march 31st, 2021

Episode #17


Music As a Catalyst for Introspection &
Moving Closer to the Mystery with East Forest

Laura Dawn speaks with East Forest about the powerful role music plays in our psychedelic experiences.

Almost every indigenous ceremony that we have an example of uses music as the vehicle of the ceremony. Music IS the ceremony, and there’s a reason why. I think it’s the key to unlocking a pretty powerful inner door.
East forest


About This Episode:

Since 2008 East Forest has been the leader of underground ‘sound meditation’ ceremonies around the world. His primary mission is to create sonic architecture for others to explore their inner space. 

In this episode, East Forest shares his journey with psychedelics and how that started him on the spiritual path, and how he didn’t find his own voice until discovering psilocybin, which is when his path as a musician started to deepen and open up and started focusing on creating music specifically for psychedelic journey’s. 

He talks about the role that music plays in ceremony and in our healing process, and how music is ultimately extending an invitation for us to go within, pointing towards the mystery, and reminding us of our inner North Star. He shares about the time he spent with Ram Dass, his interesting perspective on the positive benefits of this polarized time of division, a powerful suggestion for plant medicine integration, and his thoughts about the psychedelic movement towards medicalization.

Core Themes

Explored in this episode:
  • Music
  • Psychedelics
  • Introspection
  • “Sound meditation” ceremony
  • the healing process
  • Going within
  • Medicalization

Links &

useful resources

Episode Transcript

Episode #17: East Forest Psychedelic Leadership Podcast.

Duration: 1:12:28

Intro [0:02]: My name is Laura Dawn, and you’re listening to episode number 17 of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast, featuring my super sweet conversation with the wonderfully talented musician, East Forest.

East Forest: Almost every ceremony indigenous ceremony that we have an example of its ancient lineage uses music as the vehicle of the ceremony, it is the ceremony as a reason why. And we can’t ignore that, across cultures. So, I think it’s the key, it’s a very useful key to unlocking a pretty powerful inner door. Now the world is entering through a bell curve of introspection. And I think that’s exactly what the planet needs. And we need as a species to learn and change. And I think music is one of the many tools we have in our belt, to help us live within. And psychedelics for me. 

Although I don’t engage in them all, super often, they’re a way of reorienting your map and your compass, no way. And they’ve been very powerful for me at that, teaching me about what’s important to me. Certain psychedelic moments have shown me a possibility not to show me I was in it, I felt it was real. And that was important for me to believe that something more could be possible that I knew could be, but I didn’t know, it gave me an experience of certain things of states and seeing behind the veil of just my mind. That it’s just a tool that’s a powerful tool for me, but it’s not like the thing. Life is the thing. That’s everything. And I’m not escaping life, I just have these moments where it helps me direct what I want to do with this life. And it helps me awaken to the presence of just what is and being. There isn’t anything else anyway. So, it breaks through the mine and the illusion.

If you’re not yet acquainted with East Forest’s music, especially if you’re on the medicine path, I highly recommend tuning in to what he’s been putting out there. He is such a prolific creator and has about 30 albums that you can listen to on Spotify, iTunes, or download on Bandcamp. And as we know, these have been really hard times for a lot of people. And I work a lot with entrepreneurs and executives and CEOs who are feeling the weight of stress, just from chronic overdoing, which is a territory I’m also very familiar with. And just the stress of riding these huge waves of change that we all face. 

And one of the first things I always recommend to my clients is to give themselves permission to slow down and go within which as we know, is so much easier said than done. And music can offer us that doorway to go within that invitation. And through the music that East Forest creates. It’s offering this bridge for us to come home to ourselves, inviting more introspection. And doing less, actually allows us to be much more effective in the way we show up and influence change. And he has quite a few meditations tracks both guided and instrumental, that I always recommend to my clients that I also listened to quite frequently. One of them is called Meditation for Chaotic Times. And here’s a little clip.

And I feature East Forest on me for free music playlists for psychedelic journeys and beyond and one of those playlists offers a variety of options to support introspection and meditation practice. And when you download those playlists on my website livefreelaurad.com it also comes with a whole guide on how to curate your music playlist for psychedelic journeys. Because as we know music plays a large and influential role in the outcome of our psychedelic experiences and so it’s worth putting in the time to fine-tune playlists that will resonate with you. And in that free guide, I also feature a whole section just on East Forest since he’s created an entire album called Music for Mushrooms which is well worth listening to. And I don’t just journey with his music I also wake up to his music I do yoga to his music I also make loved his music which again is probably a little too much information but it’s just to say that his music is so moving and deeply touching and incredibly beautiful. And I love his album he came out with featuring audio clips from Ram Das and in this episode, East Forrest talks about the time he spent with Ram Das and just how special that was. 

And I’ll be weaving his music throughout this entire conversation which is why I think I loved producing this episode I think it’s been my favorite one so far so all the music you hear in this episode is from East Forest. And there was a bit of a chunk at the end of our conversation that I had to take out to make this episode a little more compact and I removed a big section where I was asking him about a book that he’s currently working on and kind of struggling through and as someone who’s published two books myself, I understand how hard it is to complete a project like that. But he said something in there that I didn’t want to remove from the conversation about the way that music points to the mystery that was just so well said so I just want to play that short clip for you before we dive into the whole interview.

Words are hard because they’re so exact and so you playing with this thing that’s all representational and trying to put it together to create this feeling in a way that convey ideas and that’s a real art everyone knows this I guess but I’m just used to music which is so much more representational and diffuse it’s what I love about I think it’s almost closer to the mystery inherently from its constituent parts with words you have to be good at them to start to get closer to that mystery and still make sense you’re playing with the mind to get into the heart music can go right to the heart. So, it’s been a unique challenge for me because I’m not a writer or I should say I didn’t consider myself a writer. So, it’s been a cool experience but not an easy one.

East Forest is thoughtful and well-spoken and I just appreciate his perspective on things and a lot of what he had to say. And one more quick note before we dive in, I have my three-month Micro dosing Mastermind program coming up this June July and august specifically created for entrepreneurs who want to leverage a conscious micro-dosing practice to up level all aspects of their lives and expand their reach of influence. So, if this sounds interesting to you please check it out on my website livefreelaurad.com or reach out to me if you have any questions whatsoever also if you’re on clubhouse I am hosting a weekly micro-dosing room every Tuesday between six and 8 pm and if you’re not yet on the clubhouse and you’d like to join me there all include a link to my profile in the show notes and if you’re new to micro-dosing and you’re not sure where to start you can access my free eight-day micro-dosing course on my website livefreelaurad.com alright without any further ado here is my interview with East Forest. 

Laura Dan: Well, I can honestly say that I have been looking forward to this conversation with you. Thank you so much for joining me here today.

East Forest: Thanks. Nice to be here.

Laura Dawn: Okay, so this just feels mildly awkward to share, and vulnerable. But I feel I have this deep sense of connection with you just because I’ve had these profound experiences with plant medicines where I had you whispering in my ear. And I’m just grateful for those moments that you’ve held space for me through some incredibly challenging moments of my life. So, I just wanted to start this conversation off by saying, thank you, for holding space for me for those moments that felt tough.

East Forest: Cool. Well, that’s very sweet. Thanks for saying that.

Laura Dawn: I’m so curious. Where’s the name East Forest from?

East Forest: Well, that’s easy. That’s just my last name translated from German bows, Oswald, means East Forest. I’ve had some German speakers that tell me it’s not that simple. But my novice understanding is that I was just translated and my former wife spoke German. She’s fluent in German. So, she just mentioned that one day, maybe 12 years ago, before this project was anything. And I was trying to release my first record. And when she said that, I was, that that’d be a good way to, to identify. So, I just sort of slap that on it. And it’s stuck. So, here we are.

Laura Dawn: I love it. I love that name. What was your foray into psychedelics, and was that your pathway into sort of the path of spirituality?

East Forest: I would say it was my pathway to spirituality, I’m trying to think chicken or the egg kind of thing. And I think what my first important powerful experience with psychedelics with mushrooms, and was probably 18, or 19, in college, and I had a very strong experience and ego-death thing. And thankfully, it was positive. And it was a good experience. But it was also a bit confounding like I didn’t understand what happened. Or where I’d gone. I knew how it felt, it felt really important. But it was not something I understood, not that I understand it now. And I think, ever since that experience, I was sort of chasing that original experience or that feeling or that place of soul space that I felt I was in. And I wanted to be back there. I wanted to return there and understand it more. 

And a long story short, is that I started making music that I could use as a tool to help engender those states and guide me into them. Because I’d had after that other experiences where music played a really important role. And there’ll be moments where it all coalesced in this beautiful way. But I still didn’t understand why or how, how could I repeat that? Or how could I direct that a little bit? And that took me on the journey of trying to figure that out. But absolutely, I think for someone who grew up in a typical American Western way, I was pretty depressed as a kid. And it’s something that I’ve dealt with in different episodes of my life. And certain psychedelic moments have shown me a possibility, not just showing me, I was in it, I felt it was real. And that was important for me to believe that something more could be possible that I knew could be but I didn’t. It gave me an experience of certain things of states and seen behind the veil of just my mind. So, yes, it’s played a very important role for me. 

Laura Dawn: I know it’s hard to put words on it but when you say point to it and it was real and what are we pointing to I love that you said soul space that’s such a beautiful term I’ve not heard that before.

East Forest: Yes, there are words and symbols for something that is the mystery, and sometimes we’re able to just get so close to it by a breaking down of the structures that are typically in the way of us just being and a lot of that is a monologue in our head and our identity with our individuality, identity and our ego and so forth. And as those things start to have cracks and slip away oftentimes, you’re left with what I was calling soul space or God or non-duality, this sort of web of connection that that holds us all that we’re all in and I don’t always feel it in a way that’s always blissful and like unicorns and rainbows sometimes it’s more just sort of this extreme law sense of the law of just what is and that’s the playing field or on and there’s a power to that and there’s is no arguing with it just is. And when you start to feel yourself in the plenum of that energy it’s very powerful and it’s humbling and it’s not something, I claim to understand it just feels it’s just infinite nets of everything but I love how when you’re in those states you feel you can sum it up you have the understanding makes sense at the moment and maybe you write it down on paper and you come back and it’s just a triangle or something, everyone’s, that’s just a triangle.

Laura Dawn: Exactly and it’s usually so just simple and profound and usually comes with deep guttural laughter at the irony of it all.

East Forest: Yes, and I’m not trying to say that, it’s a triangle meaning it has no meaning I’m, no you did understand you did have these great meanings you’re now coming back into the octave of consciousness of this sort of three-dimensional thing and it’s trying to describe to my dog’s certain concepts. It just doesn’t have that same octave of consciousness, we share certain octaves but it doesn’t have these other ones it’s just, it’s never going to get that unless I dosed my dog so as far as language and things that they understand it in their way and so we have to understand the mystery and our way through representational reality, songs, music, art, poetry, and these altered states.

Laura Dawn: So, similar to the chicken or the egg with spirituality which came first for you, were you already musically inclined, or did that take off after you started working with psychedelics? It’s kind of remarkable I’ve seen this happen so much where people have never played music before and then they’ll go sit with Ayahuasca and I’ll see them three months later and they’re popping out songs. It’s always just so fascinating to see how psychedelics encourage our creativity so what was that for you.

East Forest: I think we’re all musicians on the level that we’re all can engage with music. I was weaved in and out of music my whole life since I was a little kid but I don’t think I started to find my voice my way with it until psilocybin gave me sort of a purpose of working with it to make music to guide people to guide myself. And then things started to deepen and open up and everything came together in a sense of my life itself and the way I walked my walk and my work all became one thing. So, that kind of harmony of everything coming together that I think just allowed it to blossom a little bit better. Because I wasn’t trying to pander anymore it was just more like what works or what excites me, just what excites me? And that’s where it was starting from. 

And I try to keep that as my NorthStar today. Because every day, there’s the chance to sort of fall off the saddle and you’re, all the shiny things and offers and this isn’t that some people you meet. And you’re always, okay, it’s the motivation here. Because it’s still coming from that place of the truth, is it still touching that place that I was reaching for internally so many years ago? Or am I excited for some sort of if I ever lost my way and a false North Star? But I think it’s something that you redirect, your kind of always tweaking the ship wheel that you’re steering, moment to moment, every day. And psychedelics for me, although I don’t engage in them all, super often, they’re a way of reorienting your map and your compass in a way. And they’ve been very powerful for me at that of teaching me about what’s important to me.

Laura Dawn [21:10]: I love how you said, did you create the music that you needed for your healing?

East Forest: Yes, inadvertently, and advertently, it was that first record, I put it out, it’s called the Education of the Individual Soul, and it’s free to download on my site. Always has been will be. I just would work on that for a year, back in 2008. And I didn’t know what I was making, I didn’t have a plan with it. But at the end of it, I knew it was inspired by certain moments I’d had on psilocybin and so I wanted to kind of honor that. I had a little ceremony where I, I took some mushrooms and lay on my bed. And when the medicine came on, I put the headphones on and hit play on this record I’d made and it changed my life. It felt like that was the birth of what became East Forest. It was very clear before and after. 

And I just felt that my soul I’d tricked my ego, into creating this art piece to use as a tool at that moment, to transcend it to a new sense of being and I didn’t even realize what I was making that whole year I’m just making it. And all of a sudden, I was, what did I do? And that was good enough for me, I was ready to just lay it down there and say, that’s what it was for. But I shared it with my girlfriend and my roommate, a friend. And they started having profound experiences. And then one of them pushed me into, I organized the circle, you’re going to play for. And I like, I don’t know about this. He’s, it’s cool. It’s Saturday, just you got to show up. And he just kept doing more and more of that. And because of that, I bit started developing a protocol, okay, how do I do this? How do we guide people on how we make it safe, and powerful, and positive? And long story short, here we are. 

I just kept doing that. I never thought the world would catch up to that being at all mainstream, it was very underground and very fringe, 12 years ago. It’s not that long. But believe me, it’s still super stigmatized, my God, people are doing drugs and this and that. You couldn’t get advertisers on websites if you wrote articles about it. And now, it’s the opposite. You can invest in companies making the medicine and it’s like a land rush. I feel it’s crazy. I haven’t changed what I’m doing at all. But I just was surprised that some of this long-form, experimental, ambient shamanic, whatever it is, music could find a place as you said, you don’t have to journey to it also. It’s just about introspection, and the world is entering through a bell curve of introspection. And I think that’s exactly what the planet needs. And we need as a species to learn and to change. And I think music is one of the many tools we have in our belt to help us dive within. 

Laura Dawn: I’ve been exploring altered states of consciousness for over two decades now and I could never have imagined that psychedelics and plant medicines would have gone mainstream like they are today. I don’t think anyone saw this coming and yet I just don’t think that it’s a coincidence that as we’re facing this time of upheaval and transition and crisis that we’re also witnessing the proliferation of these powerful substances that fundamentally change the way we perceive and the way that we think. What’s your narrative around this?

East Forest: You cannot see the alignment of the transition we’re in as a people. And the role that psychedelics play in it especially for anyone who’s had the experience with psychedelics a peak state of altered consciousness. I don’t have to explain that what it feels like, but I’ve often felt it’s sort of yin yang of growth and death and birth whereas we’re seeing one level of chaos and destruction the unveiling so to speak the burning of the fields and we have equal measure there is a level of an uprising of another energy of revelation and change and choice. And so, I think they do go hand in hand and it’s important to hold that truth if it has meaning for you because it’s easy to focus on the destruction. 

Well, that’s half the picture and that is true and that suffering is real but it sure seems that psychedelics are playing a role as an accelerant I can only speak for myself and it’s just a tool that’s a really powerful tool for me but it’s not the thing, life is the thing. That’s everything and I’m not escaping life I just have these moments where it helps me direct what I want to do with this life. And it helps me awaken to the presence of just what is and being there isn’t anything else anyway. So, it breaks through the Maya, the illusion of our obsession with the past in the future or attempts to protect ourselves, and really in a time when it’s so fractured polarized, and intense it takes some serious Jedi energy and the scent of soldier energy of love of focus. Because falling off your point of presence is incredibly easy these days and our attention is vied for by 1000s of actors Ajay mostly digital and so it is up to us as individuals to write that ship and to do it from moment-to-moment hour by hour. 

And I’ll admit it’s hard work but I think things like the psychedelic journeys can be really powerful tools to create accelerant of change I should say accelerant of choice like people make the changes themselves and the choices that you can easily have these experiences and do nothing with it that’s your choice so integration in some ways is everything but I’m hopeful I am. I think it’s going to be messy a bit this revolution of science and legality and decriminalization but I’m quite hopeful that this is the path I would like to see. I certainly don’t want to see people in jail or their lives ruined for engaging with their consciousness and these chemicals and plants but there’s going to be some mistakes and there’s going to be some bad actors and this can be just so as I was said before it’s going to be a bit of both.

Laura Dawn: What were you’re feeling about putting out an album specifically called Music for Mushrooms and just naming it so overtly have you received any criticism around that and do you feel like that’s encouraging people to work with psychedelics at home? Do you feel a sense of responsibility around that, ethically just what are your thoughts on that?

East Forest: I tend to be a little more on the spectrum of caution and care that being said, I’m in the business of providing tools and information for people. I think people are out there doing the things they want to do they’re going to explore with psychedelics so I want to be giving them a guide or a tool or information. I’m playing a small role in that but I saw a void with music and the role music plays particularly in mushrooms and psilocybin and early is in the research that was going on at the various institutions. But regular folks and I had been doing this work underground in our circles for a bit a long time as well we have a protocol that’s working for us and I have this music and I’ve been sharing it but not saying I just shared the music as a musician. 

And so, a few years ago I just thought I’m feeling the calling to just put out a full experience and call it what it is. It’s a five-hour album Music for Mushrooms a soundtrack for the psychedelic practitioner. And it’s from a ceremony and its life and it’s improvised and there it is and I wanted it to serve as a digital guide essentially and I didn’t know if that would work because when we do it live, I’m playing I’m responding in a sense to the energy in the room. So, I’m a guess it’s sort of a static experience in a cool will that works I don’t know but I was willing to try. And it seems from my friends and then the messages I get from people all over the world. It’s profoundly touching to hear someone say I had this journey and it was going bad and I know what that feels like, how terrifying that is and they say somehow I thought if this record is remembered and somehow I got it playing and then it took me on that journey and it went into complete healing and bliss and thank you, you saved my life and I know I didn’t save your life I know the music played a role now I’m saving their own life but I know what they went through in that sense because I’ve gone through that. 

And just helping one person to me is enough it was enough when I had just my own experience so I think this has the potential to reach many 1000s of people over decades. And I just want it to be a tool so I think it’s important for us to be providing lots of information and tools and learning and experimenting and seeing what works I’m not afraid of experimenting with technology and how that could maybe help or maybe not but let’s play let’s find out because maybe we can learn some powerful additional ways. So, I think people are pushing the limits a lot more than me so I don’t get a lot of criticism about advocating for it or because I feel I’m quite measured about it and I do not engage in something where I am doing anything illegal or pushing anyone’s limits or I’m just here offering information and tools. 

But there are some just to talk about the pandemic and people not gathering hopefully we’ll be moving through that hopefully soon I don’t know but maybe not I’ve seen some circles happening on zoom. Where you have the music studies my album playing everyone’s on the same timeline from one device so you’re not looking at a screen and then but you have a sitter on zoom who’s maybe watching three people alright so there are multiple sitters as you kind of have somebody there and there is a circle of people and you engage with that circle before and after maybe the next morning integration and people have reported being extremely positive and their new advantages they hadn’t thought of, I felt more comfortable in my own home as opposed to traveling to someplace or another country so these are sort of the silver linings inside the bitter medicine and as many of those. 

And so I think there’s a lot to learn and I think there are experiences to gain but I think experimentation is good but I think having great care and something like the north star pledge for instance about psychedelic ethics and in therapy, these things are extremely important I could go on and on about this ketamine therapy it’s a lot of these centers they’re just injecting people there’s actually no therapy they’re just giving you the medicine and that’s a small part of it but you’re taking people into soul space and very vulnerable states we need to bring more care to this and more structure and more guidance more holding and We’re getting there, but it’s a learning process.

Laura Dawn: I feel that.

East Forest: I do tell people though, it’s about lessening of control in a way, as you can’t say that your psychedelic journey is going to be like such and such. You set yourself up for success. But I don’t know, and sometimes people do have challenging experiences, sometimes they do have contradictory things going on with automatic medications or conditions they have, or certain life circumstances. And these are real. It could be psychologically traumatic. I’ve certainly had my share of psychologically traumatic experiences, and I don’t take those lightly at all. And so, I do not think it’s a panacea that’s right for everyone. And it’s okay. If you don’t want to do that. You can have a meaningful, powerful spiritual life. If there’s no game or scale, to say, if you’re not in the psychedelic club, you’re missing out on something. Is it extraordinary? Yes, it is. But my heart tells me it’s not a requirement to be a human being. It’s just one of the many things on this planet available to us.

Laura Dawn: I’d love to get a little metaphysical with you here. I’m just so curious. Because from my experience with journeying with plant medicines, I feel because I’m in an altered state of consciousness, that it’s the frequency of sound and the lyrics oftentimes that are being carried from that sound that can penetrate my subconscious mind in a different way than I normally could access in normal waking consciousness. How much do you feel like the sound is the vehicle for healing in ceremonies?

East Forest: I’ve felt what I feel like you’re insinuating on music, it’s really what I was talking about before, what drove me to try and make my music. When we’re on psychedelics, your things are amplified, you’re more receptive. And I so I think that’s why it’s important, or helpful to be careful about what you want to amplify, and what you’re bringing in. Because I think perfunctory things, just a flower or a piece of growl, anything, you can start to see the true beauty and miracle of anything, including in the way music works. If you just think about it at face value, it’s incredible. There’s this ratio in the universe, in a sense. So, we take rhythm by hitting things together. And then we take various tones that we can manipulate in all these different ratios to make harmonies. 

And there are only 12 notes on a piano, just for reference, and most music is made with those 12 notes. And we’ve made infinite songs. And it’s so present in our lives. It’s like asking a fish, what water is, it’s everywhere. It’s so important to us. And we talk with sounds and we’re swimming in music and swimming in the rhythm and tonality. And so, I think it’s an incredibly powerful tool. But it’s incredibly, infinitely complex. And that’s why it’s an art. That’s why when we connect with music that feels authentic, or at the moment, or some flow or a real voice of someone, we like it because that means it’s closer to the void. It’s closer to the mystery. It’s right up against or tethered into the actual source. And it’s translating it through the music now into this dimensional reality. And so, it’s a reminder for us, and there are moments where there’s the alchemy of certain ratios and combinations and lyrics and tones, where it’s just, yes, my God. 

Yes, and that can happen infinite times. And that’s what I live for. But on medicine, man, there’s nothing like it. And I think that’s why almost every ceremony indigenous ceremony that we have an example of its ancient lineage uses music as the vehicle of the ceremony. It is the ceremony, and there’s a reason why, and we can’t ignore that cross cultures. So, I think it’s the key. It’s a very useful key to unlocking a pretty powerful inner door. And on a most practical level sound is frequency quite literally and it’s a physical sensation of pressure waves. So, not even metaphysical at all, I’m just saying, it is about various forms of frequency relationships of those together, the harmony and the math of that, and what kind of shapes it creates these sorts of physical shapes, you can see them quite easily with cymatics. And that’s, that’s very real. And See, we feel it physically. And so, it’s no surprise that it can, you can also use sound as a weapon, you could kill someone with sound, you can break things or sound. So, it’s just one of the main substrates of existence, and it’s cool that we can play with it.

Laura Dawn [40:47]: I remember the first time that I listened to a couple of the songs on the Ram Das album, I was just coming out of a solo set with plant medicines. And it’s kind of cool how you can put this video loop on your songs on Spotify now. And I was listening to one of the songs and there was this video of you playing on the piano with this, soft sunlight coming through the window. And it just made me cry. It was so tender; I was in such a tender place. And there was something just so beautiful about the way you were playing. And I have also been such a big fan of Ram Das and his teachings. And I thought, what an honor, it must have been to spend some of those last years of his life with him and receive these teachings from him. And just so remarkable that he also found his path of spirituality through his journey work with psychedelics. I’m so curious, what were some of the gems that came from that time?

East Forest: Yes, a total honor. He does say, in a song Home on that record, I asked him about psilocybin and how it’s going through this whole Renaissance and so forth. And the first thing he said is that psilocybin is his friend. And then it started him on his spiritual path. Now, the sort of pause for a minute and think with that he’s saying he’s saying mushrooms made him Ram Das, we wouldn’t have Ram Das and his whole journey was like he lit a fuse when he had that first journey. With Allen Ginsberg, type theory, Ram Das, and he’s just got a house. He’s sitting on the couch and his body disappeared, and he’s, my gosh. And he felt that oneness and that ineffable feeling for the first time. 

So, in the depth of it, and it awakened something in him that wanted to be awakened It turned into a flowering of his life path being an example of his work. And then him touching many millions of people. It’s profound. So, getting to cross paths with him and just even a small way and, and we with him, it was an honor to unwittingly be with him for his last two years of his life. I suppose we knew he wasn’t going to be alive that long because he was very old and frail. But you never know when someone’s going to pass and he died a few days. Within the release of the final release, which was a called the Reworks album is kind of the last thing we put out. It was right around the solstice of the winter. And it was not at all a final moment, it certainly marked the end of his incarnation. But for me, it just felt like things continue to blossom. And I feel the relationship I have with him. With Maharajji, his guru feels very alive and continues to unfold in different ways, webs of connection. And so, I’m just very humbled by it. And I’m very grateful that it could happen at all, and that we had the opportunity to do it. And then he was able to speak that day. And it became, I believe, his last recorded final teachings. 

We didn’t know that at the time, but I was there a little later. The next time I saw him after that the next retreat in Maui says, like, I don’t know, another season or two later, he wasn’t speaking anymore. He was just present, so you can’t record that. And what he did record for the record was so masterful, so incredible, 50 years of experience of teaching, he just came alive inside the technology of the recording where I could remove his pauses, and put it in the music into the rhythm. Now all of a sudden, it was, holy shit this is like a masterfully present. And he sounded like Gandalf to me or something. It was an amazing experience.

Laura Dawn: Did he continue to journey with psychedelics as he worked with his guru in his later years? 

East Forest: Yes, I think he said a joke. When he’s older, especially, he’s, I don’t do it that often. But now and then, so I can stay in the club. I don’t think he needed it. He was so opened wide with love. But it continued to be a powerful tool for him. But he had a complicated relationship with cannabis early on just getting high in general in the early 70s, just really trying to get away from this. I always wanted to be high. And he had an awakening about, what am I running from, so I always have to come down. So, maybe I should stay and take curriculum, which is life, they keep trying to escape it. And he had such a great, self-deprecating way of teaching of using his own life and his foibles as an example. Because we all go through that.

Laura Dawn: What do you say to the people who think that experiencing states of oneness or enlightenment through the portal of plant medicines is a quote, unquote, cheating and that the true way is through spiritual practice and meditation, for example?

East Forest: Maybe you can look at it as cheating, but everyone has to live in the privacy of their hearts as Ram Das would say, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. So, if it helps you to go have an Ayahuasca journey, or if it helps you to sweep the [inaudible 49:34] floor or if it helps you to raise your kids or all the above. It’s all part of the show. It’s all part of the school. I don’t think there are any rules and I would certainly say these days. We need whatever works. We need all hands-on deck to everyone to dive within and make ends lightened or I should say, the awakened conscious choice is what we need. And I believe that when you do that, we move towards consensus and an attitude of us as opposed to me. And it becomes one more of service. Inevitably, the real proof is in the pudding is someone through their psychedelic work becoming more self-aggrandized and divisive. Or are they becoming their life is more in balance, and their rhythm in the world, for them is working better? 

I believe that to be a litmus test because I believe we’re here to engage with the world. Some people try, they need to escape it for certain times. I suppose they’re right. But it’s not easy to do, and for most of us is not an option. And anything that’s making us divided I feel is just to kind of delusion, that’s just what I believe in my heart. So, I’ve certainly seen people who are diving in and I would not say their life is a very good example of awakened living. But that’s the journey they’re on. And I hope that they can snap out of that, but it’s hard for me to judge where they’re at in their journey. But I’m not going to embolden them in that process, or I don’t want to feel a meshed or I’m helping them out. It’s sort of, always disallows foolishness is one of my favorites of the 10 laws, that is referencing a song of mine. Because it helps when you disengage with the foolishness of yourself, but others, you’re just not making more of it. Don’t be an enabler. Don’t put any fuel on the fire. Just engage.

Laura Dawn: Yes, I’m so curious what your take is on these just super polarized divided times, just any thoughts you feel like sharing in general.

East Forest: Just to speak to sort of the division. And let’s call it the sharpening of the blade of some of the work and how some of it’s been co-opted now by right-wing ideas, or I should say, there’s a sharing of which no one ever would have thought that would ever happen, or I’m assuming people know some about that. I think it’s good. I do think that the friction is good. Not because I want to see friction, I just think it’s leading to a place of education and more sharpening the blade. In some circles of New Age thought, I find it a bit lazy. And I’d say there’s nothing wrong with being specific or learning more or listening to who’s being left out? Or like accessibility on a social level and an economic level, racial level and economic, separate issues and combined issues is probably I think, the leading edge of psychedelics right now. 

It’s not the legality that used to be this leading, it’s known that’s the second issue. They related, but the most difficult question is how do you make this useful and relevant to different types of groups and people? And I don’t have the answer to that. It’s a very complicated question. But I’ve learned a hell of a lot in the last year just from listening to other people. And it’s pretty fascinating, to think, it’s tough for me to figure out the answer for everybody. But it’s not just about, what might make me feel safe in a journey and the protocol I come up with might not make somebody else feel safe. There’s not a universal way. Now, we, there’s, there are things about human nature that we’ve learned that do help, like the kind of mindset you’re in, and there’s lots of things that we know, help, kind of just basic human things, but you got to feel safe. And everyone feels safe for different reasons, and they’re coming from a different place.

Laura Dawn: I’m curious to ask you about the movement towards medicalization. Sometimes the best support system that a person can have in a psychedelic journey is the person who’s present, the guide who is just there. And now there’s such a huge movement towards people feeling they need to pay $100,000 and get a two-year degree in psychology to be a legitimate guide. You also mentioned over the years of the underground support that you guys did that you had just intuitively, cultivated protocols for safety and things like that. And integration wasn’t even a word two years ago, and now you hear psychedelic integration everywhere. So, the movements moving in a good direction. But what’s you’re feeling around for people listening? There are a lot of people who have this question around psychedelic leadership and qualifications and training and we’re now seeing, really the medicalization of it. So, what are your thoughts on that?

East Forest: So, I think it’s great to learn and for us to be doing research, but I do not want to see it behind a paywall inside a broken medical system where it’s 1000s of dollars, which that’s a problem. It is. And I also, when everything’s decriminalized, if we go that model, I certainly believe in the democracy of I should say, I guess, access, but then we just get to, how do we make it safe? And how do we provide information? And that’s an interesting question. Again, we’re in this process, it’s going to be a bit messy mistakes are being made and will be made. But I applaud that we’re trying to dive into it. Because we have to, here we are. And we’re figuring this out as we go. But I tend to focus on my own experience, which I found is helpful for people. And what can just help them have a successful positive journey? 

Out of my compassion for them, I don’t want them to go through something they don’t need to. But I’m not trying to have them avoid conflict at all. That’s a whole part of the journey. Is that kind of friction. But I’m just trying to provide tools. I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d be in this position, necessarily. But I kind of accidentally found myself filling a hole I wasn’t seen filled. I didn’t set out to fill it, it’s just once I started doing it, nobody else is doing this, no one else is creating music to guide this. I guess I can understand why it’s, there wasn’t a marketplace for that. And not that many people were interested in it. And it’s also highly experimental might not work. But it’s just what I was interested in, in my heart. So, it felt like my own dharma. So, I don’t know if that answers your questions, specifically. But it’s a bit of a rant about it.

Laura Dawn: I appreciate your perspective on things. Honestly. Do you have any, just different kinds of integration tools that you recommend that you feel like putting out there? For me, one of them, I love my spiritual teacher, [inaudible 57:36], she has amazing audiobooks. And I always recommend those, day-to-day teachings, I listened to those daily. And they remind me of how to show up as a compassionate human being. And I’m learning all the time. But it’s helpful to have a teaching that, for example, I’m just curious if you have anything besides the main integration support, which is getting enough sleep and get some stuff out and take care of your body and go for walks. 

East Forest: All that’s true. And I think to practice what you’re touching on, something that you can drop into is really helpful and important. I think we overlook the role of service, as a teaching tool and a tool of integration, a tool of getting out of her head and trying to figure things out. So, in some ways, if you want to feel whatever it is secure, integrated. What can you do to make somebody else feel secure and integrated? Note, you’ll find the teaching in that. I think oftentimes, through psychedelic work. This is called what people go through an awakening or whatever you want to call it, just a way of sending lifting the veil of their delusions, perhaps, they often find themselves drawn towards service, of just being connected to others and wanting to help others and not being as interested in the only self-serving things. 

So, I would just want to throw that into the mix. Because sometimes we’re so focused on what am I doing to figure out these thoughts in my head. So, maybe it’s helpful to get out of that head and allow the body to teach and allow the life and the medicine itself to think about it being just imbued into your life. Now, across time, it’s, how is everything going on? For a reflection of that journey, I had and the intention I had for going into it, what if it’s still in an echo of that? What does it mean now? It’s not that was gone and overs. It’s all still here. And so, it’s keeping this mindset of the layers that have no interest in time. They’re just sort of always present across time.

Laura Dawn: Are you actively working with psychedelics or journey work to help with your creative process?

East Forest: Well, my partner is a ketamine therapist here in town. So last year, that’s just been more accessible to me to join in. She does group therapy sessions and so that’s been pretty helpful and powerful. And I’ve been playing around with writing some music to guide that, which isn’t uniquely different and how I would do it for mushrooms, but just more the structure and flow of it.

Laura Dawn [1:00:16]: How would you say you’ve noticed the ketamine experience influence? Would you say it’s different in the sense of, that afterglow that you get with Ayahuasca or with psilocybin, and for me, I have these, very distinct experiences of the opening of my creative channel flow? Do you get to do what kind of mental cognitive-behavioral differences do you notice from ketamine? 

East Forest: Well, I can’t say I have definitively an answer. But for myself, I guess I’ve been interested in it know it can help me lower anxiety. So, it’s more, at its best by a few days later, or maybe even into weeks or months, I might notice that I’m more grounded. I have a lot of things going on, particularly now. And in the pandemic, it’s been pretty stressful and a lot of irons in the fire and a lot of non-traditional things. So, it’s just things you’re trying to invent the path as you go. And I enjoy the work. But it can be overwhelming at times. And I don’t want to feel overwhelmed, I want to feel present, and fulfilled, and not always running or chasing something. So, I think It’s helped me feel calmer, I think. But man, it is a strange medicine. It feels it’s a mimicker, it mimics all of the great psychedelics, and it can have any flavor of it or all at once. Physics, space medicine, it’s extremely powerful. So, I have a lot of respect for it. It just because I’m, this is strong. And I go into it with caution.

Laura Dawn: That’s so interesting. I haven’t traversed into the ketamine territory. And I feel I also approach approaching it with a lot of caution around just some of the behavioral tendencies I’ve seen in terms of party usage and addiction, [cross-talking 1:02:24].

East Forest: You see the same thing as mushrooms or acid. So, you can do whatever you want with it. Most people with mushrooms haven’t sat in a circle or a ceremony 99% of people, they’ve had positive experiences, but they’ve been outdoors with friends, they’ve been doing stuff. And I’m not saying that’s a worse way but most people just haven’t had that structure. The role of ritual and ceremony is it adds a huge change to the experience.

Laura Dawn: I heard that you were hosting something similar to online ceremonies during the pandemic. Similar to the question around ethics and how you feel about putting out music called Music for Mushrooms, how has that been for you in terms of holding space through zoom online? On one hand, we could say that this is a time where all hands-on deck, we need all the support that we can get, and other people might perceive that as irresponsible, what’s your take on that?

East Forest: Same friend who kicked me into these 12 years ago, right when the pandemic hit a year ago, he said, we’re going to do it this Saturday, and I think you should stream and I was, I’ve never streamed live, I don’t know how to do it. You’ll figure it out, Baba. You set it up and I just tried it. And it was going to be just for a small circle. And I thought it’s on the internet, why don’t just make it, whoever wants to watch and people engage with that in many different ways. But it’s 1000s of people around the world. It’s crazy.  I never would have done that before. So, people found that helpful. And I never would have considered doing such a thing. So, it’s another gift in a way of thinking outside the box because you were forced to and I recorded those sessions and I’m working on a record that’s essentially a Volume Two for the Music for Mushrooms. It’s all ceremonies during the pandemic where I was here in my studio, doing it the same way I do it when the people in the room with me but they weren’t they were on another side of various screens and these virtual circles doing their work.

Laura Dawn: How are you framing it for people, were you calling it a plant medicine ceremony? Were you just calling it a ceremony?  That’s a tricky line there.

East Forest: I just explained what I’m going to do and recommendations just so it would be successful on a tactical level. And then I don’t even know who’s out, I’m just looking at a computer. So, if I tell you that, I’m planning on playing for three or four hours, I’m a do my best to not stop, I’m going to improvise, I’m going to try and get into a flow state in a zone. Some people are, this sounds great for a mushroom journey. Some people were, this sounds great to hit my jacuzzi?  I don’t know, I can’t control that. But I will set the stage to help them, by starting it with invocation, by starting it with some meditation, and doing my best to take them into the mental state that if they’re giving me their attention, I’m going to help you do everything I know how to do with words and music to guide you through but the rest is up to them. 

So, I’m not telling anyone to take any particular medicines or not, I’m saying I don’t know but I’m just another thing on the internet. There are infinite forms of God know, so they’re choosing to be there for a reason. And I was that all steer the ship while we’re doing this, and I’ll let you know what to expect. But I have to recognize what I can control. And I can, and I do go into its kind of care where I’m not asking people to take risks, they don’t feel good about or do something dangerous in any way. But there’s just no way to cover all those bases. frankly, most bands like Cigar Rose are one of my favorite groups. 

And they would say that people take a lot of drugs at our concerts, but we do not write music for people to take drugs, just not our intention but people keep doing it. Okay, I can’t control what the audience does, it’s their viewpoint. And I happen to be making music in that experience, it’s well suited and designed for guiding a psilocybin experience, but the way the world works, I cannot engage fully in certain ways and so there are these inherent separations, we’re in this transitionary period where we have to take little leaps of faith to do anything, and we try to do that just measuring our risk as we go.

Laura Dawn: Did you have people reach out to you expressing that they had a beautiful journey after that, that they journeyed, and then it was beautiful? 

East Forest: Yes, many people and people were very generous, I offered it as a gift and so they’re providing donations.  I was very pleasantly surprised by people’s financial support and just the way that echoes out there in the world, just by sort of taking that leap of faith and just offering it and that’s why we did it again. Because we found it was meaningful for people even just when things were so high-stress last spring; that’s scary. And particularly for medical professionals, just to have a night to, I’m going to take four hours, turn everything off this Saturday night, and just let go and nourish, and it just felt needed. And also, to feel they’re connecting maybe with some people that they couldn’t in person.

Laura Dawn: Did you offer any integration after, is that what was part of that process?

East Forest: With our circle and then I did experiment with these councils online, people could sign up for, and I call it East Force Council. And it was a group on zoom we meet the day before and then the morning after. I’ve turned that into a Patron now.  It’s not around any journeys, it’s more, what would it be like if we had a monthly Council, where we can meet and track each other. And so that’s something I just started, but it was birth out of a bad experience with these virtual ceremonies.

Laura Dawn: Awesome. And I’ll put that link in the show notes for anyone who’s a fan and wants to join in that Patron offer. So, we’re just going to wrap up here. Is there anything that you would love to leave our listeners off with today? Any wisdom advice, anything that’s still on your mind that you’d love to express before we wrap up?

East Forest: I just think people could do a little more yoga and eat more ice cream. It’d be better off.

Laura Dawn: There’s any kind of ice cream.

East Forest: Whatever your favorite flavor is, you go get it and you enjoy that.

Laura Dawn: That’s good advice.

East Forest: Let’s do a little yoga too. It can be Child Pose, that’s cool, whatever you needed. You don’t have to be a Yogi’s do a little Child’s Pose.

Laura Dawn: Thank you, brother. I appreciate you. As I said, there have been moments where I’ve had your very present in my subconscious realms whispering just what felt support and encouragement through some very difficult moments in my own life, exploring my realms of consciousness. 

East Forest: Great to hear that, the thing whispering to you is the same thing that whispers to me maybe it is coming through my voice. But it’s all that is it’s both of us. It’s all of us. So, I’m glad to hear when it’s echoed out there, and you hear it.

Laura Dawn: Thank you. I appreciate you.

East Forest: Thank you for having me.

Outro: Hi, friends Thank you so much for tuning into an episode of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast. If you’ve been enjoying this episode, I would so appreciate it if you could share it with a friend or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or leave a review on iTunes. If you’d like to get in touch with me, please feel free to reach out through my website livefreelaurad.com or reach out on Instagram @livefreelaurad. As I mentioned, I’m also in the clubhouse @livefreelaurad. And if you’d love to join my weekly rooms on Tuesday evenings between six and 8 pm PST, we talk all things micro-dosing every Tuesday. 

If you’re an entrepreneur and you already have a micro-dosing practice, and you’d love to gather with a group of exceptional human beings, then please check out my three-month program coming up called Micro-dosing Mastermind. To help you leverage a conscious micro-dosing practice to tap into flow states. think more creatively and expand your reach of influence. I’m going to end this episode off by leaving you with another wonderful song by East Forest called We are Truth featuring Ram Das. And if you’d like to tune into more of East Forest wisdom, he has a podcast called 10 Laws with East Forest and I’ll include that link in the show notes. Once again, my name is Laura Dawn, and you’re listening to the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast. Until next time.

East Forest


Since 2008 EAST FOREST has been the leader of underground ‘sound meditation’ ceremonies around the world.  While his “blissful” (NPR) and “beautiful wash” (Paste) of ‘electro-acoustic orchestral ambient pop’ can be contextualized along with Aphex Twin, Philip Glass and Sigur Ros, the fundamental mission of his project is to create sonic architecture for others to explore their inner space.  Thus, it is a process of creating thresholds for the listener to cross over — whether through his music, ceremonies, retreats, podcast, meditations/talks or myriad other offerings.  His albums and collaborations have charted #1 on iTunes three times (August & May 2019, Aug 2016) and have been among Billboard’s top ten.  As a teacher, East Forest has blazed a path in the international wellness movement by embracing the intersection between technology, nature, music and the human experience—with a brain-body approach aimed towards non-religious spirituality—a methodology grounded as much in modern science as in ancient ritual.  His creations span over twenty-five albums including collaborations with Ram Dass, retreats at the Esalen Institute, Google and John Hopkins neuroaesthetics project, Wavepaths, Consciousness Hacking, TED, as well as artists like Typhoon, Dead Prez, Trevor Hall, Krishna Das, Hammock, Laraaji, Nick Mulvey, Peter Broderick and others. His music has appeared on 1631 Recordings, Aquilo Records, as well as Tender Loving Empire & Universal/Decca, and ONErpm.  Eastforest.org

Featured Music

Episode #17 of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast features a song called
“We Are Truth” by East Forest ft. Ram Dass


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About Laura Dawn

Through her signature Mastermind Programs and Plant Medicine Retreats, Laura Dawn weaves together science with ancient wisdom. She teaches business and thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals how to mindfully explore psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as powerful visionary tools for inner transformation, fostering emotional resiliency and unlocking new depths to our creative potential.