May 25th 2023
OF THE PSYCHEDELIC LEADERSHIP PODCAST
How Psychedelics Enhance the Creative Process:
from Incubation to Illumination
Can psychedelics help enhance our creative process? In this episode, Laura Dawn explores a 5-part framework for the creative process, outlining the mental states that support each phase and makes a compelling case that psychedelics may indeed be able to support the larger arc of bringing our ideas to life.
About This Episode:
The World Economic Forum named creativity the single most important skillset for leaders our time.
In this episode, weaving science with ceremony, we explore the broader question: Can psychedelics enhance our creative process?
There are many different definitions of creativity. In the broadest sense, we could say that creativity is the process of translating our ideas and inner visions into tangible reality.
Do you pay attention to how that process unfolds in your professional life? Could you articulate it? How do you come up with compelling ideas that have the potential to inspire change and then transmute them into reality? How do you evaluate them? How do you implement them?
In this episode of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast we explore:
- A 5-phase framework for the creative process?
- The different modes of cognition or mental states that underlie the various phases. Creative cognition is not a single state of mind, it is multiple states of mind.
- How psychedelics might help enhance specific phases of the process and how we might want to integrate them into the larger arc of bringing our ideas to life.
- How different phases of the creative process benefit from leveraging different kinds of creative thinking skills.
- Suggestions for how to apply this in your life.
Explored in this episode:
From Vision to Reality: Integrating Psychedelics Into the Creative Process Part 1
Within the vast expanse of uncertainty, there is an infinite void of creative potential that is beckoning each and every one of us.
Asking us: who are we becoming? What do we want to create with our lives?
As the foundation of familiarity crumbles beneath our feet, we now have the privilege to plant new seeds of possibility in the fertile soil of the unknown.
We are living at the heart of a transformative era that is alive with possibility, and it’s visionary minds that are illuminating the way.
We are being called to stretch our imaginations so that we can usher once-unthinkable dreams into tangible realities.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts of being alive is experiencing the joy and beauty of witnessing our visions transmute into reality. When we embark on that deeply meaningful journey, the very thing we set out to create creates us in return and shapes us into the story of who we are becoming.
SO amidst all of the volatility of disruption and accelerating change that humanity is experiencing at this unprecedented moment in time, there is one extraordinary and multifaceted skillset that stands out as the key to shaping and influencing a future that enriches our lives with meaning and purpose: and that is creativity.
And it is no coincidence that at this moment in time more people than ever before, have access to the very substances, molecules more like miracles that fit into the receptor sites of our brain, and they strengthen our capacity to imagine, to think differently, to think more creatively, they are helping us to re-write our limiting beliefs, they are shifting our perception of reality, allowing us to look at ourselves and the world around us from a new perspective.
The psychedelic experience itself is teaching us the very skillsets and mindsets we need to elevate all aspects of creativity, despite the fact that most people aren’t even engaging with psychedelics from this perspective or with this intention.
I find it remarkable that although people seek out ceremonies and psychedelic journeys for many different reasons. Because we desire change, we yearn for deeper understanding, we pray for healing, as a *result* of our healing and inner transformation, creativity is flourishing.
This is worth paying attention to.
And I believe it’s because these medicines are awakening a deep remembrance within us, helping us come home to the truth of who we are.
At the core of our being is our innate capacity to imagine fueled by our desire to create and contribute.
Many of you listening to this podcast are cultivating a practice with psychedelics and sacred plant medicines, you are showing up at the altar to meet your growth edge, letting go of old ways of being, opening to new possibilities in your life, and exploring new ideas and expanded visions.
And you show up because you have a feeling, it’s a clear knowing you were meant to create and contribute something extraordinary with your life. And you are up for the challenge.
Choosing to wake up to our creative potential is one of the most significant ways we can inspire real change.
What seeds of possibility are you planting in the garden of your mind right now?
How far are you willing to expand what you believe is possible to create with your life? What are you feeling called to birth through your being to contribute to the blossoming of humanity?
There has never been a more opportune time to follow that spirit of inspiration.
And it is that energy of inspiration that has led me here at this culmination point in my own life, anchoring new, expanded visions into manifest reality.
**My name is Laura Dawn and you’re listening to episode #62 of the psychedelic leadership podcast and this is the first episode in a series exploring the science and ceremony of psychedelics and creativity.**
And I felt like a solid entry point into this vast conversation and the larger framework of my work, high level overview of the creative process and how psychedelics might fit into that process.
So every time I enter the conversation of creativity, when I’m teaching or speaking about this topic, I like to enter in the same way, to help keep us oriented.
Because creativity is so multifaceted and there are so many angles through which we can explore this topic, it’s helpful to orient ourselves on a map so to speak, so we have a better sense of what we are talking about.
So at a very high level, if we were to divide up the creative landscape into 4 chunks, we could use Mel Rodhes model 4 P’s of creativity.
So if we were to categorize creativity into:
Creative Product – outcome
Creative Place – the environment, like the setting.
In graduate school, I developed another model, and added a 5th P to this model, creative practices that overlaps person and process.
And in this episode, we’re talking the creative process,
And there are many different definitions of creativity, and I’ll share various ones throughout these episodes that illuminate the different facets of creativity, and in the broadest sense, especially when speaking to the creative process, we could say that creativity is the process of translating our ideas and inner visions into tangible reality. And we are actually doing this all the time, on small and large scales.
Do you pay attention to how that process unfolds in your life on a professional level? Could you articulate it? How do you come up with compelling ideas that have the potential to inspire change and then transmute them into reality? How do you evaluate them how do you implement them? As you can see there’s really so much to explore here right?
Are you aware of what helps support your creative process and what stifles it?
And the purpose and benefit of exploring the frameworks for the creative process I’m going to introduce in today’s episode is to learn more about yourself and how you operate so you can learn to optimize your process.
And although it looks different for everyone, we are all human, so there are some generalities we can make.
## 4 Takeaways
And we are going to cover 4 key points and then I’m going to wrap up with a few suggestions.
First key takeaway: each phase in the creative process requires different modes of cognition or mental states. Creativity and the cognition that underlies creativity – what we call creative cognition – is not a single state of mind, it is multiple states of mind.
And once we cover this, we’ll explore where psychedelics fit into the equation here because of the mode of cognition the psychedelic state supports.
The third key point builds on the first two: Creative cognition is not a single state of mind *and more importantly* it’ about the fluidity of mind and our capacity to dynamically move between states of mind. So it’s not a single state of mind it multiple states of mind and it’s about the fluidity between them.
The Fourth key takeaway is that different phases of the creative process require different kinds of creative thinking skills.
And today’s episode I’ll be leading with a little more of my academic hat on, is the foundation for the next episode, where I’m going to share a framework that I developed that is built on how I actually integrate psychedelics into my personal practice.
And I’m going to share *that* framework and an introduction to what that process actually looks like for me in the next episode, but we need to cover some foundational principles and helpful. theory in this episode first.
And before we dive into today’s topic on psychedelics and the creative process, I want to offer some context for all the episodes I’ll be releasing on psychedelics and creativity.
This question: can psychedelics enhance creativity was the question that inspired me to go back to graduate school to complete a Master of Science in Creativity Studies & Change Leadership and I focused my degree on exploring the intersection of psychedelics and creativity, especially creative cognition for leadership development, I know, very heady, but oh-so-fascinating.
But far more important than any degree or piece of paper, what I’m drawing upon is over 25 years of quite a substantial amount of journeying with medicines, weaving these teachings into the fabric of my reality, everything of significance that I have created has been the result of applying these teachings, this curriculum I’ve received
and supporting hundreds of other people on their journey with medicine as well.
I want to say something about weaving science into these episodes.
If you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know that I like to bridge science and academia with ceremony and wisdom traditions, primarily tibetan buddhist philosophy, more often than not they point to the same thing, so I like to bring both perspectives to the table, to expand my understanding.
I want to acknowledge that there are only a handful scientific studies explicitly exploring psychedelics and creativity. Yes, more are coming, this is a huge topic of interest, but any study that looks at psychedelics and creativity is going to be extremely limited, for so many reasons, some obvious and others less obvious, that I won’t get into right now.
But suffice it to say, that the tapestry of our own experience is going to be the best place to draw insight and wisdom from. So I encourage you to trust yourself.
I personally don’t care that there aren’t many studies, in the sense that I don’t let it stop me from doing this work.
Because even though I have an academic background, and I believe that understanding the science is valuable, it’s informative and helpful, and I’m pro-science,
I am *also* pro intuition and common sense – and to put it bluntly, it’s obvious that psychedelics enhance creativity. And my life, and countless other lives are a living testament to how psychedelics enhance and unlock our creative potential.
And even though there are few studies directly focusing on psychedelics and creativity, I spent my years of graduate school reading countless papers and psychedelic studies, digging into the literature that is primarily focused on psychedelics and mental illness, and embedded in the existing literature we can connect these hidden dots that are hard to miss when you know what to look for, and we can make a compelling case that psychedelic medicines don’t just enhance creativity as some nice to have fluffy by-product of the psychedelic experience, it’s actually the core of their therapeutic potential. And I’m not talking about art therapy, although that’s a valid healing modality.
I’m talking about learning to think differently, shifting our perception of reality so we create new experiences for ourselves – that’s how we heal from depression and addiction, and it’s also how we come up with brilliant ideas that inspire change.
I view healing and creating as synonymous. It’s all life-force energy moving through us.
And when we understand that creativity is at the core, we start to engage with medicines through this lens, we perceive them through this understanding, and it changes everything: how we work with and engage with these medicines changes.
It shifts how we think about set and setting, how we think about integration and preparation, and how we think about the experience itself.
And when we take the time to learn new concepts and new words, a language to describe something, it offers us a new perspective, a new lens through which to perceive.
When you change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change, and concepts and language changes the way we look at things, they influence our perception.
And this content that I’m sharing in these episodes, which I consider to be more like curriculum, is helping you build your conceptual frameworks, like handing you a lens that has the capacity to change your perception of reality, and you can apply this understanding in whatever intuitive way makes the most sense for you.
Concepts help us to understand, but let’s always remember that theory is a road map and a map is not the territory.
So I encourage you to hold it all lightly, play with it, try not to grip onto anything I say or suggest as truth, these are ideas I’m putting in the table for you to pick up and explore if you choose, find what works for you. Follow your knowing and your truth. Trust that. Trust yourself.
And even though this is season 3, in a way this feels like my first episode,
because this genuinely feels like the start of my legacy work. I will be turning 40 this year and my very first gray hairs are starting to come in, so I’m stepping into this next chapter of my life.
And even though I’ve been teaching psychedelic related curriculum for the better part of 10 years now, each episode I’m going to be bringing through feels like a segment of a dissertation on the culmination of my life’s work, and after years of learning how to embody and apply and practice these principles, I finally feel ready to share this deeper layer of my work and my craft. And I’ve had to move through my own process around facing some of my fears around this.
And so this season I’m going to be speaking from a deeper layer of my authentic truth, and speaking from the perspective of being a student, with humility for all that I don’t know and still have to learn. I think one could explore creativity and psychedelics for many lifetimes and still just scratch the surface, and it will mean something different for all of us.
The depth and complexity of these topics are challenging to navigate, this process is truly bringing me to my own edge, and I am constantly navigating that. And I’m often reflecting on whether to lead with the language of science vs the language of Spirit and ceremony.
So this content I’m sharing is for people who want to go deep and who are open to receive the language that is simply my truth. I’m not trying to tailor myself to a short attention spanned economy or a mainstream audience.
This curriculum is not for everyone, it’s actually only for a very small segment of people who genuinely aspire to create, innovate and elevate, who want to expand what they belive is possible to create with their lives and contribute something extraordinary.
I can genuinely say that I’ve led an extraordinary life, and I’m grateful for that and I’m also proud of that.
And I’m asking for patience between episodes because each episode takes quite a lot of time to produce, I’m also writing this content for my book.
And so part of my own journey is evolving from time management to energy management and building my life around what works for me creatively, rather than building around external expectations, easier said than done.
this episode alone took me 3 weeks, so I’m moving at the pace of my creative process.
And the majority of my life is dedicated to bringing this through right now. And this podcast is one example of how I’m working with medicines to bring this curriculum through.
People listen to the end result of these episodes, which is the outcome of my creative process, (just one example) but I’m going to be peeling back a layer, offering insight as to what transpires underneath the surface, to bring something like this through, how I engage with medicines to refine my ideas, to cultivate vision, to craft my thought-leadership, and that requires space and time to integrate.
When I journey, I’m going to dimensions beyond space time, and there’s wisdom from those dimensions that I want to bring through and I need to free myself from time pressure in order to do that. And just expressing this to you is helpful, it helps to free up the pressure I put on myself to produce, that pressure stifles my creative process.
And this is a perfect example of how we can give ourselves permission and have the courage to build our lives around what genuinely works for each and every one of us. And that is easier said than done.
so I know this is very meta here, because I’m pointing to my creative process, so I’ll be opening up and sharing very personal aspects of my solo practice with medicines and how I integrate them into my creative process, truly as a way of life.
I’m also tending to quite a significant vision, I just bought 90 acres of land here in Costa Rica, I’m recording outside, my partner and I are designing extraordinary homes for medicine practitioners. My partner Mark Diaz is an architect and an interior designer, and I’m learning so much about the creative process through witnessing his process and co-creating with him.
And I can genuinely say that I’m here on this 90 acres of land, bordering 2 miles of river because of the miracles that have manifested in my life because of my visionary practices. I know that sounds very woo, but it’s true.
And there is something really important I need to share here:
What I’m teaching is not about journeying with medicines to generate better business ideas to make more money. That would be a false conclusion to jump to.
Yes, I’ve been financially successful and it’s easy to make assumptions about what that looks like, but my success has been a by-product of cultivating the courage to follow the spirit of inspiration regardless of where it leads me. Every time I chose to leap with courage despite the fear and doubt, I have been rewarded in ways I never could have imagined. (And I feel some of the hesitation because I have received all sorts of flack for speaking my truth)
But there’s a quote by Charles Bukowski that reads:
“If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything don’t do it.”
It’s like that.
I was born to share this, it’s my darhma, I know it in my bones, so I am simply in service to the spirit of inspiration.
What this is really about is coming to know ourselves deeply, its about cultivating the courage to live our truth, to follow our curiosities, it’s about discovering who we are and who we are capable of becoming. It’s about healing, as much as it is about creating.
And I think we have a lot of healing to do around our value and self worth and what we feel worthy of receiving in our lives, and healing the shame we feel around money is part of that. But that conversation is for another time.
The more I have the more I have to give. The more we open to give, the more we open to receive, it’s all flow.
See if you can focus on how this content might benefit your life, so you can benefit other people. That’s a helpful frame of mind to have.
Of course it goes without saying that
## # 2 Everything I share is for educational purposes only
But I have to say it anyways.
## # 3 Safety Disclaimer
If you are going to engage with psychedelic medicines, please prioritize your safety, I have a free guide I’ve written on how to have a safe psychedelic journey at home, find the support you need. I include a guide for integration, which starts with sound preparation. – I’ll include that in the show notes.
Ok, let’s begin, shall we?
If you have questions about what I’m sharing, please send me a voice memo at memo.fm/plp – I just set this up, which is pretty cool.
I welcome all your questions, comments, if you other threads your tracking on this topic, resources you want to share, please send me a voice message.
If you want to stay tuned to my next programs and retreats, please get on my email list, I share exclusive written content that I don’t share anywhere else, not even on these episodes. I just hit 10k subscribers, which I’m pretty excited about.
all links and all resources mentioned throughout this episode can be found at lauradawn.co / 62
And just in case you’re wondering, I will still be releasing interviews and conversations with other thought leaders as well this season dispersed throughout my solo episodes and I’ve already recorded some incredible conversations that I can’t wait to share with you.
# Frameworks for the Creative Process
So as we explore these frameworks for the creative process, I invite you to reflect on how this might relate to your own creative process, which refers to anything you are actively working on.
(swap the word “work” for create and see how that resonates with you.)
And as you’re listening to these phases of the creative process, keep in mind that sometimes this process can unfold over the course of hours or a single day, but other times, we’re in this process for months, and years and when we’re bringing through our legacy work, we are in this process for decades.
In 1925, Graham Wallas presented one of the first models for the creative process, in his classic work The Art of Thought, it’s still a great name a hundred years later,
And in that book he presented 4 stages of the process:
And like most models, they evolve, and adapt based on other people’s experience and interpretations.
James Taylor created a 5-phase framework, and these 5 stages of the creative process are commonly referenced. He took the 4th phase – verification, in Wallas’ model – and broke it into 2 phases, evaluation and then implementation.
So instead of verify, let’s evaluate and then implement – makes sense to me.
So he outlined
1. The first phase **Preparation**: is about gathering and exploring information, we are actively learning the subject matter. Preparing by equipping ourselves with knowledge and information. We’re focused and more goal oriented. (so this can span hours but we can also be preparing for years and decades)
2. **Incubation:** And then after we experience those intense windows of concentrated focus and effort, we step back and take a mental break, and disengage from actively thinking about whatever it is we’re working on, and we incubate on it.
3. **Illumination:** And when we create the space to relax and open the mind, allowing it to wander, which is what happens when we incubate, that’s usually when we experience those very special “Aha” moments and insights – and sometimes very profound insights come to us.
*This is also why research shows that people rarely get their best ideas while they are actually at their desk working and more often their ideas flow in those in-between moments, when we are flowing, like walking, or driving or while in the shower. (**There are some flow principles embedded here, which I’ll be highlighting later.)
I actually don’t consider illumination as a phase as much as I consider it a peak moment that we spend time preparing ourselves for (and this is important, we’re going to come back to this).
One other thing I’ll say about illumination – people often associate these flashes of insight to being a creative genius, but we just don’t see the years that go into the years of preparation and incubation. Creative genius is mostly the result of enormous amounts of dedication and devotion to the craft. Like when Eisntein said genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work – it’s like that.
(so we have preparation, incubation, illumination)
5. **Evaluation:** And then once the insight arises, we need to evaluate it. Is it a good idea? Has this been done before? Would it be beneficial for other people? Is this an original and novel idea that also serves a useful function? And you might notice that this was the definition of creativity, and there are many ways to help you ideate and develop ideas to help them become more creative (but that’s for another time). Will it be financially viable? What is it really going to take to bring this idea to fruition? And depending on what field you’re in, the questions you ask yourself to evaluate the idea will be different. For me, I know the feeling in my body, I can feel it in my bones when I know this idea is worth pursuing.
6. **Implementation:** So if you decide, yes, this is a great idea, I’m going for it…you then need to create a strategy to bring it to fruition, which might take days, months, years or in some cases an entire lifetime.
(So again, think about how you might relate to this on a shorter time frame, like within a day, and then zoom out to some of the much bigger projects you are bringing through.)
When I was first learning about this framework in graduate school, I found baking a chicken in the oven to be a helpful analogy. Also helpful for feeding me while I was studying.
You prepare the chicken, you put it in the oven where it incubates, you turn on the light to see if it’s ready, then you evaluate it, and if it’s ready you take it out of the oven and eat it, thats implementation.
So that’s a high level overview on a pretty surface level, but hopefully by learning this model you’ll learn more about yourself, which is really the whole purpose here.
and that’s just one model. and many other people have outlined phases of the creative process as well.
And I’ll just mention Rick Rubin, who is arguably one of the most creative people alive, and he wrote about the creative process in his phenomenal book called the creative act, I highly recommend reading this book, it’s so well written and he speaks my language when it comes to creativity, so it just – it deeply resonates, and I’ll link to the creative act in the shownotes: and he divides the creative process into 4 phases:
**The Seed Phase**
**The Experimentation Phase**
**The Craft Phase**
**The Completion Phase**
Hubberman also interviewed him on his podcast, which was also a great episode.
And by looking at his outline, you can kind of get a sense, there’s a similar arc there, seed, experiment, craft, completion.
And as I mentioned, I built a different framework, one that I think is really helpful for understanding how to integrate medicines into your creative process.
And I’m going to share *that* framework and what that process looks like for me in the next episode, but before we get there, we need to cover some foundational principles to build on, and I’m going to use the 5-phase model because it’s simpler and it will be easier to understand those foundations, so we can expand on it later.
So we’re talking:
Baking the chicken, and I don’t mean to alienate my vegan friends, we could call it a potato.
So there are 4 key takeaways I want to cover and I’m going to highlight all four of them…
and then we’re mostly going to spend time unpacking the first two points.
1. First key takeaway: each phase in the creative process requires different modes of cognition or mental states. Creativity and the cognition that underlies creativity – what we call creative cognition – is not a single state of mind, it is multiple states of mind.
2. And once we cover this, we’ll explore where psychedelics fit into the equation here because of the mode of cognition the psychedelic state supports.
3. The third key point builds on the first two: Creative cognition is not a single state of mind *and more importantly* it’ about the fluidity of mind and our capacity to dynamically move between states of mind. So it’s not a single state of mind it multiple states of mind and it’s about the fluidity between them.
4. The Fourth key takeaway is that different phases of the creative process require different kinds of creative thinking skills. These are cognitive skills. So if we are talking about improving your creative process, you will benefit by knowing what cognitive to reach for depending on what stage of the process you’re in. And this becomes incredibly relevant when we start talking about the framework I’ve developed, because a bit part of that is learning cognitive tools that you can bring into medicine space with you. This is really a huge topic in and of itself, it’s really the core of my work, so we’re only going to touch on it here, I’ll be speaking to some of this in my next episode but if you want to go much deeper into, come join me for my next retreat.
So that’s a brief overview of the 4 key takeaways and all four of these points are very intricately connected.
So let’s unpack the first takeaway, and again this is going to be the foundation for next episode:
# 1. Different phases require different modes of cognition
And I’m going to make some generalized statements, and what I’m offering here are signposts, pointing toward what we’re trying to understand, because in reality, it’s very challenging to draw a hard line and say it’s either this way or that way, especially when it comes to the mind.
So we’re exploring the different kinds of cognition that underly the different phases of the creative process.
So when we look at the 5 phases:
If we were going to group those into just 2 different groups, or categories, we would put
Preparation, evaluation and implementation in one group,
and then incubation and illumination in another group.
So when you think about what kind of state of mind is most effective for when you are gathering information, or evaluating ideas, and you need be discerning and use good judgment for making sound decisions. Or think about when you’re implementing, writing the book, writing very succinct copy for your pitch deck, working on your website, pitching the idea in the boardroom, or you’re shooting the video. I’m implementing my idea for this podcast episode right now.
So we have preparation, evaluation, implementation, and when we group them together,
I’m going to describe this mode of cognition by using the words:
And then after I’m done recording, I’m going to step away from my computer, and take a walk down to the waterfall to give my mind a rest and move my body.
And walking is always incubation time for me.
You might take a break and go biking, or workout, or dance, or get in the garden, play music, or journal, doing dishes or laundry is also incubation for me.
When we’re in incubation, which is the pre-phase for illumination:
We’re in open focus
Now those two terms Spotlight consciousness vs lantern consciousness might sound familiar, especially if yo’ve read Michael Pollan’s book How to change your mind, he mentions them when referencing alyson gopniks work.
If I was to add a few other labels onto each groups, just to point towards what we’re getting at here: I’d also add words like:
Efforting vs relaxing
Swimming vs floating – that’s another way I like to think of it.
Another set of terms I’m going to introduce here are:
Constrained vs unconstrained cognition:
Constrained cognition (that’s the first group, preparation, evaluation implementation) our cognition is more focused and constrained, spotlight consciousness.
unconstrained cognition is when we’re open, relaxed, floating, lantern consciousness.
### Tibetan Buddhism
I’m going to add one more set of labels here just as a side note, just for those of you are interested in how Tibetan Buddhism might fit into this conversation.
As some of you know, I’ve been studying tibetan buddism for over 15 years, so it’s had a significant influence on my medicine path.
And in that language and culture, they have different words for mind, to describe the nature of mind, which I find so interesting. Different words because there are many different qualities of mind.
two of those words are: SEMS & RIGPA
And I won’t go into these teachings, but I want to add them here, because they also help us to understand what medicines are teaching us about the nature of mind.
SEM is a word that points to small mind, narrow mind, it’s all caught up, hooked would be another word. One definition of “**sems is that it is the mind which is temporarily obscured and distorted by thoughts based upon the dualistic perceptions of subject and object.”
Rigpa is pure awareness free from such distortions**
RIGPA is a word for mind that points to open mind, sky like mind. Wisdom mind.
If you want to cultivate yourself as a thought-leader start thinking in venn diamgrams (that’s one cognitive tool I teach in my programs, so right now I’m looking at the intersection of psychedelics, tibetan buddhism and creativity, of which there is an enormous amount of overlap) and I’m pulling out the parralels and connecting those dots.
And medicines taught me how to think like this.
But I digress.
Ok, so when we are focused,
So when we’re writing the paper, recording the podcast, shooting the video, we tend to be more deliberate, goal oriented, constrained in our cognition.
Incubation and illumination are supported by relaxing and opening our field of awareness. It’s when we push off the shores and let go, floating in open awareness, lantern consciousness. When we experience this, we are experiencing unconstrained cognition.
## Segway Into Creativity
And one of my favorite definitions of creativity, of which there are many, was by creativity researchers Ackoff and Vergara in 1988 when they wrote: **creativity is the ability to modify self-imposed constraints.**
That single sentence speaks volumes to what I’m pointing towards here.
It’s a profound insight if you take the time to contemplate that:
creativity is the ability to modify self-imposed constraints.
And then they go on to say:
*”It is clear that procedures for enhancing creativity must either prevent the self-imposition of constraining assumptions or facilitate their removal.”*
And that is the perfect segway, ushering us right into the psychedelic state because that my friends, is the essence of what they do.
Psychedelics facilitate a mode of cognition called unconstrained cognition, they open the mind from spotlight consciousness towards lantern consciousness, where we essentially become untethered from self-imposed constraints – these are the narratives and stories we tell ourselves, our beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. And that’s essentially what we’re pointing to when we talk about ego dissolution.
(Scafoloding of identity)
The narratives we tell ourselves are the scaffolding of our identity, so they are extremely helpful, but we can benefit from ditching that scaffolding for a few hours and liberate ourselves to experience something different. Because that scaffolding holds us up, it is critical to our functioning but it can also become too rigid and constraining.
And when we do this, we can embody a little more fluidity and flexibility in our identity construct.
And these self-imposed constraints – they tether us to a very narrow view of reality, (and sometimes that view is not an optimal one, maybe it’s very self critical, or judgmental view of reality riddled with all sorts of unhelful biases) – and it’s as if we are viewing reality through a very small and narrow window frame and also, *the same frame*, and when we look through the same small window every single day, we simply forget that there are other options. This is what Sems mind points to in tibetan buddhism. It’s an obstructed view of reality.
*And that’s another definition of creativity that I just love that I quote all the time by arthur kostler who said – creativity is the defeat of habit by originality,
And if you think about it, the same can be said for the healing of depression, it’s the defeat of habit by originality, which is why I believe creativity is the core of their therapeutic potential.
*And when you have an experience where you can untether yourself from a tightly held internal narrative you allow yourself to think differently. There’s more room for new thoughts, new ideas,
And psychedelics opens up that small and narrow window much wider, so does meditation and other forms of spiritual practice, and when that window widens, there’s more fluidity and flexibility of mind (which was the third key takeway I was pointing to) which allows us to look through other windows, and we’re able to perceive the world around us with a fresh perspective, cleansing the doors of perception, as Aldous Huxly so eloquently put it, once upon a time.
This is the science behind how psychedelics help to expand what we believe is possible, a phrase I say over and over again, true statement – thats exactly what they help us do.
And so when we embark on a psychedelic voyage into the mind, we are pushing off the shores of the known and we’re letting go of our grip over reality, and the invitation is to open and surrender, and if we are willing to let go, we might experience these moments of floating, and we might experience a profound sense of vast mind, sky like mind, thats Rigpa mind, lantern consciousness, a profound opening of our awareness.
And in these openings we have a lot more access to subconscious material.
And it’s from that place, – that place of opening and letting go, clear open channel, – that we set the stage for spontaneous insights to arise.
And there have been neuroimaging studies that have looked at the cognitive signature of spontaneous insight, and they clearly indicate that immediately prior to that flash of insight, people are in this very open, fluid and receptive state.
And there is one paper written on psychedelics and spontaneous insight called *Spontaneous and deliberate creative cognition during and after psilocybin exposure* led by Natasha Mason who I also interviewed on the show and I won’t get into all of the details of that paper but I’ll mention that it was double blind, placebo controlled and it concluded:
Acutely, psilocybin increased ratings of (spontaneous) creative insights, while decreasing (deliberate) task-based creativity. Seven days after psilocybin, the number of novel ideas increased.
So that’s interesting, 7 days after, so there’s a window. And we’re going to talk about that in another episode.
I’ll link to that paper in the show notes if you want to check it out, and I encourage you to go back and give episode 53 a listen, because we talk about it in that conversation.
And you may have heard some of the very well known stories of people who have had tremendous insight during psychedelic journeys that have led to significant breakthroughs.
Like Kerry Mullis who won a nobel prize for discovering the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – who openly said on a BBC interview that he wouldn’t have discovered PCR if it weren’t for LSD.
He’s a great example of LSD facilitating that kind of spontaneous insight
I think it’s incredibly important to note that through the years of preparation and dedication, he essentially primed himself for that experience, on every level.
So the chances that I would have had that flash of genius moment and discovered the PCR would be zero to none.
So this is a good moment to pause and reflect on what *you* are priming yourself for? How are you preparing yourself every single day so that when you do journey you receive flashes of creative insight relavent to you? And in a way I’m priming you right now by suggesting that this is possible.
I am cultivating myself at the forefront of psychedelics and creativity and leadership. I’m priming myself to deepen my understanding of creativity, that’s my field of study. I equip myself with understanding and then the medicine opens up a deeper layer of understanding.
And this is such a huge topic…
And that’s really pointing to the essence of my personal practice and how I think about the different ways we prepare ourselves for the insights that we receive and that arise.
(I can learn a cognitive tool, but then I’ll bring it into the medicine space and the medicine will teach me how to use that tool on a far greater level.)
And that’s what I’m bringing through and teaching.
I know it’s very meta.
Before I shift gears, I do want to mention one more study here, because I know many of you want to know the science, and this study is pretty old at this point, that dates back to the ’60s. And it involved twenty-seven men who were either scientists and engineers and they were working on career-related problems at the time. They were invited to embark on an inward journey with psychedelic medicines, and they did that within the context of a carefully structured problem-solving session. Very fascinating.
The study concluded that “psychedelic agents seem to facilitate creative problem-solving, particularly in the illumination phase.”
And again, I’ll just say that from my perspective, I don’t consider illumination to be a phase, I think incubation is a phase that sets the stage for spontaneous moments of insight to arise. And that’s a subtle shift, but an important one.
And I also want to highlight, that even though that study focused on structured problem solving, I’m actually not recommending that you go into a session trying to figure anything out.
Quite the opposite actually, especially if you’re newer on the path. I find it very helpful to go into a journey with a clear intention to just let go, of putting it down, put what you’re working on aside, but I’ll circle back around to this point at the end.
## So going back to the 4 key points:
We just covered #1, but
First key point: each phase in the creative process requires different modes of cognition or mental states. Creative cognition is not a single state of mind. And then we explored how psychedelics fit into the equation here. They help to support unconstrained cognition which is wonderful for the incubation phase, and that sets the stage for spontaneous insights to arise.
## Cognitive Flexibility
The third key point I made was about the fluidity of mind and our capacity to dynamically move between states of mind, and I kind of mentioned that briefly.
What I’m pointing to here is cognitive flexibility, and psychological flexibility, they are two different terms, but they are related, but different, we also know that psychedelics support cognitive flexibility, which can help to facilitate the dynamic fluidity between mental states, which is beneficial for creativity.
But I’m not going to cover cognitive flexibility in this episode because it’s just another huge topic, but I’ll touch on it when I release the episode on my microdosing morning practice to support creativity and flow.
I touched on psychological flexibility when I interviewed Dr. Rosalind Watts if you want to give that one a listen.
## Divergent / Convergent
The Fourth key takeaway is that different phases of the creative process require different kinds of creative thinking skills. These are cognitive skills. So if we are talking about improving your creative process, you will benefit by knowing what cognitive to reach for depending on what stage of the process you’re in. And this becomes incredibly relevant when we start talking about the framework I’ve developed, because a bit part of that is learning cognitive tools that you can bring into medicine space with you. This is really a huge topic in and of itself, it’s really the core of my work, so we’re only going to touch on it here, I’ll be speaking to some of this in my next episode but if you want to go much deeper into, come join me for my next retreat.
Ok so this last point is really a vast topic, so I’m not going to go deep into it, but I wanted to introduce two concepts and weave this in because it helps to tie everything together.
Then the last point I mentioned was that different phases of the creative process require and benefit from different kinds or like styles of creative thinking skills.
I love this topic, it’s so rich, as I mentioned it’s the central core of my work, if you really want to receive the downloads around this, and how to apply it to your personal and professional life, come to my next retreat.
But for right now, I want to introduce two simple concepts to continue to lay the foundation for the next episode.
Because if you want to deepen your understanding of creative cognition, and start learning creative thinking skills, it’s pretty essential to understand the difference between divergent and convergent thinking.
1. divergent thinking
2. convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking is about exploring many ideas to find a creative solution to a given challenge or problem. So diverging is very closely related to ideating: it’s more open-ended, and exploratory,
And there are dozens of methods, and tools – cognitive tools – you can learn to enhance your divergent thinking, you’re likely familiar with the term brainstorming, which was a process or more like a method invented by Alex Osborn in 1963, but it’s one of so many other methods, to support you in the process of generating really creative ideas, that are valuable and useful.
I’m going to introduce a couple in my next episode as well.
So that’s divergent thinking – and then Convergent thinking means you’re searching for a single solution. There’s one answer to the problem and you’re looking for it. It’s the foundation of our very-outdated educational system which is why schools are robbing children of their creativity.
Ok, so I always hear people associate creativity and creative thinking to divergent thinking, but that’s not totally accurate – because diverging is only half the story. There is absolutely a need to strengthen our divergent thinking skills, because as I mentioned, convergent thinking was over emphasized in school – so we’re just out of balance, like being really strong in your right bicep but really weak in your left.
But creative thinking and the creative process, and just living life, requires BOTH divergent and convergent thinking skills and even more important, it requires the meta-awareness and fluidity of mind to know which one to draw upon depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
And my beloved Mark and I who are anchoring a really significant vision here on this 90 acres of land in Costa Rica, where i’m currently recording outside, we are diverging converging all the time.
And we are always exploring ways to improve our diverge-converge process.
And so to bring this all together…
Think of Diverge as like opening
and converging as closing
And open and closed are not good or bad, none of these labels are good or bad., just different states, all necessary when used in balance.
We come up with lots of different ideas, we diverge, and then choose a path forward, and converge.
So remember when I was describing preparation, evaluation and implementation I used words like:
We could also add converge to this list.
When we’re in incubation, which sets the stage for illumination:
We’re in open focus
We could also add diverge to this list.
To reiterate the key takeaway here: unconstrained modes of cognition are conducive to divergent thinking and the thinking skills that support divergent thinking.
You can learn thinking skills that support divergent thinking (that’s a category of creative thinking skills) and divergent thinking supports the process of ideation.
I actually really love the word IDEATE because it means to FORM an IDEA, or to shape a concept, and that’s what I do in my mind in journey space, I shape ideas, I build them and develop in my mind and more to come on that in next episode.
I’ll mention one more paper before we start wrapping this up.
Manesh Girn, who is a PhD candidate, who I previously interviewed on the show, and who I’ll be bringing back on for another episode this season, he wrote a research paper that explores unconstrained cognition called Updating the Dynamic Framework of Thought: Creativity and Psychedelics – I’ll include a link if you want to deepen your understanding, and as I’ve mentioned before, it was his paper that inspired me to go back to graduate school to focus on psychedelics and creative cognition because so few people were talking about it.
And in that paper, he concludes:
the psychedelic state facilitates unconstrained cognition which can be beneficial towards ideation, because it can enhance one’s capacity to discover highly novel and original ideas.****
Because when we’re untethered, and we’re looking at reality with a fresh set of eyes – thats what psychedelics do, they offer us a fresh perspective, this is the definition of novelty, if it’s fresh, it’s novel.
And novelty is a hallmark of the psychedelic experience, and it’s also why we find things funny and hilarious and ironic. And humor and play are huge catalysts for creativity.
Now we all have the capacity to come up with good ideas but consistently generating exceptional ideas is a skillset and a mindset and there are all sorts of cognitive tools and practices you can learn to help you generate better ideas.
I consider psychedelics to be one of the most powerful tools to support us in this process. As Dennis McKenna said, psychedelics are tools for learning how to think more creatively. And now we have access to really powerful AI tools that are incredible for ideation, and I’ll be sharing some of that this season as well.
And so to give you a preview of where I’m going with this, if you can teach yourself a creative thinking skill, and you practice it and you know how to use it, and you get good at using it – you can also learn how to reach for that cognitive tool when you’re in a state of unconstrained cognition, because that mode of cognition enhances your ability to use it, and if you have a strong foundation and depth of understanding the medicine will teach you how to use that tool on a far more significant level that you could ever learn in waking consciousness.
And I’m writing this curriculum to encourage you to cultivate your capacity to come up with better ideas, ideas that move the needle, we all have the capacity to think at that level, but it starts by believing that we are capable of that, and then it requires rising to the occasion and training ourselves to bring those big ideas through.
Does all of this make sense? I’m genuinely trying to break this down, as simple as possible.
And what I’m pointing to here is pretty mind blowing, more like mind expanding, that’s exactly what it is, mind expanding – and when you expand your mind, you expand what you believe is possible to create with your life.
# In Conclusion
I’m going to be building on this in the next episode where I introduce to you a fairly different framework for understanding how I integrate sacred plant medicines into my creative process, and like I said this is letting you into a very personal and what has been a very private aspect of my life.
## First – Reflect on Your Creative Process
But before we wrap up this episode, I of course want to leave you with a few practical suggestions.
And before I do, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on what your key takeaways are from this episode.
This is an active learning technique. Rather than passive listening, get active in your learning process and jot down one or two or three aha moments, or maybe just moments of “hmmm that’s interesting” that might have arisen for you.
Write down what that insight was and why is it significant or important to you? Then ask yourself why did you notice it? And writing down the why is going to help you remember it. Feel free to send me your insights.
## What Does Your Creative Process Look Like?
Now, I want to ask you the same question I opened this episode with:
What does your unique creative process look like? what does that look like for you?
Think about it on a larger zoomed-out scale (And by the way: zooming in and zooming out, looking at things from up close versus far away, and being able to toggle between the two is a creative thinking skill, we can do it intuitively but we can also get better at it.)
What is the process you go through to come up with a novel idea and then bring that idea to fruition?
Can you articulate that process? And articulating it helps you understand it.
How do you come up with better ideas?
How do you evaluate them? How do you take the time to reflect on it?
How do you decide if you want to go for it or not? And then when you decide yup: this is it, how do you put a plan in place to make it happen?
And taking time to reflect on this brings your unique creative process into your field of awareness, and that’s a foundational place to start. By doing this, you are leveraging the immense power of attention and using questions to guide and focus your attention.
it’s helpful when someone says hey look at this: that captures our attention, and we need that because your creative process is largely invisible. It happens in the space between. Thinking skills, also invisible.
Visions and ideas reside in the unseen dimension of reality, which makes it infinitely more fascinating to explore, but if you’re not paying attention to this, and you’re not aware of what it is or what it looks like for you, then you can’t improve upon it, or optimize it.
So self-awareness is always the entry point, and where you choose to shine your light of awareness, spotlight consciousness, where you choose to direct that and the information that’s on the other end of your awareness is the content from which you craft the story of your life. Mind altering statement.
Attention is the key that unlocks the door to inner transformation, again, another huge topic in and of itself, and I go deeper into this in my programs.
But learning frameworks like this and the conceptual language is a really good and helpful place to start because concepts are like little cognitive handles for you to hold on to, when swinging through the monkey bars of your mind.
Get to know your unique process. Everyone’s process is different.
When I *really* started understanding my process better, I started understanding myself better. And because I know what to look for now, I’m exploring and improving my process all the time, every day.
I weave this awareness into the fabric of my days and my life.
I actually revolve my entire life around my creative process. And that might sound very selfish or self absorbed but from my perspective it’s the most selfless thing I can possibly do to help contribute to humanity in a way that feels deeply meaningful to me.
## Creative Enhancers VS Detractors.
And then once you start understanding your creative process, then you can start identifying what your creative enhancers are and what your creative detractors are that either support or hinder your creativity in that part of the process.
And I’ll be talking more about Creative Enhancers vs Creative Detractors throughout this season because it’s such a huge topic that is super relevant to everyone.
So when you look at the different parts of your creative process and it’s likely they won’t be linear, like the 5-phase model, which is more sequential, my process is certainly not linear, but when I look at the different phases that I go through (and I’ll share more of that process in the next solo episode), I can then start to really look at, what are the factors that support me in that phase and what are the factors that hinder me in this phase?
Creative enhancers vs detractors.
Some of my creative detractors that pop up throughout different phases are the feeling of overwhelm – that often comes up for me when I’m in the initial phases of a big project, over working comes up kinda all the time, but mostly when I’m in implementing, and then fear of stepping out with what I’ve created sometimes happens at the end of the process, and I’m going to talk more about this fear in the next episode.
I still work with these all the time, and there are many many more creative enhancers and detractors. I would say my # 1 creativity killer is not getting enough sleep. When I don’t sleep, I can’t create at my best.
Another major mindset shift that I feel like I’ve been training myself in for a long time is moving from time management toward energy management, and giving it that language helps.
I notice that when I feel the pressure of time, that pressure crushes the delicate nature of my very finely tuned creative channel, it becomes a creative block for me, so I’m also learning how to navigate that.
I was feeling the time pressure around putting out this episode and when I come from that place, I don’t put out my best work, it has a different quality to it.
So I invite you to start asking yourself: what are the factors that support and enhance each phase of your creative process and what detracts from it.
## Zoom In
Now zoom in and think of a vision, an idea you’re currently in the process of ushering into life. What are you currently working on? What are you currently bringing through? Where are you in that process?
And I invite you to start paying attention to the dynamic balance between those two broad categories of swimming vs floating, efforting vs relaxing, which is really the essence of what underlies the creative process.
Cultivating that clear open channel for creativity to flow through us is really about alignment. I’m going to talk about alignment in the next episode, and there are many ways we can point to it, but one way we can look at it is that when we are aligned we are centered, and when we are centered we are in balance.
And balance is an energy equation, it’s about giving and receiving.
Are you in balance within yourself, between efforting and relaxing between input and output? Are you taking time to rest and recover to allow ideas to incubate, tending to your inner garden as much as you are in the doing phase?
It’s the classic “work hard, play hard”, – don’t just work hard. Which we all know is easier said than done.
Can you create more space for floating rather than swimming? This mindset shift that I’m making right now from time management to energy management is really helping.
These are huge questions for self-reflection.
You can consciously build a lifestyle around amplifying your creative enhancers and minimizing your creative detractors.
## Active vs Passive Incubation:
As you pay more attention to this energy exchange and where you are in balance, I invite you to understand the difference between active vs passive incubation.
This is similar to the flow principle active vs passive recovery, so if you’re familiar with that, this will ring a bell.
It’s really a simple concept: high level example would be after working for 3 hours on the computer, taking a break to incubate by going for a walk in the woods vs incubating by scrolling social media, or a more extreme example might be binging on GF chocolate cake and watching netflix.
Active incubation is about making the time to do something that supports a healthy incubation process. For me, that’s primarily walking and hiking. I walk religiously every day. It’s a daily habit that is the foundation of my success, and I don’t say that lightly, so I really honor that time, I need to structure this into my day, and make it a ritual in my life.
A good life is created by intentional design.
And I usually start my day with a morning practice, oftentimes including microdosing, and I’m going to share a whole episode on that as well.
You know what works for you.
Make a list of the things you like to do to help support active, healthy incubation.
## Be Safe
In the next few solo episodes, I am going to be talking more specifically about integrating psychedelics in the creative process. This episode was the foundation for that.
If you choose to work with any hallucinogenic substance to support any part of your process, please be safe, and be responsible. I believe in our individual right to alter our state of consciousness in whatever way we choose, and with that comes a lot of responsibility, regardless if we are exploring a micro, mini or macro dosing practice.
I have my free guides: including how to have a safe journey at home, integration guides, please check those out.
And if you are going to explore this, I want to offer up a couple of suggestions here.
And everyone is at such a different place in their personal practice and so what I would recommend to someone who has a more advanced practice would be different for someone starting out. But many principles are the same.
But if I was going to make just a couple of very preliminary recommendations, especially for these next couple of journeys:
1. I recommend going into your ceremony with the intention to let go, and surrender, to put what you’re working on aside rather than going into a session trying to figure anything out. This eventually leads to the principle of WU WEI – which is the art of effortless action, which is a central theme to my sits, but for now, start to pay attention to what insights do arise either in your journey and in the days following your journey. Write them down. It’s easy to think you’ll remember them. I encourage you to write them down. Over time, if you dedicate yourself to cultivating a stronger practice, then weaving in these other tools I’m going to start introducing in the next episode can be helpful.
And I personally find journeying with medicines incredibly beneficial for supporting those profound moments of insight and illumination, but I’m not going into the experience trying to find that. I sit with medicines to align myself with the core truth of who I am, and I create from that place. And magic flows from there.
I’m not showing up to ceremony to try to figure anything out or efforting to solve a problem. Oftentimes so much clarity emerges, but it happens by letting go and opening myself up. So sometimes I choose to sit because I feel stuck in my creative process and the medicine often offers me insight into what’s going on, like maybe I just have too much going on, and I’m overworking.
clarity emerges from centered alignment. Alignment happens first.
Don’t try, just let go. So it’s much more about opening and less about efforting.
Also, there’s no need to take yourself too seriously. Play is a powerful part of the creative process.
The wisdom of these medicines show us how to celebrate and give thanks for our lives.
Another suggestion is to learn to master the art of asking better questions: If you want a different outcome in your life, learn to ask a different question.
If I had to add a few other tools to the shortlist of most powerful tools avaulable for us to enhance creativity alongside psychedelics and even AI, I would add learning to ask better questions.
You can learn divergent-style questions that are fascinating to explore when in states of unconstrained cognition.
There are many kinds of questions. I’m going to do a whole episode on the power of asking questions.
It’s important to remember that when you are in medicine space you’re in a dialogue with the medicine. That is profound to understand. Like any dialogue, if you know how to ask better questions, and focus your attention, you’ll be amazed at what might be shown to you.
But for right now: I’ll share a couple of questions that is always with me:
When you are floating in lantern consciousness, unconstrained cognition:
ask divergent questions like: what else is possible? You can train your mind to perceive possibility, this is a foundational code for how I learned how to do that.
What else is possible to create with my life?
These questions leverage the power of your imagination, and I’ll be talking about that more as well because imagination is everything.
One thing I really want to emphasize is that if you decide to go deep with medicines, give yourself a lot of time on the other side to integrate the experience.
I highly recommend not making any big decisions or drastic moves, based on any visions or aha moments you had in your journey. Let the dust settle.
And truly walking this medicine path and cultivating your visionary capacity is a path of mastery and it requires daily practice, to stay grounded, centered, aligned and humble on the path.
# That’s a Wrap!
Ok folks, we are officially a wrap on the content for today. If you have questions, comments, something you’d like me to speak to or you want to share how this content is impacting your life, or get a particular paper or resource on my radar,
You can now leave me a voice memo.
And I really want to encourage you to send me questions:
If I share your question, I’ll give you a shoutout.
Are you already working with plant medicines? What are you discovering?
Was this episode helpful, what did you learn?
Send me a voice note to:
If we are not yet connected on Instagram and you’d like to follow my journey in Costa Rica, you can find me @livefreelaurad
Once again, my name is Laura Dawn and you’re listening to the psychedelic leadership podcast, until next time.
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The psychedelic leadership podcast is blowing my default mode network!!! Episodes include revolutionary science, as well as practical steps we can all take to creatively make change to help heal the planet and ourselves. Laura Dawn is an amazing speaker, and most definitely a thought leader.
Laura Dawn’s experience and service to the healing journey is a recipe for humanity, through modern science, plant medicine and ancient wisdom is amazing. She attracts the best of the best leaders in the space of science, psychedelics and spirituality, I love every one of her podcasts. Thank you LD!
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I’m obsessed with this podcast and I’ve listened to every episode. This is the kind of podcast that has the potential to change humanity if we all listen to these interviews and Laura’s wisdom.
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.