Conversations on Healing

Jonathan Robinson

Unlocking Trauma: Using Ecstasy as Medicine

Jonathan Robinson
Psychotherapist, best-selling author of ten books, and professional speaker from Northern California

Jonathan Robinson, a psychotherapist and bestselling author based in Northern California, has impacted over 200 million people worldwide through his practical methods. His work, translated into 47 languages, has been featured in major publications like Newsweek, USA TODAY, and the Los Angeles Times. With over thirty years of study in personal and professional development, Robinson has appeared on shows like Oprah and CNN. He hosts the popular podcast “Awareness Explorers”. Notable books include “Life’s Big Questions”, a New York Times bestseller, and “The Experience of God”, featuring interviews with inspirational leaders like Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and over 30 other prevalent figures. His expertise spans topics from communication miracles for couples to spirituality and happiness, including his latest work on MDMA therapy for overcoming trauma and depression.

In today’s podcast, host Shay Beider welcomes Jonathan Robinson as they dive into his work and how to create deep, lasting happiness in your life. He shares some of his latest research and work with MDMA from his book “Ecstacy as Medicine”, including how he trains therapists and experts to lead people through an MDMA experience. Given that the FDA is considering legalizing MDMA based on its powerful outcomes in the treatment of trauma, this is a timely topic for conversation. Jonathan elaborates on altered states of consciousness, and how these can be used to tap into deeper levels of healing and awareness. The pair discuss his experience interviewing guests like Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Ram Dass, and explore some of the biggest lessons he has learned. Jonathan also shares useful techniques on how one can meet their personal goals using a motivational tool he developed called the ICAN Method. Tune in to feel inspired, achieve your personal goals, and open your heart!

Show Notes:

Introduction (00:02) Welcome to the Conversations on Healing podcast,  where host Shay Bieder speaks with renowned healthcare leaders,  practitioners, and thought leaders to explore the world of wellness,  the incredible powers of self-care, and what it truly means to heal  today. Join us on this journey to become more whole healed and  connected.  

Shay Bieder (00:32) Hi, welcome to the Conversations on Healing  podcast. I’m your host, Shay Bieder, founder and CEO of Integrative  Touch. Joining me today we have psychotherapist, bestselling author,  and professional speaker, Jonathan Robinson. Jonathan has spent more  than 30 years studying methods for personal growth and professional  development. He is the host of the podcast Awareness Explorers and has  been a guest on the Oprah Show and on CNN. His work has appeared in  Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and other notable  publications. Additionally, Jonathan has written several books with  his newest release titled Ecstasy as Medicine, how MDMA Therapy can  help You overcome Trauma, anxiety, and Depression and Feel More Love.  This book teaches readers how MDMA can be used as a therapy to  benefit PTSD depression and anxiety among other challenges. In our  conversation, we explore the contraindications and benefits of MDMA  therapy and Jonathan’s unique approach. We also discuss his ICAN  motivational method, which is a tool to help you take action and grow  in areas where you particularly want to create positive changes in  your life. Jonathan shares in our dialogue that he thinks MDMA will  likely become legalized by the FDA based on some of the significant  impacts and findings on how it’s affected trauma, anxiety, and  depression. So it’s a good time to get educated and learn more about  the research outcomes and how he sees ecstasy as medicine. So let’s  jump into the conversation.  

Well, Jonathan, I’m delighted to welcome you to the  

Conversations on Healing podcast. Thanks so much for being on the  show.  

Jonathan Robison (02:43) I’m looking forward to it.  

Shay (02:44) Good. We’re going to have a fun conversation. I have no  doubt.  

Jonathan (02:48) Yeah.  

Shay (02:49) So you had recently written and released a book called  Ecstasy as Medicine that really focuses on the use of MDMA as a  medicinal tool for healing things like PTSD and pain and trauma. And  I’d love for you to start by sharing a little bit with our listeners  who may not be familiar with the healing properties of MDMA, kind of  what it is and what some of the benefits are. 

Jonathan (03:16) Sure. Well, MDMA is also known as Ecstasy or Molly.  It’s been a illegal drug for the last 40 years, but the Food and Drug  Administration in the United States is going to make it a medically  prescribed drug sometime in the next year. They’ve never done this  before in its history because 40 years of study showed that it was  both very safe and extremely effective for helping people with trauma,  anxiety, and depression  

and helping people overcome addiction. So it’s a very exciting time to  be aware of the healing benefits of this drug that a lot of people  knew or heard of as a party drug.  

Shay (04:00) Right, exactly. And I know that one of the reasons that  it is likely that the FDA will consider reversing that decision and  legalizing it is because some of the research outcomes have been so  strong. So, I would be interested in having you share a little bit  about what some of the research looks like and what some of the  outcomes and benefits are.  

Jonathan (04:23) Well, in double-blind placebo controlled research,  which is the gold standard, a lot of drugs don’t do much better than  placebo. In fact, antidepressants are only 1% better than placebo,  whereas MDMA was shown to be up to 40% better than placebos, which is  almost unheard of in the drug world. So it’s almost 40 times more  effective than antidepressants. So they had to look at this and say,  wow, this is the most effective drug we’ve seen for changing people’s  psychology. As long as it’s not dangerous, we should probably make it  something that can be medically prescribed. So it took 40 years of  studies and about a hundred million dollars to prove that, but it  finally has happened. So we’re now in a new place.  

Shay (05:14) Yeah and let’s talk about some of the specific things  like anxiety, depression, what were some of the specific targets  where they were trying to see positive change?  

Jonathan (05:22) All these studies take a lot of money, so they mostly  focus on PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and they found that  it really, even without giving therapy while on the drug, which is how  I like to use it, just taking the pill seemed to cure people. About  80% of people reported that they had zero or very small amounts of  PTSD six months later, and then in fact, over time, it even improves  more. So really just giving them this pill works. But when you  combine MDMA with therapy as I like to do, it’s even more effective.  

Shay (06:03) Let’s talk a little bit about that because you currently  train hundreds of coaches and therapists each year to guide people  through an MDMA experience, so they’re not unaccompanied, and the  format of the process typically includes, as I understand it, a one  hour discovery call prior to the session, and then roughly a five  hour session while that person is on MDMA and then a follow-up 

integration session to kind of integrate that experience. So if you  could walk our listeners through each step of that and why you think  that’s a responsible and effective way to utilize this drug.  

Jonathan (06:42) Well, luckily, I’ve done this for 40 years, so I  always look for what worked, and I’ve led about 800 journeys now.  First you want to know if it’s an appropriate medicine for a person,  what their issues are, what success looks like. So that’s a first  call. And also there are contraindications with MDMA. Like really,  they shouldn’t be taking it if they’re also on antidepressants because  the two medicines kind of cancel each other out and other things you  don’t want people to have psychotic breaks that they’ve had before,  things like that. Then on the journey, which I do mostly over zoom,  and this really surprises people, we found that the results worked  even better over zoom than in person and possibly because it creates  even more of a sense of safety. If a woman’s been raped, God forbid,  and I’m asking them to come into my office and take a drug, well,  that doesn’t feel very safe.  

But on Zoom, people are very focused and they feel very safe,  and that allows us to really dive deep into therapy. I like to say  I’m doing two or three years of therapy in one day with this medicine  because it’s so effective. And in fact, the FDA, the Food and Drug  Administration in the US called it a breakthrough therapy and gave it  special designation back in 2017. So I spent five hours doing all  these therapeutic processes, and then a week later I really focused  on how to take those insights and behavior changes people wanted to  make and keep it going in their daily life. I think those integration  sessions are really important because insights good, but you really  want to lead to behavior change.  

Shay (08:25) Right, exactly. And I’d also love for you to share with  our listeners, for those who are not familiar with some of the  altered states of consciousness or bliss states that can be evoked by  being on this medicine, how would you explain that altered state of  consciousness? What is it like? What’s the experience for people  listening that aren’t familiar with this or haven’t experienced it  directly?  

Jonathan (08:49) Yeah. Well, it’s definitely different than the other  psychedelics. It’s not at all like LSD or psilocybin or ketamine.  I’ll share a funny story about my parents. They heard that I was very  enthusiastic about this medicine and they asked if they could take  it. I said, well, okay. I told them how to create good setting for  it. Well, long story short, a year later I asked them if they ever  took it and they said, oh, yeah, yeah, we took it. And I was curious  what happened. So I said, what happened? And they said, well, actually  nothing happened, and this really surprised me. So I said, well, what  did you end up doing that night? And they said, well, it ended up  that we sat on the couch and we talked about how much we loved each  other and how wonderful our lives were and just how happy we were. 

And then we huddled for a couple hours. It ended up being the  best night of our 40 year marriage. The only disappointment was that  the drug never took effect. So I’m laughing this whole time because  that’s what the drug does is it makes you feel open and loving. It  doesn’t so much feel like a drug other than you feeling like you’re  just more open and loving than you’ve ever felt in your life. And  that’s what makes it so useful in therapy is that you’re very  clearheaded and you’re very open. And so you can kind of dive into  those issues that you tended to avoid beforehand  

Shay (10:15) And in your life and your work. Obviously, you did your  PhD on this topic. You’ve invested a lot of your life energy into  working with this medicine and helping to teach and guide people and  maybe how to use it. I know you don’t think the best way to use this  is on a party scene kind of environment. So I’m curious why you think  it’s such an important area to dedicate your life to and your energy?  

Jonathan (10:43) Well, I think nowadays we need people to be able to  accelerate change. Not everybody has the money to go to a therapist  for three years, but people do have the money to do this with somebody  who’s been guided. It only takes a day plus an hour before, a week  before, an hour a week after. And that’s very quick change and it’s a  lot less expensive, but most people who know it as a party drug don’t  realize its therapeutic potential. And often they’re amazed. You can  use a laptop as a door stop, but there’s better uses for a laptop and  there’s better uses for MDMA than just as a party drug. So I think  once people realize how effective it is, it just opens the door for a  lot of people dealing with difficult challenges to have a really fast  and effective way to meet those challenges and change them. 

Shay (11:43) That’s great. And I want to tie this into some other  interesting parts of your life. You’ve had this really cool  opportunity to interview some amazing people, including Mother Teresa,  the Dalai Lama Ram das. And so as you know, obviously there are  altered states of consciousness or loving states, high states of love  and compassion that can be induced yes, through something like MDMA,  but also can be induced through other altered states of consciousness  that, for example, in the Dalai Lama’s case come through Buddhist  practices as an example. And you see that in a lot of different  traditions. What if you learned about how these individuals that  you’ve had the great opportunity to connect with and interview bring  themselves into loving and ecstatic states similar to what you’ve seen  people experience with MDMA?  

Jonathan (12:46) Yeah, I’ve always been interested in what are the  best methods for reaching higher states of consciousness. That’s why  I’ve interviewed a hundred people, as you say. What I find is that  everybody has a very unique path into that, what could be called  Kingdom of Heaven within or Buddha Nature, whatever you want to call  it. And one of the great benefits of MDMA is that while somebody’s on 

it, I ask a lot of questions to see how they are creating that loving  open state as they kind of breadcrumb trail back to that state when  they’re not on the medicine. So my goal is often to kind of like MDMA  can be like training wheels. It teaches somebody how to find this  completely open, peaceful, and clear state of mind, and through the  clues that they have from that experience, they can find their way  back more easily. But other techniques such as meditation or prayer  or breathing techniques, lots of different methods can be  incorporated in to find out what methods work really, really well for  them quickly and easily. A lot of people don’t know that they don’t  have a clear cut way of doing that. It used to take me three hours of  meditation to get into a bliss state. Now it takes me about 20 to 30  seconds  

Shay (14:09) And explain what maybe just from your own lens or if you  want to use a client kind of case study as an example, that would  work too. What are the breadcrumbs that you’ve figured out that allow  you to get into that bliss state more quickly because that pathway,  give our listeners an example of what that looks like.  

Jonathan (14:30) Yeah, that’s a great question and I’ve never gotten  that question before. I appreciate it. Well, there can be everything  from phrases like, I’m totally safe and open or praise the Lord. Or it  could be songs like songs that really move you just singing a verse  of that inside your head. It could be humming inside, it could be  listening for silence. It could be focusing on people you love and  feeling your energy expand. It could be awareness practices. There’s  a lot of different approaches, and that’s why you have to find out  what kind  

of is the magic key to unlock the door to your heart. And it is  different. So we play with a lot of different modalities, including  things on a very subtle energetic level. How do you close down your  chest and your heart? How do you relax it and open it? What are you  doing? And those types of things coupled with phrases, songs,  meditation methods, can help people get back to that state very  quickly.  

Shay (15:42) Those are great examples. I’m curious, Jonathan, about  this because for me, when I’ve dropped into those kinds of sort of  bliss states, what we’re discussing in this conversation, it is not  necessarily so heart centric. It’s like my entire body being sort of  

whole energetic field or presence that feels awakened and enlivened.  And so I’m interested in how you see that, because I know that a lot  of the language that you utilize is focused around the heart. So I  I’d love to hear more about how you experience it. 

Jonathan (16:25) Well, the way I experience it is it kind of starts in  the heart and there radiates molecules expanding throughout my whole  body. But what’s interesting Shay, is that people are different. Some  people, they start in their head or there isn’t much focus on the 

heart. It’s like in you, it starts everywhere in the body or maybe it  starts in their arms. And I try to find what that person is naturally  doing and expand from there. And that seems to be what works the  best.  

Shay (16:57) It’s so cool how we are all like snowflakes. We each have  this slightly different imprint of how we drop in to different states  of consciousness. And I find that part so fascinating about just  humanity in general.  

Jonathan (17:13) Yeah, yeah.  

Shay (17:15) I want to ask you about, you developed this cool  motivational tool, which I think would be fun as another part of your  work and what you do, it’s called the ICAN method. I hope I’m saying  the acronym the way that you like to say it, and it helps people to  achieve goals that are most important to them. And you have a weekly  system and a check-in. And so I thought maybe for our listeners you  could share a little bit about that ICAN method and how they could  potentially utilize it.  

Jonathan (17:44) Yeah. Well, ICAN stands for internal contract and  nurturance method. And I noticed that a lot of people know what to  do, but they can’t consistently do what they know. And if you want the  key to success in any area, even health, do what makes your body  healthy and do it consistently. If you want to lose weight, eat less,  exercise more and do it consistently. You want to have a good  relationship, be nice to your partner, do it consistently. But the  problem is that most people don’t have a system to be consistent with  behaviors that require a little bit of motivation like exercise. So I  developed this method that takes about three minutes a week to do  that. If people do it, it’s pretty much a hundred percent successful  in getting people to be consistent with those behaviors they know  would make their life better. And what it is, there’s subtleties to  it, but the shortest version is you write down two or three things  would make your week better that you could complete this week.  

It might be go to the gym twice this week and exercise. It  might be meditate every day for 10 minutes. It might be say one nice  thing to your mate per day, little things that are good that you often  would forget to do. And then you say, for each of these items that I  don’t complete by a week from today, I agree to rip up $1 or throw  away the equivalent amount of money, which is a small amount of money.  Now. People hate to throw away money, they hate to rip up money. And  just that little thought that there’s a little bit of penalty if I  don’t do what I know will make my life better is enough to move them  forward if they’re accountable to someone else, contracts work in the  business world, that’s why we use them, but we don’t necessarily use  them to make our lives better. And this is a very simple method that  allows people to take all the good insights they have and make sure  that it turns into behaviors that they do consistently. 

Shay (19:58) So interesting. Yeah, I love just the contract aspect of  it and then the accountability model where you’re checking in with  somebody to help to hold you on the path. I remember years ago I  worked with a gentleman who was one of the top people in the diamond  industry internationally, and he said, they don’t  

at that highest level, they don’t use any written contracts.  Everything is an oral contract. And he said, the reason is at that  level, when you’re literally trading millions of dollars, it’s about a  deeper level of integrity where you just have to know, I trust you.  It’s not about squirreling out of the way something was written and  trying to word it in such a way, wordsmith it. So that, and it really  taught me a lot about what the deepest level of integrity is, because  at a certain point, it becomes about your word. Can I trust your  word?  

Jonathan (20:52) And can we trust our word? That’s the other thing is  that when we say we’re going to go to the gym twice this week and we  don’t, a little voice in our head, the next time we say it says, ah  bs, you’re probably not going to go. So we have to increase the power  of our word so that we trust ourselves, that we always keep our  promises. So this ICAN method actually helps you to develop more  willpower and more trust in yourself and other people to trust you.  And just the threat of throwing away a dollar or the equivalent  amount of money is kind of a gimmick that actually seems to motivate  people. I’ve had people who were snorting $20,000 of cocaine a month  stop to avoid throwing away $1.  

Shay (21:40) Hahaha human beings are fascinating. Aren’t we?  Jonathan (21:41) They are. They are.  

Shay (21:44) Yeah, it’s interesting. These accountability models, I  feel like are becoming increasingly popular too, where, for example,  I’m doing a training currently on something called Positive  Intelligence, and they use PQ as kind of a shorthand for it. And the  way that it’s structured has a similar accountability model where  you’re in a small pod, it could be three people, but you’re checking  in with, am I doing what I said I want to do? And I like that idea  that you’re describing about, it’s not just about having other people  kind of hold us to it. It’s also trusting that we can be accountable  to ourselves. If you look at New Year’s resolutions as an example,  you look at the data on those, my goodness, they don’t last very long  at all, right? So then as humans, we start to feel like, oh, I can’t  trust myself to stick with what I say I’m going to do. But even in  just a small pod or group, you start to develop this sort of safety  net where you’re helping each other to remember, yeah, this is really  important to you. It’s very interesting modeling, and I think more  sort of coaching and practices are starting to be conducted in these  sorts of pods or small accountability groups because they’re seeing 

outcomes that way.  

Jonathan (23:04) Because they work. I do this with my wife every  Wednesday at five. She asks, how’d you do on your contract? I rip up  or throw away appropriate amount of money, which only ends up being  about $5 a year because I make sure if it’s on my contract, I’m going  to do it, come hell or high water. And it only takes a minute of  accountability with her. And the combination of MDMA therapy and this  accountability is just awesome in terms of its effect on people. I’ve  spent 40 years trying to find and interview the best psychological  spiritual leaders and find out what really works well. This works  faster than anything I’ve seen. The combination is just pretty  awesome.  

Shay (23:50) Really good. Yeah. And I want to talk a little bit about,  you have a podcast called Awareness Explorers where you interview  interesting people to kind of better understand how they move into  places of peace and love inside of themselves. And so as you’ve now  accumulated a number of these interviews over time, what are some of  the key takeaways that you consistently hear from people that you’re  interviewing?  

Jonathan (24:17) One thing, a lot of these people claim to be fully  enlightened beings. And I believe that they are. I mean, we’ve heard  of some of them, like Byron Katie Eckhart, Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra,  but some people are pretty unknown too. And when I ask them what  helped, they will often say a couple things. First of all, loving the  parts of themselves that they were rejecting or resisting before that  we all have the inner critic or a complainer or whatever that are  there in our lives. But learning to actually love them and change the  energy of them, that’s one thing. Another thing was loving other  people, not judging them, but seeing them as a perfect version of  them. When we see a movie and there’s even a villain, we might not  like the villain, but we’d say, well, he’s a perfect villain. He’s  doing the villain thing really well. So a lot of it is around the  area of the idea of loving parts of ourselves or other people. And  then the other thing is that people experiment and find a meditation  method or some method that really worked for them, and it’s different  for different people. The Christians might not be doing a Christian  meditation, they might be doing a Buddhist meditation, and the  Buddhist might be doing a devotional practice, but it’s what really  worked for them at any particular time, and it kind of opened the door  for them.  

Shay (25:51) Yeah, that’s so fascinating. And I know part of your  personal story was that you studied with a spiritual teacher, I think  for 26 years, and so that was a big part of where you learned to in  your own life, strengthen what needed to be strengthened and figure  out how to grow with inside your own being. Why was that chapter in  your life so important to you? 

Jonathan (26:20) Well, a lot of people have what I call weak legs,  parts of themselves that are not very well developed. It might be  their heart or it might be their intellect, or it might be their  willpower or might be their ability to manifest money or be in a good  relationship. Well, with this teacher, he was always pointing us in  the direction our weak legs. And most people don’t do that. They  avoid their weak legs and go for the strong thing. So people who know  me say I’m very well balanced. I can manifest things, but I can also  meditate. And I also have a wonderful relationship with my wife. But  none of that would’ve happened unless I’d gotten all this help. And  he kind of forced me to, Hey, you’re still blind here. You’re not  doing well here, so let’s work on that. And for that, I feel really  grateful that I had that opportunity.  

Shay (27:14) Yeah, absolutely. I know another part of your work  involves couples work where you work with a couple to create that  loving state together, and also to help to in some cases, reinvigorate  or even help to save a relationship that’s on the brink. And so I  would love for you to share a little of what you’ve learned about  doing couples work, and also how do you do that? I know you mentioned  you do your practice and therapy through Zoom. So is the couple  together in the same place and then you are the one who’s in a  different place on Zoom and is a little about the couples work that  you do as well?  

Jonathan (27:59) Yeah. Well, they usually are together in the same  Zoom space and where I am, so that works out fine. But in the 1970s,  MDMA was known and got popularized as a drug to help couples  understand each other and work through their differences. And it was  so effective that all these therapists were saying, this is  fantastic. We got to do this. And then of course it became a dance  party drug and people abused it, et cetera. But I do a lot of this.  In the nineties, I sold a million books of something called  Communication Miracles for Couples. Oprah said it was the best couples  book ever written. So that helped. And I started doing a lot of  couples work, and it takes a long time to do couples work. They’re  usually, people usually wait six years after having problems before  they see a counselor. Imagine waiting six years when you have cancer,  you’d be dead.  

So usually by the time people see me, they’re at each other’s  throats ready to kill each other and get a divorce. And even in that  situation, MDMA can open up people’s hearts again, and you work  through the problems from a loving place, not from a blame place  trying to solve difficult issues when you’re at each other’s throats  and you don’t trust each other is damn near impossible. But solving  problems with somebody that you love and trust is relatively easy. So  in these sessions, people get back to a loving place. They  communicate in a way where they really understand each other, and then  we negotiate how to deal with some of their problems. And those 

negotiations usually last when they’re not on the drug. And it’s  really very moving work to have people go from really disliking each  other and blaming each other to love and vulnerability. Usually I end  up in tears. They end up in tears. It’s a very powerful experience.  

Shay (30:06) Yeah, I’m certain it would be. And I’m curious, you said  about trust too. What if there was a huge betrayal in the  relationship or something big happened then what does that look like  when they’re in that altered state, a very loving state? How are they  then dealing with that breach of trust as an example? Give an example  of what that might look like.  

Jonathan (30:29) Yeah. Well, it’s a great question. When there’s a big  trust break like that, it’s really important that people really  understand why that happened. I never have couples come into my office  and say, we really understand each other perfectly well. That’s why  we want a divorce. So when there’s something like infidelity or other  breaches, I have couples ask each other questions and here, why did  you do that? What led to it? What’s missing for you? And get to a  full understanding of how they both really contributed to a lack of  honesty and trust so that forgiveness is easier in a dance. Two people  are doing the dance, not just one. And when there’s a breach of  trust, both partners are contributing somehow. There might be one  person that’s contributing more, but when you understand each other  more fully and why this happened, then it’s easier to restore trust.  

Shay (31:35) Yeah, I find that really fascinating. And also just how  opening our heart broadens our perspective and capacity to kind of  see and hold all the things that happen in relationship in a different  light or context, stepping outside like you were describing, of that  blame sort of framework where we don’t make much  

progress. And so much healing in my experience does happen through  relationship, that it’s really important to figure out how to  navigate relationship so critical in our world, obviously, but also  just for personal growth. So much happens through relationship is how  we grow very often.  

Jonathan (32:19) Ram Dass once said to me that he thought  relationships were the new form of yoga, meaning a way to know God or  no higher consciousness because love you could say, is our natural  nature, our true nature. But there’s a lot of things in the way of  it, a lot of obstacles, a lot of clouds, and nothing will help you to  see those clouds better than a relationship. And part of our job is  to see those obstacles and work through them and hopefully shrink  them so that we can get back to being in our true nature, which is  love more frequently. 

Shay (33:00) So Jonathan, I want to ask you, because you’ve been doing  this work for a while now, right? You’re not at the beginning of your  career. You’ve had a number of years that you’ve invested in it, which 

is awesome. And if you think about where you are today and if you  work to look back at your younger self who started out on this  journey and obviously had a lot of intention to figure out how to grow  and advance yourself, what do you think now that you can clearly see  that you realize you probably didn’t yet grasp when you were much  younger, that you want to communicate from a place of wisdom to your  younger self or to any of our listeners who may also not have  acquired some of the insight that you’ve been able to acquire through  so many years of dedicated practice?  

Jonathan (33:51) Yeah, another great question, Shay. As a teenager, I  was suicidally depressed, and I grew up in a very dysfunctional  family. My brother and sister who didn’t get into growth work are both  in and out mental hospitals. It was very challenging. And one thing I  had and continue to have is the ability to ask for help and get help,  whether it be from books or spiritual teachers or podcasts or MDMA  that I got really good in getting clear what I wanted. And in my  case, I wanted inner peace and I wanted the feeling that I got in  MDMA, but without having to take the drug. So I became very focused on  what will help me to do that? What course could I take? What person  could I talk to? What method could I use? And the ability to ask for  help really opens any door. Let’s say you want to make a million  million. Well get help from books, get help from things. Same thing  with health. The more you can get good help from people who really  know what they’re talking about, the more  

likely you’re going to be able to reach whatever your goal is in  life.  

Shay (35:04) And I know in your story, you’ve had moments of great  persistence. I remember that’s why Rom Doss finally agreed to do an  interview with you. He wasn’t doing interviews at that stage in his  life, but you were very persistent and persuaded him.  

Jonathan (35:17) He finally relented. He knew I was going to stalk him  for the rest of his life unless he said, okay, fine  

Shay (35:23) We’ll do this thing.  

Jonathan (35:26) Yeah.  

Shay (35:28) I’m curious about what you feel at this point in time  you’ve learned about healing and what healing is and what it means to  heal.  

Jonathan (35:39) Well, one thing I see in the MDMA sessions is that  people have these accumulated traumas from life for relationships.  And when that is what I would call digested from a loving clear place,  the love and clarity kind of neutralizes all the trauma, and  therefore, a lot of healing is really pairing a relaxed, open, loving  place with the parts of ourselves that are constricted or fearful. And 

it allows all those things to be digested and slowly disappear. But  there’s different types of healing. Obviously, there’s mental healing,  emotional, spiritual, physical healing, but I think all of them are  somewhat related in that when you get the right ingredient in there,  somehow there’s a dispersal of all that stuck energy and the natural  healing processes can then happen.  

Shay (36:46) Yeah. I’m very interested by what you just described,  that pairing of the love with the trauma, which we know some things  about trauma, what happens in the body. You can go into hyper arousal,  you can go into hypo arousal. We’ve got these states that the nervous  system can drop into. But you also talked about the fear and the  constriction, which can happen both psychologically but also  physiologically. We can go into a total shutdown where we’re in a  freeze state. And so that’s really an interesting thing of the pairing  of those two, a place of tremendous love. And yeah, I want to  understand more how you understand that pairing and what’s happening.  

Jonathan (37:35) Well, I’ll give a funny example. I love potato chips,  but if I eat a lot of potato chips, I kind of feel sick. (37:43):  So when I eat potato chips, I also try to eat some carrots and  broccoli to balance it all out, right?  

Shay (37:50) Yes.  

Jonathan (37:50) And together, I hope that it works out. Now when  people have had difficult emotions or trauma, the love frequency or  the open frequency kind of balances out all this stuck energy and it  helps to diffuse it or dissipate it. And a lot of times people get  constrictions in their organs, in their emotions that are just stuck.  It’s like constipation. Have you’ve ever been constipated, and then  one day you make it to the toilet and it all goes down the toilet,  you go, oh, that feels so much better, you know. So I see things like  MDMA or love or some really good natural healing remedies as a Roto Rooter that clears out stuck stuff and allows a natural flow of  energy to be happen again.  

Shay (38:55) And I know you mentioned in your book that obviously MDMA  is not yet legalized in the United States, but that there are some  high quality supplements that also move in a similar direction that  are legal. So maybe you want to speak a little bit to that.  

Jonathan (39:15) Well, there’s a whole category of things that are  called nootropics, the most popular nootropic being caffeine. These  are things that help people feel better. Now, the problem with  caffeine is that if you take a lot, it starts to have less effect.  But there are other products. One I like on the market, it’s called  Qualia. There’s other ones called Ginseng Energy. Now, these are all  things you can get, and people react differently to these things. So  caffeine works amazingly well for me, whereas for other people, it 

doesn’t hardly work at all. So I’m a big proponent that people try  stuff and see what works for their body, but we’re in an age where  there’s so much stress and so many demands that it’s helpful to learn  what therapies or what supplements can help you to feel at your best.  And there’s some great stuff out there now.  

Shay (40:15) Yeah, interesting to hear. I’m also interested, I don’t  know how familiar you might be with Peter Levine’s work, but he  established in one of his early books the understanding of the nervous  system, kind of looking at animals. For example, let’s say an animal,  a deer in the wild maybe gets attacked, but maybe gets away. And so  maybe the animal freezes to try to pretend that they’re dead. Then  maybe they get left alone and then the predator goes away. And then  what does their body and nervous system do? It discharges that  energy, right? It shakes and you see it, right? Well, humans, if we  don’t allow our prefrontal cortex to shut it down, we do the same  thing After a trauma, we shake and we release that energy. And it’s  very interesting, your description of seeing that through trauma,  there’s stuck energy, that it’s stuck energy that sometimes the MDMA  or things that allow the heart to allow that stuck energy to move so  that it becomes less stuck or unstuck. It’s a very interesting concept  of what trauma is and then how to heal trauma. When you think of it  in terms of a stuckness within our system, which as you described,  can be physiological, emotional, psychological. It can be on multiple  dimensions of beingness. But yeah, I’m curious about anything else  you might have to say about how you see that.  

Jonathan (41:52) Yeah. Well, you’re right that almost every mammal,  except for humans, when they are traumatizing, they naturally unstick  that energy through either shaking or some other thing. If you watch  two year olds when they’re really upset, they’ll throw a temper  tantrum and get all that energy out. One of the things that’s great  about MDMA and I lead these trainings with hundreds of coaches and  therapists in which I go into 10 different ways to unstick energy.  While on MDMA, it might be tears, it might be shaking, it might be  screaming. If people want to find out about that, they can go to and read all about it. But there’s all these  modalities that really do work, except in our culture, we don’t teach  people how to do that. What we do is we give them antidepressants or  pills to just subdue their energy and not let it release. And that’s  unfortunate that other mammals naturally do it. They’re not in a  society that says you shouldn’t yell or you shouldn’t shake. So they  naturally do that. But there are these 10 different ways to release  stuck energy that I teach and people should know about because they  help you get through these difficult times very quickly, rather than  just kind of having that as baggage on you for the rest of your life.  

Shay (43:21) Yeah and I think there’s a long way to go, too, in terms  of informing our medical system and people obviously that work within  that system to more deeply understand the importance of that. And I’ll 

just give a simple example. I had a friend who was deeply  traumatized. Someone broke into her home and hurt her and actually  stabbed her multiple times. And when she got taken to the hospital,  her body, because she’s a very connected intuitive person, it started  to just shake tremendously. She was releasing a lot of what had just  occurred, and as she was there being tended to in the hospital, the  staff actually got angry with her, would you stop shaking? And I  thought, oh, that’s so not trauma informed.  

Jonathan (44:09) Yeah, yeah  

Shay (44:09) I understand from their perspective, they’re trying to  attend to her wounds. And so the shaking was difficult, but if they  had been operating through a trauma-informed lens, they would’ve  recognized, no, this is primary. We actually need to let this happen  first, because she wasn’t in a critical state where she was going to  die as a result of these wounds. And so it was actually more primary  to let that trauma response occur before they did the sort of  stitching, et cetera. And again, it’s like, oh gosh, there’s a lot of  room for growth and developing more trauma-informed care in our  systems of medicine, so we can let those expressions happen so people  then don’t suppress it and then need to go do treatments like we’re  talking about today. 

Jonathan (44:57) Yeah. Yeah. One of the reasons I wrote Ecstasy as  Medicine is because I want some of those methods to be out there that  people can do these things on themselves with or without medicine, the  MDMA medicine, and everybody should know it because it’s part of, we  do live in stressful times, and if you can take care of yourself this  way, you’re better able to help other people as well.  

Shay (45:24) One other thing I wanted to ask you about in the book,  you describe this whole series of questions that you’ve kind of  constructed over time, and it felt very analytical to me. It was  pretty cool. It’s like, oh, it’s interesting. You’ve designed this  whole series of questions that you’ve found can be beneficial when  people begin to drop into this altered state. And I wanted to ask you  why you think asking those kind of inquisitive, putting that sort of  nature of the mind as a tool to inquire deeply why you think that is  beneficial when people enter that state?  

Jonathan (46:01) Well, actually, I think it’s beneficial almost  anytime, but normally we live on more like a surface level where  we’re dealing with a lot of stuff. We’re more superficial. So some of  these questions, I have a lot of them, and they’re more reevaluating  your life. What keeps you from being a more loving person or what  brings you a great sense of joy? What’s in the way of you having more  joy? So these are things where would you like your friends and mate  and kids to say about you at your funeral? These are big questions,  and they’re deep, and they get people to see their life from a bigger 

perspective. We’re all lost in the what do we got to do today? But  that misses what direction do we want our life to go? Who do we want  to be? Those questions you don’t get nobody when you order a burger  says, well, what’s the purpose of your life and how is it going? They  ask, would you like fries with that order? So this is an opportunity  from somebody in an expanded state where these questions go deep,  that you can get really deep answers that can then perhaps guide the  rest of your life.  

Shay (47:19) Seems very valuable. Well, Jonathan, I’m so grateful  we’ve had the opportunity to have this conversation today. Is there  anything we’ve left out that you think is important, that you want to  make sure we get a chance to talk about?  

Jonathan (47:32) Well, I think we covered a lot of great stuff. I do  want to end with a quick story, though. Many years ago, I saw this  guru who I wanted to visit him, and when I went to see him, he told me  to sit in front of him right in front of him, and he stared at me and  he looked at me sternly. He said, who are you? And I said, well, I’m  Jonathan from the United States. And he and the 30 people there  started laughing. And I said, well, that’s a wrong answer. So he  said, no, who are you really? And I went through a couple roles like,  I’m a husband, I’m a writer, I’m a teacher. But he kept shaking his  head no. And finally I just looked at him and there was light beams  coming out of his eyes. It was really strange. I started to feel this  weird thing in my chest, and I just decided to surrender to it.  

And I felt this huge opening, like a wave of love hit me. And  in that moment, I started to cry in his lap. And as I’m literally  crying in his lap, feeling all this love, he pats me on the head and  he says, this love is who you really are, and your job in life is to  get back there any way you can. And I’ve taken that as my job. And I  think that’s really all our jobs, is to get back to that love of our  true nature any way we can. And MDMA is a breakthrough technology for  helping people remember that and hopefully find a breadcrumb trail  back to that when they’re not on the medicine. So that’s why I wrote  Ecstasy as Medicine, and I do what I do, and I’m hoping that in the  years to come that millions of people will be helped by it.  

Shay (49:26) Well, thank you. I so appreciate the opportunity to delve  into this more deeply today and to ask you some really fun questions.  I learned a great deal so, thank you so much.  

Jonathan Robison (49:39) Thanks for great questions Shay appreciate  it.  

Conclusion (49:40) We hope you enjoyed this episode on the  Conversations on Healing Podcast. If you haven’t yet please go to  Apple Podcast, Spotify or your preferred podcast platform and  subscribe, rate, and review this podcast, it helps so you won’t miss  an episode. See you next time.