Breaking Convention Series: Sam Gandy – Psychedelics and our Connection with Nature


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In this episode, Kyle joins in conversation with Dr. Sam Gandy. During the show, they cover topics including the implications psychedelics have for human well-being and the biosphere at large at a time of growing disconnection.

3 Key Points:

  1. There have been a lot of recent threats to our planet and its survival if we continue on our current path of unsustainability. Feeling connected to nature increases the human desire to take care of and heal nature.
  2. There has been an inverse correlation with our connectedness to nature and our connection with technology. Getting out in nature, as well as using psychedelics in nature, both help increase our connectedness to nature.
  3. There has been a rise in cutting edge research that reveals the capacity of psychedelic substances to enhance human-nature connection, which Sam shares snippets of throughout the episode.

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Show Notes

About Sam

  • Sam has a PhD in Ecological Science from the University of Aberdeen and a Masters in Entomology from Imperial College London
  • He has a lifelong interest in nature and wildlife and has conducted research in areas all over the world
  • He is a Scientific Assistant to the Director at the Beckley Foundation
  • He is a collaborator with the Psychedelic Research Group at the Imperial College of London
  • Sam’s interest in psychedelics began in London when it was legal to buy mushrooms
    • He was ‘anti-drug’ until he discovered psychedelics and began to explore consciousness and a love for nature
    • His background in Ecology (the science of interconnection) has combined with the Psychedelic field
    • Sam is interested in the capacity of psychedelics to increase human-nature connection and relatedness

Saving Earth

  • There is a huge threat that our planet won’t survive past this century if we continue on our path of destruction
    • Remedying our nature disconnect is something really important if we want to survive
  • This nature disconnection is inversely proportional from our technological connection
  • We cant live without nature
    • We have to make room for all the other life going on, not just the life that directly serves humans, like crops and livestock
  • There is an increasing awareness of the need for nature connection
  • Sam mentions about humanity’s screen addiction, it raises our cortisol levels and there are many consequences such as psychological and physiological effects
    • “Contentment is the enemy of invention”
  • Psychedelics and the internet are growing alongside each other
    • Timothy Leary would say the internet is the psychedelics of the future in terms of connection
    • The internet is playing a pivotal role in access to information in this psychedelic renaissance
    • “Technology is not good or bad, it’s about how its used, the intent behind it” – Sam

Nature Disconnect

  • Sam thinks that the first step that took us away from nature is when we started farming, we became less hunter-gatherer minded and stepped away from the wild environment
    • At that point we started living in large groups (creating cities)
    • Then there was the division of labor and urbanization
  • Cities and technology are the main reasons for our disconnect with nature
  • “Long term sustainability would be one of the chief governing principles of how things are ran” – Sam

Psychedelics and Nature

  • There is something radical about psychedelics, they can convert the skeptics into appreciating nature
    • The ego dissolution character of psychedelics are a key component in feeling connected to nature
    • The default mode network (where the ego resides) becomes relaxed and dissolved, and when that happens there is a breakdown of perceived boundaries between self and others/nature
    • That dissolution of boundaries is a key component in the psychedelic experience
    • “When you feel part of it, it changes fundamentally how you relate to it” – Sam
  • One’s knowledge of nature is a very weak predictor of one’s concern for nature
    • There isn’t research of the use of psychedelics in natural settings yet, Sam hopes that as we research psychedelics more (in clinical settings) the research can evolve into studying their use in nature
    • With psilocybin, most people have claimed to have a long-term fleeting change in their connectedness to nature, that the feeling of connection doesn’t go away after the trip is over, it lasts for weeks, months, even the rest of their life

Rigid Egos and Nature Disconnection

  • Psilocybin decreases blood flow to the default mode network
  • “When we are destroying our own homes (our bodies and nature) are we falling out of love with our self?” – Kyle
    • When we dissolve the ego, we increase connection, to ourselves, to others and to nature

Future in Psychedelics

  • We are going to see the rise of Psychedelic Therapy
  • We are going to see Psychedelic groups and communities on the rise
    • From those groups, we will see projects and initiatives develop, which could bring decriminalization, integration circles, etc.
  • Sam believes the rise of depression and anxiety are a cause of our disconnection to nature, and he believes there is a lot of personal healing to be had if we get back into nature and actually play a role in healing nature too
    • Instead of trying to save the world just for our children and our children’s children, we need to look at this planet as if we were to reincarnate and come back to this planet, so we should want to look after this physical plane to make it better for future installments of ourselves

Get Connected with Nature

  • The direct, physical sensory experience with nature alone is well known to increase our connectedness with it
    • Sam suggest listeners to get out in nature and do anything! Boating, gardening, bee keeping, a walk in the woods, whatever
    • Sam really likes the art of Japanese Forest Bathing, which is about mindfulness and taking in nature, maybe combining it with breathwork exercises, etc.
    • The more mindful you feel, the more connected to nature you are, and vice versa

Final Thoughts

  • Nature connection is just a single facet of the psychedelic experience, and Sam hopes for more research on this facet in the future
  • We have a decent amount of research on psychedelics effect on people with depression, PTSD, etc, but Sam hints toward some future research on the effects of psychedelics on the healthy-normal population
  • Make time for nature in whatever way works for you
  • 2 hours of nature time a week are profoundly beneficial for health

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Email: greensam2512@hotmail.com


About Dr. Sam Gandy

Dr. Sam Gandy works on the cutting edge of psychedelic research, as Scientific Assistant to the Director of the Beckley Foundation, and as a collaborator with the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London. Sam has a lifelong love of nature and wildlife, and a PhD in ecological science from the University of Aberdeen. He has been fortunate enough to conduct field research in various parts of the world including the UK, Kefalonia, Almeria, Texas, the Peruvian Amazon, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Outside his work in the psychedelic field he has written papers, book chapters, articles and spoken at conferences and festivals on psychedelics and he is fascinated by their potential to benefit human lives.