Where Brain Scientists and Psychedelic Trippers Come Together

Pedram Shojai
4 min readSep 24, 2021


The Urban Monk

Actually, they have more in common than you’d think.

Mostly, their goals are similar: They want to calm the mind and help you achieve focus. And the people working towards these solutions are finding that it’s an exercise in stripping away a lot of the trappings of humanity we’ve burdened our nervous systems with over the years.

I brought Dr. David Rabin, renowned psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and inventor onto the Urban Monk Podcast to talk about this cross-section of modern research.

Because of his unique experiences, he’s particularly primed to consider any and all avenues — whatever helps people, works.

As a kid, he used to have these wild dreams. He says to me that they felt so real, they seemed like memories. But every one in his family — all western-trained physicians — basically told him to quit worrying.

It’s just the subconscious, right?

Just dreams. Not real.

When he grew up and studied neuroscience, he found that his parents were right — dreams, the subconscious, consciousness, in general, were super difficult to quantify, let alone qualify.

As regards treatment-resistant diseases, especially. So Dr. Rabin started looking at resilience, which was easier to study in a lab…

Namely, how we can utilize our functionality systems — spiritual, psychological, or otherwise — to build resilience to stress and rubberize our reactions.

Okay, So What’d He Learn?

He’s been studying psychedelic medicine and where it can be enhanced with technology in order to access higher states of consciousness for about nine years.


What do higher states of consciousness have to do with healing?

Here’s the secret we just don’t explain enough when we’re talking about PTSD, depression, substance abuse disorder, etc.: Healing doesn’t happen without safety.

Not that it’s better with safety, or that it’s easier: It’s impossible without first feeling safe.

And for someone suffering from one of the above conditions…

They’ve likely tried just about anything they could think of to access safety in their bodies and minds to no avail. That’s the liminal space that gets hijacked by disorders that up-regulate your nervous system — your sense of being okay, out of danger, slated for survival.

Dave and I tried to define consciousness…

I won’t spoil it for you (you can listen to the full podcast here) but what we ultimately decided was that consciousness has many different definitions, especially depending on your purpose.

Let’s go back to the beginning: Aristotle didn’t know if consciousness was a function of higher-level thinking or a prerequisite for any being alive.

But we can take it a step further…

We have no evidence that trees worry about what they look like, or that amoebas are even aware they have an appearance. We do know, however, that those creatures are concerned for their own survival.

They have safety mechanisms, they avoid predators, they pass down genes that will help future generations adapt better to environmental conditions.

The difference between a tree and, say, a human being is that human beings can access a level of consciousness that evolves into self-awareness, reflection, and analysis.

Abstract thought, in other words.

The more Dr. Rabin thought about the nature of consciousness, the more he wanted to erect unity between all living beings.

We’ve Got More in Common than We Think

DNA is the genetic code that is the common thread between us and everything else that lives.

That’s what hasn’t been fully integrated into our modern understanding of western science and nature — we and nature interface through DNA.

(We’ve talked about this so much in terms of trauma — that now that we know about epigenetics, we know that if we don’t focus on healing, the changes to our gene expressions will get passed down to our offspring — that’s true all across nature. Just like how mycelial networks underneath trees change with the environment. They connect hundreds of square miles of ancient forest undergrounds exactly like the neural networks in our brains.)

The more we understand that the key to a calm mind, an unshakeable focus, the ability to remain present, and more lies in matching our patterns with nature’s, the easier it will be to achieve.

Just like in nature, we have to be able to divert resources away from our survival pathways — motor cortex, skeletal muscles, heart, and lungs, where the focus is on doing — and towards our regenerative and recovery systems.

We’ve known for ages that we can achieve this kind of toggle switching through mindfulness practices, yoga, meditation, breathwork, soothing music, eye contact with loved ones, etc.

The problem Dr. Rabin was up against was trying to help people who couldn’t live in safety for long enough to feel the benefits of any of those practices.

He needed something mindless, in a way.

He came up with the Apollo — the device that uses soothing touch to activate safety receptors and get people out of their survival networks.

It’s a bottom-up learning approach that induces calming of the body so that there can be calming of the mind. Touch is the oldest evolutionary pathway to activating calm in the body. It increases serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA, glutamate, oxytocin, etc.

Listen to the podcast to learn more. We get into a ton, including:

  • How Pythagoras’ musical discovery still influences neurology today
  • The scientific value of the western hermetic tradition in kabbalah
  • What hearing your favorite song on the radio can do to your heart rate variability
  • How Apollo can keep you steady through moment’s you’d have had to try breathwork for in the before-days
  • Why connecting with presentness is a compounding ability, as is distraction
  • What it takes to learn to engage in safety
  • And so much more.

Check out the podcast here!

And hey, if the Apollo sounds like something you might need…

Feel free to learn more about it here.