Psychedelic Spotlight trips with Ram Dass at the 50th anniversary celebration of the spiritual teacher's iconic book.
TRIPP CEO and Co-Founder Nanea Reeves wants everyone who uses the virtual and augmented reality platform to learn how to be here now.
And they can even practice with renowned spiritual teacher Ram Dass himself, the man who famously coined that phrase with the 1971 publication of his iconic book Be Here Now, which Reeves and her team helped celebrate the weekend before Halloween at Wisdome LA.
TRIPP partnered with the Love Serve Remember Foundation to premiere a VR experience called JOURNEY, inspired by Ram Dass’ first psilocybin trip and his teachings, during the 50th-anniversary celebration of the beloved book. The short film utilized his voice from old lectures as well as personal photographs and trippy imagery to immerse hundreds of his admirers in 360-degree virtual reality.
I watched with delight as we toured Ram Dass' virtual living room, with his voice booming through the dome sharing his life-changing dance through the mind, when he first experienced ego death and got a glimpse of the Divine — an area of study the former Harvard psychology professor, once known as Dr. Richard Alpert, devoted the rest of his life to exploring. Eventually, the living room and photographs dissolved, and viewers found themselves floating through the psychedelic cosmos, loaded with fractals, asteroids with mushrooms growing on them, Hindu deities, and other psychedelia elements.
“That which was ‘I' was beyond life and death,” said the famous author in the comforting voiceover explaining his psychedelic experience. “It was wise rather than just knowledgeable; it was a voice inside that spoke Truth. Now I need only look within to that place where ‘I' knew.”
JOURNEY was a short and sweet ode to Ram Dass, who died at the age of 88 in December of 2019. And the experience probably would have been a lot sweeter under the influence of psychedelics, which are a part of TRIPP's game plan, but not the entirety.
Reeves tells me after the screening that the company's mission is to “stimulate not simulate” through the wellness app's offerings, including guided meditations and interactive virtual environments, available on all Oculus and PlayStation headsets, as well as mobile devices, for just $20 a year.
Once TRIPP readies the JOURNEY experience for inclusion in their service offering, members will be able to relive Ram Dass’ first trip, or in a future version, potentially even create their own personalized JOURNEY. Chief Business Officer Mani Srinivasan says that the film I watched will eventually become customizable for premium subscribers that want to swap in their own photographs and narration to create a one-of-a-kind, digital ego dissolution trip.
A number of clinicians were organically using TRIPP to immerse patients in alternative realities and to support patients’ emotional and mental well-being before, during, and after ketamine therapy sessions. Subsequently, TRIPP acquired PsyAssist to empower psychotherapists and patients to safely and effectively use TRIPP’s XR technology (XR being the umbrella term for both virtual and augmented reality) for mental health and psychedelic-assisted therapy. Over time, in addition to supporting ketamine therapy with TRIPP PsyAssist, Srinivasan tells me he expects the same for psilocybin and MDMA-assisted therapy, once lawmakers ease restrictions for these substances to be clinically administered in controlled settings.
“Altered states of consciousness are often disorienting, overwhelming, and challenging to navigate and integrate,” Reeves said when announcing the acquisition last August. “TRIPP is essentially aiding trained experts when patients are not able to properly contextualize and absorb the psychedelic experience so they can get the most out of their treatment.”
Reeves was an early investor in Oculus, and is the former COO of Machinima, an online video network focused on gamer culture, so virtual experiences have been on her mind for a long time. She tells me at the Ram Dass event that it was her late husband's death that really inspired her to merge VR and gaming to create the mental and spiritual wellness platform.
Although I can definitely understand how XR technology can serve as a groovy psychedelic trip companion, leading the mind through a visual wonderland with a stimulating and calming soundtrack, Srinivasan emphasizes TRIPP may be best utilized before and after such an experience. The app can be used to help people prepare to get the most out of a life-changing psychedelic trip, and perhaps most valuable, help them stay connected to the experience through continued TRIPP meditations.
During our conversation, I tell Reeves that, for me, the real value of psychedelics is simply learning to exist in the moment for a few hours, without the usual flood of worldly thoughts and concerns distracting the mind. After all, getting high really means letting go of whatever burdens are weighing us down. Reeves agrees and tells me that's what TRIPP is ultimately all about: with or without psychedelic drugs, she wants users to learn the subtle art of being.
The topic reminds Reeves of her late husband, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, who she fondly remembers spending an entire night sitting outside under the stars during a vacation they took shortly before he passed away. “I think he knew his time was coming,” she says.
Regardless of what he may have known, I think it sounds like the embodiment of Ram Dass' advice to be here now, and Reeves hopes TRIPP can lead more people to profound experiences like that.