Jay is the co-founder of Eleusinia retreat. In this episode we get his side of the story. Why he finally decided to be open to a psychedelic experience, as a person who had never previously tried any substances. We dive into the ineffability of a psychedelic experience and how it can change you, described by the unique perspective of an Indian attorney. Jay also describes how bringing his wife back to life from her chronic pain condition sparked a passion to bring chronic pain relief with psychedelics to others still suffering. Jay describes what it was like to embrace this adventure and how incredible it is to this day. Listen here or on Apple Podcast.
Tawnya: You have made it to The Psilocybin Podcast with Tales from Eleusinia a unique science-based psilocybin retreat based out of Mexico. That not only focuses on brain health and wellbeing, but actually specializes in pain management. I am your host, Tawnya, the medical director come along. Jessica, the founder of this retreat is my cohost.
As we break down the latest in psychedelic research news and the inner workings of this amazing experience. Jay. Thank you so much for coming to the show. It’s such an honor to hear you’re a part of this story. I’ve had the opportunity to get, to hear you speak about your perspective on this journey. Can you tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what your role is in Eleusinia?
It All Started With A Headache
Jay: Certainly, thank you Tawnya.
At Eleusinia, I actually deal with a lot of the logistics, planning, coordination for the guests that come to the retreat, but, you know, coming to Eleusinia was a long process on how Jess and I got started into it. My wife as many of you may already know, has a condition.
Basically she woke up one day with the headache that just would not leave.
Tawnya: So at one point, you and your wife had a totally normal life in whatever normal meant to you both. And then one day she wakes up with this headache and everything’s different.
I mean, she is suffering. She’s trying to act normal. She just can’t, she’s resourceful, she’s digging, she’s trying everything. Finally, she comes across the cluster busters group, which is the group that started leading her towards the idea that psilocybin could be something for her. So she starts using psilocybin.
What was it like for you to watch her in the beginning at that time?
Jay: Well, I mean, the first time when she tried it, and that was the one moment where she said, at least during the experience itself, she was not in pain from her headache. You know, this is months, if not, almost a year of just constant headache. She woke up with it in the morning and it was there till the moment she fell asleep, and that was the one moment in those, four to six hour timeframe where she didn’t have the actual pain. And that was remarkable because when you have a pain condition, which is something I learned later on, it changes your personality.
Seeing her personality change in those moments, because, you know, Jessica went through some dark times there where she wasn’t sure if she would end up on disability, she wasn’t sure if she could do her work, you know, I wasn’t sure on how to manage my work and, you know, have to be able to be there for her at the same time, without really knowing what I can do to help.
It was a tough time and it affects your family, affects your marriage.
And so you feel like you’re stuck in this phase on what can you do to help your spouse at the same time have some sort of a normal life kind of a thing . For a while it wasn’t clear if that was possible for either one of us. So, that essentially transformed into this new life, but this retreat, which, you know, before her condition, it was nothing that even would cross our mind as a dream, kind of a thing of a possibility of a future for us in that sense.
But the the amazing thing about Jess was she was pretty resourceful and she started looking into options.
And she came across, eventually, a support group that used psilocybin in treatment of their cluster headaches. Now, Jess does not have cluster headaches herself, but some of the symptoms mimicked what cluster headaches do. And when she read more about psilocybin and its impact and she decided to try it, that’s when she realized the benefits of it.
Too Hippie For Our Taste
Based on her personality, she’s the type where like, this is something that’s out there, it works. Other people need to know about it.
And there are retreats that work with psilocybin, but they don’t focus on pain conditions and a lot of times they are very spiritual based, but Jess and I were what we would call complete skeptics.
What she found was a lot of the New Age places that do it for more, either spiritual purposes or more recreational purpose.
You know, not as a treatment. And she knew as a skeptic, if she came to those websites, it would turn her off. And there so many people that are looking for that scientific focus and are looking for something, not like a one and done type of thing, a place that can support them, long-term wise as well.
And they’re going to be turned off by the things that are out there and then they won’t even try psilocybin, and they’re going to struggle and they’re going to suffer.
And that’s how the retreat basically was born. Where Jess wanted to create a safe space where people, both spiritual non-spiritual people, could come together in a place that did focus on the science aspects of psilocybin.
The people are still there that are there to help them and guide them in the future. Now it started out as we’ve done these retreats over time, we’ve realized it’s not just the people with medical conditions. It’s a lot of people who have a fear of psilocybin or just, they don’t know who they can talk to about it, or connect with.
I mean, the biggest thing we do now at the retreat is this community we create for people to have an avenue to talk others. It becomes very hard to talk to your normal friends that haven’t done psychedelics because the conversations change, we have these in-depth conversations, philosophical conversations, you know, deep, physics and conceptual things.
It wasn’t something that I was really open to at the beginning because it’s like, okay, there’s this something out there, it’s not necessarily legal in most places, you know, why is that? I’m a lawyer. So that’s something I questioned. It’s like not legal. There’s got to be a reason why it’s not legal. Because we know that there are a lot of prescription drugs out there, but a lot of side effects, which are problematic for people. Yet, we also know that doctors prescribed those on a routine basis to their patients.
So if there is something out there, which may not even necessarily have those negative side effects, that a lot of prescription drugs do, why is it not being prescribed? Why is it a schedule I narcotic as we call it and, you know, in the legal field.
I researched the legal aspect of it and learned about the history of how it was turned into Schedule I, and that’s a really long conversation, but, long story short, I realized that there’s a lot of political aspects to it, a lot of other things of why it became a Schedule I as opposed to being something that’s more readily acceptable and available.
Changes From Psilocybin
Tawnya: So early on you said that in the ER, you would watch her and she had personality changes as most people do with these chronic conditions. And so they’re a little bit more short tempered because they’re suffering so acutely.
And then you watched her in the psilocybin experience and she would soften a little bit, relax a little bit. And so you started to believe in this or at what point did you say this is really a thing?
Jay: You know, she had to follow a certain course where she has to take a certain dose every week for a certain period of time .
And the changes initially were actually quite immediate, just she smiled and hadn’t seen her smile in a very, very long time. You know, and that’s, that’s tough, because Jess loves to smile. Because you know your spouse before the headache started so, you know, people hadn’t met her wouldn’t know that, but I knew that, and you know, family knew that kind of a thing.
So, you know, when you see those changes and you see that person revert back to the person, you knew that you fell in love with, that personality that had been subdued because of all the pain coming out again.
And just seeing that personality start coming out again, it was like, oh look, I’m getting my wife back, you know? Initially yes. And when it started happening and you know, you’re really scared that first. Is this going to work? And second, if it does work, is it going to last? Because now you’ve seen all three sides.
You see what your wife was like before the condition. You’ve seen what she was like with the condition. And now that you’ve seen improvements, you know, thanks to effects of the psilocybin there’s this fear, because you don’t want her to go back to her dark side or in a dark place again.
Until you’ve done psychedelics yourself, it is very hard to explain the experience to another person who has never done them. So she was telling me all these things and wow, this is remarkable, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. You know? Like I don’t understand.
She was like, I can’t really explain it. You have to try it to kind of know it. And I’m like, when I just sound like any other person selling drugs.
So it’s a combination of the movie matrix where it’s like you to take the blue pill or the red pill and open the world up to you. And it’s like, yeah, this isn’t just Hollywood BS kind of a thing, you know, like, you know, what do you mean? You can’t explain it? You know, you can speak, give me the words.
She’s like, the words can describe it. And she would try initially, like, oh, it sort of has its impact over time when it changes you. And well, I like the fact that it changed you back to your personality that way you were, but what do you mean “it changes you”?
I’m like, well, I feel good. I feel fine. I don’t need to be changed. Like, you know, what’s the purpose. Because I still looked at it as initially as just something you take if you have a condition to treat just like any medication, you know, now that I’ve learned the benefits of it, even if you’re perfectly fine, the benefits you get out of it as a person from your own psyche and your growth as a human being.
But none of that initially was known to me. I just looked at it as like, here’s the medication. I don’t know exactly why it works. I don’t know exactly why it’s not legal, but it does certainly work on her. And it seems to work on a lot of other people, but it’s for people that have something that they need to fix.
And I don’t really feel I have something to fix. I don’t really need to do it. And when she said it changes you, it scared me. Like, what are you going to change as you? I feel fine. I really don’t need to be changed. And I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have a medical condition that requires something in that aspect of it.
So she’s like, no, it changes you for a better person. Now over time, I’ve done psychedelics a number of times. So I now finally can grasp what she was trying to tell me.
Jay Dives In And Tries Psilocybin
Tawnya: Well, what was the tipping point? Jay what did she finally say that convinced you that it was time to try it yourself?
Jay: You want to relate to your spouse at certain levels, you know, you want to kind of, you know, you experienced the joy and the pains together. So she was having these euphoric moments and I was sort of missing out. And I felt like, wow, I don’t want to miss out on these things. Like I am so curious. I’m a guy has never done anything ilicit ever. I mean, in college, maybe I drank a little bit of alcohol and I wasn’t 21 just yet.
And even then, like I said, it was sort of like having a glass of wine, having a beer or something like that. I’m Indian, so from a cultural point of view it’s sort of built in. I grew up in the eighties back in the era of the don’t do drugs, or this is the brain on drug commercials. Drugs are bad, there’s something wrong with them and they do something bad to you.
So getting past that threshold, just looking at her, seeing what she was going through and saying I kind of to know what this is like.
And then the second part of it came, when I saw her talking to other people who’ve also taken psilocybin and how they could sort of connect with each other and relate to it. That made me sort of jealous as to like, I really want to be part of this conversation. I want to be able to discuss this thing and see what everybody’s talking about. They can’t describe it, heck maybe I can describe it if I try it, you know, maybe I can do better job and maybe I can do a better job. Maybe it’s my ego kicking in a little bit to say, you know, look, they can’t describe it. Let me give it a crack. Maybe I can describe it better so other people know what it’s like.
Tawnya: Yeah. So interesting. And so you were actually thinking maybe I could actually explain it. That was part of your tipping point. That’s so interesting. So can you tell us a little bit about the day that you tried it for the first time?
Jay: Right. It took some steps cause I was pretty fearful too, because when you can’t describe what’s going to happen to you, you’re like, so I would ask questions like, well, does it, is it like alcohol or do you feel drunk? And Jessica would be like, no, it’s nothing like that.
You don’t feel drunk. You not under the influence or something where there’s like memory lapses or blacking out or anything like that. You remember everything, you remember everything clearly. So I’m like, that’s weird. So you don’t feel like you’re under the influence of some sort of substance, you know, it’s like, okay, what is it like, you know, marijuana?
Cause I have tried that, you know, at least two times. No, it’s not like that either. I’d also seen her take it a number of times as well.
So in some ways, from at least a visual point of view I could physically see, and it was a lot of just sort of laying there. And I’m like, I don’t know, maybe I’ll just dream or something. But she told me how you perceive things changes and you might hallucinate or see things that aren’t all that necessary there, things of that nature.
I didn’t know what to make of that aspect of it. You know, when I think of hallucinations, it’s like a movie, you see a ghost or something. I expected something of that nature. So the morning of I took the psilocybin and at first I’m just sort of sitting there and not much is happening and I’m like you know, I feel normal.
I feel fine. And then I started feeling a little bit of chills, just kind of cold like you need a blanket.
And then things in the room just seemed very clear, I call it like seeing in 3d even have you all seen 3d obviously, but it’s sorta like, almost looking at things with like binoculars or something. So the walls of the rooms see much more crisp and clear.
And then I had sort of a difficult experience or a challenging experience where I saw what I thought was my cat. And I thought the cat was meowing and sitting by the bed, except the color of the cat, I was looking at, it was orange and I don’t have an orange cat.
I’m like, that’s okay. I am looking at my cat and it’s orange for some reason, but that’s not a big deal. And I’m saying here kitty kitty, even calling it, by it’s name and Jessica looks at me, she’s like the cat’s on the other side of the room. So then I look over and I do see that the actual cat on the other side of the room.
So I’m like, if my cat is over there, then what is this thing on my bed? And that caused a real freak out moment in that moment right there. Because all of a sudden, this cat I was looking at on my bed was extremely real in all sense of the word, you know, it, it, wasn’t an aberration it’s not a ghost, you know, doesn’t look like it’s some sort of anomaly or something that, you know, you can see through.
It’s full on physically my cat, you know, like it is something there. I’ve never had that where something that I’m seeing in my own eyes that it’s in front of me and that’s not actually there. And it is not dream fully awake. Jessica could tell from my eyes like, oh, something’s wrong.
What’s going on? She’s like, what are you thinking what’s happening? And the only word I could, I could put out of my mouth was dread. I feel dread and I’ve never used that word.
And that’s the only word that sort of popped up in my head and Jessica sort of guided me through the process and eventually things were fine. So through, through that first experience, just, it was nothing I anticipated. It felt like everything was coming from within, which is a very unique experience where do you feel things are coming from you rather than happening to you.
Tawnya: So you had that experience and so you had a difficult time still explaining it because originally you were like, I think I’m going to have this capacity to explain it a little bit better, but you do have some good metaphors, because I know going back, reminding the audience that you did feel like you couldn’t be changed, that there was nothing that needed to be changed.
How did you feel then after?
Jay: Right. So, I tried psilocybin multiple times after that, and I had some amazing euphoric experiences. For my initial experience I could only describe like what was happening, but not the emotional components of it.
I had the same tongue tying effect where, you know what, I can’t explain it..
Recently, William Shatner went up to space and I don’t know if William Shatner has done psychedelics or not, but he was describing the experience of going to space and he was using very colorful, poetic language of doing so.
And I was watching this interview and I’m like, you know what? He is literally describing a psychedelic experience. I can completely relate to what he’s saying. And I don’t think I would be able to relate in the way I’m relating to it now listening to him had I’m not done my psychedelic experience before.
How It Changes You
On the, the change aspects of it, I describe that differently.
I’m a guy who likes to hike. I like going up mountains. It’s sort of my way of meditation because I’m not a meditator by any means from a traditional sense.
People describe when they go up to Everest and then they, they come back down, they are a changed person. It’s changed the perspective. It’s changed the way they look at others, look at their own life, look at the experience itself.
Climbing Everest is an experience, and when you come back down, the profound experience that you’ve had in going through it has had an impact on you that has changed you. You’re still exactly the same person that climbed up the mountain and climbed back down. So in that sense, you are not changed.
You grow as a person. Those experiences have a profound impact on you and they change you, and I think that you make you a better person because it expands your horizons, and it makes you more elastic in some sense.
One of my experiences involved this moment of clarity when I was looking at an emotion, almost like a physical inanimate object of some sort. Like if I could take sadness and it was like a ball, a physical ball, and I could put it on the table and say, well, there’s sadness. I could take happiness and here’s a ball of happiness and I could put it on a table and next to sadness.
And that could take fear, turn it into a ball and put it next to the happiness, and there’d be three balls or three emotions. I could physically grab a ball, bring it to me and feel those emotions. So I could take happiness, bring it to me and feel a sense of complete euphoric joy, and then put it back on the table and I could take fear physically grab it, bring it to me and put it back.
So having this complete control of emotion… to me emotions are all the things that sort of get the better of you. Not the other way around, like they lead you, you don’t lead them. So just having that grasp over an emotion was not only a pure sense of power, but it was just like, wow, you can actually do that.
You can take an emotion if you’re going through something and actually separate it out from you and manipulate it and kind of hold it and be able to analyze it and experience it and watch it and then put it away or bring it up to you. And yeah, it only lasted about 10 minutes. I was able to do that, but it was an amazing feeling to think about.
And mentally think of them that way was sort of an amazing realization. And that’s one of the things I find so amazing about psychedelics. Like I said, it’s not just for people that have some sort of condition that they’re trying to treat or not treat. It has such expansion, the way you look at your personality, the way you look at other people in their personalities.
Just like the person who climbed Everest and came, back down is the same exact person and has the same past experiences before Everest, and will have other experiences post Everest. But the experience of climbing Everest is also now a part of their vocabulary.
It’s a part of who they are as a person. So that’s what I mean by the change. It adds something, it doesn’t take it away.
One of the ways it changed me is, before psychedelics, I never knew or understood why people like to meditate, why they wanted to go do yoga.
And why did I do these breathing exercises? It made no sense to me. You would not find me within 10 feet of a meditation or yoga studio. I never understood that concept, but I get it now.
How Eleusinia Was Born
Tawnya: I’d like to take you back, Jay, because I want to kind of get back to how the concept of how Eleusinia was born.
Okay. So she has this conceptual idea of Eleusinia and you’ve already luckily tried psilocybin. So there’s a part of you that’s probably simultaneously going, you’re right, there does need to be a place. Were you onboard right away. And did you believe in yourself as, as a couple, as a team enough to know that you could pull this off?
Jay: Well, I was on board, the idea that people need to know about this and how do we get this information out to them? You know, training wise, I’m a lawyer. I knew nothing at that point about running a retreat. We’re fortunate to have all of you all as a team that we created and brought the expertise in.
In that aspect of it and what you all do specifically, as it relates to your profession. You’re a nurse, obviously we knew we wanted to bring somebody with a medical background to the retreat.
Psilocybin works, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to take. Climbing Everest is hard. It is remarkable when you come through after, but nobody comes down and says, you know what? Let’s do that again next week. Not only when they just came down. Sadly, with psilocybin for some people, they do have to do that the following week or the following month or the following two weeks.
And even people who climb Everest it don’t want to climb it in these next three months, either. It is a tough journey and using psilocybin, for many people, can be a tough journey and it can be an extremely joyous journey. Just like climbing Everest can be tough and joyous at the time. And reaching the pinnacle is extreme joy for those people.
I like that example so much because it sort of encompasses so many things. It’s encompasses that toughness that you need to get up there.
The journey is yours. You climb Everest on your own, we’re just there to guide you through it, help you through it. And that’s what happens with psilocybin too, but it is still your journey.
Everybody loves the visuals, and that’s what we discussed with friends, because it’s easy to explain. Sometimes the emotional stuff, is very hard to explain.
You asked why have you started it? I’m an attorney by trade and I enjoy what I do, but I gravitate towards what I do for the retreat because of the people we meet. I mean, we all have our circle of friends. And I think most of us will realize that the people we hang out with, the people, we do things with, is a pretty narrow group. You don’t get to meet people with this diversity, not only just in age and race and gender, but the diversity of experience. That’s what I love about it.
I get to meet people from all walks of life of all ages, and I get to learn from them. And I would never, in my normal course of doing what I do ever run into these people in my own life like that would never happen..
Tawnya: And not only, not only that it’s interesting because you’ve never even been to a retreat before creating Eleusinia and you’re an attorney by trade and Jessica is a gemologist by trade who also has never even been to a retreat.
Looking back at what you guys have created. Are you super shocked at how dynamic the evolution has become, born from such an interesting reason for bringing it into your life? I mean, what is it like for you to look back at what you created? I mean, I bet you never would’ve thought you could have done it.
Jay: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. And when you say I’m super shocked, I’m still being shocked.
One of the first things I tell people at the retreat, when they get there, it’s like I meet people here who are extremely, just energetic and excited. There are people who are just scared to death.
And I look back to say, they put all this faith and trust in us. And I look back in, could I do that, if the tables were turned? Like if, you know, if I was going to this retreat, in Mexico, not knowing anything about these people that run it.
And a part of me, I was like, no, I don’t think I can do that. That’s some scary stuff, you know, like all these people, but the part of me also knows when I thought my wife and what she was going through that like, yeah, you know what?
I need to go. I need to do what I need to do to see what I can do for her. So I know why they come. And, and like I said, I’m shocked at the team we have and how well we all work together and how we bring different things to it, different perspectives, different way of, you know, of looking at how things should be done or looked at.
And I laugh at it because in a way it’s like when Jessica got her condition, like it was such a negative thing. Like this is gonna ruin our lives in some sense if not just outright kill us in some ways, you know, and especially with her to like we have this life I couldn’t even dream about .
Like I said, I’m an attorney, I’m a professional. When you’re Indian, you become either a doctor, a lawyer or engineer.
Never in a million years it was like, you know what? I want to create a retreat. When she started getting these messages from people and I started seeing all this hope in them, especially after they’d been to the retreat and what they tell us when they go back home and what they write to us and what they communicate to us, that there’s something good happening that we are capable of providing.
It makes me emotional in that sense. Part of me going into law to the idea of changing people’s lives was there. And sadly as a kid, you’re sort of aspirational that way and you’d see the TV shows and you read the Supreme Court decisions, all these things that affect people’s life.
From Law To Psychedelia
And you get into law because of that, and then reality hits you. I’m a corporate lawyer and I’m good at what I do, but at the end of the day, my job representing my clients is essentially representing pretty well established people that I’m helping from a legal point of view, but I am not changing their lives in a dynamic way that this retreat does. Yes I change people’s life but not in the way I intended being a kid going to law school. Most of the lawyers out there, whether they’re criminal or civil lawyers handle cases, and it makes you very jaded.
And every time we do these retreats, it sort of reels me back in to the goodness of people, which, you know, as a lawyer, you’re trained to be very defensive and very questionable. My whole life involves not trusting people and not trusting things.
And I’m trained to do that, train to question everything constantly. In a way that’s been great for the retreat, because we question everything and we continue to do that. And as the retreat evolves, we still continue to always question things and challenge ourselves. Just like law, you need evidence. We spend a lot of time looking at the research that comes up with psychedelics because that’s where the evidence comes from.
You don’t have to believe me, you can read about it. You don’t have to believe any of our team members. You can read about these things from actual studies. There’s more investigation being done and a lot more to discover.
The retreat has sort of opened my eyes. Like I said not only do I get to meet people from all walks of life, all ages, all experiences and have these amazing conversations and just amazing emotions, you can’t get that anywhere else. You know, that’s where I’m lucky, to be part of it.
Tawnya: Well, thank you, Jay so much for going into all that detail of your perspective on how it was created, what you get from it now, and just that whole story and evolution.
We’re so grateful to you and Jessica and in your original unique vision. And I am a hundred percent a believer in everything that Eleusinia can do because of who stands behind it. So thank you so much for coming to the show.
Jay: Thank you. Good talking to you again.
Thank you so much for listening. We have this free, amazing guidebook for you. So go on over to Eleusiniaretreat.com and pick up the 16 page downloadable PDF. Eleusinia guest guidebook. Every single one of our guests gets this guidebook when they arrive to an Eleusinia retreat. But this is now made available to you as a PDF. It’s really important to have this on hand. It walks you through how and why and techniques to move through your psychedelic experience.