There is still anxiety that arises, for me, when ingesting psychedelics. It is anxiety born from the fear of knowing that what I’m taking into my body will propel my conscious awareness into the unknown — the prospect that it could splay open parts of my psyche I would rather keep hidden in the catacombs of my subconscious makes me feel vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable. But, that is the point of psychedelics — within the right context they are entheogens, effective agents for healing and expansion.
I’ve had “good” experiences and “bad” experiences with them, although I prefer, however, not to label my journeys as good or bad anymore. They are simply experiences and I get to choose the meaning. In seemingly uncontrollable situations like these — such as when participating in an ayahuasca ceremony — there is comfort in knowing that at least I get to choose the meaning afterward and create my own significance. Until then, I buckle in, pony up my ego to the sacrificial altar, and dive in or blast off.
This is what makes psychonauts like myself so unique — we willingly submit ourselves to the great mystery to gain more insight into ourselves and nature. In doing so, we sometimes obliterate our psyche by choice (or by accident) so that when we come back we are more whole and have a greater knowledge of how to navigate the waters of existence. Sometimes all it takes is 15 minutes.
I have navigated many realms within the biological and synthetic pharmacopeia of hallucinogenic entheogens. My allies in that arena are psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, 2C-I, MDMA, mescaline, ayahuasca, and DMT. The most profound and life-altering experiences for me occurred when using psilocybin, LSD, and DMT. Today I would like to share some of my experiences with psilocybin.
I could have used a cultural context for my first trip, which was with psilocybin mushrooms. I was a senior in high school, preparing myself to enter the United States Military Academy, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into with those foul tasting, oddly shaped fungi. My buddy simply said, “Let’s try these,” handed me about two grams of dried mushroom from a plastic baggie, and off we went.
Without going into specifics, about an hour later (after consuming a little alcohol and some marijuana, silly me) I ended up planted face-first on the carpet of a strip club from probably a little too much sensory overload. I passed out for what felt like 30 seconds, my awareness suspended in space and transfixed on an incomprehensibly beautiful and radiant rainbow-luminescent black hole that had suddenly taken residence in my field of vision.
In actuality I was unconscious for seven to ten minutes. Awakening outside on the sidewalk where my friends had dragged me, confused, with a throbbing and swollen head from the massive forehead-to-chin rug-burn that materialized when I mistook my face for a carpet sweeper, I humbly gathered myself and re-entered the fine gentleman’s establishment and sat quietly the rest of the evening pondering my fate.
Without a context and a guide to integrate it, I ended up brushing off that first experience as just another crazy night and went on with my life. This was unfortunate because I wanted to say so much more to my father other than “I tripped and fell,” but I was terrified to do so. Thankfully, after a number of years and distractions I was finally able to look back on that first journey with love and compassion for myself, not only recognizing that at the time I was a naïve and uninformed teenager, but that I was also a neophyte with a curiosity for what lies behind the veil and a taste for plunging myself into a state of awe. The foundation for my path was laid and I started on my way.
That way eventually crossed paths with my wife. She and I proposed to each other 10 hours after we each ate 4 grams of mushrooms that were packaged neatly into homemade chocolate balls. We spent an evening tripping around the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver, CO, letting ourselves be enveloped by soft grass while watching an effervescent sky, feeling like I was standing still and the world was flashing by as I ran sprints around the park, yelling and repeating “WAKE THE FUCK UP” at the top of my lungs at 2 AM, and eventually collapsing into a warm pile of naked with the woman I knew and felt was a part of me.
Recognizing and feeling infinity in someone else who simultaneously recognizes and feels it in you is one of the most powerfully bonding and ecstatically charging experiences available to us on the planet. It’s like passing through a birth canal — every single part of myself is open to examination by another, and when they say yes and choose all of it, despite the blemishes and the scarring, it is liberating beyond comparison. My wife and I share this bond due, in big part, to psilocybin mushrooms.
It is exactly that kind of love — gushing with vitality, total vulnerability, complete trust, and absolute acceptance — that is the essence of entheogens when taken in the right set and setting. There are many other dimensions, of course, but it is always love that is the foundation for a transformative and healing psychedelic experience. It is a shame that so many people in our Western culture have been barred, not for scientific but for political means, from the opportunity to experiment with these compounds without the specter of retaliation from the jackboot of governmental intervention.
Thankfully, all of that is about to radically change as we enter an era of cognitive exploration, and entheogens blast open the frontiers of the mind with reproducible results. The political denial of their medical, psychological, and societal benefit is coming to an end as more and more individuals are properly educated, inspired, transformed, and share their experience.