Ep. 65 Nate Klemp - Open: Living with an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World

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Episode Summary

An engaging, lighthearted but deep conversation with philosopher Nate Klemp about his new book, 'Open: Living with an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World' which explores cultivating spaciousness in order to access the deep well of peace and creativity within our minds. 

This episode serves as a thought-provoking exploration of inner spaciousness and the art of discernment in our daily lives, offering listeners practical insights and inspiration for their own journeys of self-discovery and creative expression.

Nate is a New York Times bestselling author, philosopher, and founding partner at Mindful Magazine. He went to college at Stanford then got an MA at Stanford, followed by a PhD at Princeton.
I'll admit, I was nervous to speak with Nate, but his down-to-earth nature quickly put me at ease. "Open" isn't just a book; it's a journey Nate invites us to embark on, exploring inner spaciousness in a distracted world. Our conversation touched on topics like psychedelic-assisted therapy, including Nate's personal experience with ketamine therapy.
As someone navigating the incremental nature of psychotherapy, Nate's insights challenged my perspectives and opened new doors for exploration. We discussed discernment – knowing when to open and when to close – and how it relates to our well-being and creativity.
Ultimately, this conversation serves as nourishing food for thought as we contemplate our own relationship with opening and closing, especially in the realm of creative expression. Have a listen!


Show Notes:

  • Navigating Challenges: Kate reflects on her own recent struggles and emphasizes the importance of perseverance and trust in uncertain times.

  • Getting to Know Nate: Nate's journey from academia to co-founding Mindful magazine and writing impactful books is shared, highlighting his down-to-earth nature.

  • Exploring "Open": Nate's book takes readers on a journey to understand inner spaciousness in today's distracted world, offering practical insights and personal anecdotes.

  • Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy: Nate shares his experiences with ketamine therapy and discusses the potential benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy for personal growth and healing.

  • Discernment in Opening and Closing: Kate and Nate delve into the importance of discernment, knowing when to open up and when to set boundaries for our well-being and creativity.

  • Takeaways and Reflections: Kate reflects on the enriching conversation, emphasizing its relevance to navigating personal challenges and fostering creativity.

Writing the Book and the Journey

Nate takes us on his personal journey, a quest triggered by the compression in his mind and an insatiable craving for distraction. It's the kind of journey many of us can relate to – the search for clarity amidst the noise.

Experimenting with Overindulgence

Ever wondered what happens when you dive headfirst into digital distractions? Nate shares his experiment, offering insights into closure and screen addiction. It's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of our digital habits.

Understanding the Default Mode

Mind wandering: sometimes a nuisance, sometimes a muse. Nate explores its dual nature, shedding light on its impact on stress levels and creativity. It's a reminder to pay attention to where our minds wander and why.

The Illusion of Happyland

Welcome to Happyland – where pleasure reigns supreme, but closure lurks around every corner. Nate unpacks this illusion, challenging us to break free from its grip and embrace the discomfort of the present moment.

Letting Go of the Illusion of Happy Land

Kate and Nate delve deeper into the art of letting go, discussing the journey to peace and acceptance. It's a reminder that happiness isn't a constant destination but rather a series of moments, each deserving of our attention.

Surrendering and Cultivating Conditions for Surrender

Surrender: a word loaded with meaning. Nate shares insights into its power, highlighting the conditions necessary for true surrender. It's a lesson in letting things be, even when they're tough to swallow.

Everyday Moments of Letting Go and Surrender

From the mundane to the profound, Kate and Nate explore the everyday moments where surrender can be found. It's a gentle nudge to loosen our grip on control and embrace the flow of life.

Exploring Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

Hold on tight as the conversation takes a psychedelic turn. Nate sheds light on the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy to unlock buried emotions and experiences. It's a frontier of healing worth exploring.

The Impact of Ketamine Assisted Therapy

Nate shares his personal experience with ketamine-assisted therapy, offering a glimpse into its transformative potential. It's a reminder that healing often comes from unexpected places.

Discernment: Knowing When to Open and Close

In a world buzzing with noise, discernment becomes our compass. Kate and Nate discuss the delicate balance of knowing when to open up and when to draw boundaries. It's about honoring our intuition and prioritizing self-care.

The Power of Not Trying So Hard

As the conversation winds down, Kate and Nate leave us with a powerful reminder: sometimes, the best path forward is the one of least resistance. It's a call to embrace the flow of life and trust in the process.

Tune in to this enlightening conversation, where Kate Shepherd and Nate Klemp invite us to live open in a distracted world. It's a journey of exploration, surrender, and the quiet power of an expansive mind.



Hello there. It's Kate, your host of the creative genius podcast. I have a really wonderful show for you today. We're talking to Nate Klemp, ,

who is a philosopher and he's just written a new book called open, which is all about how to cultivate more spaciousness , within our own minds . I can tell you a little bit more about Nate in a minute. But for those of you following along. I am back in the public market at Granville island in Vancouver, BC. I'm there about two weekends a month. It has been absolutely magical to meet and connect with people from all over the world. I've been hugging and crying and exchanging stories and taking photos.

And of course selling my jewelry. Two amazing people from all over the world. If you are in Vancouver ever check with me, see if I'm at the public market and come by and say, hello. Vancouver is of course a beautiful city and the public market, I believe is the heart of that city.

I would love to meet you in person. So if you're in the area, make sure you pop by and say, hello.

I talked to a lot of people in my day-to-day life , friends. collectors and customers and other gallery owners and other artists. Parents of friends of my children. And there does seem to be something going on right now. So if you're feeling. Lo, if you're feeling depressed, if you're feeling hopeless, if you're feeling. Some of those sort of less desirable things. I want you to know you're not alone.

There does seem to be some sort of big shift happening.

, as somebody who's been in one of the lowest points in my life over the last three or four months, like really low , questioning everything feeling hopeless. I want to share with you that you're not alone.

If you're feeling some of those things. And that might deep intuition is that we are closing an enormous energetic chapter in humanity. And there are bumps and that is painful and uncomfortable, and there's going to be grief with that and And a lot of feelings of loneliness with that.

I don't have any promises on timelines, but , my sense is that. There's something new coming, something new that is more beautiful than we could have imagined. Just stay the course, keep going. You know, our guests last week. Emma Zack. And if you haven't listened to Amazon, So I'd go back and listen to that.

My God, she's a powerhouse. , one of her quotes that I pulled out for you, that's on the Instagram feed. You know,

I always pull out a couple of quotes of things that, that the guests say. And Emma's.

Was keep going. And just trust, like how, even when you can't see it yet. So if you're feeling down, if you're feeling like this is one of the worst times you've ever lived through. Take those words into your heart and keep going.

And just trust, because it's coming better days are coming. Okay. So now I get to tell you a little bit about our guests today. Nate is a New York times bestselling author philosopher and founding partner at mindful magazine. He's also the coauthor of the 80, 80 marriage and his new book open, which we spent most of our conversation today talking about. Nate studied at Stanford where he got hooked on jazz and philosophy. And he made what he thought was a very pragmatic decision to become a philosopher rather than a jazz musician. He went on to get his master's at Stanford, followed by a PhD at Princeton. And then he taught for a bunch of years at Pepperdine..

In 2012, he left what he calls a cushy tenure track job to explore the crazy idea of philosophy as a way of life. That led him to co-found mindful magazine. . And with his co-founder author the New York times bestseller start here. And then in 2021, he and his wife wrote a book about relationships in the modern age called the 80 80 marriage. Which went on to be selected by the New York times as an editor's choice.

I was nervous to talk to Nate. You know, he's an incredibly accomplished academic, human being. And as somebody who, because of life circumstances had to leave high school before I could even finish it. I felt worried. This guy was going to be too smart for me. Oh, you know, my limiting beliefs popping up to say hello. But Nate is such a down to earth Curious, honest, compassionate kind. And open human being.

This book that he's just written open is a journey. You know, a lot of times you read a book and it's just an idea that somebody has and they sit down and they write about it eight months or a year or whatever, they get it all down on paper and they turned it into a book. Nate actually went on a journey and takes us with him through this book. How to. Have more space in our inner world. In a world. that has very distracted. There were so many moments in this conversation that were deeply helpful for me. And that's always my hope for you too. I have these conversations with these incredible people, and I feel sometimes a little bit selfish because I get so much out of hearing their wisdom and their perspective. And my hope and my wish is that in. Listening in on these conversations, you two are blessed with these gifts that these incredible people give to us.

. One of the things I've been struggling with over the last little while is the incremental nature of psychotherapy. Now I have somebody who had a lot of childhood trauma. A very difficult life and I have a lot of stuff to organize and put away and resolve. I've been in and out of therapy in one way or another, most of my life.

And. I'm 47 years old and recently I've been feeling like, oh my God, isn't there a faster way. And one of the things that Nate and I talk about in this conversation is his experience of psychedelic assisted therapy. I'm not saying I'm ready for that, but , it opened up part of my mind and my being up to something that I never would have even thought about.

And Nate

Gets really personal in the book and in this conversation about has experience with ketamine assisted therapy

what it was like for him. Him and. And what he thinks some. Some of the possibilities. There are four others.

if you listen to this show and it touches you and it feeds you and you receive something from it. Please consider signing up for my Patrion.

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Having. Encumbered ourselves. With this. Illusion of this place that he calls happy land, this constant pursuit of pleasure. Social media and traditional media really keep us trapped in this state of closure that prevent us from cultivating an open mind that might see beyond. This pursuit of this promise of this place that doesn't actually exist. When we talk about happy land, we talk about the illusion of it. We talk about how we can begin to break free from the illusion of happy land.

We talk about letting go and surrendering to experiences and emotions and the what is this of our life so that we can. Actually come into contact with our true self, which is the source of our creativity. You know, we can't really access our true creativity. Unless we are able to sit with ourselves in. The full range of our experiences, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime.

We need to be able to sit with all of them. Because of where Nate went with his psychedelic assisted therapy. There's a moment I had reading his book where I thought to myself, You know, just because we have the capacity to open to these experiences in life.

It doesn't mean that we should.

And so the question came up for me. How do we know? How do we know what things were closing to? Out of fear. That we might actually benefit from opening to versus things that are not healthy for us. And that actually the act of closing. Is wise. And we talk about that and Nate here's a rule of thumb that he offered. That you can, as a sort of litmus test when you're in an experience.

And you're not sure if you're closing out of fear or if you're closing out of wisdom. And I thought that was really, really helpful. There's so many things in this conversation. That you're about to hear that I think are wonderful. His answer to my billboard question at the very end is one of my favorites to date.

I hope you get so much out of this conversation with Nate. I hope it inspires you to go by his book. And if experiment with meditation, if you haven't and understanding where you're closing that might be preventing you from connecting with your inner creativity.

I hope this conversation is really delicious nourishing food for thought for you, as you contemplate your own relationship to opening and closing,

as it relates to your creative expression.

Kate Shepherd: , I've really been looking forward to having an opportunity , to talk to you about your new book, which is called Open, Living with an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World. what struck me about this book that's so different from maybe other books in this sort of genre was that you really went on a journey. It's a journey, like quite a journey to write it. This wasn't just like you had an idea that you'd been, I mean, I know you're a philosopher. It wasn't like you just had an idea that you sat there in front of your computer and gave eight months to writing it down.

You really gave yourself and immersed yourself in some pretty wacky experiences even

along the way in the process of writing this book. And I, I want to, I've been looking forward to asking you what sparked all of that for you? What made you want to write this book?

Nate Klemp: I had no idea what the answers were going to be at the outset. I just knew that there was a really interesting question here that I wanted to explore. I had spent about 15 years in really dedicated meditation and yoga practice, even though I had all this formal training as a philosopher, I was having this experience where it felt like my mind was almost like closing down, like the space in my mind kept getting smaller.

And what I mean by that is that I would start to experience some uncomfortable sensations in my body or a difficult emotion or a scary thought or something like that, and instead of having the ability to stay with that experience. It was like, there was this almost instantaneous urge to distract myself, to reach for my phone, to experience some quick hit of political outrage.

And it's not that I hadn't experienced that before, but what I was noticing is that there was like this momentum of closure happening. And that was the word I landed on for it, was something like closed. And I realized, I wasn't the only one having this experience, that on some level, so many of us now are having this experience.

Of just increasingly distracting ourselves, finding ourselves craving our screens at odd hours, the inability to experience an idle moment in life. I got really interested in 1st of all, understanding what is this thing called closure and why does it seem to be intensifying in our modern age? And then I also got really interested in.

Okay. Well, how then can we cultivate more openness in the mind? And I know that sounds really abstract, but in some ways I started to see this is like the big game here, because if we have a little bit more space in our mind, we can be responsive instead of reactive, we can create new and better habits more easily to the focus of your show.

That space in the mind is the space of creativity. Ultimately, I think it's the space of freedom. And so it actually, it's like this huge deal, even though it doesn't seem like it should be that important, you know, having a little bit more space in your mind.

Kate Shepherd: You said something a second ago, I wrote it down, the inability to experience an idle moment. And I think we see that everywhere, you know, waiting for the kids at the afterschool pickup. People are on their phones. We're in a doctor's office, we're on our phone, like we're, we're constantly looking for this, something to fill in that. It's like the idea of even just being spacious scares us. You write about this sort of shocking experiment that you did at home, sort of at the beginning of the book as a way to feel into more and learn more about how we close. And I say shocking because as I was reading it, I felt myself. feeling really anxious for you. I was like, Oh my God, what if he gets lost in there? What if he can't pull himself out? Uh, so maybe, maybe you could tell us a little bit about that experiment

Nate Klemp: I wanted to really understand these forces of closure and, you know, the reason that so many of us are experiencing this craving for our screens. I thought it would be really interesting instead of trying to restrain myself, which is the usual strategy. And it's not a bad strategy, right?

Creating all these constraints and self binding behaviors and screen free practices, that's all good. But I thought it would be really interesting to try out the other direction. So rather than restraint, play with overindulgence. And this is a practice that has a long history in the tantric. Buddhist tradition where they often call this feast practice and the idea is that we can Basically, uh, begin to explore the other side of craving by indulging in these things that draw us.

And by doing that, we can actually sometimes even destroy the root of some of these, cravings and urges that we have. So I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to spend three days all day, every day, just gorging on this buffet of digital distraction. And for me, the primary drivers of distraction in my life are things like news and social media, TV, email.

So the way I set it up is I basically just told my family, Hey, I'm going to disappear for a few days. You're going to see me a little bit, but I'm mostly just going to be watching TV and on my screens. And I learned a few really interesting things. One is. That this link between insomnia and lack of sleep and screens is real.

So every night I was up at like 2 40 AM with no hope of going back to sleep. But I think the more important thing that I learned is I started to see what was driving me, what was driving all of us. In terms of our screen addiction and what was driving me was this experience or this seeking out of novelty, something new, right?

You think about you open your lock screen and you go into your phone. It's that experience of seeing the new text, or, like, the new email, or the fresh feed on Instagram, or the new news on your news app. And what was really intriguing about this whole experiment is that by spending 3 days, all day, every day with my screen.

I got to a certain point where nothing was new. It was almost like I had seen everything there was to see. And as a result, I had essentially annihilated the superpower of my phone, which is this ability to give me novelty. So the craziest thing that happened was the day after this experiment, I woke up and had the thought, you know, this is where I usually go and grab my phone and.

Check my latest text messages, things like that. And for the first time in almost a decade, that thought just completely fell flat. Like it wasn't even there. And so what I realized is we can alter our relationship with our screens through fasting. And I think that's a great practice, things like dopamine fasting, but we can also alter our relationship with our screens through overindulgence indulging so much that we almost reach this point of repulsion.

And, and that too has this kind of paradoxical healing power to it.

Kate Shepherd: What came up for me during that was it seems like a big cross section of us is stuck in a place that's kind of in between. We're not even kind of in between, but close to the, they're not quite overindulged yet. Like we're still waking up, like I, I wake up every morning and I look at my phone and I realize the other day, after reading your book, I realized the other day, What am I looking for?

I'm looking for like, the feeling I had was, I think I'm looking for like, the email announcing that I'm going to win the Oscar, but I, I'm not even an actor. Like I'm looking for some big, or the, that I won the lottery, like some big crazy news. I'm looking for something that doesn't exist. I'm looking for some big hit that doesn't exist.

You share some stats in the book. I'm going to read some of them because some of them were so staggering. , the average American adult spends 11 hours on electronic devices each day. The average smartphone user taps, types, swipes, or clicks their devices 2617 times a day, half of teenagers describe themselves as having a significant addiction to their phone. They get, they get weirder. This is where they start getting weirder. 40 percent of respondents chose their phone over their pets. 54 percent of millennials would choose their phone over their partner. Okay. And here. These ones, I actually, we have to talk about them, because I can't believe they're actually true. 12 percent of people would rather go blind than give up their smartphone, and 10 percent of people would rather cut off a finger , than give up their smartphone. What is going on here? What? What is what is going on here? That's crazy to me given that we know the emptiness of it We know that they feel we feel yucky. We know that it's this devoid We know that we're looking we get the dopamine hit, but it's always a disappointment How do we still feel this way about our devices There's a place we get sort of stuck unless we've done that overindulging thing where, where we're almost in a trance and we're still looking for it. What about, what happens for the people who are stuck there? How do we pull ourselves out of that, that low grade addiction?

Nate Klemp: Yeah. It's a really strange phenomenon. And I'm glad you read those statistics because I think that they dispel the idea, which a lot of people have. They're like, Oh, you know, well, we had TV 30 years ago. We had the radio a hundred years ago. This isn't that big of a deal. I think this really is a big deal.

And for anyone who has kids, you know, I have a 12 year old daughter whose friends all have smartphones now, and she's got an Apple watch and you can just see that they're living in a very different world than I lived in. Certainly when I was a kid growing up in the eighties and the 1990s. So I think that those statistics offer an important call to action, I would say, and one of the ideas that I like to play with here is that it's easy to say, like, oh, well, you know, we're all craving our screens.

We're all addicted to our screens. We should probably do a few little things at the margins to see if we can try to improve our relationship to our screens and. You know, hopefully that will be helpful. And I actually think it's, it's way bigger than that. So Cal Newport wrote a book called digital minimalism and he used a great analogy, I thought, where he likened this to a David and Goliath like struggle.

Where we are, David Goliath is all of these huge technology companies that are using the most sophisticated AI algorithms in all of human history. All toward the goal of like keeping us on site longer and essentially manipulating our psychology such that we have this insatiable craving for our screens.

So I think that's just a helpful analogy because to me, what that says is, okay, we need to take this pretty seriously. We need to think both about what are the strategies we're going to use to be more skillful with our technology. That's the closing piece. But then to the other piece of the book and, and a lot of what I've been thinking about lately, I think it's, it's bigger than just like, how do we stop using our technology?

It's also about how do we cultivate practices in the midst of our everyday life that allow us to be a little bit more open, a little bit more expansive because. I think one misunderstanding about this screen addiction stuff is that it's not just this craving that's happening. There's also an underlying sense of unease for most of us that's fueling the craving.

So if you go one level beneath the craving, what's really going on? Well, often there are these deeper emotional, psychological traumas and wounds that all of us are carrying around. that make it so difficult to just be in the present moment in the first place. And I think we have to almost like go down to that deeper level to start to really unwind the thing that's keeping us, you know, addicted to our screens.

Kate Shepherd: That's a hard sell because you've got, you've got this candy store of delicious

and very effective ways of keeping us from feeling this horrible stuff that's under the surface for a lot of us. And I mean, I don't, you know, a lot of us, even people of incredible privilege are carrying around traumas and it's not a competition for, you know, I'm not suggesting that, but like, I think to be alive, to be human, you're carrying around stuff that. in this day and age is probably unprocessed, but it is a hard sell. You can either have this little very handy dandy device that's never far away from you that will make it all go away over and over and over again. Or you can embark on a very unknown, terrifying journey that nobody told you about that there's no guides for, or if there are, you have to really go and find them. It's a hard sell,

Nate Klemp: It is a hard sell and I, I think you're right that In every moment, it's almost like we're at this fork in the road of life and one path is lined with all of these amazing quick hits of pleasure. If you think about that as maybe the Instagram path or the TikTok path.

Right? It's, it's just seductive and it's easy and it's so pleasurable and it's so fun in a way.

And then there's this other path, we'll call that just staying in the present moment in idle time, which is really kind of uncomfortable for most of us. And the, that path involves some discomfort and some unease and some boredom and some experiences that we might not want to fully face and some emotions that we don't want to feel.

And so I think it is a really hard sell. And I also think in all of this, we should remember to stay compassionate toward ourselves and to have that spirit of unconditional friendliness. That's what Pema Chodron calls it toward ourselves.

Because I actually think there are times where it's totally fine to binge on Netflix and it's totally fine

to binge on Instagram.

And actually I've set up this thing in my day that has worked really well for me that might work for others. I call it dopamine dessert. And the basic idea is instead of trying to resist all of this and be like, I'm never going to check my phone, you know, and I'm never going to watch TV or whatever. I actually try to time box it.

So in the middle of most days, usually when I'm eating lunch, I have my dopamine dessert. What that means is I give myself a half hour. So to just totally binge on anything I want. Go to any site that I want. Just see the, the most base crappy stuff out there on the internet and it's okay.

And what's cool about that is then in the morning, when I have an urge to pick up my phone and look at the news or whatever, I can think to myself.

Oh, wait, I have dopamine dessert coming up. I don't need to

check this now. So all that's to say, like, I think we want to be compassionate with ourselves. I think we want to give ourselves the ability to indulge in this. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with that, but we also want to make sure it doesn't take us over.

Kate Shepherd: I want to talk a little bit about the default mode. You write about something called the default mode in the book and oh, there's a little bit I'll read. I'll read a little bit again to set it up. Harvard psychologists, Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth found that the average person spends somewhere around 47 percent of their waking hours lost in the state. Of mind wandering. They also found a strong correlation between mind wandering and unhappiness as they explain a human mind is a wandering mind. And a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost. This really surprised me because when I think about my mind wandering or daydreaming or, you know, I, it actually conjures, you know, sort of good, happy feelings. So I was surprised to learn that there's there, what is the emotional cost of this wandering mind default mode that we go into?

Nate Klemp: I actually think you're pointing to a really important nuance of this whole discussion of mind wandering because mind wandering is often correlated with stress. But it's interesting that there are also studies that show there's a correlation between mind wandering and creativity,

which I know is your wheelhouse and that makes a lot of sense, right?

You think about the really creative insights and ideas you've had. At least for me, there are often ideas that come from being in a place of mind wandering for an extended period of time and then all of a sudden something just clicks

and I'm like, oh, that's it. That's the idea.

So I think there's a lot of nuance there.

And what I would say is, it's almost like there's 2 different forms of mind wandering.

There's a kind of mind wandering that's happening at a really high, fast pace with an amped up nervous system, which I think is the kind of mind wandering they're mostly talking about

where it's that experience of mental swirl that we all have, where you're just completely disconnected from the present moment.

And there's just all this thinking about the past and the future and what do you got to do in two days or 10 years or whatever. And that I think is, is destructive in many cases, because, you know, if you think about the definition of anxiety, looping through thoughts about future anticipating things, worst case scenarios, and that's almost exactly it, right?

It's like, negative mind wandering is anxiety is stress. So there's that dimension of it, but the other dimension of it that I think is really interesting is. When we are able to slow down a little bit and when we're able to have a little bit more contact with the present moment, that same experience of mind wandering can have, can lead us into these amazing realms of creativity

and insight.

So it is kind of a weird thing. I think they're, they're these two different experiences of mind wandering. And we're sort of having both

all day every


Kate Shepherd: I'm so glad that we had this little plan. Um, and I'm going to talk a little bit more about that in just a moment here because that, that's so helpful because the other day, yesterday I was thinking about talking to you today and I was in the woods and my mind was wandering and I was like, Oh no, my mind is wandering and I found myself getting a little bit stressed about it, but what had just happened was that I had just had a really great creative idea.

And so then I started thinking, well, That can't be bad, but I had never thought about the difference that, that nuance before. And I think as we go through this process of opening more to these idle moments and opening ourselves up to the richness that can happen in our, in an open mind, this could be a really helpful sort of, um, Pointer or instruction like to notice the feeling of the quality of the kind of mind wandering that you're doing Is it that amped up nervous system? Am I worried about? Oh god, it's taxes And you know all the crazy worries that we have that are just on that feedback loop Or is it that other kind to just be able to even tell the difference between the two could help you on your way I'm

Nate Klemp: I think you're absolutely right. And I was having that same experience before we talked today. I intentionally went for a walk, you know, with no ear buds. I was just walking and I had the same experience where I was thinking about creativity and, you know, What are some of the experiences of creativity I've had and it was a very wandering mind.

And then, you know, my mind would think about, oh, I got to pack for this trip that's happening tomorrow and this and that, but there was something beautiful about it in the sense that I was able to cover some ground prior to our conversation. That was helpful to prepare me. So there was a moment, I think of productive mind wandering.

My nervous system was not in that super amp state. I was in nature. It was a sunny day. It was beautiful. So yeah,

it's a, it's a cool and interesting distinction. And to your point, having the awareness to be able to distinguish between the two, I think is really valuable because. If you're in that more amped up form of mental swirl style mind wandering, that's often not productive at all and creates a lot of stress and anxiety.

One tool you can think about is just what can I do right now to relax my underlying biology and my nervous system such that I can move to that deeper experience of. Almost, um, contemplation might be a better word for mind wandering at that

Kate Shepherd: Yeah or openness.

Nate Klemp: or openness. Exactly.

Kate Shepherd: I want to talk about And I'm going to read the little paragraph again that you have in the book from Happy Land.

Because that just really resonated for me. I know that this place doesn't exist, can't exist, never will exist. Happy Land. I'm sure you know this too, but somehow that doesn't matter. Somehow, we still live as though we're one diet hack, meditation, promotion, drug journey, sexual escapade, remodel, international vacation, or lavish meal away from happy land. It's always right there in front of us, like that rabbit racing along the rail dog track. Always just one step out of reach. So, when we fail to grasp it, which happens every single time, it's because we did something wrong. We screwed up. We trusted the wrong influencer, ate the wrong thing, read the wrong book, took the wrong job, booked the wrong flight, swiped the wrong dating profile. Or chose the wrong self improvement program. First of all, we're so hard on ourselves, right? But how

do we break free of the illusion of happy land? Like there is no happy land, all of the things that we're doing and you know, all the Instagram, all the striving, all the, there is, it, it doesn't exist and we know that

conceptually, but how do we finally break free of the illusion of happy land so that we know it in our bones so that we can be free of it?

Nate Klemp: Hmm. Yeah. This idea of happy land, I think is a trap all of us experience. And to go back to that analogy I used before of the two roads, the road lined with pleasure, that's maybe the road of happy land and then the other road, which is. The road where we might experience some discomfort or emotional unease or, something that doesn't feel good.

Basically, we live in a culture where the gravitational center is all about that road of pleasure. And I don't know about you, but every time I go on Instagram or even look at my podcast app, your podcast being an exception, but many of the others are all about this idea that like. If you just do all of these things

and you fast intermittently and you meditate every day and you exercise every day and you work out and you lift weights, you're going to live to 180 years old and you're going to feel amazing all day, every day.

And I think that this is like an illusion that's been really deeply ingrained into our modern consciousness. And this, I think, is one of the biggest barriers to cultivating a more open mind because this illusion keeps us coming back to that state of closure.

You know, there's, there's a way in which there's actually a, a tightness to it.

There's a compression to it. There's this idea that you need to control everything and you need to hold it all together. And that's how you're going to get to this place called happy land. And this was an insight that kept coming up again and again for me throughout the journey of this whole process.

And this book was seeing just how deeply trapped I was in this illusion. And how at every turn, the biggest insights and the biggest creative moments came during those moments where I realized, oh, my gosh, there's, there's no happy land here. There's what's, what's actually more skillful now is to just be open to whatever happens to be arising.

I'll give you 1 concrete example, because all of this is kind of abstract. I've had this ringing in my ear for 15 years, tinnitus, and I spent. Well over a decade just trying to control this thing and get rid of this thing and essentially shift from a state where Nate has tinnitus to a state where Nate is happy all the time and his ears sound

amazing. And so I tried everything you can imagine. I scoured the Internet for every supplement and practice and this and that and nothing ever worked. And the way I actually was finally able to come to peace with this ringing in my ear was paradoxically to just stop the efforting and just realize I have ringing in my ear.

I'm going to just like open to this experience of the ringing in my ear. I'm going to see if I can welcome this experience. I might not always like it. I might not always feel good, but paradoxically, that was the way I was able to achieve this kind of peace. I would say with this thing that had been tormenting me.

So, to me, that's a, that's another, it's a more concrete example of what it might look like to let go of the illusion of happy land. And open to whatever happens to be arising in the moment, even if it's not what we want.

Kate Shepherd: There's a passage in the book where you talk about the flight that you're on when, when you have that moment where you, where you surrender to it. To me, it struck me that you were surrendered rather than you chose, like they're different.

It's a, it's a, it's a nuance, but it is, to surrender is something that you choose to do

and to be surrendered is something that happens to you. as a result of other forces that are not just up to you. And I feel so confused about how to get to surrender with these things, because it's almost like I used to have a meditation teacher who would say, well, you'll just keep going until you run out of gas in the can. There's actually, and you, it's not up to you how much gas there is.

And you can, there's, we don't, and we don't know how much. So you'll just keep going and then one day you'll stop and then you'll realize, you know, that was kind of his teaching. But are there things we can do to hasten that. Letting go that surrender there, you know, you have, you've had several, and I'm sure all of us have had several life experiences that we can point to where we're like, Oh, that was the moment where it was almost like I was so at the bottom.

I was so at the, at the core of my suffering at the, I was empty. I didn't know what to do. I was so lost. And I asked for help. And. And. then in that little moment, it opens up in the, it's not always that dramatic though. You know what

I'm saying? Are there ways that we can cultivate the conditions to be surrendered from the things that are costing us all of this?

Nate Klemp: As you're asking that question, I was actually just coming up with this distinction that I had never thought about before, which is a distinction between extraordinary moments of letting go and surrender and everyday moments of letting go and

surrender. And to your point, those extraordinary moments of letting go and surrender are so beyond our control.

Yeah. To even call them a practice, I think is like a lie. I

Kate Shepherd: Yeah.

Nate Klemp: mean, I write about a couple of moments in the book where yes, I had an experience of letting go and surrendering, but did I try to do it? Did I make it happen? Was I the, the conductor of that experience? Not at all.

It was more like I found myself in a situation where my ordinary model of life and how the world worked was just crushed by life.

And I had no choice but to just open up to something else. I mean, it just happened. And so I think those are actually extraordinary moments. And one thing I would say about those moments is that for me anyway, and I think for most of us, when they happen. They're usually perceived as some of the worst moments of our life.

And so

it's really interesting just to have the awareness that those quote unquote worst moments of our life can paradoxically be the best moments of our life. So there's that. But then to your point, I think there is this other class of letting go and surrender. That's more everyday and ordinary that we do have a little bit more control over.

And there are certain practices I think we can use to do that. So one of the practices. I do a lot and I write a lot about is meditation and mindfulness. I think that the essence of a mindfulness practice, when you're just sitting there for 30 minutes or so, or 10 minutes or 20 minutes and allowing whatever happens in your body or your mind to be as it is, that is kind of like a a training, a strengthening and conditioning program for letting go

because the whole time. The things are happening outside of your control. My neck is hurting. I'm tired. I shouldn't be tired. You know, all this stuff. Is happening and you're just coming back to that place of like, okay, that I can welcome this. I can allow this to be exactly as it is.

So, there's that, but then I also think practices like yoga and certain forms of breath work where we're intentionally.

Relaxing the nervous system can also be really conducive to letting go because. At least in my experience, the more amped my nervous system is, the tighter my mind and body are, the more difficult it is. To surrender to some of these uncomfortable emotions or experiences. So there's a way in which that is a practice we control and it's a practice we decide to do, but it's also like planting the seeds

such that letting go can arise organically on its own more often.

Kate Shepherd: The image I had when you were saying that was that it's almost like when you're, when you do these practices like meditation or breath work, you're almost training your system, all the cells in your body to know what it's like for game day. When the big, when the big thing happens, it can go, Oh yeah, we've done this.

It's it was smaller when we did it when we were just sitting on our meditation cushion, but I think we know the formula for this. We just, we open to it.

Nate Klemp: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Kate Shepherd: about, um, psychedelic assisted therapy as a way of opening and healing. In the lead up to this part of the book, you name a bunch of reasons why it's something that you would never do, and I was totally with you. I'm a super conservative nerd. I came, I actually came from a really chaotic family where there was a lot of drug use and addiction. And so I grew up as somebody who was like, I'm not going to do those things so I was like, Nate and I are on the same page, and then you,

Nate Klemp: And then Nate went off the deep end.

Kate Shepherd: and then Nate went off the deep end and did it.

Tell me about your experience with Ketamine Assisted Therapy.

Nate Klemp: Well, you're right. I entered this whole project. First of all, I wasn't even planning to write about psychedelics, let alone take psychedelics. But I started to realize that there was all this amazing research out there, the second wave of psychedelic science that's happening right now, There's a case to be made that some of the advances happening in psychedelic treatments, psychedelic assisted therapy are the equivalent of the kind of revolution they had in psychiatry 50 years ago with SSRIs, that really there hasn't been a big idea or a big breakthrough like this in a long time.

And some of the data coming out of these studies is really impressive. So I started to think if I'm going to write about what it means to cultivate a more open mind. And unlock some of these deep scars and patterns we have, I should at least think about this, maybe experience this. So the other thing that opened up the door for me around this is that there's this really important distinction I came to see between psychedelics, the compounds themselves, things like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine.

And psychedelic assisted therapy, the pairing of these compounds with a skilled guide and intentional structure of support integration and all that. once I started to see that distinction and read the research that really, when you, when you're engaged in psychedelic assisted therapy, you can mitigate a lot of the risks that arise in recreational use.

And those risks are huge. I mean, I write in the book about, like, people I knew who had catastrophically bad trips. And, you know, so bad, like a relative of mine got to a point where he had major depression for 30 years. Couldn't hold down a job after taking once at a rock concert. So, for some people that these compounds can be really, really bad.

So there's a very high risk, but I think for some people, there's a potential reward there. That's pretty high as well. And what I learned over the course of experiencing this firsthand is that there's a way in which, at least for me, the experience of psychedelic assisted therapy allowed me to open to what I would describe as the unopenable.

Certain parts of my mind that, if I were to try to go there in ordinary consciousness, like, there's just too much resistance to even touch it. So one example is I've had a fear of flying, like flight anxiety for =about 20 years, and during one of these psychedelic assisted therapy sessions, I found myself on this plane, and I'm flying around, and I feel something that's very strange to me.

I feel totally relaxed and at ease while flying on a plane. And then I'm watching myself on this plane as the plane is careening to the ground and I watch myself and every other passenger get incinerated and, you know, I tell my therapist, Oh my God, like it's a, I'm watching this plane crash. It's a work of art.

It's all so beautiful. It's God. I realized God is a plane crash. And I know that sounds absolutely insane. But what's not insane about that experience is that then when I would go to fly on a plane, it was like, my mind had this alternative pathway that I didn't have access to before where I'd feel some anxiety and all of a sudden.

These images of the, I called it the ketamine express would arise in my mind. And so I think this is not for everyone. And I try to make a really big deal that there's so many ways we can open more space in the mind that don't involve this. This is not a mandatory step on the journey, but for some people, it might be a really powerful way of opening up to experiences that, that they haven't been able to process in any other way.

Kate Shepherd: Yeah, I thought about that a lot, you know, as, as, as I went through that part of the book, because I, you know, as I shared earlier, I, I am somebody who's gone through a lot I went through a tremendous amount of childhood trauma and I'm a very functional adult. I have really

amazing protective parts that came in and were like, we're gonna, it's fascinating to watch, but there is a lot of undigested stuff.


Nate Klemp: Yeah.

Kate Shepherd: a lot of frustration with the incremental nature of traditional psych. And I

mean, I have the best, I have the best therapist in the world. She's amazing. We've done some great work together, but it did make me wonder when I read your book. if this might be something that I, because there are places that there are just so protected and these parts that I've generated are so good at protecting


It, like, it really is amazing, but I, I don't, I think I'm ready for, they're not ready to let go, but I'm ready

for them to let go. And so I have wondered, um, so I was very grateful to. that you went first.

Nate Klemp: The guinea pig.

Kate Shepherd: Thank you for being the guinea pig. And I was surprised. I didn't realize that, that, that some of those things were that ketamine, for example, is FDA.

I didn't know that

Nate Klemp: Right.

Well, yeah. And I think that the one last thing I would say about psychedelics is the best tip I could offer anybody is just to be really careful and really tap into your own intuition. I investigated psychedelic assisted therapy for a couple of years. I have primarily had experiences with two compounds, ketamine and MDMA, but my intuition has been very clear for me.

There are other compounds out there that sound fascinating and I'm super curious about them, but I'm just not going to touch those things

because I know my mind is somewhat delicate, it's prone to fear and anxiety. And I just have this sense that there are certain compounds out there that don't have the same kind of safety blanket that a compound like ketamine and MDMA have

that would just rock my world and that I am not ready for.

Maybe we'll never be ready for. So all that's to say, like, I think this is a place where there is, there's a meta practice of opening here around something like psychedelic assisted therapy, which is really opening to that. Deeper voice, that deeper intuition and seeing if there's a yes there, seeing if there's a no there and having that itself be a practice.

Kate Shepherd: What would you say, I mean, your ketamine journey and also just all the other things that you did as a result of this book? What would you say the impact has been on your, your intuition and your creativity and that inner voice? Like if you were to look at Nate three years ago and Nate today, what do you think is the biggest change that you've personally undergone?

Nate Klemp: Well, there's something interesting about writing a book that's so deeply personal and so vulnerable. That was a creative challenge that I wasn't quite sure I was up for, but then I wrote a book and it went off to press and it was kind of too late to pull back, which is really fun. I mean that, that in itself.

Has a psychedelic feel to it.

This feeling of like, okay, here we go. I don't know if I can handle this, but here we go. So that was a really big unlock for me just to see that I could put some pretty vulnerable experiences and parts of myself down on a piece of paper and turn it into a book. And that the world could read it and some people could say this was amazing and some people could say, I hate this you're a narcissist, you're neurotic or whatever, right?

Like, you know, if you go on the Goodreads or Amazon reviews, you'll, you'll find something like that for every book really, but that I think was, was a helpful creative moment for me because I started to realize, okay, well, if I can take that risk, What are some of the other risks that I can take creatively? Cause I survived, I'm still alive, you know, nothing, nothing horrible has happened to me. And I think that feels like a big part of, at least for me, my whole creative process. Has a lot of it has had to do with fear and this feeling of like, I don't know that I could do that. That feels too big. That feels too scary.

And then training myself and my nervous system to get to a point where I can do that. And then there's like the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And for me, I don't know, creativity and, and being with fear feel very, very much like intertwined as a process. I don't know if you, I'm curious, do you have that experience as well?

Kate Shepherd: Yeah, there's a lot of, um, you have to make really good friends with uncertainty

because it's, you're stepping fully into the unknown

and you're not really there anymore if you're doing it right

Nate Klemp: Yeah.

Kate Shepherd: and wrong. I don't want to, there's a paradox with every word that you're going to use, but yeah, that also applies to then what happens when you put it out into the world,

you know? And you just, there's a lot of, yeah, I think it's the same, I think it's the same thing. You talk in the book about, At one point, I think you say something like, just because you can open to everything doesn't mean that you should. And I thought that was worth pointing out because I had a little bit of that feeling when you were going into the psychedelic and I was like, well, just because he can doesn't mean he should. And then you did it and I read it and I understood and then it was, it was the right decision. I'm really glad that you did that and I was happy that it worked out the way it did.

But there are times when I actually think the mechanism of closing is. Very wise, you know, like I talked about my own protective parts. Like they did that for me to save me from something truly terrible. And thank God they did. I wouldn't probably be here in the form that I am today. So closing actually is a really important part of being alive.

And I think through this conversation, what we're realizing is that we're, we're using that tool a little bit too much, but I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the, this idea of discernment. How do we begin to understand and learn and know? What things are appropriate to open to and what things are appropriate to close to given that we live in this Fear based world like the context of most of our existence is fear Like that's what drives so many of the systems around us and so much of our own systems are driven by fear So given that that's our kind of backdrop What part of ourselves do we need to tap into to accurately know?

What to close to and what to open to?

Nate Klemp: I think this is a really important point. And I started off by thinking that opening was an unqualified good that we should open more and open more and open more. And there are a lot of teachings out there in the spiritual world of this kind that say, you know, everything is workable, open to everything, even the deepest fears and this and that, and I don't necessarily think those are bad.

But I had this one experience that just really floored me and taught me the lesson of what I would call the need to skillfully close sometimes, which is that I was getting this pretty major gum surgery. And I decided it would be really interesting to turn this into like a hardcore opening experiment.

So I talked the surgeon into letting me do it without sedation and just stay awake during this procedure, which was supposed to be 90 minutes, but then it ended up being three hours. And it was like such a crazy, horrible, painful experience. And my daughter was in the waiting room hearing me scream and, you know, It created a lot of unnecessary suffering for me, for my daughter, for my wife, for the surgeon, for the nurses.

And so I had this moment after the fact, as I was reflecting on all this, realizing at this deep visceral level that yes, opening is good. We want to strive toward cultivating a more expansive mind. And I actually do believe that we can open to almost every part of ourselves, even those really deeply scarred, traumatized parts of ourselves.

We need radical support to do it. Certain medicines can help us get there, but that doesn't mean we need to open all the way all the time. And so there, there's this idea of skillful closing that I've been playing with a lot, which is basically just the idea that sometimes, It's more loving to yourself in the world to close skillfully than open.

I interviewed Anna Forrest, who's a really famous yoga teacher. And she told me about being in a state of recovery from addiction and that if she didn't close down to her previous friends and relationships, she would have fallen back into addiction, that that was not a good choice for her or for her family.

when it comes to this question of like, how do we discern, it's not necessarily easy, but the guideline that I would put out there is it's often a good thing to see if you can open to discomfort, unless it's kinder or more loving to yourself or others to close. That's kind of the guideline that I use, and I know it's not an exact formula. But that's been really helpful for me as I think about

this for myself, that there are certain moments I encounter in life where I say to myself, you know, that's, that's not the best moment to open. I would be better off, the world would be better off if I skillfully closed in this moment.

Kate Shepherd: Sometimes saying no to something is saying yes to something

Nate Klemp: Yeah,

Kate Shepherd: right.

So there, there, it's everything, I mean, we're, everything is a paradox, everything is a, and you just, it becomes about taking a step back and looking at, go, yes, I'm closing to this, but what am I opening to by closing to this?


Nate Klemp: totally.

Kate Shepherd: to be maybe more, At the wheel, I guess, like a higher part of ourselves is at the wheel, deciding which lever to pull rather than just, you know, having it go on. But, cause right now we're, I think we're on autopilot. I think that's the problem is that we're on autopilot and we're mostly closing.

And that, you know, that's a problem in its own way. But if we're all open, it can't, it

can't be that either. Cause then it's just a disaster in another way. So it's a matter of like, how do we learn to drive this thing properly?

Nate Klemp: Yeah, the

philosopher in me. What came up for me is, Aristotle, he defines virtue as the mean between too much and too little of something, which I think is just such a brilliant way to define it.

So, if you think about that with respect to opening and closing. What he's essentially saying is you don't want to do too little of it.

You don't want to close down all the time, but you also don't want to do too much of it. You don't want to go around saying yes to everything. Yes. To every incoming request. Yes. To the person who wants to scam you on the phone. Like that's not a, that's not a good way to live either. But the other idea he had that I think is useful here is that if you are stuck on one side of that polarity.

And I think most of us are stuck on the closed side. It can be very powerful to what he calls overshoot the mean. So

to go a little further than that middle point toward the side of openness, because if you do that, you're probably going to end up kind of in that middle range. So I think it's actually okay to experience or experiment or explore radical forms of opening.

You just don't want to go too far.

Kate Shepherd: love that. I love that. at the end of every episode, I ask what I call the billboard question. And normally what it, the way I ask it is, you know, if you had a billboard that, you know, let's, let's assume that there's all these people out there who long to open and wish they could open , but are struggling with it. Don't know how to open. Don't know when they're closing. Don't know, worried about getting like all the things we've talked about and you could write one thing on this billboard that would grab their attention and sort of calm their system down so that they could hear what they needed to hear. What would you put on the billboard?

Nate Klemp: The first thing that comes to mind is. It's okay to stop trying so hard

Kate Shepherd: Oh, I love

Nate Klemp: because, because this is one of the paradoxes of what we're talking about. Same with creativity, right? Like if we're treating opening like the way we treat other things in life, building a business,

training for a marathon, all the other things we do in life.

As this thing, we're just gonna grind it out. We're going to effort our way there. I don't think we're actually going to experience much opening,

you know, so that's the paradox. And I guess the billboard, I think, could be useful in the sense that it's like, what if you just stop trying so hard and then see what happens and that's a

lesson I have to tell myself again and again and again with everything with, you know, My business with writing, with doing a podcast, it's just like, if you stop trying so hard, like, all of a sudden, everything can really start to open up in a

kind of magical way.

But boy, that's a countercultural concept.

Kate Shepherd: It is. Definitely is. Thank you so much for joining me today. This was a really, I loved this conversation so much. Where can we, how do we support you and your work and what you're doing? How do we learn more about you? Where do we buy your book? What's the best way to support you?

Nate Klemp: The book is available everywhere books are sold, open, living with an expansive mind in a distracted world. And best way to find me is my website's Nate Klemp with a K dot com. I'm also on Instagram at Nate underscore Klemp. And I try to be, it's a strange practice, but I, I try to be like on Instagram, giving people tips on how to not be on Instagram while also

trying not to be on Instagram myself.

So it's a weird thing I'm trying to do there. I haven't totally figured it out, but I love the idea of having a community of people who are. Interested in this sort of practice. And, and that's a, a goal of mine, a dream of mine is to have a place where we can all just kind of share how we're experiencing this.

Kate Shepherd: I love that. And you have a great newsletter people can

Nate Klemp: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for bringing that

Kate Shepherd: some meditations and you have actually at the end of the book, there's a really great sort of like toolkit for how to get started and

some practices to do some of these things. So I really would encourage everybody to check that out too.

Nate Klemp: Yeah.

I'm not saying that we should all rush out and find a therapist who's equipped to walk us through a ketamine assisted psychedelic. Healing journey. But. One thing that having this conversation with Nate really opened me up to was that there are so many different ways available to us to help us open to our experience of being human. The brutal and beautiful and. Difficult and exquisite up and down struggle of being human. And we get to find out what works for us. , one of my big takeaways from Nate's book.

And from this conversation with Nate, Was inspiration to be brave, to open, to maybe more and to open to things that maybe I didn't feel like I could open to in the past. Give myself permission to peek around corners that might've seen scary to me.

Armed with this, knowing that I get to decide.

I get to use my own wisdom and discernment to feel into what are the things that I can open to that are going to help. Bring more of myself into the world. And what are the things that forcing myself to open to would just create more harm? You know, like I picture him on the dentist chair. Going through a three hour dental surgery, just to prove that he could open to pain and really realizing like, actually, maybe that wasn't necessary. I didn't need to go down that road.

If you take one thing from this episode, I hope it's a little bit of a light bulb moment that You know, what's right for you. you already have everything you need inside of you to discern what things are good for you to open to. And what things might be more wise for you to close to so that you can step into

the truest, , most vibrant creative version. Have you.

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