Mind Exploration for Answers and Healing with Psychenaut Mike “Zappy” Zapolin
Photographer credits: Laurent Levy
Award-winning documentary filmmaker, conscious entrepreneur and plant medicine advocate, Mike “Zappy” Zapolin, had an idyllic upbringing. “I was raised in a good home and always had a lot of encouragement from my family. After graduating from college I made the money, fell in love, started a family. I was living the ‘American dream’,” he explains. So imagine his surprise, when after achieving so many societal milestones by his late 20s, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. “Here’s a guy who had it all, according to society’s standards; and yet, I still felt unfulfilled.” So Zapolin, never one to turn down an opportunity for growth, set out to discover exactly what was missing.
While soul-searching, Zapolin recalled some profound psychedelic experiences he’d had in his youth. “I wondered if psychedelics should be part of the methodology I employed to seek answers,” he says. But it wasn’t until 2008 while re-reading the Bible with his alternate perception that it hit him so clearly. “I was reading about God providing the Israelites with manna from heaven during their period of wandering in the desert when it struck me—could this manna actually be mushrooms?” pondered Zapolin, who then called up his friend Deepak Chopra to discuss the possibility of psychedelics being mentioned in the Bible. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Were some religious experiences tied to psychedelic plant medicines? And, could taking them induce a similar spiritual experience in me?”
Zapolin’s conversation with Chopra made it clear that there was more he needed to experience. “I realized the part that was missing was that I was searching for happiness outside of myself. And maybe, I’d never be truly happy until I went inside,” he says.
Armed with the intent of expanding his consciousness, Zapolin decided to try plant medicine and assembled a film crew and cast—including famed actress Michelle Rodriguez—to document the journey. “About a dozen of us in total hiked the Inca Trail to sit with a shaman and drink Ayahuasca and San Pedro tea. It was a very powerful experience which left me with no doubt that there absolutely is a spiritual component to these plant medicines—they’re not just drugs. These plant medicines are very healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.”
That initial ceremony breathed new life into Zapolin. “I recognized this ancient wisdom may be the answer to so many of our modern problems.
In addition to more mind exploration experiences, including Ibogaine and ketamine treatments, he incorporated meditation and breathwork into his life. He also became the spiritual director of the Kismet Clinic, a holistic ketamine treatment center in South Florida. “All of this has totally opened me up. I’m not resisting anything anymore,” he declares. “I realized that what I thought were some of the worst possible experiences in my life turned out to be the best things that ever happened to me. If I would have known this earlier, I would have been more relaxed in my life.”
Because of his affinity for going within for answers and healing, Zapolin is now spearheading a movement. His latest venture, Mind Army, advocates for the rights of each of us to go inside our own minds through the use of organic and synthetic compounds like Ayahuasca, ketamine, Ibogaine, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. “That’s where the answers to so many of our problems can be found. And we’re demanding for the Constitutional right for us to legally and safely access those answers. We only see about 1 percent of reality; the other 99 percent is an illusion. When more of us can overcome this illusion and tap into the reality of truth, we can overcome many of our contemporary society’s issues.”
Zapolin’s work is quickly gaining traction. His riveting documentary film The Reality of Truth, which explores the relationship between spirituality, religion and plant medicine, recently won the Amsterdam Film Festival’s Van Gogh award. In addition to documenting his Inca Trail adventures, the film features counsel from top thought leaders like Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, Marianne Williamson and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. With almost one million views on YouTube and countless film screenings around the globe, the film is making its mark. “One of the most gratifying aspects has been hearing how the movie has literally saved people’s lives,” he shares. “I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that they felt hopeless. But, the movie spoke to them and they went off to journey with the plants instead.”
Zapolin realizes that using psychedelics for psychotherapy is a controversial subject, but he feels that it’s timely. “More people than ever are being called to journey within for answers and healing. It’s amazing! We need a critical mass of people to go inside their minds,” he asserts. “When they do, they’ll get a deeper sense of self, shift their perspective and gain more empathy for the world around them. It’s so much easier to solve problems when we can experience true empathy.”
Zapolin shares that the journey is there for everybody. “Whether it’s a trip to Peru or Costa Rica to sit with a shaman, or a trip to a ketamine clinic in the U.S., you just have to put yourself in the right setting. Know that you’re going to heal and expand your consciousness and that whatever you learn is going to be great.”
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