“Caught fully and apprehensively in the double anxiety of having to live and having to die, the ego undergoes the excruciating torment of the most piercing indecision of all: to be or not to be.” — Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, E. Fromm and D.T. Suzuki
For much of my adult life so far, I have felt incomplete, unsatisfied and unfulfilled. I have always known that my truth is of infinite value to me alone — even if this truth is my own inescapable suffering.
In bursts of depression throughout my early 20s and prior, the principle casualty has been my self-worth: absent of self-discipline and motivation. I took a test at a doctor’s once, but I was not deemed unwell by their metric.
I was and remain determined that cannabis helps in many ways that packaged medications could not provide. It feels like a healthy medication because in the frugal but frequent amounts I consume, I have consistently maintained sovereignty over my own emotions, for better or worse. In my experience there is no magic bullet to penetrate the psyche from outside. Unless, of course, it penetrates from deep within.
From the age of 19 I have dabbled in psychedelics, with increasing frequency and ritualization as of late. I feel a will to adventure in my very wiring as an intensely self-aware consciousness of large ideas. Your mileage may vary and you are by no means advised to replicate my scenario. Let this tale demonstrate that psychedelic healing can be as strange as it takes.
My first experience of ego-death happened in unlikely circumstances. I had inhaled Diethyl ether at one particular house party (from a pair of underpants I promise were clean), which did and did not get me in the party mood. It remains the closest I have felt to death. It was not until my intellect had caught up with the weight of this experience in the space of a few years that I realized it was indeed ego death I had felt: a complete totality with the wholeness of the cosmos — but beyond all articulation in the moment.
The feelings of crushing hopelessness and complete self-loathing in me were the result of a fictional corroboration of unrelated events to form an unreal anti-ideal that I held myself to. I never wanted to dominate my negative feelings, only for them to exist in greater harmony with my positive feelings. My negative chatter has now found a safe place to dwell where its effects are as temporal as its nature, and where I can be informed rather than influenced by it.
This has not always been so easy. I went from lonesome schoolyard break times, to finding the right crowd at sixth form college — then I gradually withdrew, socially and academically, from university (to pursue a sweetheart in a bad domestic situation), followed by a long, slow breakup and hand-to-mouth poverty in an unfamiliar town a long way from home.
In search of shamanic truth I participated in a very 21st Century ritual. As these things so often take place, the trip was in a friend’s out-of-town-parents’ house — complete with a lovely but static old VW bus on the drive. I had voyaged with mushrooms and acid on my own several times in the past — trips I spent watching lectures, writing, and dancing around naked in the living room for my own amusement. This time was one time for all time.
The setting was a party of maybe a dozen friends, and the time was late enough to be very early. There was a small amount of MDMA to start, later followed by a yogurt that contained some leftover psilocybin mushrooms and two teaspoons of morning glory seeds, which contain LSA (LSD is derived from LSA). The way I ritualize these things is with a modest amount of neat spirits and several bombers. On occasion I have tried the combination without alcohol, which for me nearly isn’t quite weird enough. I have water available at all times.
After the noise in the party got to be too much, I decided to take myself upstairs and have a conversation with my state of mind. I gazed out of the window into the night, shut the curtains, lay down in silent darkness and asked out loud:
“Alright then, what can you teach me?”
This surrendering..[was] unlike anything I had experienced before. I remember more than I saw: very, very subtle, sublime colored visuals with memorable images, almost like floaters in the eye, accompanied at all times by sustained intellectual dialogue of very powerful ideas about existential language. Seemingly these links could have been hewn from bits of previous, even low-threshold experiences. It was the end of childhood. My truth was observed behind my own eyelids.
When I was satisfied, I returned to the party to stare at the moving Artex on the ceiling in hysterical laughter. There was a time which followed afterwards of complete calmness, depth, and clarity — the same feeling successful meditation offers, but amplified and turned up to 11 by its presence in otherwise waking consciousness.
After everyone had crashed and lay down to obey gravity, it was time for me to observe the view. After frantically scrawling in a notepad, I finally settled down to something which resembled sleep at about 9:30 am. It was a timeless period of only impartial consciousness which somehow brought me to 3:00 pm where I was unsure of having slept at all, yet not fatigued.
My largest hammer for carving meaning in existence is philosophy, and my fascination was always with people — but this took so long to see because of the depth of feelings (good and bad) which people can bring, or sometimes have brought to me. I am absolved from the pain with renewed courage.
Past traumas felt so real because they were fixed aspects of my existence I clung onto, at odds with the transitory nature of daily life. My experiences with these plant psychedelics taught me that happiness itself is a process and not a co-ordinate, just like dancing or music. The point of dancing is to dance, not to arrive. The best song is not the one that gets to the end the fastest. Never hesitate to let go and find your place.