About

Becoming Otherwise is an 8-week online course I am co-facilitating that explores individual and communal practices in expanded states of consciousness.

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“I choose what to embody, what to long for, even as the horizon shifts before me. The adaptation is up to me.”
 
—adrienne maree brown


“Deeply committed to inward self-exploration and a deepening of their ordinary consciousness—the ‘psychonauts’… are individuals who recognize that such an exploration and deepening can not only serve their own healing and expansion of consciousness, but can contribute to the healing and transformation of the larger human and Earth community in which we are all embedded.”

—Stanislav Grof


In this course, participants will be exposed to a variety of historical and modern methodologies of psychonautics, or the study of experimental explorations of consciousness. We will explore historical practices and their contemporary manifestations throughout the East, West, and the global South. Such practices include meditation, yoga, breathwork, lucid dreaming, herbalism, shamanism, and the use of enthoegenic, psychoactive medicines for healing and research.

Participants are invited to practice daily/weekly engagements of psychonautic research and reflect upon the process with media documentation. Some examples may include recording experiences in a journal or other text-based formats, three-dimensional, or audio/visual media. Weekly online discussion groups (Zoom) will serve as a space for learning and listening with and through the thoughts, reflections, and feelings of all participants who wish to share. We will engage with invited guests who will share their work/practice with the group, and participants are encouraged to create a final project, artwork, text, performance, exercise, experiment or series of reflections that will contribute to an online platform with potential to exist in a print form.

The intent behind this course is to create a community of creatives and seekers seeded by awareness, curiosity, and respect for one another. Becoming Otherwise is about losing our shape and shifting into future ways of being and relating. Bayo Akomolafe reminds us, “Times are urgent, we must slow down.” In this profound moment of undoing, our tasks are to explore new or different means of orienting ourselves—to ourselves, our communities, to the more-than-human—and to digest what is unearthed during our growth and possible disorientation. 

Becoming Otherwise is an experimental expression of my past/current research and interests; a mutable mapping; a playful, yet committed, ongoing articulation existing somewhere between contemplation and action. This offering humbly grows from a lifetime of curiosity and nearly 15 years of cultivating personal practices with expanded states. I also bring 5 years of education experience with high school and college-level students, as well as workshop facilitation experience with youth and adults.

Course Description

For millennia, individuals have explored ordinary consciousness to interrogate and deepen not only the “normal,” waking experience of the world, but also to tap into the vast knowledges outside of human experience, thoughts, and concepts. Across cultures, “transcendence” has been a means of confronting established modes of reality in order to celebrate, heal, and transform the body and the mind.

2020 holds both an invitation to slow, rest, and attend to health, as well as an urgent call to address immediate social and environmental crises brought about by hundreds of years of unfettered capitalism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism. Our imaginations are at stake. But, if this moment is a
portal, an opening, a gateway, then there is an opportunity to dream new futures that embrace difference and collaborative frameworks, and move beyond the fragility of domination, extraction, and mindless consumption. What is the role of the Self during “these uncertain times,” and what do we really mean by “connecting” and “community”? How can we learn to be generous and vulnerable with ourselves and with others?

Through individual and collective exercises, embodied workshops, films, audio, readings and other resources, participants will learn how individuals and cultures have studied consciousness in order to transform it, and to investigate the implications on the Self, the environment, and society. Contemporary practitioners, and the work of adrienne maree brown, Bayo Akomolafe, brontë velez, Françoise Bourzat, Lama Rod Owens, María Sabina, Kat Harrison, Terence McKenna, Kilindi Iyi, Stanislov Grof, Joanna Macy, Carlos Casteñeda, The Chacruna Institute, and many others will serve as resources towards the co-creation of a cartographic practice of the mind and body.

Becoming Otherwise will expand the notion of a map to support the evolving nature of an intersubjective self. Here, the map of the Self is not fixed, but is an inward/outward confluence of various forces, times, places, sensations, memories, needs, and dreams. A living process that is mutable and constantly remade, the mapping is a practice that engages what Terence McKenna called the “invisible landscape.” We can perceive this rich dimension of ourselves and our world, explore, communicate, and even co-create it. In these Other states, the world is often experienced beyond written words or without preconceived opinions or biases. Divisions between inner and outer dissolve, and “reality” is perceived beyond the normal constructs of time and space. Expanded states of consciousness encourage a more engaged experience of reality, effectively allowing us, in the words of Françoise Bourzat, “to become more aware of ourselves, each other, and the world we belong to.”

Relevant Questions

We will consider questions such as: How can our maps be constantly remade and aligned with positions of openness, curiosity, uncertainty, and discovery? At a time of immense conflict, suffering, change, and possibility, how can accessing the imaginal realm serve to envision new futures for ourselves and our communities? What is the space between our stories? Are the walls breathing? What is a digital sangha? Does the Self exist outside the boundaries of time and space? Are we in a simulation? How can the contemporary phenomenon of self-learning impact spirituality? Can the normal and paranormal be integrated? How have individuals entered and navigated inner worlds and “non-ordinary” realities to overcome past traumas? What is spiritual bypassing? How can contemporary practices of healing and transformation respect Indigenous ways of knowing? How does “experience seeking” and cultural appropriation threaten practices and cultures rooted in specific spiritual traditions? How can the patriarchal, white, capitalist narrative of psychedelic therapy be challenged? What does a decolonized yoga practice feel like? What is the relationship of self-experimentation across spiritual, therapeutic, scientific, and/or creative fields? How does acknowledging similarities and differences of unitive and personal psychonautic experience inform how one engages with the more-than-human world? How do we maintain a sense of grounding while moving beyond the systems and illusions of normalcy that seek to keep us unhealthy? How can self-care be activism? Can we listen beyond sound?

2020 José A. Rivera