Edition #5: Does your brain release a psychedelic when you die?

This week's edition also covers DMT, the Third Eye, Breatharians, Earthing and Orbit toys.

Welcome to your weekly dose of weird, where I share new age trends and dig up gems from the counter culture. You can sign up for the newsletter or find previous editions here.

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Does the brain release psychedelic dmt during death?

Scientist Rick Strassman posited that the brain releases the psychedelic molecule DMT during death, which provokes “mystical encounters on the border between life and death” (Source). His book DMT: The Spirit Molecule and documentary popularized this idea, and gullible people like me didn’t know that it was only a hypothesis.

It’s a comforting thought, that there’s something to seeing “bright lights” and some sort of ascension to the afterlife. It would make the experience of dying less frightening and maybe even fun.

Turns out, we’re only at the early stages of understanding DMT’s effect on the brain. Here’s a great roundup of the developing research.

New studies seem promising:

  1. A study in 2019 showed “the rat brain is capable of synthesizing and releasing DMT…and raise the possibility that this phenomenon may occur similarly in human brains.”
  2. A 2018 research paper claimed that that DMT simulates the near death experience, wherein people report the sensation of transcending their bodies and entering another realm.

All of this was good reminder to myself to not jump to conclusions, as exciting as they might be.

The third eye

“Tap into your third eye, where your intuition lies.” I was a kundalini yoga event and have heard constant references to the third eye in the spiritual community. If it existed, would rest somewhere between my two eyes.

I wasn’t too far off. The pineal gland is located at the center of the brain, and was most famously popularized by philosopher Descartes as the “principal seat of the soul” – where all thoughts are formed.

But is this gland really the third eye?

The pineal gland’s reputation as a third eye waxes and wanes. On one hand, it’s mostly a gland that produces melatonin and regulates sleep. But it also responds to light. Curiously enough, there are animals that exist with visible third eyes that act as photoreceptors.

(Callback: Rick Strassman’s popular theory was that the pineal gland produces DMT. Still inconclusive).

Curious what the spiritual community thinks about “activating” the pineal gland to access higher consciousness? Check out this guide. Of the many “pineal gland activation” techniques, I can only recommend meditation.

Facebook shuts down alternative health pages

Apparently Facebook has been deleting alternative health pages as part of a bigger crackdown on fake news.

Those affected include large accounts with millions of followers, like Natural Cures Not Medicine and Collectively Conscious. The way that Facebook runs like a nation-state is concerning. Pulling the plug on a community without any warning is just bad practice.

I wouldn’t feel so conflicted if these alternative health sites were maliciously misguiding people, but the content from these rebooted (and much smaller) pages look innocuous.

As someone who plans to report on alternative health trends – even as a new age skeptic – I’m worried about been caught in future Facebook crackdowns.

All of this while Instagram influencers are able to hawk wellness products. A bit hippiecritical if you ask me.

Weird emf (electromagnetic field) protection products

I once bought these gold stickers hoping they’d boost my cell phone reception. Spoiler: didn’t work. 

A sticker of another flavor has risen. Now even Amazon sells shungite stickers, purporting that the mineraloid shungite prevents electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.

An entire cottage industry has sprouted up around EMF protection, bringing us EMF crystals, this expensive-ass bracelet and yes, EMF beanies.

Current science shows that most EMF radiation that we get is low level and non-ionizing, meaning that there’s not much to worry about. But if you really want to get paranoid, read this. If you want to take matters into your own hand, measure your home with an EMF meter.

For most people, there’s no harm taking these free precautions in this EMF guide, which gives good common sense advice like not sleeping next to your phone.

Random corner: my favorite meditation

While I love the consistency of Andy Putticombe’s meditations on Headspace, I love Insight Timer because that’s where I discovered Sarah Blondin.

Her now-defunct bu tamazing Live Awake podcast includes guided meditations that are deep, poetic, and set to amazing music.

I love them so much, I set two of her meditations as alarm sounds. Honoring life’s rhythms and cycles for wind down and Honoring Life for wake up.

Oz Chen

Oz Chen

Oz is the host of Hippiecritical, a blog and podcast exploring new age trends with both skepticism and an open heart. He's a designer + writer by day, hippie whisperer by night.

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