Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Ian-Michael Hébert.
Growing up in the Golden Heart of Alaska, Ian-Michael Hébert says he “always revered the natural world as a place of healing, wisdom, and finding solace for all aspects of my being.” After facilitating the expansion of Esalen Institute, the Denali Education Center, Chena Hot Springs, the Center for Ecological Living and Learning, and more, Ian-Michael founded Holos, dedicated to a world where humanity honors the interdependence of all life and actively stewards the health of individuals, society, and our planet’s ecosystems. In this episode, Ian-Michael talks with Paul about intentional living, honoring the earth, healing through plant medicine, and giving back.
How to harmonize humanity and nature.
What Ian-Michael looks for in an intentional living site.
Why intentional communities need both sovereignty and interconnectedness.
The role of plant medicine in intentional living.
What it’s like to lead personal transformation, integral leadership, and ecological stewardship retreats.
What it means to “listen to the land”.
Why intentional communities have not worked out in the past, and how Holos is different.
How reciprocity applies to integrated living.
The role of education in being prepared for a pandemic, climate change, and economic collapse.
Is there hope for our cities?
Why a walled garden—or paradise—still needs to be permeable.
0:00:00 Paul Austin: Today’s podcast is with Ian-Michael Hebert. Ian-Michael is the founder of Holos and a former retreat leader at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. He has a background in eco resort design and development. And in today’s episode, we talk about the role of sustainable living, especially in a post-COVID world. Very, very fascinating podcast about integrative living today. Welcome to The Sporestore podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
0:01:06 PA: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to the podcast. As always, I’m your host, Paul Austin, here with another episode. This time with Ian-Michael Hebert. Ian-Michael is an integrative living specialist, a sustainable living specialist. Someone I met about a year ago at a breathwork session in San Francisco with Sonic Shamanic. Ian was our group’s facilitator, we had known about each other before that, but that was the first time that we got to really connect in person. And since that point in time, we’ve had several phone calls to discuss Ian’s new project called Holos, where essentially he’s looking to create and set up sustainable living communities in destinations all across North America, where people can both come as they want to do plant medicine ceremonies and retreats and other modalities for healing that relate to sort of expanding consciousness and awareness, and then also have communities who live there for the long term as well.
0:02:08 PA: And this is something that I have become very interested in, I’d say, over the last two to three years, it feels like this is what’s beyond sort of our current industrial framework of suburban cities or big urban cities, where essentially we will reclaim the land and set up neo-tribal villages, decentralized neo-tribal villages all across the world that live in harmony, that raise our children and do things collectively. Sort of a coming back to the land, but with all of the benefits of modernity and technology and communication and all that sort of stuff. So this concept is really about integrative living, and this podcast we dive deep into Ian-Michael’s story of how he even got started on this path, his background working at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, what he has as a vision for Holos, and where Holos is going, what are some of the downfalls or pitfalls of these sort of intentional communities, which we got into as well.
0:03:05 PA: So if you’re interested in integrative living, intentional communities, especially in a post-COVID world where we have COVID at the moment, it’s really shut down our ability to connect with other people in person, and I think some of the ideas and topics that Ian-Michael and I speak about in today’s episode will provide some interesting intellectual fodder for those of you who are interested in transitioning or evolving yourselves into a way of integrated living or joining a sustainable community or anything like that. So for some of you, this could be a totally new look into a totally new world, and for others of you who have maybe given some thought and consideration to what this might look like, I think you’ll come away from this podcast with a few more practicalities of how you could actually implement something like this. So without further ado, I bring you Ian-Michael Hebert.
0:03:56 PA: Ian-Michael, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited that we get to record one of our conversations publicly, because you’re one of my favorite people to talk to, and so to be able to drop in and talk about… We’ll talk a little bit about psychedelics, but I think a lot more of this conversation is gonna be about the integration of psychedelics and what sort of how our inner changes are reflected in our outer world. So anyway, I just wanna welcome you to the podcast first and foremost.
0:04:24 Ian-Michael Hebert: Beautiful, thank you, Paul. It’s great to be on your podcast today, and I’m calling in from the interior mountains of British Columbia, and it’s crystal clear. I’m above a really big, deep lake, so I’ll be transmitting and tapping into that field and sharing it with you.
0:04:44 PA: Yeah, so bring us into that field, why are you in Kelowna? Why are you in the inner mountains of British Columbia at this point in time?
0:04:52 IH: Yeah, well, it is one of those moments in time where I’m recognizing that I need to focus on the work that I can do in the world that is going to help harmonize humanity with nature, and the current situation with the global pandemic and different civilizational changes have just expedited my focus on finding the right properties and land and regions and communities that are really gonna support a long, healthy relationship between humans and the rest of the species on Earth that we share this beautiful planet with. So I’ve come up here to work on the board of the Canadian Psychedelic Association, where I’m a board member, and I’m at this beautiful center called the Sentinel, which is an amazing space that holds a lot of plant medicine work and a lot of healing work for this region, and so I’m tuning into this general community and all the different centers in this area, with the desire of continuing to help strengthen that healing force that’s happening through this area.
0:06:12 PA: And why choose British Columbia? And I think that is gonna sort of segue into a more broad question, which is, what are some of the criteria that you’ve decided are necessary to meet as you’re looking at places to set up communities and to cultivate land. How are you thinking about that?
0:06:36 IH: Yeah, I grew up in the middle of Alaska, in Fairbanks, and my dad calls it the crown chakra of Gaia, but even just from a physical standpoint, Fairbanks is right at the Arctic Circle, and so there’s a period of time where it’s almost 24 hours of darkness and then there’s about two hour… Two months in the summer where there’s 24 hours of light. And from that place, you kind of get a vantage point of the earth, there’s a way that it feels like there’s moments of stillness where you just get to watch the whole frenzy of human civilization from above and from a place of stillness. And so I think I have hard-wired into my system a desire to find places that have food resilience, have a certain degree of stillness and wilderness, have clean water, and have the opportunity for shelter and building new shelters out of the land and out of the materials available in any given region.
0:07:45 IH: So I have been flirting with British Columbia a lot of my life, I’m just coming down the coast from Alaska. And for Holos, we’ve been identifying sites that have those different elements: Have the possibility of cultivation for food resilience, have wilderness, have deep clean waters and have supportive community for healing work and plant medicine work. So the ideal is that we have a station in Canada, the US and Costa Rica, and that’s partly strategic in regards to the unfolding decriminalization and medicalization and legalization of different psychedelic medicines. So each of these countries is taking a difference dance and will unfold at a different pace in terms of what we can legally do with this healing work.
0:08:44 PA: So I wanna dive deeper into that Ian-Michael, but I do wanna set the scene just for the audience a little bit because you’ve already mentioned Holos and I feel like before we get into any of the rest of the stuff, just to explain a little bit about the vision for Holos, because I think that will set a really good tone for the rest of our conversation. So the vision for Holos and then what role plant medicine has played in that vision in your own personal story.
0:09:12 IH: Great. Yeah, so Holos means wholeness. And the work of Holos is to cultivate wholeness and a knowing of wholeness, a realization of wholeness within individuals, within groups, and in relationship to our planet. And Holos was inspired by Stan Grof and his work in tracking holotropic states, and holotropic means moving towards wholeness. So Stan started holotropic breathwork as a means of moving people into non-ordinary states of consciousness that would help them become more integral beams, and other tools for holotropic states are for moving towards wholeness or plant medicine, psychedelics, a lot of embodiment practices like yoga and other forms of breathwork.
0:10:09 IH: And so, at its core Holos is a pattern. Holos is a pattern of bringing people to the realization of their own sovereignty as well as their own interconnection with all things, and every community has those two phenomena as well: A certain degree of sovereignty and a certain degree of interconnection with all things. Our planet has that as well, so there’s a certain holonic nature, which means that there’s like a repetitive pattern, so our planet is held in this perfect balance which they call the Goldilocks zone, where it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, and we’re in that perfect balance in relationship to our sun and where it’s at in its own unfolding and evolution in time. And so that’s the pattern that we’re trying to honor, is that harmony and that balance that actually creates life and allows us to thrive as a species and as a planet.
0:11:09 PA: Yes to all of that, Stan Grof, wholeness, creating these little containers. And then as you also already hinted at, plant medicine has been key in that as well, so I’d be curious, for you personally, where plant medicine has sort of weaved its way into that. And from what I can tell, growing up in Fairbanks, your dad saying that Fairbanks was basically the crown chakra of Gaia, it sounds like that’s part of your lineage. But I would also imagine plant medicines have, in some way, further inspired this vision of what it is and what it is that you wanna create with Holos.
0:11:53 IH: Yeah, absolutely. Growing up in Alaska, I became acquainted with psychedelic medicine in my teenage years, and it very much popped me out of a depression that I had been working through or working with from a pretty young age. And then by the time I was 17, I had done enough personal exploration where after a high dose mushroom journey, I took a break from psychedelics largely for about 13 years and primarily focused on meditation and travel and educating myself and in being a father.
0:12:32 IH: And then it was about seven years ago, I was finishing grad school for psychology in San Francisco at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and there was this long lineage of psychologists and explorers and psychonauts in the Bay area, and down at Esalen Institute. So I was at Esalen for four and a half years working with them in rebuilding the campus and expanding the mission there. And as I finished my service to Esalen, I realized that the world was really needing these kind of containers, these places where deep transformational work can happen in the context of community and in the context of really awe inspiring powerful nature.
0:13:22 IH: So Holos, this concept and this project and this company emerged right after I left Esalen as a response to what the world is needing right now, which is these havens for people to do their own individual and collective work, so that we can really realize this potential of humanity.
0:13:46 PA: And it’s sort of like these charging up stations or like these new churches, and from the conversations that we’ve had about Holos, what we’ve sort of started to uncover about the mission, your values, how you see your vision coming to fruition, why it’s so necessary right now, it’s really like an energetic thing. In these places that you’re creating for Holos, you’re creating an energetic container for people to invest in something that’s tangible, something that’s real, something that I can see and feel and touch and smell, and I think even beyond that, creating a garden of transformation for those who decide to participate in these visions.
0:14:33 PA: So I’m really curious to hear a little bit more about that part. But before we dig into that, I think I wanna start with the retreats that you have been leading over these past several years. You were from what I understand a Retreat Director at Esalen, which must have been absolutely incredible. I know you’ve led retreats to South Africa, the White Lion retreat. I know you’ve led retreats in Guatemala, you did a plant medicine retreat, if I remember, in December or January. So I’d love to hear just a little bit more about… And these retreats are phenomenal, Ian-Michael.
0:15:16 PA: I obviously haven’t been on one myself, but I’ve read about them. There’s a way that you integrate archetypal energy, sun, moon, the animals, something that’s so specific to that place with a vehicle of transformation for Westerners who are coming into that, so just all of these sounds phenomenal. So I’d love to just hear a little bit more about having run retreats the last five to seven to 10 years, however long you’ve been running retreats, what is that container of transformation? How are you intentional about the way you set up retreats, the places that you choose, to ensure that those experiences become vehicles of transformation for the people who who are going on the retreat.
0:16:05 IH: Yeah, beautiful. Thank you for that acknowledgement of that work and that question. For Holos, as well as for myself, when I’ve run retreats previous to developing the Holos programs, they’ve fallen into three categories: So personal transformation, integral leadership and ecological stewardship. So at my time at Esalen was primarily focused on running retreats that were in ecological stewardship, we ran retreats that showed people water technology and how to honor water’s role in our life day-to-day. You mentioned the retreat in January at the very beginning of 2020, we ran a retreat on Lake Atitlan, and that one was more focused in the integral leadership quadrant.
0:16:55 IH: So all of our retreats have those three elements in them: The personal transformation, the leadership, and the ecological stewardship. So what’s really important is for us to understand the context in which we’re working, because one of the hallmarks of integration is being able to move forward in one’s life in a more integrated, powerful, clear way, in a more healed and whole way. And so we do that in relationship to a local landscape, in relationship to a local culture, and so we build a lot of awareness of that in any of the experiences that we facilitate.
0:17:41 PA: How have you combined those three things in your own life, the ecological stewardship, the integral leadership, and what was the third one? Was…
0:17:56 IH: Personal transformation.
0:17:58 PA: Personal transformation, yeah. I’d be curious about that journey for you. If you were to put three dots on your map of your lineage, of your past, of your story, where does the dot of ecological stewardship show up? Where does the dot of personal transformation show up? And where does the dot of integral leadership show up?
0:18:26 IH: Yeah, these are all different zones of influence. So there’s the personal transformation helps us to lead healthy lives and be responsible for our own well-being, the integral Leadership really helps us in relationship to other people in our lives, and the ecological stewardship is looking at the bigger pattern of how we impact the world. And so for myself, this has been a trajectory of touching upon each of those. And at Esalen I really had the opportunity to do all three, where it was very much a journey of personal transformation, became a continuation of my grad school work in psychology. I got to have a role in leadership there, and then it’s just one of the most exquisite places on Earth, so in terms of ecological stewardship, I really got to practice that.
0:19:22 IH: My original background as a child and in my 20s was as a residential and light commercial contractor and home builder and designer, and so I really honed in in my 20s on the ecological stewardship piece. My first degree, I wrote a degree at Evergreen State in eco resort design and development. And what I realized that when I went back to Alaska in my early 20s, is that if you can do sustainability in Alaska, you can pretty much do it anywhere, you know, one of these places on earth where the elements are so fierce in the winter, where it can get 60 below zero. And if you can pattern civilization and live one’s life in harmony with nature there, you can really learn to do it anywhere. So I was very much focused on different technologies for building and for water and wastewater and for power.
0:20:21 IH: And so I would say that if there was a point of time that I really focused on that, that was in my early and mid-20s. And then I had a dear friend who took his life after struggling with what was called paranoid schizophrenia but for me was really more of a spiritual emergency that never got to work its way all the way through his system, and so that, his passing and the passing of other friends in Alaska led me to want to become a therapist. And so in my late 20s and early 30s, I really focused on that personal transformation part of my life and also being a facilitator of other people’s transformation.
0:21:08 IH: And then woven all throughout my life has been the integral leadership part, and what I’ve found in terms of my own personal journey and leadership is when I have my own home in order, when I have my own self in order, and I’m when in a grounded place that I’m really committed to the community and to the landscape, then leadership becomes a natural extension of that. So first finding my own ground in my passion for life and for nature, and then having that impulse be what motivates my leadership.
0:21:52 PA: Because that is probably the most honest way that you can live when you’re grounded like that. When you’re basically in integrity with the earth around you, then the impulses or the desires that grow from that are rooted in something that’s beyond yourself, and that’s where we find this harmony. Right before we recorded this podcast, I did a podcast with Louis Schwartzberg, the director of Fantastic Fungi. And this is something that we talked a lot about in terms of why mushrooms are so necessary is because they help us to re-harmonize with the earth, with ourselves, with our communities, and a lot of it is the point that Louis made, it’s efficiency. And central to creating spaces of resilience and adaptability, and eventually flourishing, is efficiency of energy. It’s how are you recycling and ensuring that we have that closed garden, so that the energy that’s invested in permaculture or the energy that’s invested in building houses, or the energy that’s invested in interpersonal relationships and therapy and inner transformation, that remains within that walled garden.
0:23:27 PA: And I think that’s what’s so beautiful about the vision that you set out for Holos, is how do we actually make that happen? Because what I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you’ve noticed this as well, there’s a lot of people these days who are talking about intentional communities and talking about getting back to the land, and a blogger that I follow purchased an island off the coast of Nova Scotia with 20 friends and someone else I know bought an island off the coast of Panama and wants to turn it into something. But to do that in such a way that the place itself provides all the necessary resources, it’s actually quite difficult to find those perfect spots. And I remember, I think the first conversation that we had at that breathwork fundraiser, we got pretty deep into this about why you had chosen the spots that you had chosen, and I would love to just hear a little bit more about that from you, publicly live.
0:24:38 PA: What issue or crisis are we going through right now, and why is it that the models you’re building with Holos will help create that walled garden of safety and transformation for people in the future?
0:25:02 IH: Yeah, well articulated, thank you. So I met Louis at Esalen probably seven years ago, and I remember very clearly a quote that stuck with me, and he said, “We protect what we love,” and so you were talking about the walled garden and yeah…
0:25:23 PA: He ended the podcast today with that quote, and I was like, “Louis, that’s such a good way to end.” That’s such a good quote. I’m so glad you brought that up.
0:25:32 IH: Yeah. Beautiful. So we protect what we love. And you used this phrase, a walled garden, and you probably know the etymology of the word ‘paradise’ means walled garden, and so…
0:25:49 IH: The way that I look at it, though, is you don’t wanna build these walls and these fortresses in a way that they’re impenetrable, we want them to have the right membrane so that we achieve what you were describing as far as safety and thriving and a space for transformation. So if you go down to the very origins of life and you think about single-celled organisms, a single celled organism has a cell wall, and that cell wall is permeable so that there can be an exchange of information and of resources and of energy between the individual and the collective. And so these nodes that I’ve been looking for in the world have those ripe conditions for small gatherings of people that can live in harmony with their local and regional watershed, their local and regional food sourcing, and then also have some kind of a gift that they’re giving to the larger broader world, which could be healing services, it could be goods, it could be a product. But having that cell wall intact and healthy is something that requires a constant tending.
0:27:02 IH: So just like a human being, if you become too calcified in your thinking or if you become too rigid in your movements, then dis-ease begins to emerge, so you were asking very specifically about the criteria and the places that I’ve been sensing into. One of the lessons that I took from Esalen, just from my own exploration of the natural elemental archetypal forces of that landscape, I learned that when you have the presence of earth, air, fire, water and spirit, you have the right conditions for life, and you have the right conditions for healing. So very specifically, what I mean by that is, when you have clean water, when you have land that is solid and also permeable, that can be cultivated for human food, when you have air, when you have a place that is open and spacious and fresh air. And then when you have fire of transformation, when you have either a physical fire, like back in the day in the Big Sur region where Esalen Institute is, the Esalen tribe used to have a practice of clearing out the brush and different things gently through fire and tending the hill sides in their ecological well-being.
0:28:25 IH: Or if you look in the Amazon, there’s a phenomena where the terra prima, the soil was actually built up through practices of fire. And so humans have tending our relationships with these elements since we were congregating those tribes. And so for me, I’m going back to those very primal instincts of listening to the land and sensing into where on earth do we still have an abundance of clean water and of land that we can cultivate and of solid rock that we can feel beneath our feet, and then fresh air. So I found this region in interior BC to have all those conditions, I’ve found places in the US that have those conditions, and then I found a particular region of the Diamante Valley in Costa Rica that feels like it has all those conditions. So this last six months since the pandemic and things started shifting, I’ve been really grounding into anchoring those locations, bringing people together that wanna contribute towards this regional biosecurity and watershed management. And so that’s what brings me to BC.
0:29:49 PA: About six months ago, I posted an article about intentional communities that was written on Aeon, and you actually, you liked my post. I remember this because I had also… So there was this piece on Aeon which was why intentional communities fail, and then there was another piece that was in the New York Times that I had read about that same day, which catalogued an intentional community, I wanna say in Arkansas? I forget the name of it, but that had been around I think since the ’80s, and had figured out a way to make it work. And they profiled the various people who would come and why they had come, and how they had set up a few small businesses and what some of the issues and conflicts were, etcetera, etcetera. The profile in the New York Times was super good.
0:30:42 PA: And what I learned from those pieces is that A, more and more people are considering this, going back to the land as we did in the 60s and 70s, there’s a reason why we’re seeing this sort of cycle of energy again 50 years on, an interest in psychedelics and an interest in going back to the land, and I feel like it’s for real this time, minority rights, all this stuff. It’s all coming back around. So that was one element, people just realize and recognize, “Hey, I feel this sort of soul-driven urge to get back to nature and to be with community,” etcetera, etcetera.
0:31:20 PA: And then it also explored like, okay, people have this urge, but why have these often failed? Why have intentional communities not worked out? We know of Tamera in Portugal, I think there’s one in Northern Italy in the Dolomites that’s been around for a long time. There’s probably a handful in the United States, but for the most part, there’s a lot of energy behind these sort of utopian-driven places, and then sooner or later one of two things happen, which I found out from this. One, it’s something to do with sex, usually to do with the “leader” of the intentional community, or sometimes cult, and conflict and issues with other men, in particular, around women and who’s sleeping with who, and all those sorts of things. And reading that reminded me of a conversation that I had with Bob Jesse at Psychedelic Science in 2017, where he said… We were talking about local psychedelic societies, and he was saying the biggest issue with anything that’s like that is around sex and leadership, and if X person sleeps with Y person’s ex-girlfriend or whatever it is, it creates a lot of drama and issues and you need leadership that’s resilient and strong enough to be able to handle that, and usually it’s not.
0:32:34 PA: So that was one thing. And then the second thing, simply put, was money. Intentional communities start usually with maybe a main benefactor or a few main benefactors, but then they either can’t figure out a way to make the finances sustainable in the long term throughout the community, or because it’s largely backed by one person, that one person then feels some sort of control or power over that intentional community, and so it doesn’t actually end up working out because there’s issues with power dynamics, etcetera, etcetera. So what I’d love to hear a little bit about Ian-Michael is with Holos, what’s the back end of that set up? In other words, how are you looking to form these communities, who are you eliciting participation from, how are you eliciting participation from those people, and what’s the vision of how this will emerge in the next five to seven years?
0:33:34 IH: Great, that’s a very excellent question. I’ve been looking at and studying intentional communities for a decade or longer, and then I’ve lived in different models, whether it’s a for-profit resort in Alaska that was remote, that had an element of community in the staff and then the surrounding people living there, or at Esalen where it’s a non-profit and no one has an individual stake to the land, except for the landholders and the trust that owns the property there. So there’s all these different legal and community structures that I’ve been looking at, and you named a couple over in Europe. And the model that we’re really exploring and working with is like a holacracy or like a sociocracy where there’s a certain democratization and flatness to the governance structure, and then ownership is based on your investment and in your contribution, and those things become adjusted through people’s participation over time.
0:34:53 IH: So as an example, let’s say one person said, “I wanna build a pod in British Columbia and help you build that,” and they put forward $3 million and we’ve built this pod, then over time their basis in the ownership of that pod would get paid out where they would get a return. And then the people that are coming in that are buying portions of the center, of the micro-village, will end up having their own space and their own ownership. And then people that are devoted to the place that are working there long-term also would be receiving credits. So what we’re looking at is basically what could be called a multi-stakeholder cooperative business, and all that means is that we all have a common goal and set of values that we’re moving towards, and those that contribute, whether through monetary resources or through their time and devotion, over time that creates a level playing field.
0:35:53 IH: And there’s a number of different technologies that we’re looking at, we wanna use all the tools that we have available in order to create a system that allows really healthy governance and communication. So we’re looking at a couple of different platforms that will be the central communication hubs for each of these communities, and also will help us to track ownership and basically shares in a place. One of the things that I realized while locking up property this morning and keep remembering is that like we talked about with a cell wall, each individual, each family, each community needs to have its own cell walls to have it be healthy. So in the ownership of a village, the way that that works is you have your own autonomous zone that you’re responsible for, and then you have common zones or the retreat center, Healing Center would be a common zone that is community-owned or cooperatively owned. Or in a western more market or capital terms, it’s basically you’re a shareholder. You have a stake in that common center, but then you have your own space.
0:37:11 IH: So I experienced this at Esalen to a large extent ideologically, but not in terms of ownership where everyone is contributing to this non-profit that we’re all working for, but then we each had our own little homes. We didn’t have ownership in those homes, but just having that ability to go into the collective and contribute and then go back to one’s own autonomous node and safe space, it kept it psychologically healthy, and then if there’s something… What I’ve noticed as far as what breaks down communities, you mentioned money and sex, but it’s also communication and the things that are unsaid, so the dynamics, the relational dynamics are what often break down projects in community. So you have to have some mechanism inside the walls of the garden that helps you clean out those issues that are arising.
0:38:12 IH: For a long time at Esalen, the tradition was a Gestalt tradition, so there would be community meetings, staff meetings, directors meetings that would be just devoted to internal processes, and that would allow whatever psychic material is arising to be brought to light and then transformed and looked at, ’cause it’s the unspoken things that I think end up being the biggest deterrence to a healthy community or a healthy thriving business for that matter. So that’s the way that we’re structuring it with Holos, is that we’ll have a platform that people can communicate on, and then on ownership level, we’ll have very clear distinctions of where people have their own autonomy and where people are part of the collective.
0:39:01 PA: One, I feel like a beautiful part of that model that you had mentioned that Esalen does the Gestalt… Something to do with Gestalt, which is like depth, has to do with depth and the things that are in the unconscious and the subconscious, and figuring out ways to express that. Indigenous folks, they have many traditions in a way to process the subconscious or unconscious part of our psyche. Sometimes it was a drawing circle, sometimes it was wrestling that they would have as part of it, sometimes it was… There were various other ways to sort of get out that content that would sort of become stored in the psyche, that would lead to some sort of disease within the relational dynamics of the community, and so that’s…
0:39:45 PA: Even when we talk about the way you’re setting up Holos to be in these places where plant medicine is either decriminalized or medicalized or whatever it is, how fucking cool would that be to take MDMA together, or to take mushrooms or to do something like an Ayahuasca ceremony, where to process things that are un-healed, you bring in a shaman or a “curandero” or a psychedelic guide or a therapist to then move and shift that energy. And in fact, what’s probably even more ideal is to have that person as part of the community. I remember when I was first talking about the concept of intentional communities with a friend… It was like a friend, a brother of a friend, I remember we were having a conversation in Brooklyn in a kitchen about it, and he brought up a really good point, which is like, as you’re putting together these communities, as you’re creating them and seeing how they emerge, you also wanna have a balance of skill set.
0:40:44 PA: So you wanna have engineers, you wanna have people who can build shit, you wanna have medical people, you wanna have probably legal people, you wanna have healers, you wanna have visionaries, etcetera, etcetera. And so even as we’re piecing, you’re piecing Holos together, I’m working on a project, or I will start working on a project similar to this within the next, I would say three to five years myself, that’s one thing that comes to mind is, who’s the resident shaman, Ian-Michael of Holos?
0:41:17 IH: That’s a really interesting and fun question.
0:41:20 PA: And how did that work in Esalen? Was there that person or was it much more decentralized, meaning that responsibility was shared by several different people?
0:41:31 IH: At Esalen, there were certainly the elders of the community that had been long-term Gestalt practitioners that played that role. Sometimes it was community members that had a certain training or just skill in facilitating those conversations. And then there were very much, many times where we would bring in a facilitator, a guest facilitator, oftentimes they were people that taught at Esalen seasonally. And that’s basically the way that I’m seeing it at these Holos sites too, is that we would have people that are resident medicine people or facilitators, and then we’ll also have visiting people. So it’s like those cell walls that need to be healthy where they’re permeable and that exchange really allows new perspectives and things don’t get stagnant.
0:42:29 IH: There’s something that I have definitely learned in doing group therapy or couples therapy, that you often need a third intermediary to be able to help to resolve an issue. And Rumi talks about this as the clear bead at the center changes everything. So if you have someone that can be not invested necessarily in the community, that comes in and sees things from a third perspective, that’s also really important and healthy. I’ve played that role in different groups and can often see some kind of an eagle or Condor view of what’s happening in a way that people that are in the dynamic may not be able to see.
0:43:19 PA: Yeah, because there’s no bias involved, there’s no past stories involved, there’s no past trauma involved. You’re sort of coming in as a clean slate, as a mirror to help navigate that dynamic.
0:43:35 IH: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So when you were talking, there’s one other thing I just wanna mention ’cause it’s alive, and it’s very much at the core of how Holos is a different model and what we’re wanting to create. And when you started talking about community and the context that the medicine work happens, and that there may be a resident shaman or someone that’s helping to clear the community issues, it goes both ways. So I think one of the special things about Esalen as well as some of these other healing centers Tamera or Findhorn, is that there are long-term stewards of the place and of the tradition that are holding the container for people to come in, have their healing work and return to the world.
0:44:20 IH: And so a lot of the plant medicine work, a lot of the psychedelic psychotherapy work that’s happening right now is happening outside the context of a contiguous community, a community that holds the work long-term. So we’re bringing these ancient traditions of working with mushrooms or Ayahuasca or San Pedro, that have traditionally been held in the context of culture and community and place, and we’re offering these experiences as a psychedelic community outside of their original context and sometimes outside of the context of honoring the place, honoring the culture, honoring the community. So what we’re creating with Holos is those containers of community that allow that work to be integrated, where people come out of a very powerful transformational journey and they really feel helped by both the environmental fabric, by the environment physically, as well as by the social fabric, and so that’s…
0:45:30 IH: That’s, I think, in terms of this idea of integration, when we have these powerful transformational experiences of recognizing our connection to all things and our interdependence with all things, it’s important to have the world around us reflect that. And so that’s why I’m feeling so passionate about creating these nodes, creating these pods, creating these healing centers that are in relationship to the local community and that help to steward a local community.
0:46:07 PA: Yeah, that element of reciprocity is so important oftentimes. And I’m guilty of this just as much as the next person, but especially over the last 10 years, as more and more people can work remotely and digital nomadism is a thing, there’s lots of people who go into Saigon or Chiang Mai or Budapest, or even Lisbon is becoming more popular and just have a sort of arrogance or hubris about them, where they go in and it’s there to sort of take advantage of the cheap lifestyle and the women, and there’s not much that’s actually giving back. And like I said, I lived in Thailand for a year, I didn’t really learn much Thai, I ate a lot of Thai food, I had a few Thai friends, but I could have definitely done more to engage myself. Now, I also lived in Turkey for a year when I was 21 and learned a lot of the language and spent time with almost all Turkish people and lived in a local middle class neighborhood, so I had done that and experienced that to some degree, and so that sense of rooting in the physical place that you’re living in, that sense of giving back to community, that’s a fundamental part of being human, and I know that’s something that my soul has been missing for most of my 20s.
0:47:28 PA: I’ve spent a lot of it hopping from New York or from Izmir to Chiang Mai to Lisbon, to New York, to Oakland, and now Miami. And it can be difficult to ground and root somewhere physically when there’s so much opportunity out there, and I think that that, again, comes back to the sense of the walled garden, like how can we cultivate the space that’s our own, the space of beauty, the space that we return to. I’m reminded of the story of this really fascinating figure that I crossed paths with in Miami, a guy named Alan Faena, who started a well-known fashion company in Argentina in the ’80s, and then in his 30s and 40s turned the most dilapidated part of Buenos Aires into the most valuable real estate. And then now has built the Faena complex on South Beach. It’s a $1.2 billion complex. Fascinating, fascinating figure. And part of his story was between his first fashion company venture and the time that he spent to redevelop this part of Buenos Aires, he spent four or five years in a seaside little town in Uruguay. And basically, the quote that he has is, “In a place where nobody told me it was possible to grow roses, I grew 4000 roses.” And that seems to be a part of every…
0:48:57 PA: Especially man’s journey, is going back into the walled garden, is going back into a place where we can cultivate sensitivity, where we can come back to ourselves, where we’re not distracted by all the sort of ego-driven things in the external world, but where there’s very few distractions besides the beauty of life around us. All of that is to just say, these spaces, these walled gardens, these paradises, especially for change makers, and I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast are change makers, for those who want to create something out in the world and do something big and magical and visionary, what we need as a counterbalance to that are these walled gardens where, as I said at the very beginning of this podcast, we can go back to charge up, we can go back to get in touch with ourselves, we can go back in to heal as we need to because the external world, the world outside these walled gardens is only going to become more and more brutal, and those who are looking to have…
0:49:58 PA: Those who are cultivating the courage to go out and to create this new existence that we will live in, will need these spaces to tend and lick to our wounds as the outside world becomes that much more difficult, viruses and plagues and climate change all inclusive. So with all that being said, my point is what we’re doing, what you’re doing with Holos, the idea of the walled garden, especially for men, I think in this day and age is so, so critical because… And this is just my perspective, but from my perspective, the evolution of humanity hinges on the capacity for men to grow up.
0:50:47 IH: Yeah, there’s some big work in front of us in deconstructing the patriarchy, and there’s a re-education that needs to happen for so many humans and for civilization overall in terms of our belief that we can control and that we are in control. And there’s a surrender that needs to happen to understanding our place in the universe, our place in an ecosystem, and for me, that really begins with listening, and I don’t believe that our Western education system is properly teaching us to listen to each other, to the elements of nature, to other species. We’ve been taught… Like our education system is very linear, there’s a teacher and a group with students and you’re paying attention to the teacher, and then you’re going and doing your work, and there’s…
0:51:49 IH: There isn’t a group process that is being taught in traditional education systems, and so we’re under-prepared for dealing with complex phenomena and being adaptive to changing circumstances like climate change or a pandemic or an economic collapse. We haven’t been taught to really listen and observe and then make decisions based on a multitude of environmental factors. So my hope is that a more feminine way of educating and a more feminine way of leadership is going to be emerging in the years to come, because that’s the only option that we have. If we don’t nourish and nurture our relationship to nature, we will die as a species. So, yeah, I’m very much in agreement that there’s a lot of healing that needs to happen with toxic masculinity and that being a driving force in how we do things.
0:52:58 PA: Yeah, and I think that gets back to the integral leadership part. We definitely need an honoring of the feminine and to cultivate the healthy feminine, and for particularly people like you and me, we’re straight white dudes. We’re also… There’s an element of needing to honor our masculine, and it’s just a matter of helping it to evolve. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but it’s like, in Western culture, we’ve missed initiations. For most people, especially men, fraternities acted as initiations, or sports teams acted as initiations, and all of them fall short because they’re based around insecurity and they’re based around exploitation and they’re based around… There’s not a real sense of community with those. It’s actually quite abusive.
0:53:50 PA: And I think part of at least the vision that I hold for these spaces, these new spiritual gymnasiums, if you will, is what role can plant medicine and what role can walled gardens, what role can wrestling, what role can these various practices play in helping men to really ground, not in their truth, but really ground in their physical being and realizing how connected they are to the earth and to peer into their shadow and to bit by bit eat their shadow, and to be comfortable with eating their shadow.
0:54:33 PA: Because I think generally, we’re just suffering from a case of Icarus multiplied times 100 million men, and it’s the sense of even if you look at… Joseph Campbell brings this up in The Power of Myth, if you look at what the tallest buildings are nowadays, it’s the financial centers, that’s the thing we worship. And so I think with these centers that you’re thinking, that you’re creating and building with Holos, these are the new places of worship, and it’s a way that we can really honor the sacredness in the land that surrounds us.
0:55:14 IH: Yeah, absolutely. I had a lot of different thoughts that just occurred, but one, when you were talking about buildings, I’ve spent the last 10 years living in the Bay Area, in Big Sur, and in that period of time, the Salesforce Tower went up, which is the tallest building in San Francisco, and it looks like a giant phallus. And with all due respect to everyone involved with that project, it’s right in the middle of San Francisco. I lived a couple of blocks down from it for a period of time, but my spirit is too wild to be caged in a tower in San Francisco, but the irony to me is that this beautiful city that is set on one of the most majestic bays on earth that is named after the patron saint of nature and animals and communion with nature… I feel like San Francisco has gone so far from listening to the landscape of that region and being responsive to the gifts that are there, and so there’s definitely some heartbreak in that for me. I grew up really loving the teachings of St. Francis and feeling a very particular kinship to his mission and ministry, and then to go to the city that’s built on his namesake, and to see how far humanity has gone from that interdependence and understanding of the gift of nature. It was hard for me.
0:56:57 PA: Well, is there a hope for cities? I think that’s one thing that I contemplate is, are we just all gonna go back to the land or… Obviously, cities are still… They’re the major aortic veins of our sort of gyo-organism in terms of where energy is processed. What do you think happens to cities? How do we redesign cities to be more nourishing and to be more in touch?
0:57:25 IH: It’s a great question. I haven’t quite sorted out what we’re gonna do with the number of humans that we have. So cities can be more efficient in terms of transportation, in terms of water power use. Cities can be more efficient, but they are also by necessity, separated from the land around them, when a city reaches a certain size, it has to cannibalize a region around it to some extent. And there are a lot of technologies that are trying to bridge the city and the agrarian practices, vertical farming, different ways that we can evolve how we do cities, but there’s something more primal and more intuitive that I’m listening to. You spoke to the need to listen to our bodies and my body has become a barometer, it’s become a guiding force in how I make decisions, and I know how my body feels in cities. And after a few days, I have a deep yearning to be back where the streams are flowing, and where the breeze is unimpeded by buildings.
0:58:44 IH: So, I don’t know the future of cities, but I do know that great civilizations have risen and fallen, the Romans, the Mayan. There’s a lot of civilizations that we can see their remains. We have a sense of what led to their downfall, and separation from the basic constituents of life are part of what precipitates that downfall. So, maybe we’ll learn this round or maybe we’re in for some very difficult times.
0:59:21 PA: And it could be both. You know, I think the difference between the Mayans and the Romans and what’s going on today is it’s a global thing, because the culture, so to say, that America has incubated over the last 16 years has now been exported everywhere because of globalization. So, it’s probably one of those situations where in certain spots they figure it out based on potentially good governance, and based on an honoring of scientific information and knowledge and based on various other factors, and in other countries, you know maybe they don’t figure it out, and some of those spots start to die up. And of course, because we can fly anywhere, there will be a massive change then of where the producers go, and I think as both of us who are American citizens know, I don’t know how much I wanna be in the States in the next 10 years.
1:00:12 PA: It seems to be an increasingly dangerous place. It also seems to be, like you mentioned, sort of the Rome or the Mayan, you know, that really is the American civilization, which is now the global civilization to some degree. And so, I think it has to die, right? It has become so parasitic and so filled with disease that, as Nassim Taleb talks about, it’s broken. And when things happen like COVID, it breaks the things that are fragile, and the American system is extremely fragile. It does not work for what people need in 2020, for what most people need. And so, COVID is breaking it. It’s like having its fucking way with it, and I think it’s necessary unfortunately. And what will grow out of that we will see, but yeah, I would be very surprised if we have a United States, you know, by the end of this decade, I would say.
1:01:17 IH: Yeah, you highlighted another thing that’s been deep in my contemplation, which is our relationship to death itself and death as a necessary and beautiful part of life, and that that’s… You know it’s important. It’s like a recycling process, death. And, we’ve done so much to insulate ourselves from that reality, that an individual organism or a planet or, you know, a solar system, they all have a birth and a death and a reforming of what they are. And so, I think there’s a beauty and an elegance to getting to know more intimately what the death process is and what can come of it. That it actually can be compost for something that is gonna flower and bloom in a new way, that we can build new structures and if we’re willing to go into the darkness, if we’re really willing to see our own fragility, then we can build something that is more resilient, more adaptive, more loving, more whole.
1:02:37 PA: Holos. Hastag holos. [chuckle] Right? The wholeness.
1:02:45 IH: Exactly, exactly.
1:02:46 PA: That’s so important.
1:02:48 IH: Yeah, we’re just cultivating it. You know, it’s that non-dual space that we came from and that we return to. That’s one of the things I love about Stan Grof’s teaching of the perinatal matrices. It’s like the birth process and how we can pick up residual trauma through the birth process that gets anchored into our bodies, into our somatic experience of being on earth and how we respond to the outside world. And I think there’s a lot in those teachings, right now, around how we can relax into these moments of contraction that are happening on a collective level, and that the birth and death process is very natural and it’s just that we’ve become unaccustomed to the surrender into it, into the experiencing of it. And one of the things that I love about psychedelic experiences and medicine is they put us directly in touch with the interconnection of all things and the many dimensions of life and death that we can experience as a human consciousness.
1:04:02 PA: Peeling back the layers of the onion, time and time again. [chuckle] It goes on for infinity. Yeah. And that’s the beautiful part of this existence is we get to keep playing that game, ideally until we don’t and then we die, and then we… Like you said, we become… We recycle and we inspire, inform, whatever is to come after us and that’s our lineage, and that’s our story, and that’s our legacy, and it’s all a beautiful part of creation. And I say this as someone who’s not currently on any sort of substances, just wanna clarify that.
1:04:46 IH: [chuckle] Yeah, I think it’s beautiful when we can face the mystery and the majesty and the awe of being on earth, and then create beauty, create more beauty, more life out of that space. That’s what I’m devoting my life to. To creating more beauty and more life in the midst of the mystery, and all the dimensions of it.
1:05:17 PA: Beautiful, that’s a great way to end. I would say that’s the crown chakra of this conversation, Ian-Michael, is what you just shared. So if people wanna find out more about Holos, if they want to potentially become involved with Holos, what would be some good next steps, because I’ve seen a look at the deck, I really wanna come to the property in the Diamante Valley. I myself, Ian-Michael and I have had several conversations about it, and I think what you’re doing Ian-Michael, is visionary and incredibly beautiful and so, so necessary. So yeah, if people just wanna find out more about Holos and what’s going on there, what are some good resources to check out?
1:06:07 IH: Yeah, the URL is holos.global. That’s actually a great place to get in touch with us. I have a personal website, ianmichaelhebert.com. You can also reach me there, and we’re actively cultivating a community here to help ground and create these pods, so we’re very open to financial support, support with skills, and any other ways that people feel called. We’re just getting started and building the walled gardens that are permeable enough that we can really contribute something meaningful to this next millennia.
1:06:49 PA: I love that. Well, thank you Ian-Michael for joining us on the podcast. It was such a pleasure to host you.
1:06:56 IH: Thank you, brother. Have a beautiful day.
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Ian-Michael Hébert.