Field Tripping

It’s Adult Time for Humans | Director X

Episode Summary

Director X joins Ronan to share his experience as a victim of gun violence and how meditation strategies can better ourselves – and those around us — for positive change. We explore the intersection of violence, trauma, and primal behaviour inherent to the animal kingdom to understand how psychedelics can hold the keys to empathy and healing ourselves. Learn more at fieldtripping.fm.

Episode Notes

Director X joins Ronan to share his experience as a victim of gun violence and how meditation strategies can better ourselves – and those around us — for positive change. We explore the intersection of violence, trauma, and primal behaviour inherent to the animal kingdom to understand how psychedelics can hold the keys to empathy and healing ourselves. Learn more at fieldtripping.fm. 

Episode Transcription

 

Director X: [00:00:00] I wasn't beefing with anyone when I got shot. I always want to bring it back to how do we behave as human beings? What are we starting from? [00:00:07][7.6]

Ronan: [00:00:12] This is Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Professionally known as Director X. Julien Christian Lutz has directed music videos for some of the world's top artists, including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Kanye West, but in his personal life, X is a mindfulness advocate, drawing on his own experience with gun violence to create a movement that uses meditation strategies to create positive change. X's organization, Operation Prefrontal Cortex, is a community that focuses on generating creativity, innovation and wellness. The philosophy is simple. By bettering ourselves and those around us, we can ensure a more peaceful, compassionate world. In this episode, we explore violence and trauma and how psychedelics may just hold the key to not only healing ourselves as individuals, but as communities as well. [00:01:10][57.1]

Ronan: [00:01:17] Welcome to Field Tripping Director X. [00:01:18][1.5]

Director X: [00:01:19] Thanks for having me. [00:01:20][0.4]

Ronan: [00:01:20] So Field Tripping is a podcast that really explores psychedelics, the people that use them and really what the renewed love affair with psychedelics and everything around them says about who we are and where we're going as a society and as people. And it sounds like 2014, 2015, you had a pretty intense brush with mortality and spirituality when you got shot at your party. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? [00:01:46][25.5]

Director X: [00:01:47] I'm lucky I got shot in my side, they cut it out of me and kept it moving, but the bullet went through two people and then hit me. [00:01:53][6.5]

Ronan: [00:01:53] Jesus. [00:01:53][0.0]

Director X: [00:01:54] I was good. That was it. I literally got on a plane in a few hours and went to Miami, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't until much later where I really, you know, it. But when I started working with my organization, Operation Prefrontal Cortex, we're using meditation to reduce violence, going to city hall for hearings about gun violence, speaking to survivors and then meeting people who that one bullet took their life. That one bullet is a lifetime of medications and therapies. That one bullet is completely life changing. I'm lucky. I'm very, very lucky and very, very aware of it. [00:02:28][33.8]

Ronan: [00:02:28] How did that experience, even though it wasn't necessarily a near-death experience, it sure, I imagine, helped you get a sense of your own mortality. And clearly, you've put the emotion and the energy and all of the feelings that came out of that into very productive pursuits. But it did it sort of give you a perspective on life and where you are and where you're going? [00:02:48][19.9]

Director X: [00:02:50] Afterwards I was very much like, oh, hip hop lyrics, culture, that's the problem. And then I got lost in my work. It felt very it's just starting to align. So Ted Ex Toronto comes to me and says, do this. And I've always been into science. And I created a show called Mister Tachyon, which was this science experiment show. The point of the show is that we were going to do the fringes of science. We're going to test any claim. We do an experiment. We had no position like Mr. Tachyon, who was actually a fictional. The tag was fictional host. Factual science. So the whole idea is he was actually the son of the invisible man and I came across a bunch of interesting stuff about the brain and other things I'd come across about the brain of violent and aggressive people, what causes violence and aggression, what happens to children if they come up in abusive households, how that affects the brain, violent and aggressive behavior. When they look at the brains of these people, they see their prefrontal cortex was Decision-Making is too small. Their amygdala, which is emotional control, is too big compared to the average person. Children that are abused and neglected affects how their brain develops. Their prefrontal cortex is too small, their amygdala is too big compared to the average person. And now look at this. Meditation changes the brain. It gives volume to the prefrontal cortex and it shrinks the amygdala. And then and lately I've come across even more studies that say stress changes the brain. It shrinks the prefrontal cortex, in a large way. So it's very clear that violent and aggressive behavior is connected to you can see what's going on in the brain. It's clear where that's coming from. It's no one we all can remember or one it's not a big leap of imagination to understand growing up in an abusive household or a rough neighborhood, how that can affect you growing up. And if I think a lot of us have been to school with kids who were just kind of wild, and when you dug a little, you dug a little bit home wasn't always so great. And then I think we missed now is the neglectful part of it, because when you have these school shootings in the suburbs and you're like, well, what the hell? The kid has a two car garage and Xbox in his room. Yeah, but what were the where were the parents? [00:05:01][131.5]

Ronan: [00:05:02] There's definitely a belief that money solves a lot of problems. And, you know, over and over, we see that's definitely not the case here. It certainly solves some problems and can reduce certain stresses about where you're paying the bills from and all that kind of stuff. But it doesn't change the fundamental underlying circumstances in which people live in or grew up in. And so you can totally see that. Was meditation something you discovered as a result of your research, or is it something that you were familiar with or practiced or anything along those lines beforehand? [00:05:28][25.3]

Director X: [00:05:29] Meditation was something I was already doing. Even around the time that I got shot, I was already meditating. So I've been meditating now. It's been about 10 to 11 years and being shot gave me a narrative to work with and quite honestly cleared the road for me, because once you start getting into this space about gun violence, people start thinking about race just comes with the territory. A lot of people hear black. Even when I say that the organization, our mission is to reduce gun and mass violence and people say, yeah, so are you here to stop gun violence? No. Mass violence too. One of the platforms for the organization is to bring meditation into schools. Toronto had two mass attacks, one with a gun and one with a van. The guy with the van killed ten people. The guy with the gun killed two. He shot thirteen, but he killed two. Both of these events are from kids. Either way, the one place we know we can reach both of those people is in school. Right, if we can get to them ahead of time, we can we can begin to change things for them, more so for the incel, more so for the guy that says I want to lash out and hurt people. They feel like the world is doing them wrong. So they want to do wrong to everyone else. And once they're out of school, they're gone, they're in the wind. And we know what meditation does a lot of great things beyond even repairing damage. Your marks get better, your academic performance is better, your physical form, your social life, everything gets better through meditation and mindfulness. It is neglect for our elected officials and school officials to know what mindfulness will do for our children and for them not to immediately implement it. [00:07:08][99.4]

Ronan: [00:07:08] I hear you. I mean, at the root of all of this is is trauma. And there's so many places we can take this conversation. But I think you can draw a line straight line between all of these experiences and trauma. And it even shows and epigenetics, you can trace trauma from the Holocaust survivor down into their grandkids and great grandkids and finding the treatments and the cures and the ways to address it in a way that's holistic and can reach a lot of people and schools is certainly a fantastic place to start. And now this is specifically a podcast around psychedelics. And in psychedelic experiences, we talk about it, at Field Trip we talk about psychedelic experience, of being anything that can open the mind, shrink the ego, turn off the default mode network and open people up to the effects of psychotherapy much more effectively as being something psychedelic. So that can be meditation, that could be breath work, that can be psychedelic drugs. But speaking specifically of psychedelics, have you explored working with psychedelics at all? [00:08:02][53.2]

Director X: [00:08:02] Once a friend of mine gave me some chugga of being like the smokable version of Ayahuasca. Amazing, interesting experience to go on. The first time I try to explain to my friends like special effects in your eyeballs, seeing these geometric shapes and things are glowing and an amazing, amazing ride. When you go in, you might have an experience in which or maybe a spirit will come reveal the truth to the universe, to you. And it's like none of that none of that happened. It was an interesting experience for sure. And it was unlike anything I've ever done or it's completely unique to that. [00:08:41][38.5]

Ronan: [00:08:42] Just on your experience with with creating videos, I mean, you've had an incredible amount of success with your creative works and the videos you've directed over time. One of the things I've always kind of been conscious of now, I think you referred to it as bravado in hip hop videos, and that extends from, like I would say, like overt masculinity to a great degree of focus on probably sexuality and objectification generally in the hip hop sphere. And I was wondering if you have any sort of concerns or reflections on that. [00:09:13][31.1]

Director X: [00:09:13] I mean, a lot of what you got going on with hip hop culture is the roots of hip hop are from poverty. Bravado goes hand in hand with poverty, no matter what country you go to in the world. Take me to the hood. I guarantee there's men who are found their power in their physical self, fighting, standing up for themselves and getting with women. It's very much a primal thought process. This is how male animals behave, who's bigger, who's stronger, who gets the girl. You've summed up what hip hop is. So as opposed to putting on behavior a positive or a negative, is understanding of the behavior even down to violence. I have a whole organization that's about reducing violence, but at the same time, animals kill other animals. Animals fight one another. Cats, birds, insects they fight. Would Operation Prefrontal Cortex come around? If kids are still getting in the fist fights? Probably not. We're a reaction to the violence and how much it spills over into unrelated parties. I wasn't beefing with anyone when I got shot. I always want to bring it back to how do we behave as human beings? What are we starting from? And then let's take it from there as opposed to then assigning negative attributes or negative feelings onto something that actually might be natural. [00:10:37][83.7]

Ronan: [00:10:38] That's an interesting point. And now turn it back to I think what you said was, would Operation Prefrontal Cortex exist if it was just about people brawling and fighting? And you said probably not. Do you think that's because of the general acceptance of fighting with fists as being accepted way to deal with we'll call it adolescent problems. Is it because of your thinking it's natural. Is it acceptance or is it because of the, you know, the reach of gun violence that makes gun violence and mass violence your focus as opposed to brawling? [00:11:10][33.0]

Director X: [00:11:11] Yeah, it does. When it comes to fist fighting, it's the excess, right. If we were still a generation where two guys have a thing and they throw their punches and then one guy gets down and then everyone says, OK, fights over see animals throughout the animal kingdom have little scraps and it's over. The energy's burnt up. And we're moving on. Now a lot of times, I mean, we can remember when our kids actually those experiences often led to friendships. And it's weird test of whatever, you know, and sometimes we forget as human beings, we're still part of the animal kingdom. And these little battles are mean other things, right. Aggression, anger. These are things that we all feel. And to be very honest, if I'm if I'm in the street and I see someone do something out of line, I must speak up. My son is ten. I've been teaching him martial arts since he was three. There's a there's a security in knowing you can take care of yourself and the people around you that I believe is essential. And again, what meditation brings you to. There is the time to get angry. But how far do you go with your anger? I think it's a balancing of emotions. It's a balancing of these natural things you feel. [00:12:15][63.4]

Ronan: [00:12:15] There's a couple of, I guess, different perspectives on this, which is like, yes, we all have anger. In fact, most of us probably don't feel anger properly. We store it up and we bottle it up. And it usually is one of those things that results in people overreacting. And this is one of the things that I've learned in my years of experience is that like when you feel anger, feel it right? Like sit down. It's like if someone pissed you off. Meditation is in fact the perfect way to do it, which is know, sit down, close your eyes and get fucking angry and let it all out. It's not just emotional. It's actually stress and hormones stored in your spine and in your brain as well. So if you don't process, it builds up. [00:12:56][40.0]

Director X: [00:12:56] I think it's important. Our organization we're in as part of dealing and violence, but there is just like everything else, there's a healthy expression of all the emotions and they need to get out. And if you repress that anger like you're saying, it's going to jump out at you and balance balance of it. There are times in the world when you're out. Sometimes the appropriate response is to show the other person you're not playing predators know their prey, and we still have predators among us, even if it's just the energy of making someone scared. And we've all seen that before. That bully, they don't want to hit you. They just want to know you're intimidated by me. And that's the food they're looking to eat. [00:13:33][36.9]

Ronan: [00:13:34] Yeah, totally. I was having a conversation with some friends were reflecting on and I'm really curious to get your thoughts on this as well for you personally. But we're reflecting on the opportunity that covid has created. I mean, there's a lot of tragedy and trauma going on. And but one of the positive things that's happened is it's forced everybody on the planet to slow down and focus on what really matters. And one of the things that came up in a conversation with my friends, which was I never really understood guns and the appeal of guns, but in one of these conversations, we were talking about it. And I imagine in my mind, holding a handgun, just even thinking about that, the rush of feeling powerful came over me. And for the first time, I kind of got it being like, oh, I understand, especially in the US, it's not such a debate in Canada anymore, but in the US in particular. Their fierce defense of gun rights just never understood, but for a moment I got it because I think a lot of those people are standing up and fighting for their gun rights or people who probably have chronically and historically feel disempowered. Right. And gun gives that sense of power back. And it was a really interesting reflection. [00:14:40][66.2]

Director X: [00:14:40] On the gun side I completely agree with you. When you look at communities that are very much like, no, this gun and me are a thing. You can find that they are in some way underserved, you might not always see it when it comes to the white community, but rural America, they're not living the best first world life, like I was saying before. Look, we still have our reptilian brain. There's still the part of our animal self. That wants to kill, that's what our sports are about, you're engaging that little killer instinct to tackle the check, the playing rough that boys do. This is all related to, again, every single living thing that will kill another for food or protection or for maybe like there's all these reasons why we get violent as living beings. [00:15:28][47.3]

Ronan: [00:15:33] We recorded the interview with X just weeks before the murder of George Floyd and the eruption of the protests in the US and around the world in response to systemic and global racism that still exists. So the timing of this podcast to unpack some of what is happening is unique. X views the behaviors of violence as going all the way back to our primal instincts as human beings. For me, I think that's part of it, but it's an incomplete answer. I see violence as an outcome of the fear and hurt that so many people in marginalized communities feel, and rightfully so. Unresolved, these emotions become rage, powerlessness, loneliness, despair and alienation. These emotions, which are real but not necessarily primal, caused people to act out. Violence unfolds. This gets expressed through in X's personal case, physical violence and gun violence. But that's not the only way in which violence gets expressed. As X touched on. Feelings of fear, hurt, rage and powerlessness are not unique to the black community, they are emotions that are common to all people. For some communities, these feelings get expressed as racism, bigotry and discrimination and often physically violent forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination. The key then is understanding. To understand that all violence, whether gun violence or subtle or overt acts of racism, are a reflection of the unfulfilled primal desire to belong, to feel a part of the world, to feel connected, to feel loved. With that understanding, we can start to address violence, and an amazing place to start is through meditation, through meditation we as individuals and as communities can help empower people to start to process the emotions of loneliness, anger and rage. And through meditation and psychedelics, which are most known for helping people to start to feel a sense of connection and love again, we can start to heal, to feel connected, to feel love. That is the path to healing violence. [00:17:40][127.1]

Ronan: [00:17:44] Curious to know if you've had any kind of realizations or if you've taken what some people are referring to as the great pause caused by covid to reflect on yourself and what you're seeing and if it's led to any kind of evolution in your personal development as well. [00:17:58][14.8]

Director X: [00:17:59] I'm just kind of going with the flow. For a while I was on social media every day arguing about whatever debating stuff and then getting in my head and now trying to meditate for longer periods of time and reading more and studying my craft more. And we talk about human nature and animal nature. We're not that animal. We're not a solitary species. We're meant to be around one another and talk to one another and engage. And we were in uncharted territory completely when it comes to how we deal with mentally, financially, societally, like even during the war, we had jobs and paychecks. Even that is this old idea that doesn't make sense, doesn't match reality. [00:18:39][40.0]

Ronan: [00:18:41] This is one of the unique opportunities. And I think meditation is a great tool for this. [00:18:44][3.7]

Director X: [00:18:45] I see us getting to a place where we begin to understand that meditation, mindfulness is that walk for the brain. It's a healthy exercise you need to do to stay a fully healthy person, not just physically healthy, mentally healthy and dealing with the world. [00:18:57][12.6]

Ronan: [00:18:58] Tom Robbins, who's my favorite author, talks about, you know, there's no such thing as a strange person. Some people just require more understanding, and especially as you kind of go into political arguments, realizing that a lot of the people on the other side of the spectrum have had their own trauma and their own lenses through which they're looking at this and forming their discussion. Have you found that you've had increased empathy either since you got shot back in twenty, fifteen or more recently through this time? As to other people's perspective, does that give you more empathy? Have you seen that happen in yourself? [00:19:31][32.6]

Director X: [00:19:32] As years go on, I begin to think of having empathy for people across the board, all kinds of situations, all they have is the experiencee they've lived more so now as I as this work brings me into the world of offenders. Right. People who've broken the law and they've now been going to jail for perhaps some very serious things, beginning to understand what puts you in a place where you'd want to hurt someone like that when you think the solution to an issue is trying to kill them and reading about the brain and how that can change. And, you know, just began to see it another way as people who need help, if you had a 10 year old kid who tried to hurt other people, you know, this kid needs help. Then once you hit 18, this kid needs jail. Well, certainly we flip it in. Now, just whatever thing you've done is your fully your choice and throw them in the box and. [00:20:20][47.4]

Ronan: [00:20:21] With a whole bunch of other people who have their own traumas and issues and own violence. And that's a good combination to try and make it better. The absurdity of it is is astounding. [00:20:31][10.1]

Director X: [00:20:32] To be very honest we don't care to make them better. Let's be very clear. Once you're an adult and we throw you in the box, we're doing that to punish you again. And when you say abuse or neglect, I feel the average person hears abuse and we get that and we don't quite understand neglect. Effects of neglect are not always they don't hit you in the same kind of way. There's not a lot of movies about the asshole boss because his parents were never around. But there's lots and lots of movies about the kid that grew up in poverty. And we like we can wrap your head around how a rough neighborhood and bad parenting can get you to a place where your your violent, they get that same they get a taste of that and being mean to a barista and the way they treat subordinates at work with where they get that shot to exercise power without consequence. Or the way they treat themselves to, you know, alcoholics, drug addicts. I mean, it's all different places on the same spectrum. I think much of the time. [00:21:31][59.1]

Director X: [00:21:32] I don't know the world will ever get to my personal philosophy. But what we are really seeing happen is the game being paused. It's a make believe world we live in. We made ourselves believe that money is a real thing. But now we're in this situation where you can't go outside. The game's on pause. But we don't know how the pause, the game and the flip side is the game should not apply to if you get sick, the game should not apply to you getting educated. The game should not apply to you having at least a roof over your head and some food in the cupboard. And but we've tied the game into everything. And even even societies like ours in Canada, where we try and ease up the game a bit, in some situations the game still applies. Right. And I hope and imagine in at least especially as a filmmaker, that has to come up with stories, write stories, and envision a world where humanity gets it together. If you're in a creative job saying, hey, come up with an award winning idea and you'll get a bigger office does not motivate you. That's not the motivation that gets the award winning idea. The thing that gets the award winning idea is you're good and you don't have to worry about whether or not there will be food on the table or whether you can pay your rent. The type of work that humans do that that type of reward system works is manual labor. Hey, stack twenty boxes and you'll get twenty more dollars. Right. We all know that type of work has maybe a decade left before a straight up and down machines could all do it for us. We were talking about a humanity that's moving into a future where that type of reward system doesn't get us better results. Hopefully we need we've all known we've needed a change. We've all known we needed a switch. We've all known we can't keep on going societally, environmentally. We're just burning it till it's gone. Yeah. As as a species to our planet, to ourselves. And then God said, how about this? How about not. [00:23:23][110.8]

Ronan: [00:23:25] In a very swift and profound manner. Just on that note, you talked about the rules of the game. And I think kind of where you're going towards the end there is that we have an opportunity to to change the rules of the game and adjust it to to make it more sustainable, more empathic, more supportive, more respectful. And so clearly, you're doing a whole bunch of work with Operation Prefrontal Cortex. But as a tastemaker, as as an incredible creative, what do you want to see the rules of the game become? You know, it's a question I ask people, which is like if psychedelics were legalized, what would the world look like? And it's essentially the same question for you, because, again, psychedelics doesn't necessarily refer to drugs. I mean, means a process of processing and healing. And so here we are. We have this great opportunity. [00:24:14][48.8]

Director X: [00:24:15] First step is everyone starts meditating, you know, eating healthy physical activity and mental activity. Right. To see those things begin to happen, to really look at our world and begin to say, look at all these new things that are happening, humanity, we're entering the age of Aquarius, literally, how are we now going to operate now that we've crossed the line of achievement in so many ways? Now, the way we produce energy and the way we produce food, the way we produce everything has crossed the point of we can just do it and the planet can deal with our waste. We now have to become responsible for that truly responsible. And then the big, big question, what does our technology mean? What does it mean to basically to look at your hand and see whatever it is that you enjoy that gets your dopamine spiking, you can now do? So we're we're we're we're all entering this self-control. You're grown enough to know maybe porn isn't the way to start and end your day and the way we behave as a species and how that's going to affect the planet. It's adult time for the human species. [00:25:25][69.9]

Ronan: [00:25:35] My conversation with X helped reveal some incredible insights about how we can start to heal our human history of violence. Here are four key takeaways that I'd like to mention. First, the key to healing violence is to understand what drives it, which are primal feelings of anger, rage, powerlessness, disconnection and loneliness. Violence is not necessarily primal, but these emotions are. The younger we can reach people and empowering them to process their feelings and process the endemic nature of these emotions, the better the opportunity we will have to mitigate potential violence in the future. The correctional system, which serves to punish criminal behavior, only perpetuates violence by increasing isolation, loneliness and rage, whereas it needs to start considering the neglect and potential healing of those incarcerated. Finally, meditation is an amazing place to start the path to healing. Emotionally, it gives an opportunity to process our feelings and biologically it can actually help rewire our brains to be healthier and more resilient. [00:26:41][66.5]

Ronan: [00:26:50] Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Until next time. Stay curious, breathe properly. And remember, every day is a field trip. If you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronin Levy, produced by Conrade Page, Sharon Bella is our researcher. Special thanks to Quill and of course, many thanks to Director X for joining me on this episode. Let's stay connected and keep this trip going. Subscribe to our new podcast. Tell us what you think about it and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm. [00:26:50][0.0]

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