How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

From In Defense of Food to Food of the Gods…or is it The Psychonaut’s Dilemma? I wonder if anyone would like to review this book for Metapsychosis…

Here is Michael Pollan’s note:

Dear Readers,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have been busy reporting and writing a new book that I’ve just completed. I’m excited to tell you about it.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence will be published in May. As the title suggests, the new book represents something of a departure for me—at least from writing about food.(As one early review put it, I’ve turned from “feeding your body to feeding your head.”) But as those of you who have been following my work for a while know, what unifies all my writing is a fascination with our symbiotic relationships with other species in nature, whether for food, beauty, or intoxication. I’ve had a long-standing interest in psychoactive plants and the age-old human desire to change the texture of consciousness. You may recall I wrote about cannabis in The Botany of Desire and about growing opium in Harper’s several years before that.

The new book grew out of the reporting I did for a 2015 article about psychedelic psychotherapy in the New Yorker, called “The Trip Treatment.” I interviewed a number of cancer patients who, in the course of a single guided session on psilocybin (the main psychoactive molecule in magic mushrooms), had such a powerful mystical experience that their fear of death either faded or vanished altogether. I became curious to learn how that might be possible—how a molecule produced by a mushroom, of all things, could produce such a radical change in the mind of a human, such that death lost its sting.

So began what became a two-year journey into the world of psychedelics—LSD, psilocybin, Ayahuasca and something called 5-MeO-DMT. The book explores the renaissance of scientific research into these compounds and their potential to relieve several kinds of mental suffering, including depression, anxiety, and addiction. I spent time with neuroscientists who are using psychedelics in conjunction with modern brain imaging technologies to probe the mysteries of consciousness and the self. Several of the scientists I met are convinced psychedelics could revolutionize mental healthcare and our understanding of the mind.

But what I didn’t expect when I embarked on this journey was for it to result in what is surely the most personal book I’ve ever written. As you know, I like to immerse myself in whatever I’m writing—whether that means buying a steer or apprenticing myself to a baker. What began as a third-person journalistic inquiry ended up a first-person quest to learn what these medicines had to teach me about not only the mind but also my mind, and specifically about the nature of spiritual experience. This book has taken me places I’ve never been—indeed, places I didn’t know existed.

As you can imagine, I’m both excited and nervous to publish How to Change Your Mind this spring. I do hope you’ll check it out. I plan to post an excerpt on my website in a couple of months, and will alert you when I do. I’ll soon be updating the website with a rich array of resources on psychedelics. For now, though, here’s the advance review of the book from Kirkus, quoted from above.

I’ll be in touch more regularly in the next few months, to bring you news of the book as well as my extensive speaking schedule this spring. Hope to see you in person at one of these events.

All best,


I read about this last week and am wiggling with excitement for the book’s arrival. Though some of his larger works can be difficult to get through (or perhaps I was not mature enough to grasp all the details in certain material of his, say, Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was a challenge for young Doug), this one has great potential to bring the spiritual/psychedelic/public health discussion to a broader audience. I understand his apprehension, but believe he will become another spokesperson for the benefits of controlled substance exploration. I enjoyed diving into Jim Carrey’s recent stuff, as posted here awhile back. This is novel stuff forming all around us. (I would love to attempt a review…but I never called myself writer…for good reason! Perhaps a collaborative effort would be a journey unto itself).

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@JimT, @lorinmartin, @madrush and anyone else: Thought you might be interested to know about the recent release of this book.

Interesting articles and interviews:

…wouldn’t mind discussing this book/topic sometime.

Personally interested in the “rite of passage” discussion to be had around the subject (related to the sponsoring our elders idea I shared previously).

Timestamp from the Ferris interview:

  • A searing rite of passage: the unique generation gap created by LSD in the ’60s. [1:03:36]

…and the Klein interview @ 1:12:30 on rite of passage

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I downloaded and read the introduction to Pollan’s book last week, but I was less impressed than I thought I would be. Actually, I am very impressed by the fact that he’s written this book—moreover, he’s a very good and readable writer. But so far as I can tell from the Introduction, he is really watering things down for a mainstream (“New Yorker” kind of) audience.

That’s good, of course, for the broader social, cultural, and political conversation, but I doubt how much I will learn from the book directly. Nonetheless, I still want to read it. But I will borrow it from the library (though there’s probably a waiting list), not buy the expensive hardcover!

There is another recent book on psychedelics that looks interesting, by the young novelist Tao Lin (you may know from his tale of millennial nihilism, Taipai). Lin discovered Terrence MckEnna and wrote a book about it—probably from a very different (though in other ways, not so different) perspective than Pollan.

Update: the Longmont Public Library has 16 copies of How to Change Your Mind, with 89 people on the wait list.


Yes…as noted in the comments above, he is bringing this discussion to a broader high-brow audience. After a speed read, it is essentially an expansion of “The Trip Treatment” with a few added experiences (which do not really concern me these days; might be interesting for those considering some future excursion). This might be a book for my 70 year old friend who is contemplating “the end” and is highly interested in studies around end of life therapy with psychedelics.


Trip is not like Pollan’s book in the least other than the sharing of personal experiences. Somewhat in the same vein as Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head, Lin is recounting some of his bizarre experiences and struggles with an additional homage to McKenna (Lin seems to have spent time with McKenna’s ex-wife and their kids), yet it takes a turn towards literary prose at times, rather than following Pollan’s and Pinchbeck’s reporter/experimenter style.

And the benefits of living in Frankfort…just picked these right off the library shelves a couple days ago :books: :male_detective:


And when I would love to attempt a review…but I never called myself a writer…what kind of love is that love when attempt to write a review…whereabouts love?..does love have a size or shape?..and is there a relationship between that love and the ‘I’ that never called myself a writer?

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The love resides in the formative connections. The ethereal mental operator reroutes (rewrites) previous connections, bringing in multi-pronged nodes for funneling fusions of greater synthesis.


(we are often writing while we are reading…)

Two examples from recent Cafe segments:

I am not a singer, to the point that I have steered myself towards the world of ambient music, wordless songs, classical compositions. My voice was the voiceless voice by choice. Yet, in light of a “safe” sharing space, we are able to share our experimental minds. I sing (sang the “Star” song in the Patten Cafe) to create space anew, to reach outside of our spoken words, to be a partial prismatic persona shining this little light of mine that might alight within your mind through a relevant (timely) rhyme. Then I go back to my ambient song, the un-versed introverted universal rhythms where I can best listen to others words, taking them in deliberately, allowing my operator to work on the project compositions (compostings?) of the mind.

Second example:

Writes of Passage (or they write of rites of passage)

(I recently mentioned in one Cafe mowing a maze for my son in our backyard, after I had skipped a few weeks due to the birth of Vincent. I allowed for the grass to grow knee high and intentionally mowed this passage for my son, possibly an experience that no other child will have in this state of American yard affairs. We think we have removed the jungles around us, we have removed any obstacles for exploration, now seeing what is beyond the overgrowth, conquering our lawns to see our chosen vista. But we have just begun to explore the grasses of the mind…I would love to write a creative Pollan piece that begins with this metaphor. I have read all of his books (some read better than others), and have a wild idea to extract elements from each and thread in their themes with his latest piece of work. Below is some notes for the essay I started and will likely never finish:)

In Second Nature (his first book) Pollan’s father (who had a terminal illness during the time that he wrote How to Change Your Mind and who the book is dedicated to) responds to an anonymous letter received in the mail stating essentially “your overgrown lawn is unsightly and a disgrace to our neighborhood” by mowing his initials in the grass.

—> now Pollan is following in his fathers mow-steps, this time charting a new path inscribing the initials LSD in his lawn labryinth. Like Westworld’s labyrinth of consciousness (one of my favorite moments in cinema, especially the series build up to this moment), Michael Pollan had been trekking the maze of consciousness since he began presenting his writing to the world, outside of his head. Consciousness…that strange conversation we have with ourselves, that fleeting focal point always finding us at the periphery, pointing to the center yet always placing us within the walls…

–> this grass passage would lead to A Place of My Own: The Architechture of Daydreams, the title of his second book, extracting a few quotes from that book about the importance of having private space, similar to a room of one’s own.

–> Then it would go into The Botany of Desire which focuses on intoxication in one chapter, with marijuana as an example of a gateway into this desire to have altered states, other examples being caffeine, cold showers, and the How to Change Your Mind lead-in --> psychedelics… And there is the Omnivores Dilemma, Food Rules, Cooked, along with some articles and other writings I wish to reference. Essentially it would be a guided metaphor into the mind of Pollan and his progression up to this point.

Also took these notes after reading "The Trip Treatment" in February:

(and predicted the Harris/Pollan discussion, which is soon to come, which goes along with @madrush’s distaste for the New Yorker style presentation…I think you’ve convinced me to steer away from Harris in favor of other explorers Johnny :grinning:)

From cutting grass to letting it grow. From growing grass to allowing it to be a gateway drug.

Has Pollan Changed his mind?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma can be entitled the technological dilemma…we are online omnivores…is it time to drop out, tune in?

Michael Pollan is to come out with a new book with the Self-help title How to Change Your Mind. Is this another story of, “I did it and so can you.” Essentially it is. We have all sorts of book titles these days from the public intelligentsia “12 rules for life” “enlightenment now” …

The Intellectual Dark Web is supposedly all around us. Writers, professors, poets, activists are all going underground, or perhaps within their own home-caverns and observing the world. They are attached to their screens.
Essentially the internet is providing us with new ideas at any given moment…yet how is it changing our mind, are we doing the changing? With the manipulation of the mind, we are stepping into what Han terms as the Burnout Society. Society of so much positivity, so much more and more and more, and even when seeking less we often return right back to more.

Pollan decided to take a change of pace, a chance to change a mind…

Michael Pollan may have an ironically fitting title (the self-help reference is noted), as he has an ironically fitting name for what he has achieved in his writing career. The Pollanator could be his moniker, heck it was even a mixed drink at an event, buzzing about one direction in his garden, intoxicating us with bits of prose, informing us of the best paths to follow for the earth and personal wellbeing along with some fun and intoxication along the way.

“What existential difference is there between the human being’s role in this (or any) garden and the bumblebee’s? “

Pollan sees us as on par with the bees, we spread seeds, spread our seed, spread our mind’s seeds all about…the internet even moreso than before.
The Pollanator is a mixed drink named at a gathering with Pollan. Now, as he has diverted from the typical bee-line of the garden, the human reaping and sowing, the resources needed to complete a meal, and the processes needed to have a satifying meal along side of a satisfying ecology, he is ready for the after party. He is ready to mix his own cocktail, and no telling what he is going to put in there this time around…he has had fascination with fermentation (book reference), with the intoxicating effects of the natural world, with changing our minds. This time he is exploring away from the earth, the gut and our taste buds and providing us with fodder for changing the mind…literally, physically.

What Pollan is writing about has been written for many years now. In the article, there is mention of the researcher’s archaeological digging, stumbling upon the mass of beneficial aspects of LSD as learned in the 1960’s. There has been a strong underground movement for professional research and exploration and rejuvenation of the benefits of psychedelics. What is different about Pollan is his name. He has the knack for bringing a discussion to the table, to the home, to the family and to the public.

In a certain sense, psychedelics can be considered the first human “enhancement” possibly the reason why we are at the level of consciousness today rather than grazing about the fields (see Stoned Ape theory/Terrence McKenna)

I can already see the path forming here. Sam Harris will interview Michael Pollan. Harris’ followers will latch onto this and promote the discussion further, for better and worse…

I love the first attempt at writing, as we have explored in our Writers Underground, but like any true experience, especially the experience of being in a profound altered state, how do you describe this? You, John have attempted in the past to describe your experience with the profound, with the weird in nature with your personal “bird experience.” So this “love” loves the metaphor, loves the images of trekking a labryinth towards a self-built room-of-ones-own, but does not love the idea of putting it on or into a piece of work; it’s a contradiction; it’s a paradox, and it’s not one I’m willing to explore beyond, though I feel like it was explored it here. Just like the elder conversation jumbled mess, I much prefer to be the elder on the porch for this type of stuff, throwing out the idea about how to play the game, then watching others play it. Yet it is essential to note that I’m not above anyone, not better than others. (its usually the opposite: a feeling of lack of self-worth to present my ideas, to sing my song)… at times I do think I’m above people, above the creative mind, above the writer, because it’s a futile attempt to express such experiences, futile attempt to be creative for others sake, so here I am being creative for you, in hope that others will read this and understand what I’m getting at, in hope that maybe somebody else will pick up this project, in hopes that they wouldn’t want to monetize, but just play the game, follow me into the labyrinth.


“My voice was the voiceless voice by choice. Yet, in light of a “safe” sharing space, we are able to share our experimental minds. I sing (sang the “Star” song in the Patten Cafe) to create space anew, to reach outside of our spoken words, to be a partial prismatic persona shining this little light of mine that might alight within your mind through a relevant (timely) rhyme. Then I go back to my ambient song, the un-versed introverted universal rhythms where I can best listen.”

Wow! This is stunning, Doug. I was there when you sang to us and felt the vibe. A dynamic reference point!

Let us know what support that you may need. I look forward to reading your work.


Ha…that’s the extent of it! I much prefer collaborative efforts and do not see any reason to work any further on my own. But I do appreciate any support/sponsoring.


We can explore maturing changes.

And when I sing (sang the Star song) to create a space anew…what happens to the voiceless voice of choice?

And when I sing to create a space anew…what happens to the Cafe conversations?

And when I sing to create a space anew…what happens to Vincent?

I moved this clean languauge interview to the Patten thread, from which your insights emanate, and with your permission, point out the shift that has occurred. These shifts are important and in my humble opinion need attention for them to translate into other domains.

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Well, I would encourage you to mix up some more magic mortar and continue the bricolage. Maybe we could put something together for Metapsychosis, like the ‘mother!’ assemblage, which has a few tentacles waving in slow motion, but is working toward a presentation that can be shared with the world, rippling out, emanating, returning what it will.

I have the thought to add a section to the site titled “Notes from the Readers Underground,” where we collect and collate the best of our collective notes on the books we’re reading, which are scattered everywhere around the forum. (I could also imagine a Notes from the Writers Underground” series, or simply, “Notes from the Underground”—a story I read at least seven times in my early 20s.) But they would remain notes, not finished “pieces,” yet still presented artfully.

All this effort may really be pointless, granted. But isn’t it nice to have something to show for the effort—something for the future, for other people—like a film, a poem, a podcast, whatever? Even if the artifact is beside the point, isn’t it still important for sustaining, nurturing, and communicating (or shall we say, propagating) culture? Don’t you want to spread the love?


I wrote the following words (Kin Generating Kin) on 5/28. I felt it to be an indecipherable mess then and did not post here. I re-read today and, though much of the passing comments are directed towards inside jokes and concerns to myself, it seems more “aged” now. The core issue is still…“why write?!” and, expanded: “why write when life is occurring all around us?” Perhaps this belongs in the Writers Underground. It has been left in “raw” unedited form. Your comment @madrush about your year-long struggle to balance the creative self with family life, how life after two children prevents free-time, has me thinking I don’t want to begin writing…yet, depite this, I have thought otherwise now and have something in the works… thanks to @Geoffrey_Edwards 20 year project ideas!

Kin Generating Kin

(it matters how kin generates kin)
I must change my life.
I must spend my time wisely
Like your Blue Valentine (was it really that long ago?) I feel a technic disconnectic
Even as I type these word, I had just passed up the chance for communication with my significant other,
With my child, with my older child.
We are all within our mind spaces, our labyrinths
Seeking the center, seeking the sure moment
Sharing our stories…for whom…when I do this with my progeny
It has a deeper meaning.
It is a shared momentum…a memory of the future

In Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life
(perhaps the next self-help book to add to our list)
He gives us Zarathustra’s domestic speech on marriage and
Progeny progress.
Haraway has a quote “Make Kin, not Babies”
Mark made the passing comment that latched and leeched in my mind
Of how can we bring in a child in this day in age?!

It is boiling down to this for me, the non-artiste’s artiste…
Where do I draw the line between familial cultural formation
And that strange technological ero-formative culture seen here
And in my readings and half-assed writings? (half-assed as I am a donkey…
Working hard for my words, an animal that has speech-to-text impediments, and only half of the right writing is written, while the other half is forgotten, either through personal mental interruptions or through the family’s interruptions, my loved ones, and the split=second hatred for this disruption…)
Such is the flippy-floppy life of the non-artiste; a liver and lover of two worlds. Self-sabotage for the better and for the worse….where do I draw the line?

But yes,
I remember
Again and again
This is where I begin
Here on this site…I am learning that I am not ready for this
Like reading so much non-fictitious accounts in order to truly savor the true works of delicious fictitious reditions.

Again and again…
This place
This placement
This spot
This room that is not my own.
I need a space.
I have been given the space…
But it is not my own.

Why must we go on creating the same styles?
Why can we not go on and become such a mind that has no true aim but to produce the right elements that are outside of our control…
I mention the massive potential of a collaborative work.

This is a call for something different. Send me a letter to my address. Come to my home and become someone who I truly know.
I sense a freedom around the corner.
My Filipino parents will be here, living in my home.
My room to ones own will be the Ed’s experience of a full household, thus tuning out the sounds around you.
Aldous Huxley’s wife reported that he would be in such a deep mental reflective “zone” that he would not respond to her.
Possibly the effects of micro-dosing in its early heyday. Or of a mind that entered into such depths.

What am I trying to say?
I want to start a creative project.
But I do not want to claim any of this as my own
Perhaps my project is to demonstrate that we can live in an alternate realm
Without the aid of….
Then I remember my mundane life…and go back to it.

"a creator shall you create […] a self-propelling wheel, a first movement.

“The creator follows a metaphysical assignment: if life itself is already a vibrating mountain of improbabilities, one can only prove an affirmation by piling that mountain up even higher. That is why upward procreation is meant to create a creator. By producing additional increases of the improbable, one acclaims the dynamic of improbability increase as a whole. Hence the demand for a human being who has overcome their own obstacles in life and is free of resentment towards creativity.” (quote from Sloterdijk’s “Artiste Metaphysics” in You Must Change Your Life …scroll down a couple pages from the link to locate the writing)


To Marco and others. Although this book is not geared to the off the chart erudition of this Cosmos collective, I support Pollin in helping to reinvigorate Public interest in psychedelic research and in bringing attention to its therapeutic and socially progressive benefits. Tim Leary is not to be thought of as the Father of LSD. The fact that Pollin and others discredit Leary and other Merry Pranksters is beneficial towards helping the public understand the benefits of psychedelics. I suggest, Marco, that reading further into this book may give you background into the history of this subject. Terrance McKenna was a very different king of guy. A truly crazy ethnobotanist who would have loved the work this body at Cosmos is destined to create. I hung out with him at Esalin and many other campfires. I’m going to read the book you recommended Marco regarding Tripping. Sorry for such a belated comment. I’m traveling a bit slower these days than I used to. Oh, be sure to read Caroline’s recent piece regarding non-dualistic understanding in a recent Buddhist magazine. It’s excellent.


Let’s talk about it sometime, Jim. It would make a good Cosmos Café topic. I like Michael Pollan a lot and have been reading his books (about food, gardening, and tiny house building) for years. He’s done a great service to our culture and society by writing a book about psychedelics. I would love to hear more about your time w/ McKenna. He was a rare bird, indeed!

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Can you remind me of the book you recommended as an alternative read to Pollin’s book. I think the author was Chinese, maybe Linor something. You said he mentioned McKenna.

It was Trip by Tao Lin. It was kind of depressing book, however, in my experience. The author discovers Terrence McKenna and a new appreciation for the mysteries of the psychedelic experience, but the overall mood of his writing still feels to me rather dreary. However, he (Tao Lin) credits his McKenna-inspired psychedelic experiences with deeply affecting his inner life, and I think he eloquently lets that show, which is to his credit.

No … Pollen’s a ___. I wrote a review of his book “Second Nature” on Goodreads. Errg … Seriously … Stop it!

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I was 41st on the waiting list for Pollan’s book and yet…got a notice within two days that it was waiting for me! For whatever reason, I got the book this week and have started reading it. I would love to hear what you think of it, once you’ve read the whole thing.
I rarely can get ahold of a book you all are reading (in time) to read with you, or else I can’t get it at all, so it’s a pleasure in this case to have things coincide …OOPS I see your comment is from May 2018! So, I assume you’ve read it by now? What did you think??

What does “a ----” mean?? Can you unpack this phrase and your opinion of M. Pollan?

If I may? Why do ask?