Mushrooms and Meditation Saved My Life
What do mushrooms and meditation have to do with avoiding near death dangers? My tale shall tell this.
In early march 2020, I packed up my favorite musical gear and headed east, to Taos New Mexico. I was going to sublet a friend’s small cabin just 15 minutes outside of Taos. As I turned onto the dead end road leading to the cabin, my rickety prius bouncing along the uneven bumps, I looked out into the extending mountain lines and felt their massive looming silence. Snowy patches of mountain tops peering through mysterious mountain mist. I’ve always thought it profound the way mountains are both so mundane and solitary and yet by that same virtue, so resilient and seemingly timeless in world where all else are much more noticeably effected by time. Perhaps this is the spirituality one finds in the mountains. There’s more of that here.
Mountains aside, what I didn’t know was that this quiet landscape would almost be my final resting place.
Getting in just at sunset, the temperatures were rapidly dropping -the forecast predicted reaching near freezing. The cabin was quaint, old and off the public gas-line system. This meant the primary heating source was a propane tank attached to a very dated flame heater. This was where the silent danger lay.
Upon getting settled inside, I cranked the heater as instructed by my friend and his landlord. In fact they both said it was typical to keep it on all the time, just very low. This, however did not seem safe to me. The heater looked akin to some bulky equipment from the era of the first moon landing. It probably looked old even in the 80s. So I kept it on only very minimally and never while sleeping. I thought it seemed questionable in terms of a fire concern and given that it appeared to be about 30 plus years old, but I didn’t contest it very much given that both my friend and his landlord seemed to think all was normal and perfectly reasonable.
As a coastal Californian I’m typically affected by altitude changes at least somewhat noticeably. So for the first several days I took it easy, focusing on writing music and completing a audio production course I was enrolled in. I began to notice many odd things; dizziness, shortness of breathe,music concepts, songs and techniques within the audio software I’d been using for quite some time were suddenly extremely confusing and unfamiliar.
Over the first few days inside the cabin, I was having my normal breakfast routine of oats with a mushroom cognition mix - cordyceps, lion’s mane, Chaga, Maitake and 10 minute meditation. For the meditation, I would sit outside on the back porch, with mountains in full view.
It was during this time that I believe the power of mushrooms and meditation saved my life. Each morning, each time I meditated, my thoughts kept returning to the heater. How old it seemed. Then to the fresh air outside. With meditation, I find myself every closer to my breathe throughout the day. It was with this closeness to my breathe that I began noticing a difference in my physiological experience while being inside versus outside. At first I thought, “hmm some powerful elevation”..But as time went on, and the symptoms of altitude should have dissipated, I continued to experience a difference in the feeling of oxygenated air. It was on the 6th day of mediation that a thought suddenly occurred to me -
“What if the heater is leaking carbon monoxide or propane? Surely I would smell the propane, but carbon monoxide is from combustion and thus doesn’t have an odor added to it for noticing a leak…”
I went into town and bought a Carbon Monoxide reader. The moment I plugged the battery in, the alarm started wailing “CO exposure 50ppm!”. To make sure it wasn’t the fridge or some other appliance, I turned on the heater and went outside. Within less than an hr, the alarm was showing 100ppm. Yep, that’s probably the heater (but I turned off the heater and kept the CO detector on, because science).
At 1,400ppm death occurs within approximately 2 hours. Now, given I only had the heater on for an hr that morning - and I’d just spent time going into to town, it had very low amount of time to reach such a high exposure. I quickly realized that the level exposure I was getting after 5 days for 5–6hrs of the heater running was likely in at least the 600ppm range, probably higher.
When I look back on how I was able to piece this situation together, it would not have been possible without clarity of mind and a felt sensitivity to my breathe and body. These are the gifts of mushrooms and mediation for which I am forever grateful!
The following are some details on each type of mushroom in the blend I make. All of these contributed to me being more resilient to the carbon monoxide poisoning and identifying the source of the problem rapidly.
One important factor is that most of these mushroom are rich in potassium, which helps to replenish electrolyte levels that are drained due to effects of high altitude.
One of the weirdest things I’ve learned about the cordycep mushrooms (there are over 400 types) is that some are a parasitic fungus that infect insects and their larvae, eventually sprouting out of the host’s body in order to release spores and propagate. It’s quite a terrifying science-fiction like means of survival these fungi utilize. Oddly, for humans, this same mushroom is used as a supplement to improve sex drive, promote kidney health/ prevent disease, treat fatigue (as an exercise supplement).
Here are a few interesting research findings:
Animals have shown that cordyceps can decrease overall levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
From test-tube studies, there is indication that Cordyceps inhibit the growth of human cancer cells, including lung, colon, skin and liver cancers.
Cordyceps are also understood to be helpful in exercise, primarily because it helps increase the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is crucial for delivering energy to the muscles.
Numerous studies suggest that this may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise. These remedies of cordyceps that make me believe consuming mushroom supplements played a role in saving my life.
See, during carbon monoxide poisoning, at prolonged exposure, one can begin seizuring and/or going into cardaic arrest, muscle and brain atrohpy begin to occur etc. etc.
In one study of younger adults, there was a 11% increase in VO2 measurement compared to placebo group.
VO2 is a maximum oxygen uptake measurement.
I feel that having the maximum level of oxygen getting to my brain possible was the essentially part in me realizing that there indeed was a carbon monoxide leak. Not only did it allow me more oxygen uptake, but also likely reduced heart strain that commonly occurs due to the heart over working trying to pump more oxygenated blood to the brain.
Thanks Cordyceps, I owe ya one 😉
Chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and are believed to support a strong immune system. Also, in numerous laboratories and animals studies have indicated that Chaga inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Check out Memorial Sloan Medical Center published findings.
A single one of these mushrooms can grow a huge 20 pounds!
As polypore fungus, Maitake mushrooms don’t have gills like most other types of mushrooms. They’re often found growing on wood, especially in climates where oak trees thrive.
The health benefits from maitake mushrooms are wide ranging. As healthline.com puts it:
“Compared to other mushrooms, maitake has shown better results in preventing and treating cancer and other health conditions. Maitake also has a positive effect on overall immunity.”
They contain rich amounts of potassium, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin B and C, among many others.
Altitude sickness usually involves lower levels of potassium
Here’s a 2013 study indicating maitake may help fight cancer cells.
Lion’s Mane has many studied usages including treating dementia and helping with depression or anxiety. But more relatedly to carbon monoxide poisoning, it is believed to help with neurological injuries and do prevent brain damage during a stroke. Guess what one of the more severe side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning is — yep, it’s a stroke, coma and/or brain damage. In several studies in rats with nervous system damage, recovery time improved 23-41%. Check out the NIH.gov publishing here.