Happy Bicycle Day! Also, a happy birthday to Brooklyn Psychedelic Society, as today we are officially being (re)born. As many of you know, we’ve been hinting at some big changes coming to BPS and waiting to announce them until the time was right. Today, that day has finally come, and it’s only appropriate that it falls on Bicycle Day.
Bicycle Day commemorates a very special occasion in psychedelic history: April 19th, 1943, the day that LSD was intentionally ingested by its creator, Albert Hoffman (“intentionally,” because Hoffman accidentally ingested some three days earlier on April 16th, when a minuscule amount graced his skin). Though Hoffman first synthesized LSD in 1938, It wasn’t until 1943 that he decided to give it a second look for research purposes. And with that second look, he deeply and viscerally understood LSD’s power and potential for a better future. At the risk of sounding a bit grandiose, I would contend that BPS is at a similar inflection point today–on the verge of a transformation that’s been years in the making and which promises paradigm-altering change. …OK, that was more than a bit grandiose, but allow me to explain…
BECOMING AN ADVOCATE
I became an advocate for psychedelics in 2014 after a profoundly therapeutic healing experience on MDMA. Though I’d taken psychedelics in college and had powerful experiences, this time was different. This time, an ossified shell of fears, anxieties, past failures, and missteps, caged around my heart but beyond my conscious perception, evaporated completely. Underneath, a pool of infinitely tender radiance, long since forgotten, revealed itself. Love. A love that simultaneously felt newer than anything in the future, older than time, radically different, and more intimately familiar than I ever thought possible. Calling it ‘God,’ for those so inclined, might be an easier way to get to the same point: that ineffable something beyond ourselves that loves us and is a part of us, as we are a part of it; A reminder that we are not, and have never been, in fact, alone.
I needed this reminder because two months prior I lost one of my best friends to suicide. My MDMA experience allowed me to work through a great deal of unprocessed emotion and many positive changes in my sober life followed. Weeks later, as a different outlook on life began to take hold, I asked myself, “What if my friend had a similar experience before he died?” I questioned why our usual approaches to therapy and healing were so often insufficient and this led me to start advocating for equitable access to psychedelics.
Many of you have heard me share this story. I shared it at our Trip Tales events, at the Brooklyn Psychedelic Society Meetup list in 2016. and at the Psychedelic Society of Brooklyn (our former moniker) in 2015. It was a transformational moment for me, one that gave birth to a larger sense of meaning and connection to the world. It inspired me to join BPS, as it is now called, in late 2014, after moving to NYC (the place where I last spent considerable time with my friend before he died and where I felt most at home). I didn’t plan on joining a psychedelic society then, nor running one a year later, nor learning to love community building, connecting people, producing events, or holding space. I certainly didn’t anticipate psychedelics becoming culturally and legally acceptable as fast as they have, nor did I expect my interest in psychedelics to shift from a side project to a career, and from a career to what feels like a calling. Honestly, I didn’t have the time or space to truly contemplate the extent of my transformation until the COVID-induced hibernation of 2020. But when I did, I felt unusual clarity regarding both the path I had chosen and the direction of our ever-evolving organization. Simultaneously, my fellow team members at BPS were awakening to similar realizations regarding our organization’s future.
Something new was emerging, a rebirth of sorts, the synthesis of many years in life’s proverbial laboratory, running experiment after experiment until a precise alchemical synthesis occurs and the answer becomes clear…
WAKING UP TO THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
6 years at the helm of BPS has taught me a tremendous amount about myself–both the shadow and positive sides. And it’s all thanks to one thing. The drugs. Totally kidding. It’s the community. The people. It’s you!
Pardon the gushing populism, but the appreciation I feel today for all of you is both powerful and genuine. In this regard, I am but one representative of a larger unfolding process in which people are waking up to the power of community, the inherent decency of cooperative ownership, and a greater appreciation of…well, you!
You, who experienced the healing power of psychedelics after trauma, abuse, death, loss, mental health issues, and life transitions. You, who rediscovered your own creativity, talents, and inner intelligence after they’d been locked away for so long. You, who were reborn into genuine courage, self-love, and empathy after so much trial and hardship. It is through you, the people who come to events and gatherings like ours and selflessly offer mutual support, care, and accountability, that the potential for transformative change is finally being realized; not just in the psychedelic world, but beyond it as well. You have helped me and many others better understand our unique role in this work, more deeply than any trip ever could have.
This process we’ve been incubating through our community–of healing, transformative experience, growth, change, love, and acceptance, is much bigger than BPS or any single leader, company, organization, or idea. It’s a process that lives in people and is carried by people. It’s a process that people should not just have “access” to but should own, as a birthright, and in perpetuity.
A COOPERATIVE RELAUNCH
Today, April 19th, 2021, in the spirit of rebirth that and Hoffman-inspired experimentation, we at BPS are officially announcing our organization’s relaunch. Our new mission is to make psychedelic healing a publicly accessible good through community, education, democratic ownership, and advocacy. Our first major initiative will be launching a psychedelic co-op, named after our new motto, Transformation, Shared. This will be a first-of-its-kind, democratically owned healing cooperative devoted to making psychedelic-based transformation accessible to all, regardless of income or background.
The co-op’s primary offering will be the Journey Cohort Program, a group-based healing and integration program for psychedelic enthusiasts. We have an amazing staff of volunteers and advisory board members, the generous support of our sponsor, MAPS, and we’re on the path toward achieving non-profit status by year-end. We will continue to produce high-quality events, talks, and community gatherings, but now with a new spirit and direction in keeping with our motto, Transformation Shared. We’ll also be launching a podcast, creating more written content, and for all the diehards out there, re-launching Trip Tales Tuesday!
We feel giddy and optimistic about the future, like a man who just rode home on a bicycle after ingesting 250mcg of lysergic acid diethylamide, realizing that everything has changed and the future will be radically different from the past.
Moreover, we are filled with gratitude for the participation and contributions of all of our members. BPS is nothing if not a community and community will always be our bedrock. If you feel called to help out, please reach out to us – your efforts are both needed and appreciated.
Happy Bicycle Day!
Executive Director, Brooklyn Psychedelic Society
Colin Pugh has been organizing with Brooklyn Psychedelic Society since 2015 and leading it since 2016.
Colin (he/him) was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. He studied criminal justice and philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston. Colin has been a product manager, tech support specialist, coach, and consultant before focusing on psychedelics, community organizing, and advocacy. He became an advocate for psychedelics in 2014 after having a powerful healing experience from MDMA shortly after losing a close friend to suicide. Other interests include performing comedy, dancing, music, cooking, reading, the future of religion, and trying to help bring about a better world in the shell of the old. He lives in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, NY