One of the few places in the world where psilocybin-containing fungi are legal to grow, buy and consume is the Netherlands. Today we are speaking with Chi who runs Truffles Therapy, a magic truffle retreat in Amsterdam.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Chi. Can you give us a little bit of your personal background and how you were first introduced to psychedelics?
My mom is Japanese and my dad is Chinese, and they met in New York. So I was born and raised in New York, moved to Arizona when I was almost 13, and went to high school and college there.
As an Asian American I never really fit in with the normal white crowd. In New York I was one of two Asians in a group of 300 kids in my class, and then in Arizona I was one of probably five or six among 450 students. Being in the minority, I tried to stand out somehow and be special. I was pretty intellectually gifted, so I was always at the top of the class.
Of course, all families have trauma. But with my mom being Japanese and my dad being Chinese, there was always this cultural war between them, like who controlled the kids more. So I dealt with that for a long time and was always just in battle with myself, you know? And that led to addictions of all kinds, just one thing after the other.
I went to my first Vipassana meditation course when I was almost 22 and it was mind blowing and life changing. I was completely immature, so I thought I could tell everyone and change the world, and change the people in my family. But I was just a young fool.
For quite a while I was on the Vipassana path. I went to Burma a couple of times to practice in a strict forest monastery and I thought I was going to be a monk. I took temporary ordination a few times to test out the monk’s life, but over time it became clear that I could never make it as a monk. The monk’s life is… I mean, at the beginning your teachers might make you meditate for a year just to see if you can take the silence and boredom. And then they make you work for a few years, so it’s a completely different mindset from our normal sense of “achieving” anything. But I did shed a lot of layers, and of course meditation was—and still is— a beautiful part of my life. My karma is deep, so it took me a long time to start waking up.
So my search continued, and I ended up living in San Francisco at Haight Ashbury for 7 or 8 months. There was a shop there that sold all these psychedelic rainbow things and I just walked in super naively one day and asked “Where can I get some LSD?” They were like “Shhh, don’t say it out loud” but then they pointed me to a guy, and we went around the corner. It was definitely a little shady, but I bought 5 tabs of acid for 10 dollars each. And for the next couple weeks I sort of sat on it, because it was scary to me. How can these little pieces of paper have so much power?
One night I was bored and restless at ten o’clock in the evening and I thought I’d just try it. I mean, I had nothing else to do. So I had one tab and after about 20-30 minutes I wasn’t feeling anything. “This is clearly not powerful enough. I must have high tolerance, so I need more,” I thought. So I took two more.
About 15-20 minutes after that, I was like “Whoa, I’ve never felt this kind of breathing.” Then colors started to look amazing, and I thought “This is the coolest thing ever!” And then I’m like, “You know, I have two more—I might as well just take them, I want to feel this more.” And yeah, within an hour I was just completely incapacitated. Like a handicapped child, I was just drooling and crying. It was a completely shocking experience. I’d never felt so vulnerable and powerless in my life.
So that was my first experience, and after that I realized how important set and setting were. And up until that point, I hadn’t done any research. I just took it so casually. After that, I had a couple of mushroom journeys. The psilocybin really spoke to me, and as a vessel that was looking for a purpose and a direction, they definitely gave it to me.
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I came to Amsterdam specifically for this because I thought, “This is the medicine the world needs, and this is basically the only place in the world where I can go get it in a store.” How amazing is that?
Then after one journey— it was about mid to late August— I thought, “What if there was a day where we could celebrate magic mushrooms, like a holiday?” Turns out, the date 9/20 is Global Magic Mushroom Day, so I thought we could create a local event since I have an event production background. So we made an event on Facebook, and we had no idea how big it would be. We called it Magic Mushroom Day Conscious Celebration, and about 200 people came out. It was beautiful— we had breath work, singing, and a speaker from London who studies mycology, mythology and permaculture. He gave a beautiful two hour talk about how mushrooms have been used by indigenous cultures, and how there are all these symbols in Egyptian art and other traditions. It’s a kind of lost art that is clearly pointing to the power of mushrooms. And then we had a cacao ceremony and ecstatic dance; we had visionary artists, sound healing… it was such a beautiful thing.
So we built this huge network in a month of all these mushroom people, and now it’s just blossomed into this. We have a 7-person full time team now, and the mushroom just does its thing through us. The mushroom wants to grow in a certain way, and it’s found a place in Amsterdam where there’s room to grow. Growing kits are just flying off the shelves, a couple thousand a week— I mean, it’s magic truffles left and right. I just feel super lucky. Sometimes I wake up and go, “Oh my God, what has my life turned into?” I definitely didn’t choose this. It was just this karmic wave of the mushroom using my vessel and my talents to create this.
That’s super super cool. So at Truffles Therapy, you guys act as facilitators of psilocybin truffle experiences, right?
Right. It’s me and we have a couple other facilitators as well. We provide comfortable surroundings, take them into nature, just hold space for them, basically.
That’s beautiful. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned through becoming a facilitator? That’s no small role to take on.
Oh my God— It’s been hyper-turbo-charged with lessons! What it comes down to is that you’re just faced with all of your own stuff. I mean, 16 months of meditation under my belt, and I’m not even close to being anywhere near a perfect facilitator. But the growth has been rapid. Honestly, I wonder how anybody is ready to hold space flawlessly and be this empty channel— except, well… an experienced monk.
In the monastic world, you don’t choose to become a teacher until after 20, 30, 40 years of experience, and your teacher says “Ok, now you’re humble enough and you have no ambition, so you’re ready to sit in front of the crowd and teach.” Whereas in this Western culture, it’s like “Me me me guys, look at me, look at me!” It’s such a different way of looking at what accomplishment is. And it’s more hierarchical here. You know, it’s like me on stage with you guys who don’t know anything in the audience, and I’m spouting my knowledge or something like that.
We need more circles and less stages. Learning from indigenous cultures is so important, because these people have it down right. They know what ceremony is and how to heal with the medicine. They don’t look for degrees; they don’t look to prop themselves up with some kind of certification or external validation.
I’ve dealt with a lot of self doubt, which has led to this deep humility and gratitude. My own journeys have cleared up so much karma and removed so much of the armor that I wore in the business world. And of course I always return to the woods, because you have to be a little protective of yourself once you gain some kind of reputation. You know, very few people come out above ground and say this is what they’re doing. I’ve learned how to relax, to become less defensive and more fearless stepping into this unknown world.
My friend and author James Oroc, whom I’ve interviewed before, says something that I really love on this topic. He says that psychedelics can tear down the ego, but if we’re not careful, it can rebuild back up even stronger, just like a muscle. All these revelations of higher truths and our interconnection to the web of life can actually be rerouted back into an inflated sense of personal accomplishment. So we always have to be mindful of that.
Exactly, and especially in the Western world there’s such an emphasis on individualism and we feel like we have to stand out somehow. I mean, no one’s trying to be a bad person; it’s just a set of survival mechanisms. But a lot of it is our culture. And I think this also points to how many people have such pointless lives in this society; it’s just a rat race going on and people are searching for a silver lining or purpose in their lives. The momentum of the body and mind is deep, and the process of awakening is not just a 1, 5 or 10 year thing. Decades into it, we are just taking our first baby steps.
When we undergo these psychedelic experiences, we have to treat the truffles with respect. And let’s treat life itself with respect, and nature with respect. We’re not doing that a lot of the time. These aren’t things that you consume like candy; these are really sacred medicines. Let’s really feel into why we’re being called to this experience. It’s not only to feel pleasant feelings, but also to realize what the bigger truths are. We have to have some kind of purpose in this world to serve something greater than ourselves and our name. It’s not about intellectual knowledge or reputation or ego; it’s about heart. It’s about how how much you care about people.
We are very to Chi for speaking with us about his life story and work with magic truffles. You can check out Truffles Therapy here.