That’s fantastic. It’s excellent work and very necessary. 

Nick: Yeah. And what’s really cool for me is to hear guys who are so skeptical about stepping into this work. Six weeks in, go, “Oh, my God, I was suicidal when we first started talking, and now I have a new job, a new partner, and I moved across the country, and have totally turned my life around.” 

And, “Oh, by the way, this is the single most important thing I engage with on a monthly basis.” Oh, okay. Wow. What I realized is it’s not me. I’m just a facilitator. What it is, is men being in community in a supportive, nonjudgmental space. That is the medicine. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah. It’s really all about digging into the self and being able to confront who you are, the things you’ve done, what you’ve been through, and then be able to transform that into something grounded in unconditional love instead of fear, hatred bias, prejudice, things of that nature. 

We live in such a crazy fear-based culture and it’s, “Hey, we could actually live in a love-based culture and things would be a lot better.” But everything from the top down is we spend everything goes to the defense department. 

If you’re a taxpayer in the US, you’re putting money towards killing people directly. It’s like, what if we just stopped doing that? Like, “Oh, my God, what would happen?” All we do is go and f*ck with people. 

That’s a large part of mass shootings and school shootings and other issues like that. Who does the vast majority of those? Men and boys. It’s just no one wants to, as a society, reflect on how we’ve just created this culture of toxic masculinity that we can actually shape into something else entirely. 

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence for Men

Nick: Totally. Because an alternative isn’t really available between video games, mass media, the movies, music. It all perpetuates this kind of old school masculine mentality that is predicated on control and the self above all else. 

What that’s resulted in, from my perspective, is a huge lack of emotional intelligence, and then the subsequent ability to truly express yourself as a male and providing an outlet for safe, a nonjudgmental expression where you can actually feel, heard, seen, and understood. 

Half the challenge is just being validated in whatever it is that you’re going through. It’s honestly some of the most rewarding work that I do, because the transformations are so rapid, and the support and accountability is built in because of the group nature. 

And so, there’s a higher buy in, and you are held accountable, because a lot of people have a problem being accountable to themselves. The ego is sneaky and will give you a thousand different reasons why you can skip your workout today or give into your triggers or whatever the thing is. For me, it’s just a beautiful process to be able to facilitate. 

Pacifico: No. it sounds so powerful. You’re almost making me want to go and do that. [chuckles] Start one as well. 

Nick: You’re welcome to check it out. [crosstalk] 

Pacifico: Makes those places– Yeah, it is so necessary. We need so many more people, not just doing it themselves, but actually start things like this. I think it’s probably a good time to be able to because of COVID and just everyone jumping on the virtual Zoom bandwagon and stuff that you can create these dynamics nationally and internationally, seemingly overnight. 

If it’s not overtly expressed in a lot of places, I think this is like a dormant desire of many men. I’m sure you’ve seen that, because you’re obviously in business doing this. 

And so, you see the need, you see the desire on people to do this, and then even if they’re reticent, you at least get them over the hurdle, come and join this, come and start this, and then get past your ego, and then boom. They have transformative experiences and stuff. 

I’ve been in some different similar groups that have actually mostly been women that’s, “Oh, hey, step into your power,” and those kinds of things. It is interesting the dichotomy of that, because it’s like, the men have for too long had too much power and women have not had enough. 

And so, the different needs of groups like this push in the opposite direction, but it’s hopefully leading back to some sort of equilibrium where men, women, non-binary people are all treated as just human, and we can be on an equal and level playing field together. 

Nick: Totally. It’s been interesting, because my partner does a lot of women’s work. There’s such a difference in the willingness of men and women to engage in these various practices. Women will sign up for a course overnight, ready to go. 

I have men that are like, “Yeah, that sounds cool, but way too much of a stigma. Not sure I’m ready for that.” There’s this element of stigmatization for men doing this kind of inner work that is it tough hurdle to overcome. 

What I’ve realized is there’s nothing that I can do or say that will convince someone to embark on this journey. I find that it often takes some sort of dark night of the soul for them to go, “Oh, sh*t. Okay, something’s got to change.” 

Basically, the analogy I use is like the pain of the present moment has to be stronger than the discomfort of change. Otherwise, the vast majority of men will just endure, because that’s what we’re taught. 

Pacifico: Oh, absolutely. Agree 100%. It’s a hell of a drug, right? [laughs] 

Nick: Yeah, it is. It’s the warrior mentality. But from my perspective, the hardest warrior journey we’ll ever take is the one inside. 

Pacifico: Yeah, it is really wild. When you think back to the times where a lot of that, I think, is based on just, like, tens of thousands of years of human evolution is like, there was never a group of humans or there was never a man who did anything on his own. 

It was always about community. It was always about helping everyone and surviving together. And then we come and create this f*cking country, and it’s like-

Nick: Totally.

Pacifico: -“Oh, we’re all individually–” [crosstalk] 

Nick: Totally. It could be more. 

Trending Towards a More Balanced and Equitable Society

Pacifico: It’s like, “What the f*ck are you talking about? It wasn’t one dude who won the revolutionary war. And then you literally built this country on the backs of chattel slavery of enslaved people from Africa and some other places, and it’s just you white dudes haven’t done sh*t. 

What are you talking about?” And then to now just be like, “Oh, everyone should be on their own, embrace rugged individualism and this bullsh*t.” That’s not how we got here. That’s not how we became the most advanced civilization on Earth, or advanced species on Earth rather. 

There’s totally some different ways that we can go about getting to where we need to be. Essentially, we can totally build something else that is actually based on how we got to this point of actually working together to build a better world. 

I think so much of the focus in this country is, no, everyone needs to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That’s not how this works. All the richest people in this country got huge investments or inheritances. 

Even though the way wealth is acquired has really flipped from inheritance to entrepreneurship. But even those people that have made it on the entrepreneurial side, even like Jeff Bezos, he got infusions of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which the vast majority of people never see in their lives. 

And so, I think just being realistic about what the real dynamics are in our society, I think that goes a long way. But there is just this underlying we need to solve the masculinity problem in this country. 

Nick: Totally. We emphasize the feminism movement, and I absolutely stand up for women in this. But I think one of the things that we overlooked is by demonizing men, we don’t allow them to heal. 

And so, in reality, the feminism movement wouldn’t really need to be a thing if we healed our men, because they’re the ones that are perpetuating these power imbalances towards women. But if every man truly felt like they were enough in the present moment, I truly believe a lot of that would dissipate almost overnight. 

Pacifico: Oh, I absolutely agree. But it sucks, because anyone that’s out there in “the men’s rights activist movement” or whatever is like, it’s not about that. They’re not like, “We want to heal.” 

They’re like, “Stop oppressing us. You’re a f*cking man. Give me a break. Nobody’s oppressing you.” Like, “Shut the f*ck up and go do some inner work.” And so, we really need men’s healing advocacy. That’s the movement that this country really needs. 

Nick: That’s what I’m all for. I truly believe that change will have a greater ripple effect than almost anything else we could devote our resources to. 

Pacifico: Oh, absolutely. Because in every individual family dynamic from kids, even by the time kids are like 7 years old, 8 years old, 9 years old,10 years old, they’ve already been indoctrinated into this chauvinist sexist society. 

“Oh, I don’t like girl stuff. Oh, that’s for girls.” It’s just this constant subjugation of the female energy and spirit in the world and it just carries on, yeah, no wonder in this weird way can sometimes put women and girls on this pedestal that then ends up creating incel culture and stuff like that. 

Because we don’t teach boys and men how to develop emotional intelligence, how to be good partners, how to be good friends, especially to the opposite sex. And then, yeah, of course, they’re going to do crazy sh*t when they can’t find a girlfriend or something like that. 

It’s not the fault of women. It’s the fault of men, and it’s the fault of society to not actually put in place what actually needs to be put in place. I think most people have no idea how to parent. 

It’s not something we teach people. Most teachers and adults don’t know how to treat boys in a way that empowers them to actually heal or just not become broken in the first place. 

I think the biggest problem is we live in a country with hundreds of millions of broken adults with shattered, traumatized inner children that they never deal with. And that if we could just heal the inner children, then we could stop traumatizing actual children, and then traumatized inner children wouldn’t be a thing. 

Nick: Correct. It’s just one vicious cycle that unless we take steps to reverse, it just will continue to perpetuate. What’s interesting is, when we look at indigenous cultures, they take boys away from their mothers at a young age, and go initiate them into manhood, and they learn from adults and elders what it means to be a man. 

We don’t have anything even close to that level of education, understanding transformation, and stewardship into adulthood. We just basically live our little boy wounds all through life. I was guilty as f*ck of this. 

That was part of the reason after taking ownership of my sh*t, I experienced such a large transformation and I realized, “Okay, it’s actually my obligation to offer this to other men, because otherwise, I’m part of the problem.”

Rethinking Sports Culture and its Impact on Emotional Suppression

Pacifico: I would totally agree. I think we do have one pretty predominant arena in which we are training young boys and young men. And that’s sports. By and large, sports is just suck it up. Like, tough it out, suck it up, be a man kind of thing. 

That in and of itself is so insidious. People are like, “Oh, it’s just sports. Don’t attack sports,” whatever. No, it really causes significant cultural problems that go completely unaddressed, because there’s just this 100% focus put on certain outcomes that are not the ideal outcomes for building a better society. It might build a better football team, but it’s not actually how we want people to live. 

There’s certainly great lessons you do learn, and I played sports growing up, and you learn so much about hard work and camaraderie and teamwork and stuff. 

But it is a culture which suppresses your emotions and crushes anything that looks like weakness, when really being emotionally vulnerable is a strength. Most people can’t do it. Most people don’t– [crosstalk] 

Nick: The irony is that’s what turns women on. 

[laughter] 

Pacifico: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s something that’s in need of a fundamental reimagination and thinking about how can we structure things differently to make sure that we actually get the outcomes that we want, because what do we have right now? 

We have at colleges a variety of advice and programs given to women like, “Here’s how not to get raped. Here’s how not to be sexually assaulted. Don’t go walking by yourself. Don’t do that.” 

Women should be allowed to walk by themselves anywhere in the world, but they can’t because men f*cking suck. Men don’t want to take ownership of that. There’s just like with cops, there’s so little actual mutual policing among men to be like, “Hey, you’re f*cked up. That’s not cool.” 

Whether it’s like the “locker room talk” or things that are worse and it’s just, “Oh, yeah, you’ve just got these cultural brainwashing things that really take over what men do and that prevents them from doing the right thing even if they were “raised correctly” or raised to be good people.” 

Peer pressure is one of the strongest drugs in the world. It can cause you to do sh*t that you’d never think you would do in a million years. But then before you know it, “Oh, you’re doing some f*cked up sh*t, because some other dudes said you should, and you just want to be cool.” It’s taking you further and further away from the self, and what you should actually be doing. 

Nick: 100%. I couldn’t agree more. And thankfully, I think my generation at least is slowly starting to become aware of some of this stuff, and they are willing to embark on some sort of spiritual journey and start to peel back some of those layers and look at it. 

And so, I’m hopeful. I think we’re seeing, at least I’m seeing more and more people gain acceptance around this work. And ironically enough, I actually think psychedelics funnel people into this idea of inner work regardless of sex. 

It’s this funny thing where we’ve branded psychedelics as a magic pill or a cure all. I think it’s grossly misleading. But at a minimum, the benefit is that it provides people an entry point into this much larger healing journey. 

Pacifico: Oh, yeah, they’re essentially gateway drugs to inner work which is fantastic, because nothing else does that. Cannabis, you’re not going to start questioning who you are and how you treat other people for the most part, but some different psychedelics are going to have you really question who you are, what you’ve done in the world, if you’ve made the world a better place, if you’ve been good to the people in your life and how you can do things better. 

Nick: Totally. Exactly. I am hopeful that we are trending in the right direction here. I don’t think there’s anything we can do to control or force it other than to be the change and to embody these aspects that we want to see mirrored in others. 

Pacifico: Oh, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Nick, this has been such an awesome, and enlightening, and fun conversation. It’s been awesome getting to talk to you today. But that does bring me to my final question of the day, and that is, what is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? 

Nick:

very good question. I would say, embracing me with unconditional love and being willing to take me under their wing even when I had no money and essentially nothing to offer them other than my energy and presence. 

Pacifico: So powerful. 

Nick: Yeah. 

Pacifico: Sounds amazing. [laughs] 

Nick: That was my mentor. He’s amazing. Ever since that gesture, I have felt called to do the same for others, because there’s something powerful about someone who’s at rock bottom and willing to do the work, but doesn’t have the Western means, i.e., money to support it. 

And so, part of what we do at Psychedelic Passage is is offer low or no cost programs to certain people who we can tell are willing to do the work, but just don’t have the means to do it, because healing shouldn’t only be accessible to those in high economic classes. That’s a load of sh*t. 

Pacifico: Well, I couldn’t agree more. That’s, yeah, amazing work you’re doing. I’m excited to see where this goes and see what it becomes. I think you’re on a great path. 

Nick: Thanks, Pacifico. I appreciate it, and it was a real pleasure connecting with you today. 

Pacifico: Yeah, thank you so much for joining me today. It was an absolute pleasure getting to speak with you. 

Nick: Likewise. We’ll talk soon. 

Pacifico: Definitely. Today’s episode was brought to you by Prosperitas, specializing in making stunning videos to help you win more customers and look your best online. Visit prosperitasagency.com today to learn how they create unforgettable videos for unforgettable companies. 

Thank you so much to all of our listeners for tuning into today’s show. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you found us, so that others can find it as well. 

And follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @theluepodcast or visit our website at thelueepodcast.com. If you’d like to support this show even further, I’d love to invite you to become a patron of the show. 

For as little as $5 per month, you can help us continue to produce high-quality shows with amazing guests like you heard today. To become a patron, please visit patreon.com/theluepodcast. We look forward to having you tune in next time for the next episode of Law, The Universe, And Everything. I’m Pacifico Soldati, wishing you peace, love, and awesomeness.

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