Set and Setting – Madison Margolin – Ep. 17 – Psychedelics & Buddhism w/ Dr. Sara Lewis

Dr. Sara Lewis joins Madison to discuss psychedelics, Buddhism, trauma-informed meditation, collective healing, and the importance of integration.

Dr. Sara Lewis is an Associate Professor of Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology and Faculty Co-Director for Psychedelic Studies at Naropa University. Her work sits at the intersection of culture, religion, and mental health with an emphasis on trauma and non-ordinary states. She is the author of Spacious Minds: Trauma and Resilience in Tibetan Buddhism. Sara is also a psychotherapist in private practice offering ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in Boulder, CO.

Buddhist Psychology // Psychedelic Psychotherapy

Welcoming Dr. Sara Lewis to Set & Setting, Madison invites her to share what got her started on the spiritual path, and how she came to the forefront of the potent modern intersection of Buddhism, psychology, and psychedelics. After digging into her interest in connecting mental health, culture, and religion, Dr. Lewis explores emptiness and compassion through the lens of Vajrayana Buddhism. Next, she describes Naropa University’s program with MAPS for training psychedelic psychotherapists.

“If we look at many mental illnesses or distress that people experience, it tends to be a very constricted state. So, helping people to really see that there’s a vast openness of possibility—that’s an emptiness teaching. So, even though emptiness sounds negative, it really has to do with freedom, openness, and possibility.” – Dr. Sara Lewis

MAPS’ Rick Doblin & Madison talk about legalizing psychedelics, in Ep. 3 of Set & Setting
Psychedelics & Buddhism // Importance of Integration // Trauma & Meditation (15:15)

Madison speaks with Dr. Lewis about which part of her spiritual path came first and which informed the other—psychedelics or Buddhism? Reflecting on her secular upbringing and the deep existential hunger she lived with, she explains how psychedelics and spirituality integrated simultaneously into her life. From here, they discuss the crucial importance of integration in the days, weeks, and even years following a shifting psychedelic trip. Next, Dr. Lewis describes trauma-informed meditation techniques.

“It’s hard for me to separate my interest in Buddhism and psychedelics because they co-emerged, they came together. I knew what I was interested in, I knew what my questions were, and those were the two places where I was like, ‘Here’s where I might find some answers.'” – Dr. Sara Lewis

Madison & Donnell Alexander shares how plant medicines connect to spirituality, in Ep. 13 of Set & Setting
Psychedelics & Collective Healing // Inequalities of the Psychedelic Renaissance (28:28)

Can psychedelics help collective healing? Peering through the lens of healing individual and collective trauma, Dr. Lewis and Madison offer perspectives on the potential of psychedelics for offering new ways of thinking and being. Then, they shed light on the inequalities at the current stage of this psychedelic renaissance. From here, they share how set and setting play a role in psychedelic trips, and contemplate how we can bridge the stuffy clinical model with nature, fun, and friends.

“I think both contemplative practice and psychedelics can help us stay a little longer with that which we might otherwise not want to see.” – Dr. Sara Lewis

Madison & Jackie Dobrinska explore the mystical nature of psychedelics, in Ep. 108 of the Guest Podcast