Psychedelics and the Elastic Mind

by Jezz Chung

What does utopia mean to you?

For a long time, I thought utopia was a destination. This place I’ll get to at some point in my life when I have enough resources, enough time, enough support, enough self love to reach a sense of satisfaction. I had this “I’ll be happy when…” mindset. Nowadays, I think of utopia as a feeling that I can tap into. Even without optimal conditions, even without resources, time, support, energy, I think utopia is a sense of satisfaction that we can learn to connect with through intention and practice.

Is it important to you to keep the idea of utopia in mind, the goal of a utopian world in mind while you do your work?

The danger of utopia in its current collective iteration is that we tend to romanticize it and feel disappointed when an experience falls short of our expectations. At the same time, keeping a vision in mind is important. It helps us sustain the work of world building and gives us something to move toward. In the utopian world I dream of, everyone has their needs met. Everyone has access to what they need to feel alive, and we are all moving in satisfying collaboration with each other. We know how to move through conflict. We consider the collective impact of our personal actions. We have the tools to practice self regulation, we are discerning about when to practice co-regulation. No one feels left behind, left out, or completely alone. This vision is fuel for me when life feels tough and insurmountable.

How can you, or do you, apply the idea of utopia to your work?

Utopia, then, becomes a compass for my work. When I’m designing an experience, I think about what I’ve learned from disability justice practitioners and abolitionist leaders. I think about the times I’ve felt safest, most included, most alive and connected. And I ask myself questions like— what does safety feel like? What does security feel like? What does satisfaction feel like? What is needed in this moment? What needs can be addressed with the resources I have? When I’m writing a poem or an excerpt or embodying a character or persona, I think in similar questions. It comes down to safety for me. What can I do to feel safe? What supports my safety? How can I ask for what I need to feel safe? Because when I feel safe, I tap into a place where I can sustain myself as an artist and writer and performer without martyring myself.

How can utopia be applied to push your work forward?

I think the idea of a collective utopia helps me understand what to take on, what to let go, what to pursue. We learn from leaders of social movements to center those who experience the most oppression and have the least protection. Because when we lift from the bottom, everyone benefits. And I think it’s a matter of creativity and imagination. People who are given the least resources in our current social structures are going to have the most creative, imaginative, accessible ideas. I look for more and more teachers with disabled and neurodivergent perspectives to show me what an accessible, inclusive, imaginative future can look like.

What is creative equity?

Creative equity is a way of looking at equity through a lens of creativity. World building, future making, system redesigning can be daunting work and the labor of it can feel exhausting. From white supremacy to the climate crisis to ableism, sometimes it feels like we’re investing so much of our time and energy into creating change and this change doesn’t always seem fathomable. Art making feels like this too. We start making something because we feel called to it, we invest resources into it, we iterate, we train, we practice, we put ourselves in vulnerable positions and share our work with others, we collaborate and risk conflict and relationship fall out. World building is a process of art making. It’s collaborative, risky, thrilling, frustrating, daunting. But all so necessary. Creative equity is a way of feeling into the future through strategic thinking and intentional, deliberate, consistent movement. It’s a way of embracing the messy, uncomfortable process of change.

How can psychedelics be used for healing? Both self healing and collective healing?

I’ve experienced chronic depression since I was a kid. Along with autistic burnout, ADHD, and anxiety, it can be hard for me to trust my own thoughts. Somatic practices have helped me get out of my head and into my body. But healing generational, cultural, racial, gendered, disability wounds is deep work. I began ketamine therapy this year and it’s helped me take a more intimate look at my inner world. During one session, I had a revelation about my commitment to collective liberation and collective healing. I realized this commitment has always and will always be a part of me, that I don’t need to be afraid of losing it, and that instead of exerting energy trying to prove it to myself or others, I can embrace this truth and trust that I won’t betray my values.

How can we use psychedelics to tap into our most authentic, creative selves?

Lately, I have been telling myself I don’t need to be my most authentic, creative, loving self. I just have to be with myself. Wherever I am. Sometimes I put pressure on myself to create the most optimal conditions so I can deliver my very best but not every day and every moment is optimal. Ketamine therapy helped me accept this version of myself, to love myself for everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been. Here, now. I spend a lot of time visualizing the future and envisioning the life ahead, but my ketamine sessions taught me that my history is just as important. My history, the ugly and boring bits, also make up who I am and there’s insight in all of this. (please note, my ketamine sessions were administered through a licensed doctor at a medical facility. I know this is not accessible to everyone but I do want to note, there was immense care and intention going into each session.)

How do we maintain our creativity amidst burnout and chaos?

When feeling defeated, I try to think about what Grace Lee Boggs said: “Another world is necessary. Another world is possible. Another world is happening.” We think this world of safety and care and accessibility and interdependence is far away but it isn’t. I know it because I feel it in my life. I know it because I’ve deliberately designed my life around what I value and I feel the fruits of this labor. Oftentimes we think of our dream life, our dream world as being in the distance but there are tastes of it in this iteration of the life we’re living. So I backtrack and think about all the things I didn’t think were possible, available, imaginable for me, but I’m living now. And this helps remind me that we are creative by nature, that we’ve brought ourselves here and there’s so much more we can build from here. That we have agency over our life’s narrative and trajectory. We will grow wiser with insight and more effective with our experiences. In short, I try to soften myself and this cycle of softening strengthens me.

Jezz Chung