The Room of Lives

by Neel

I am Neel (abhranil.net), physics and neuroscience PhD (India/USA). I explore people's life stories and visions across many topics, but frequent interests are science, spirituality, mind and mystery.

Podcast episodes

  • 62 · Psychedelic Retreat Director · Blindsight on Ibogaine

    62 · Psychedelic Retreat Director · Blindsight on Ibogaine

    ‘The traditional ibogaine ceremony of eating the ground root bark is a rite of passage for all males in the Bwiti tribe. They use it as an oracle. We have adapted it as a treatment for the diseases of the western developed world, like PTSD, trauma and depression. When an 18 year-old enlists in the military and conducts sanctioned violence for 20 years, they sometimes can’t get out and live a normal life without these psychedelic interventions. ‘On ibogaine, the participant often perceives that they can see through their closed eyelids and the eyeshade. I see them starting to peek through the eyeshade, and wave their hands in front of them to verify, and there’s disbelief at first. It can feel like a superpower, but also terrifying, because you can no longer hide from your visions. You can also see beings you know, or humanoid creatures. The ibogaine can also take on a voice and an entity that can be in dialogue and answer questions. And you can experience a life review, like a projected home movie, with your life memories and trauma. ‘I myself experienced being able to see the room through closed eyes and eyeshades, then I saw a six-foot-tall humanoid with a goat head. I could walk around and look away and look back, and it was exactly where and how it should be in 3D. These beings will often tend to you for the entire visionary experience. ‘The ibogaine asked me if I wanted to know how I would die. I am a death doula and comfortable around my own death. I said no, because I don’t want it to take away the surprise. It said, good answer, and moved on.’ Colm Walker is a veteran and the executive director of The Mission Within psychedelic retreat, where the patients we are studying at our Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy (at the University of Texas at Austin) go for their ibogaine and psilocybin treatment. He shares his background and a description of their program, and what a typical ibogaine experience is like. Then we talk about a strange phenomenon that is allegedly common on ibogaine: being able to see through closed eyes and an eye mask, and we discuss the prospect of seriously scientifically studying it.

  • 61 · Dr SQUID · Life & Psychology

    61 · Dr SQUID · Life & Psychology

    ‘1985, first year, second semester: Professor Ed Diener walks into the lecture hall and asks, “what do people want in life?” “Love, sex, money, happiness, a new boat, rock and roll, drugs”, the chalkboard fills up. He circles “happiness” and says, “I believe that all the other wants are about this one. I am studying the nature of happiness, and here’s my research.” I learned something life-changing in his class. He’d found two variables that mattered most in the pursuit of happiness: the quality of your relationship with others, and with yourself. SQUID is such a simple but powerful concept that improves quality of life so quickly. So it has become the focus of my life to put on a costume and teach it full-time in the streets, instead of being a traditional professor.' For years, Dr Mel Ganus, doctorate in education with a focus on applied psychology, has put on street shows in a squid costume to teach kids how to not get triggered by situations, and has co-authored a book about it with Dr Philip Zimbardo who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. Dr Mel starts by asking who I am, why I’m here, where am I going and what do I want. Then she shares her life story and her experience of attention deficit disorder and neurodivergence, about how she was introduced to positive psychology, and the origins of her lifelong work on Quality of Life Experiments. We end with talking about psychedelic mushrooms and the connectedness of mycelium.

  • 60 · Navy SEAL · Mental Health, Eye-Tracking & the Self

    60 · Navy SEAL · Mental Health, Eye-Tracking & the Self

    ‘I have really suffered mentally, and from mysterious chronic illnesses, which I believe are all an illness of the interface between body and mind: the nervous system. ‘As a kid, I had panic moments of fixating on my death, and would actually kick, punch and scream. On ketamine, my self disappeared, and I was left puzzled: what is awareness without a vantage point that it’s emanating from?’ Former Navy SEAL Chris Irwin was the first subject of my eye-tracking experiments at the new Psychedelics Research and Therapy Center at UT Austin. He has created the Rare Sense podcast and blog that shares his mental health journey. We talk about mysterious chronic illnesses, then I explain my eye-tracking experiments, and we discuss EMDR therapy. We then talk about our fears of death, and the self disappearing with psychedelics or spiritual practice. Video version of this on Chris's podcast.

  • 59.2 · Israeli Military Reporter · Travel and its Lessons

    59.2 · Israeli Military Reporter · Travel and its Lessons

    'India was an intense and diverse chaos. I learned to say no to people in a way I never thought I would. But I also had the best time with the locals than any other country. As a Jew, we have the first monotheistic religion. Your polytheistic perspective is so different. In Judaism we read interpretations of religion a lot. But India is the birthplace of direct yoga and meditation. 'I once told a friend that I would feel lonely while traveling. He said, there’s being alone and experiencing your true self because you are not compromising. Then there’s loneliness, when your constant high expectations of experiences and socialization are not met. Being alone is the default, and if you learn to be comfortable with it, anything else is extra.' Idan Yarom shares his experiences of backpacking through southeast Asia, including India, and the life lessons on communication, perspective, challenges and loneliness that these journeys have taught him.

  • 59.1 · Israeli Military Reporter

    59.1 · Israeli Military Reporter

    'In Israel, you are summoned to the military at 17. They have psychological tests to see if you’re mentally sound to hold a gun. Some people try to fake mental problems to avoid the military, so the system is very skeptical even when you do have real mental issues. I got into the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson unit that reports military news. I’ll say we try our best to tell the truth. I would travel solo to random bases and interview people, and sometimes got the craziest stories with just a couple of questions.' After that I worked at the Tel Aviv Institute on national security. This last decade was one of the safest for Israeli security. Since 2019 we had about 5 elections, and Palestine was not a central topic in any of them. But there is a big difference in our perspectives. In Palestine they observe the Nakba day like a catastrophe or Holocaust, which in Israel is our independence day, the happiest day of the nation. Both sides have legitimacy, and we need to find a way to make it okay, but I don’t see a solution right now.' Idan Yarom shares his experience as a military reporter in the Israeli Defense Forces and working at the Tel Aviv Institute on national security, then provides a recent history of Israel and Palestine. Related: episode 7.2 · Life and Resistance in Palestine