I. Psychedelics and Healing
II. Theory (How And Why This Work Works)
III. The Primary ToolsIV. Supplemental Non-Medicinal Practices That Will Support Your JourneyworkV. Finding A Practitioner
VI. Using A Sitter
A. For The JourneyerVII. Setting Up Your Journey Room
B. For The Sitter1. Destruction2. Sexual BoundariesC. Special Guidelines If Your Sitter Is Your ‘Significant Other’
3. A Guiding Light
4. The Gentle Reminder
6. Agreed Upon Reminders
7. Outside Contact
8. Primitive Behavior
10. Silence is Golden
VIII. Things To Bring Along On Your Journey
IX. A Framework For Treatment
A. Build Trust, Motivation, And Safety In JourneyspaceX. Recommendations And Guidelines For Doing A Journey
B. Establish A Lifestyle That Supports Journey Work
C. Introduce New Medicines Gradually To Gain Safety And Familiarity With The Experience
D. Identifying the Blocks and Traumas, and Tailoring the Medicines and Dosages to Permit Safe Release of Trauma Without Retraumatization
E. Digging Down Deeper To Uncover Hidden Trauma
F. Resourcing Through “Good” Journeys
G. Going Slow Through The Difficult Parts
A. A SitterXI. The Peak Experience As A Healing
C. Record Keeping
E. Coming On
F. The First Commandment: Thou Shalt Stay Out Of Thy Head
G. Fear Of Drugs
H. Letting Go Of Control
I. Media During A Journey
J. What To Do (And What Not To Do)
K. Common Traps And Pitfalls (The Defenses) And How To Work Through Them
L. Encountering Defenses
M. Confronting Defenses
N. Winding Down
O. Post Journey
A. Restoring Sanity With The Peak ExperienceXII. Journey Checklist
F. Limitations Of The Peak Experience
Your Contributions to this Guide
PEELING THE ONION
LAYERS OF THE PSYCHEDELIC HEALING PROCESS
If you are being drawn to explore psychedelic therapy you are probably motivated by pain and frustration. You may be suffering from chronic depression or anxiety. You may be unhappy with your life, struggling with addictions, or unsuccessful in career or relationship choices. Perhaps you have tried many forms of self-help, medications, and mainstream therapies but have been disappointed with the results. Psychedelics may very well be the missing tool that gets you unstuck.
If you have been in traditional cognitive and talk therapy your first challenge will be to let go of any preconceived ideas of what psychedelic therapy is. Psychedelic therapy is an exciting and profound experiential voyage beyond normal conceptual frameworks into the vast, mysterious realm of the psyche.
Your journey may be nothing like you expected, read about or imagined. Your path will be unique to you but there are many commonalities that most people share.
You cannot fix or heal that which you are unaware of. Therefore, the first step towards change is AWARENESS.
The consciousness expanding property of psychedelics reveals thoughts, feelings, sensations, and phenomenon that are normally outside of our awareness.
Early in your explorations you may become aware of dysfunctional patterns of behavior, social masks, and roles you have played to avoid pain and get acceptance. You may discover denied, repressed parts of yourself that are vulnerable and soft, powerful and wise, primal, luminous, dark, deceitful, afraid, angry, brokenhearted, etc. As you begin to embrace, explore, integrate, or heal these parts you will become comfortable being more genuine, honest, and compassionate with yourself and others
You may become conscious of ego defenses such as projection and denial as you catch yourself using them. Psychological concepts you may have understood intellectually now become tangible experience.
You may encounter visions of demons, deities, mythological archetypes, etc. that symbolize parts of yourself, significant others, spiritual phenomena, or emerging patterns that may be explored, integrated, or healed.
A peak experience of peace and transcendental bliss may expand your awareness of possible states of consciousness beyond what you have encountered before. A taste of this blissful contentment allows a chronically anxious person to sample an alternative, healthier way of being in the world. As this state becomes imprinted and integrated into consciousness it becomes familiar and more accessible without using drugs.
You may experience yourself as pure consciousness beyond your mind and body. You may discover your "Higher Self" in the form of deep inner wisdom, intuition, spirit guides, animal totems, ancestors, etc. The information, clarity, and guidance you get may prove to be astonishingly accurate.
As the psychedelics begin to soften psychological defenses and cut through denial you may begin unearthing repressed childhood memories that expose the truth about your family, your childhood, and yourself. As missing pieces of your past are remembered and felt, the roots of your psychological issues and the trajectory of your life begin to make sense.
If scary, painful feelings or disturbing thoughts and memories begin to surface, you may be surprised at how difficult it is to breathe fully. As you are prompted to breathe by your guide you may discover how deep breathing helps you relax, softens defenses, and allows the deepest healing to begin. Experiencing the pleasure of breathing into previously constricted places in your chest and belly may inspire you to break your habit of shallow breathing in everyday life.
Becoming attentive to the rhythmic rising and falling of your chest and belly gives you something hypnotic and soothing to focus on. Keeping your mind engrossed in this discipline you may become aware of incessant thoughts that keep you from being fully present and conscious in the moment; keeping you one step removed from the direct, sensual, soulful experience of life.
You may begin to observe how the constant chatter of thoughts distract you from going deeper in journeyspace.
As you navigate beyond the thoughts in your head and shift attention into your body you will notice how psychedelics greatly amplify previously ignored or repressed sensations. Parts of your body may vibrate, feel tingly, electric, warm, and alive. Other parts may feel tense, heavy, painful, numb, jittery, cold, or dead. As you breathe into problem areas you may find they contain stored grief, rage, or terror. Visceral memories of childhood trauma may begin to surface.
If you habitually live in your thoughts you may be surprised to discover that you have little awareness of your body, or parts of your body. You may need your guide to continuously coach you to breathe and steer your attention inward.
As you become more experienced in journeywork, you will become more conscious of, and be able to master habitual ways you keep your attention out of your body.
FACING YOUR DEMONS
At the root of most persistent psychological problems and psychosomatic medical disorders you will find physical and emotional trauma that was too overwhelming or painful to feel and process at the time it happened. Trauma may result from experiences like neglect, betrayal, abandonment, humiliation, and lack of love, as well as physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Every trauma that has not been felt and released is frozen and buried in your psyche and body. Hiding within the trauma are "demons" that ruin our lives.
As you leave your thoughts behind and imagine expanding your breath into your body you may become cold, nauseous, dizzy, feverish, or drowsy. You may begin to shiver, your breathing and heartbeat may quicken, your teeth may chatter, you may have the urge to urinate, defecate, vomit or flee. If this happens you know you are right on the edge of accessing buried trauma that is ready to be felt and released.
As your breathing softens muscular armor, your body may involuntarily tremble, spasm, or thrash about. This is the body's instinctual wisdom discharging trauma from your nervous system.
You may experience your legs kicking or running in place. Your hands may clench into fists that pound or punch. Your arms may make pushing-away movements or protective gestures. These are thwarted "fight or flight" impulses that were frozen with the trauma. Surrendering to these spontaneous movements and impulses like belching and vomiting are also ways to release trauma from the body.
As you focus your attention and breath into places in your body that are hurting, agitated, tense, or numb, powerful feeling states may pour into consciousness. In the safety of a therapeutic setting the full impact of old emotional wounds may be felt and released in cathartic explosions of grief, rage, or terror. You may become regressed and engulfed in a full sensory experience of previously dissociated or repressed emotional and/or physical trauma. You may access the intense physical pain of rape, injuries, abuse, surgery, etc. as if it is happening right now.
You may not have explicit, linear memory of the trauma as it is being released because the overwhelming intensity of the original experience interfered with the brain's normal information processing and storage. The evidence that you are accessing authentic biographical material is that your life will begin to change after the trauma is discharged.
"All our neurosis are substitutes for legitimate suffering."
As you come out of the shock of trauma you may begin to feel layers of fear, sadness, and anger that were frozen within the original experience. In a supportive, therapeutic setting the ability of psychedelics to penetrate denial and melt defenses allows you to safely feel emotions you may have spent years running from.
You may need to grieve the absence of protection, love, and caring that crippled you for many lost years. You may need lots of time to nurture and comfort your wounded self. In an open, altered state, love and comfort from a caring sitter can be deeply imprinted, reprogramming unmet childhood needs for attention, acceptance, respect, understanding, and tender touch.
As the old pain is felt, the protective walls you built around your heart begin to melt. You begin to be able to love and let love in deeply. Your courage to feel old pain eventually results in a new capacity to feel joy.
When the trauma is completely felt, discharged, and grieved you will feel lighter, calmer, and happier. Addictions, depression, neuroses, psychosomatic medical issues, and dysfunctional patterns of behavior and relationships will fall away. You are now able to love and care for yourself enough to create a life where the deepest needs of your heart and soul are met.
THE HERO'S JOURNEY
The healing process in much like the mythological hero's journey. Shaken from complacency by a crisis or suffering, you begin the quest for a cure. You meet a healer, swallow elixir, close your eyes, and plunge down the rabbit hole into a mysterious inner world. You face fears, discover enchanted realms, enlist allies, and conquer demons.
There is no single Yellow Brick Road to follow. Once begun, your healing journey unfolds with its own unique, organic intelligence. Your first steps may be full of beauty and wonder as you discover ethereal realms of consciousness beyond the ordinary. Navigating through these realms gives you glimpses of vast, unexplored, inner landscapes.
If you are driven by suffering and a quest for healing you will certainly, eventually encounter domains of darkness guarded by the fierce demons of your fears
When you are strong and ready for the task, you walk through your fears and begin the descent into hidden pain and trauma at the core of your being.
Each psychedelic session may reveal a new layer of previously repressed, biographical material to be acknowledged, felt and integrated. You may find many layers of fear, anger, and sadness about different issues from different periods of your past.
The more intense and prolonged the trauma, the earlier in childhood the trauma occurred, the longer your trek through the darkness may be. For some, a few sessions can be life changing, for others it may be a long and winding road. But, if you surrender to the process, taking time to rest and recharge after each encounter, you will come out into the light. The pain and trauma stored in your body and psyche is finite. Once felt and discharged, you are forever free of it.
As old wounds are peeled away, you uncover a self that has been healed and transformed by the Hero's journey. You emerge from the adventure happier, stronger, and wiser.
I. Psychedelics and Healing
The use of psychedelics for the healing of trauma is a practice thousands of years old, well-documented in many indigenous cultures all over the world. This website is intended as a resource and information exchange for persons using psychedelic substances in therapeutic practice.
Psychedelics work unlike any other healing modality currently available. Psychiatric medication is designed to extinguish or alleviate symptoms. Talk therapies aim at finding solutions through the mind – in understanding, cognitive and behavioral modification, and acceptance. Even when augmented by clinical hypnosis, dreamwork, energy psychology and other experiential techniques, psychotherapy is ineffective or maddeningly slow to heal deeply entrenched defense patterns arising from profound early trauma. Bodywork, breathwork, and other body-centered healing modalities may undercut the body/mind defenses, but rarely do they tap as deep into our innate mechanisms for healing as do properly used psychedelics.
Psychedelics allow the individual to access and bypass the primary lockdown that a traumatized mind may exert over the natural self, often expressed through neuroses, personality disorders, and phobias. Psychedelics permit the innate intelligence of the body, and five million years of evolutionary development, to step in and unleash natural healing from the inside. They allow healing at the root cause of our ill – be it physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, or all of these. They work in the places the intellect is afraid to go. Psychedelics appear to zero in on the blocks, constrictions, dysfunctions, and distortions that accumulate over a lifetime. Psychedelics permit an individual to access unconscious and highly defended memory – areas that are accessible through other modalities only after many years of work, and sometimes not even then. They cut through denial and provide a safe container for the release of trauma. They provide the clarity and openness that lead to integration, making it possible for people to reclaim their whole, fully-functional selves and realize their highest potential.
These pages offer the collective experience, knowledge, thoughts, and observations of practitioners and participants who have been using psychedelics for healing. The information contained herein is both anecdotal and based upon the observations and experiences of the authors and contributors to this site. However, the field is new, the work is experimental, and the results thus far are groundbreaking. What works for one person may be universal, or may have little or no relevance at all to others. Thus, the information provided here is offered as a kind of rough roadmap – an early travel guide to an unknown foreign land. It is based on what has worked for others, and what kinds of guidance might be extrapolated from their experiences.
There is one caveat that would be wise to apply to everything you read throughout this site: “Your mileage may vary.”
2. Theory (How And Why This Work Works)
Evolution has equipped humans with a variety of mechanisms to ensure survival, even in the face of major traumatic injury. Many of these survival strategies involve the displacement of the impact of the immediate trauma in a given traumatic experience. By displacement, we mean, as the trauma is happening, it is not being felt, experienced, absorbed, and assimilated by the person that it is happening to. A traumatic injury that is overwhelming to the person’s system would ordinarily kill them or bring on a psychotic breakdown. But if some or all awareness of the trauma could be frozen, set aside, or transformed into something else while it is happening, the person might be able to survive the initial traumatic incident. Then at a later time, when the person has reached safety and become stronger, they could feel the trauma and move past it.
Have you ever barely escaped being in an auto accident? Chances are you responded quickly and appropriately to evade the danger, but then had to pull off the road to wait for your body to stop shaking and your heart to stop pounding before you could drive on. But what if there were no place to pull over and stop? What if you had to keep driving, and do it safely, for the next hundred miles before you could rest? You would have to bypass your fear and your body’s reactions by suppressing your breath and tensing your muscles so you could go on and do what had to be done. Something like that happens in response to any threatening situation when there is no safe way to process the pain and emotion out of the nervous system.
Infants and children are especially prone to traumatic displacement as a survival strategy. Infants and children have far fewer resources that might otherwise help them to process the trauma in real time than do adults: they do not have grown, developed bodies, fighting skills, a secure sense of self or a calming belief system, for instance. Their immature nervous system simply cannot process all the physical and emotional sensation that is generated by traumatic events or circumstances.
Modern life is not without traumatic peril, particularly with respect to children: Alcoholic and physically or mentally abusive parents; lack of basic care; incest and other sexual abuse; the list is long and tragic. When traumatic events happen to children today, they respond in the same way as our ancestors responded when threatened by the saber-toothed tiger. They displace the overwhelming feelings for later processing if they should survive. The child is able to postpone the full, head-on experience until sufficient resources are available (i.e. Mom and safety) to feel that which was not capable of being processed at the time of injury or life-threatening danger. In today’s world however, there is often no such safe, supportive milieu until much later in life. Thus, the organic mechanism inherent in our biology that allowed the self to postpone an overwhelmingly traumatic experience now permits an individual to subsist with their traumatic experience unhealed. This co-existence with shattering events, held within our muscles, nerves and psyche as if they were still happening, is the primary reason lives become dysfunctional. We are in pain because we are, in fact, still hurting from the unprocessed traumatic event.
Over time, the inner walls built up to keep the trauma at bay harden and solidify. We become walking wounded -- numb and unremembering, but bleeding nevertheless. A tremendous amount of our daily energy is diverted from our lives to keep the walls between our conscious existence and the wounded part of ourselves intact. Our “normal” or even “happy” childhood is a fiction our minds invent that, if repeated over and over – 24 hours a day -- becomes ‘almost’ true. Psychedelics act like the little boy in the story about “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” They give us an objective look from outside of ourselves (a perspective that is not invested in keeping up our fiction), that lays bare the lies we tell ourselves, the things we run from, the parts of ourselves that we do not want to look at. Soon we see the patterns, the ways our repressed early trauma is creating the emotional and physical dysfunction in our current lives. More and more clearly we discern the walls built on fiction, and we begin to let those walls dissolve in the face of what is true. Soon we have achieved a more grounded, honest, and happy participation in our own lives.
As our minds release the trauma, so do our bodies. The clenched muscles loosen, freeing up energy to revitalize the body as a vehicle for living. This is all stuff that our ancient ancestors knew how to do instinctively, but it was lost to us when thinking became the dominant function through which we experienced and dealt with life. Psychedelics short-circuit the civilized mind’s inhibiting influence to allow for an integrated, holistic reorganization of the self.
3. The Primary Tools
There are many tools in the psychedelic pharmacopeia that have therapeutic uses. This section discusses four basic and readily available substances: MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), and marijuana. Each has unique benefits, and each has unique limitations. They can be calibrated by dosage, they can be enhanced, and they can be mixed, providing a broad palate of combinations to unlock even the most defended being. All of the colors of the rainbow can be derived from but three colors: red, blue, and yellow. Similarly, these four materials, with time, patience, and skilled, intelligent use, will open a space for healing virtually any psychological wound.
IV. Supplemental Non-Medicinal Practices That Will Support Your JourneyworkA. MDMA (Ecstasy)DosageB. LSD
- In most persons, an effective dose is between 90 and 130 milligrams. When used by itself or as the primary tool for a session, the therapeutic dosage ranges from 90 to 260 milligrams. The best therapeutic results are obtained when the material is divided into two doses administered one hour apart. This provides an effective working period of 5-6 hours.
- MDMA is a relatively mild, highly controllable feeling enhancer. It is ideal for working with emotional issues. It softens feelings of fear and shame, allowing the subject to talk honestly and candidly about painful or embarrassing issues they may never have felt safe to disclose before...even to themselves.
Use in working with trauma
- MDMA lowers chronic psychological defenses. It engulfs the subject in warm feelings that promote trust and open communication. Thus, it speeds development of an effective therapeutic bond between client and therapist. This effect of MDMA also makes it ideal for couples counseling.
- MDMA's famous "ecstatic" experience of feeling good, relaxed, open, peaceful and present in one's body can be revelatory for people who have never experienced such a state in their adult lives.
- Fully realized human beings often feel relaxed, open, and peaceful just naturally. So MDMA gives the subject a glimpse of the end goal of therapeutic work. They get a taste of the life that is possible when trauma has been released and one’s human potential is no longer blocked.
- MDMA magnifies awareness of body sensations, thoughts, emotions, and intuitive perceptions that are normally repressed or ignored.
- Therapeutically used, MDMA is a powerful tool for breaking the spell of denial and amnesia that keeps people in the dark about the existence, source, or intensity of prior trauma. Freed of fear and shame, the subject is able to vividly recall, feel, and release the primal terror, pain, and rage of forgotten trauma without being overwhelmed.
- MDMA does not pierce as deeply through some of the veils of denial as other psychedelics.
- MDMA sometimes offers too much melting – such that the subject experiences a kind of buffering or softening of the trauma, which may result in a drifting off. If a subject is dosed with MDMA when they are close to significant trauma, then the MDMA can derail the progress made earlier in the session.
- Tolerance is a significant problem with MDMA. It will lose effectiveness over years of working with it. To maximize its useful therapeutic lifespan with a given subject, no more than 260 milligrams should be administered in a single session, and at least two weeks should elapse between MDMA sessions.
- Many people report jaw tightness, jaw tension, and even pain. Some of this is a side effect of the drug. Excessive jaw tightness can also be a symptom of held in anger and screaming. Going into the jaw pain/tension and screaming it out is oftentimes a way to release this.
- To maximize the therapeutic effects of MDMA, one must exercise discipline. Exceeding the maximum recommended dosage of 260 milligrams is likely to create unpleasant side effects that overwhelm any good that might have been achieved in the session. Also, using the substance more than once every two weeks will quickly lead to the development of tolerance, after which the benefits decline and die out. Embarking on this kind of work requires reliable administration of precise amounts of material in a manner that has predictable and dependable effects. You will want it to work when you really need it to work, and if it is utilized in an excessive manner, you’re going to come up short when you most need it.
- Many people feel substantially depleted for one or more days after an MDMA session. It may be difficult to sleep. Jaws may be tight or painful. The person may feel tired or depressed. Therefore, to the extent possible, subjects should clear their schedule of demanding work or difficult personal encounters for up to three days after the session.
- Contraction often follows the emotional and sensory expansion provided by MDMA. Returning, in large part, to their previously contracted state can be discouraging for the subject, who may think no progress has been made. The body’s contraction after a huge expansion is normal and, for the most part, healthy. It is a return to the boundaries which help a person navigate a complex social and economic world. But it can feel overwhelmingly sad and depressing when contrasted with the easily accessible memories of the expanded MDMA experience. The subject should be advised beforehand that they may feel down and depressed for a couple of days after the MDMA experience, but that it will pass, and then the subject will begin to observe ways in which they have become more open and functional as a result of the session.
- Persons with the following conditions should avoid, or at least use great caution in use of MDMA: Heart conditions; High blood pressure; Diabetes; Bipolar Disorder.
- Persons taking certain medications should avoid concurrent use of MDMA. If you are taking a prescription medication, check to see if combining with MDMA is contraindicated. Some over-the-counter cold medicines like Sudafed, dxm, feverin, and some asthma medications may also present problems with MDMA use. At a minimum, and as a precaution, limit or stop your intake of medications prior to your MDMA usage.
- Those taking SSRI antidepressants will have very little effect from MDMA.
DosageC. Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)
- For most people, the lowest effective dose of LSD is between 50mcg and 100mcg. When used by itself, or as the primary tool for a session, the dosage will likely range from 50 to 400mcg. A single dose, depending upon the amount, will provide an effective working period of 6 hours or more.
- LSD is a powerful, versatile tool that can enhance and expand insight into almost any task it is applied to, from playing guitar to rocket science. LSD enhances the faculties of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
- In psychotherapy its most salient quality is to greatly amplify whatever is hidden in ones unconscious.
Use in working with trauma
- Like a truth serum, LSD has the capacity to deprogram and awaken one from lifelong personal and cultural trance states. New concepts and profound realizations can be accepted and absorbed, replacing erroneous core beliefs about the self, others, the world, reality, life and death.
- LSD allows vivid access to buried memories.... like being in mother’s womb, birth trauma, infantile trauma, and early childhood physical and sexual abuse -- memories that are difficult or impossible to retrieve through mainstream therapy or hypnotherapy.
- With eyes closed, one can access a whole universe of sensations inside the body. Focusing on problem areas in the body can reveal psychosomatic roots of pain, malfunction, and disease.
- LSD promotes clarity. It cuts through trance and denial. It allows a strong focus that can illuminate the heart of issues.
- LSD allows access to previously blocked awareness of the inner worlds of body, psyche, and spirit.
- LSD may not be the best choice of meds to access emotions – although a subject who has a strong emotional nature will not be held back by it.
- LSD is not usually the best therapeutic choice for intellectuals and other head-trippers. It may create the illusion that all can be solved by thinking.
- Even small amounts of LSD have powerful effects.
- Overdosing with LSD can be overwhelming, dangerous, and/or retraumatizing.
- There is little uniformity in dosage of any LSD that can be bought on the street. Start small and work your way up with the material you acquire, and acquire enough of it so that you have the ability to gauge its strength and determine the appropriate dosage for your next journeys.
- Getting lost in trippy visuals or music may be a defense against deeper exploration. Breathe deeply and continuously to keep from being caught in the shallows.
- Unlike MDMA, LSD has no inherent warmth. Those who have significant childhood trauma may experience it to be stark and brutal in higher doses.
- The higher the dose of LSD, the more it may amplify negative transference. Hatred or fear originally felt toward some perpetrator, parent, etc. may be transferred onto the therapist/sitter. In the journeyer's mind the sitter BECOMES the feared or hated person from the past, and all safety vanishes from the setting. Having a second or backup sitter, preferably of a different gender, can save the day.
- Some prescription medications are contraindicated when taking LSD.
- For many, the aftereffects of LSD can be jarring or jagged. Sleep may be difficult without some form of assisted relaxation. Tolerance is less of a factor than with MDMA, but limitation in use is still advised.
- For most people, the lowest dose that can be felt is between 1 and 2 grams, depending upon sex and body weight (women typically require a lower dose). A therapeutic dose starts at 3 grams. It is essential that the user have a reliable scale that can accurately measure fractions of a gram. The difference between 1 gram and 2 cannot be distinguished by feel, but will be drastically felt once ingested. You will need to calibrate your dosage. Know what you are taking and how it affects you, and adjust as needed (sometimes by as little as ½ to ¼ gram). A single effective dose provides an effective working period of 3-6 hours.
- Note: The potency may vary from batch to batch.
- Most people report colorful geometric visual patterns when psilocybin takes effect, usually within 30 minutes.
- Sometimes journeys are sprinkled with childlike giggling and laughter. One may be able to appreciate the "Cosmic Joke"...seeing the humor in our lives, our culture, and the human condition.
- For some, memories and reenactments of hidden trauma surface as if they are happening for the first time in that moment.
- Some people sob for hours with previously unexpressed grief for their own pain and the pain of all sentient beings who suffer.
- Certain transpersonal experiences, which may also occur with LSD, are more common with psilocybin:Use in working with trauma1. Some people experience a state of pure, peaceful being and deep wisdom without thought or identification with ego self.
2. Some feel their interconnection with all beings and a sense of oneness with nature.
3. In higher doses psilocybin can open up realms beyond the ego mind, beyond space and time, beyond the personal unconscious into the collective unconscious ... realms of numinous archetypes and spirit.
4. Some people report accessing cellular memory of being earlier evolutionary life forms, being a sperm or an egg, intrauterine or past life experiences, and unhealed trauma from parents and ancestors, etc.
- Psilocybin is the primary key that powerfully, relentlessly unlocks the doors to an individual’s deeper truth.. It is kind of like the Drano for the self – anything that is blocked, constricted, or out of integrity will invariably be placed on the tarmac to become road kill. This is never a pleasant experience, but it results in profound, liberating change.
- When combined with LSD, the expansive nature of psilocybin promotes physical and emotional release of trauma that has been accessed and amplified by the LSD. As the nervous system releases suppressed fight and flight impulses, the body may involuntarily thrash about, shake, spasm, kick, hit, twist, etc. There may be deep emotional catharsis like sobbing or screaming.
- Psilocybin is unwieldy. It is seldom able to be focused onto a particular issue. It is not amenable to much direction by the will or by the therapist/sitter.
- Psilocybin promotes dissociation at higher doses. Experiment with moderate doses in order to stay focused on deep insight and trauma release.
- Psilocybin may promote nausea. Slight nausea is common, especially at the beginning of a journey. More intense nausea usually indicates that scary, upsetting feelings or unconscious material is coming up to be healed. After psilocybin has been digested and absorbed, vomiting should be allowed. This is one way the body releases trauma. The subject often feels much better afterwards.
- "Higher doses (5-10 grams) may cause temporary psychosis, highly amplified transference, and delusional thinking, usually during the peak hour of the journey. This may manifest as bizarre, unsafe behavior like wanting to fly off a balcony or believing the sitter is Hitler.
- Higher doses may also trigger "ego death" phenomenon in which journeyers seriously believe they are dying or going permanently crazy.
- In a therapeutic setting, where the intention of emotional healing is clear and strong, marijuana is a shorter-acting, much milder option that can work in some similar ways to psychedelics.
- This is an especially effective option for subjects who have not established a pattern of using marijuana recreationally or to self-medicate. Once doors have been opened with psychedelics, judicious use of marijuana can continue the healing process.
E. Edible Marijuana
- Smoking pot during a psychedelic therapy session is seldom a good idea. It tends to promote dissociation, fuzziness, and loss of focus. However, at the end of the journey, when the subject needs to let go and rest, marijuana may help bring on a much-needed period of relaxation and pleasure.
- Eating "Indica" strains of cannabis cooked into butter, caramels, cookies, brownies, etc. greatly amplifies awareness of bodily sensations
- This medicine allows those who habitually live in their heads to inhabit their bodies without necessarily triggering trauma as psychedelics might.
- Edibles can be combined with other psychedelics to promote specific explorations.
- Great care must be taken not to overdose (too much becomes scary rather than healing).
F. Mixing and Matching
- A prudent dose might be 5 to 8 grams. Taken on an empty stomach, the onset of effects may take up to an hour and a half, then continue for 5 or 6 hours.MDMA
- In a session where LSD is to be the principal tool, an initial dose of 90mg to 130mg MDMA taken with or a half-hour before the LSD will soften defenses and anxiety for newcomers to the stronger medicine. Similarly, when psilocybin is to be the principal tool, one may lead with a single dose of MDMA a half-hour to an hour before the psilocybin. For clients who already have a good relationship with MDMA, this is an ideal way to introduce new and unfamiliar substances.
- If a therapeutic subject using LSD or psilocybin is unable to let go of defenses and relax into the experience, administering MDMA at that point may allow them to proceed into deeper territory without fear.
- If a subject using LSD or psilocybin gets irretrievably stuck in a dark place, administering MDMA at that point may facilitate a gentle finish that will not leave them in a negative gestalt.
- For those who have been emotionally shut down, including MDMA in the mix with other meds may promote a more heart-opening experience.
- If the subject is chronically anxious and constricted inside, putting MDMA into the mix with other meds may promote relaxation and expansion.
- MDMA and LSD: adding LSD amps up the intensity of an MDMA session. It introduces the possibility of more clarity, and it promotes breaking through denial and amnesia.
- LSD and psilocybin: Excellent for trauma release work.
- Taking LSD an hour or so before ingesting psilocybin accesses and amplifies hidden trauma. Psilocybin then helps the body release the amplified trauma.
For a lot of people who come to the healing work, interior body awareness is absent and inaccessible. Yoga helps teach awareness of the interior of oneself – what it feels like to be feeling on the inside of your body -- what the individual muscles do, and how these muscles have distinct connections, movement, and embodiment. Yoga also teaches awareness of how the breath helps open up tight places in the body. This awareness is significant since it is into these places your journey will take you. Through the healing process you will be introduced and immersed into parts of the body that are complicit in your wounds. Your muscles and organs are holding in repressed or disconnected feelings – things your mind has been suppressing and blinding you to. Through the healing process, these places and feelings will need to be reawakened. Although you have spent a lifetime growing, developing, and using favored parts of your body, it is the parts that you do not use, that you disfavor, that are likely to be the places where your trauma resides. A good and thorough practice of Yoga will open you to those disfavored places, ignoring the bias that you have carried that has kept those places on your own insides unexamined and underdeveloped. Your journeywork will ignore nothing, and is likely to focus relentlessly on those disfavored places. To the extent you can open up your whole body to conscious awareness, daily movement, and inclusion in your perception of your entire self, consciousness, your journeywork will be substantially advanced.
The journeywork is very physically taxing. Six hours of emotional release in journeyspace can equal weeks or months of emotional release in a non-drug induced setting. This takes energy, stamina, and the ability of your body to sustain releases as they are happening. It would be unfortunate if you opened up to a place of deep healing, but could not sustain the opportunity because you were simply too exhausted to take it to the next level. Some type of intense aerobic exercise at least three times a week is strongly encouraged, and will pay big dividends in your journeywork.
Our bodies are regulated by two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) controls our everyday activities. It is what allows us to operate in "normal" everyday mode. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) controls our bodies when we are under stress and in danger. It is our "fight or flight" system. It is our defense mechanism. These two systems work together. Usually the PNS is active and in full control and the SNS is "on call," waiting for an emergency to activate. One is dominant, the other is passive and these switch as needed. The ideal operating system is for the PNS to dominate and the SNS be active only when needed.
During times of stress, if the situation is acute, and quickly dealt with, the body responds as needed and returns to homeostasis. When this occurs, the muscles respond/react as needed, taking care of the "emergency" and then returning to normal operating mode.
When stress is chronic or so overwhelming that a person cannot process it (trauma) our muscles respond with excessive or continuous contraction. They acquire a "pattern" appropriate to the stressor, i.e., the muscles retain additional contraction as well as some content of the stressor. It is at this point that trauma impacts us at the muscular level. It is at this point that one says "muscles have memory." They do, but it is not cognitive memory. It is the same level of memory that a pre/non-verbal child would have. Memory at this primitive level cannot be accessed via cognitive dialogue. Body work can directly access trauma at this non-verbal, often unconscious level.
Muscles will respond to body work in several ways. There can be an energetic release with mild to strong full body shaking and/or the person can have strong emotional reactions that are "trapped" in the muscles.
Trauma is composed of three parts: the cognitive/emotional content and the energetic component. It is the energized trauma that keeps the trauma "alive" and active. It is just waiting for the right stimuli to be released. We say one has "issues in the tissues."
The goal in therapy is to "deactivate" the energy trapped in traumatic experience. When that happens, the trauma is then a memory, but is not "energized." It is not active.
Combining Body Work With Psychedelics
Combining MDMA with body work lowers the pain threshold, allowing for more muscular release and also enhancing the ability of the client to engage more at the feeling level. You then have a therapy that is more intense and easier to engage in, resulting in faster and deeper results
Combining LSD with body work brings unconscious constriction and the emotional material locked inside into conscious awareness. Adding MDMA or a low dose of psilocybin to LSD tends to promote releasing.
Most of us are “thinkers.” Our society, our lifestyle, and our upbringing all encourage and reward thinking. Thinking, however, is not highly productive for journeywork. The best work is accomplished in places of no thought. It is the body, inner psyche, and deeply organic being places from which healing originates and is facilitated. Thinking gets in the way of those processes. The ability to quiet your mind is a skill. It is a difficult skill to cultivate, but it can be learned. Meditation is a time to spend inside, learning how to quiet the thoughts that buzz around in your head. Any steps at all that you take in this direction will be helpful for your journeywork. You do not need to attain mastery of meditation in order to get the benefits. Any time at all you spend practicing quieting your thoughts, sitting with yourself, just being -- all will be beneficial and show up as positive results in your journeywork.
V. Finding a Practitioner
If you are in any way contemplating doing this work, if at all possible, you will want to work with a skilled practitioner, experienced in the field of psychedelic healing. Even if you have to travel to a distant city, it would be well worth the time and expense to seek out an experienced practitioner so that you gain some familiarity with how a skilled practitioner comes to this work and holds space, assists, guides, and protects the journeyer while moving through their healing journey.
The reality is, there is no school, no certification, no training, and no guidebook on how to do this work. There are no mentors, no online resources, no hotline to call for assistance. Thus, the measures that a practitioner brings to bear are their own self-education, hand-on training, experience, intuition, knowledge, and familiarity with the incredible and unpredictable variety of human response to trauma, and each persons’ unique healing path, and unique responses to the medicines involved. No two persons’ responses to the same trauma are alike. No two paths to healing are alike. And, even for the same individual, using exactly the same medicines, in the same manner, under the same circumstances, no two journeys are alike.
What a skilled practitioner brings to the table is years of experience, and hard-earned, self-taught knowledge. These assets allow the skilled practitioner to be able to observe what can be bizarre, incomprehensible, and even scary behavior by the journeyer, and fundamentally understand from where in the wounded self this behavior arises, why and how it is coming up, how to protect the safety of the space in which the behavior manifests, and smooth the transition to healing that the release offers. The skilled practitioner can explain to the journeyer the nature and context of the scary behavior, can speak the words that the wounded self needs to hear to make the release a safe and healing one, and help the journeyer set aside negative judgment in a loving and caring space which the journeyer, in the midst of wounded and defensive trauma, is usually unable to provide for themselves.
Very small things, little movements, twitches, and involuntary jerks often accompany the journeyer over the course of a journey. A skilled practitioner understands these movements as communications of the body that have deeper significance and meaning, and has the knowledge and skills to be able to cultivate these body emissions into what could become profoundly healing releases. And a skilled practitioner can provide you with feedback – something that the mind so desperately craves and, to a large part, needs in order to be able to continue doing this work. This feedback is essential to allow the journeyer to be able to know the context and progress of their healing work as measured by the experience the skilled practitioner has in working with others.
In a hundred ways, a skilled practitioner can help you step around the many potholes and dangerous road conditions that come up on every journey, and substantially reduce the chances of retraumatization, deeper damage, and unfortunate journey experiences that cause people to turn their backs on this powerful mode of therapy. Thus, as stated above, if you have the opportunity to work with a skilled practitioner, it is very much in your interests to have at least a few sessions to gain familiarity and security in doing this work.
As noted above, there are no certifications or licenses for practitioners in this field. So, how do you know that the person you are entrusting your fragile and vulnerable self with is reliable, skilled, knowledgeable, trustworthy, and fundamentally understands what to do and how to help you in this healing process?
Here are some questions you may want to ask your potential partner in healing:
- What personal healing experience do you have with these meds?
- How long have you been doing this work?
- What medicines do you use?
- What books have you read to prepare for this work?
- What kinds of psychological training or education have you had?
- What do you do to insure the quality and purity of the meds you work with?
- Are there other people you have guided that would be willing to speak with me?
Even with all of the above, the reality is, the use of the substances described in these pages is presently illegal in most jurisdictions. You will therefore find little in the way of advertising by practitioners in this field. Word of mouth is likely the most effective way to find someone who regularly works in this practice. Alternative healing practitioners are more likely to have encountered someone who is engaged in this kind of work, or know of someone who works in this field. If you do not live in a large city, your chances of finding someone who has experience is likely quite small. In that case, your next best option is to work with someone you trust who can be a sitter for you.
Using a Sitter
For anyone contemplating doing journeywork, a sitter is absolutely essential for this work.
As discussed throughout this website, journeywork will be completely unlike any recreational trips you may have previously experienced. Any beliefs you have that you are experienced enough to embark on these kinds of journeys without assistance are at least delusional, and quite possibly dangerous. The fact that you are contemplating journeywork to seek healing, is, itself, a strong indicator that there are places inside yourself that are hidden, unexplored, and filled with things that you have been avoiding or blinded yourself to. Thus, the very idea that you will know what to do when you face your own unconscious and long-hidden material for the first time in journeyspace is folly. So, use a sitter.
A sitter performs certain essential functions, and, with experience, a sitter can make significant contributions to the journeywork itself. This section will assume that the intended sitter has little or no experience in sitting for another’s journey, and then offer guidelines for the more experienced sitter.
The guidelines below often refer to an agreement between the journeyer and the sitter. It is essential that the journeyer and the sitter have a clear understanding of what is and what is not allowed during the journey. It is essential that the journeyer know -- before going in -- that even in the midst of their journey, they will need to exercise certain levels of self-control during the journey, for both his/her safety and the safety of the sitter, and that if the journeyer is not able to honor those agreements, then certain consequences will result.
A. For the Journeyer:
You will need a trusted person who knows as much as possible about you, your issues, and your history. Ideally you should spend at least an hour or two prior to journey to share this personal information with your sitter. The sitter must agree to keep this information and everything that happens during the journey confidential. Take this time to talk about any fears about doing journeywork and any fears or issues about working with your sitter.
Having a sitter helps your work. Simply not having to reserve a little piece of yourself in order to respond to outside distractions allows you to go deeper. Just the knowledge that you have someone there whom you can trust and rely upon if something comes up seems by itself to help deepen and speed the work you are doing, even if you never actually call out for assistance.
Sometimes, journeywork entails feeling repressed emotional pain and releasing trauma from events long ago, that no one ever talked about or perhaps even knew about. Having an empathetic witness to see, hear, and validate your experience is itself part of the healing of those secret and unknown places.
A sitter can provide grounded feedback. Sometimes, the journeywork can be very intense. Often feelings that come up can be highly magnified. This magnification of feelings can apply to such positive things as joy and bliss, but it can also apply to negative feelings like hopelessness, despair, fear, wanting to die, etc. These feelings, if they come up, are old feelings, and the feeling of them is a good thing, since this is a release. But as they are experienced, they can be overwhelming, particularly since they are not felt as old feelings, but real feelings in the now and applying in the moment. A sitter can help you walk though these overwhelming feelings, assure you that it is safe to feel them, and reminding you that you are there to feel and release, not to act upon them. An experienced sitter will know when to encourage deeper feelings and when doing so might be retraumatizing at that point in the journeyers healing process
A sitter can run interference for you. As diligent as you have been clearing your calendar, it is amazing how many times unexpected guests show up or call trying to find you right in the middle of a journey. Besides totally derailing whatever was going on in your journey, these interruptions can be scary and debilitating, particularly since the entire point of your journey is to create enough trust and safety so you will feel safe enough to feel and release into scary places. A sitter can provide that extra shield for you, protecting you from unwanted and unexpected interruptions.
You may need help. Getting water, getting to the bathroom, getting you an extra blanket. These things may be surprisingly difficult to manage when you are in journeyspace.
A sitter can help you keep track. In journeyspace, it is easy to get lost. An idea, a thought, a discussion that you want to follow, may be harder to keep track of in the nonlinear places that journeyspace will take you to. “What was I just saying?” comes up a whole lot more often that you might suspect. If uncomfortable feelings and memories begin to surface you will most likely want to run from them or space out. A sitter will keep you focused.
Many of the places that people go to in healing journeys are deeply painful, scary, and potentially retraumatizing. The most profound and effective antidote for these difficult traverses is human contact. Human contact is built into our early nervous systems as the primary source of grounding, reassurance, and a way to measure our safety. A sitter can make a profound difference in this deep work with simple touch, or holding. It is a way to go to scary places, but not alone. Working with a sitter who is a psychedelically experienced psychotherapist will optimize your results. Because your eyes are part of your face, you cannot see your face without a mirror. In the same way, a psychotherapist will be able to see patterns, symptoms, and blind spots that you cannot see yourself. A trained therapist will have knowledge, tools, and techniques that enable him or her to make precise interventions and comments that may have a profound healing impact.
B. For the Sitter:
You are performing an essential service. The journeyer is depending upon you in some very deep and critical ways. What you do and how you do it can have a profound effect upon not only how the journey goes, but whether the journeyer will ever be able to work with you or go into journeyspace again. Therefore it is important that you review and fully understand these guidelines.
Much of the healing that takes place during a journey will come from inside the journeyer themselves. There is a vast reservoir of healing intelligence that resides inside the self and the psychedelics allow that reservoir to open. Thus, a sitter’s job can be, for the most part passive. However, sometimes involvement is necessary.
First and foremost, the sitter is present to insure that the journeyer, while in journeyspace, does not endanger him/her self or their environment. If the journeyer feels compelled to embark on a course of destruction or self-destruction, you are there to stop them.
a. Destruction of Stuff: If the journeyer is working in their own space, prior to the journey, both the journeyer and sitter should look around the journey room and decide what, if anything, the journeyer has permission beforehand to destroy during the journey. If both agree that there is nothing on the list, then the journeyer agrees that nothing will be subject to any destructive acts during the course of the journey. If the journeyer is not dong the journey in their own space, obviously no destruction of any kind can or should be tolerated. The journeyer must be able to agree and keep their agreement that no destruction can or will take place unless there is a clear prior agreement and understanding about such. If they break their agreement, they understand that they will lose the services of the sitter.
b. Destruction of Self: Self-destruction is in many ways clear-cut, but in others, not so. Overwhelming feelings can happen on a journey, and sometimes suicide may appear to the journeyer as not only a viable option, but the only option. Calming the journeyer down is the best approach. Remind them that the feelings they are feeling are old – and this applies even to feelings of self destruction. Regardless of the context or present moment rationalization that has given rise to the self-destructive impulse, the ‘feeling’ part of it (the part that is driving the impulse) is still old, and this expression of the feeling is still a ‘feeling release,’ that can be breathed through, body-worked through, or ‘owned’ if the journeyer is able to understand the ancient origin of the feeling. You can say to the journeyer: “I know that you’re feeling (overwhelmed / hopeless /terrified) but what you really want is for this pain to end.” Moving through the pain/ feeling in the journey (through breath, bodywork, shaking, etc.) is a way to get to this result without self-destruction. Remind the journeyer that the results of the session are never known or predicable during the journey itself, and that these feelings (overwhelmingly) felt during the journey may be a release that will allow them to access places in themselves after the journey that had been previously blocked or unavailable. See, also: Common traps and pitfalls (the defenses) and how to work through them.
c. Self Harm Short of Suicide: Sometimes, for deeply traumatized persons, self harm, like self-hitting, self scratching, hair-pulling, hitting head against a wall, and the like may arise. It may be hard to tell if the person is really doing harm, or if the actions are more symbolic. If clearly more symbolic – that is, not really doing damage (no blood, no broken skin, etc), then the journeyer probably has more self control than intent to cause injury, and the conduct may be permitted to continue as you would any other type of expression. However, if the conduct appears capable of real injury, you are not obligated to allow it to continue if you are feeling uncomfortable with it. Let the journeyer know about your discomfort. If they cannot articulate why you should let them continue in this conduct such that you feel comfortable with their explanation, try letting them know in a compassionate and empathetic way: “You’ve been hurt enough already. You don’t want to get hurt any more. ” If they still fail to halt their destructive actions, and you do not feel comfortable intervening directly, then you should advise them that you will have to leave the journey if they cannot or will not stop.
Obviously, the three preceding paragraphs raise the specter of some pretty intimidating and scary stuff for both the journeyer and the sitter – and they should. The reality is, though it is rare, sometimes these things happen. There are people who have embarked upon journeywork who have discovered some really horrific things, violent things, that were done to them in a long forgotten and unconscious childhood. These are things that they have suppressed (for very good reason). Because violence was done to them, there can be a part of them that reacts with violence, or that believes that violence is an acceptable form of expression or release. There are ways to achieve violent release in journeyspace (padding in rooms, hitting punching bags, hitting pillows with tennis rackets, etc.), but damage to persons or property is not an appropriate or safe outlet. If such people cannot safely contain their violent expression in agreed upon ways, they should not be doing journeywork at all, and especially not with an untrained sitter.
2. Sexual Boundaries
This is perhaps the most critical section for both the sitter and the journeyer, and the boundary is this:
For someone doing the journeywork, the unfortunate statistic is, there is a very very high likelihood that the pain and trauma being experienced by the journeyer that brought the person into journeywork in the first place is due to some form of sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual boundaries in the past. This is probably true even if the journeyer has utterly no knowledge or any reason to suspect that anything sexual occurred in their past. Thus, the sexual boundary, while high on drugs, is the most critical and essential boundary that must never be crossed for any reason while in journeyspace.Never allow anything sexual to happen between the journeyer and the sitter.
Even if the journeyer moves into a seductive space, and attempts to seduce the sitter, even if they say they want to and know what they are doing, the reality is, the journeyer may, and likely is, acting out sexual trauma, which, if met by the sitter, will cause retraumatization and permanently and irrevocably disrupt the relationship of trust and safety between the sitter and the journeyer. Sexual engagement will destroy the therapeutic relationship. For some people who have been deeply damaged, sexual engagement (seduction) is the only way they feel that they can connect to their own worth – to be wanted sexually is the only verification that they have that they deserve to be here – and to validate this destructive belief in journeyspace is likely to do far greater harm, in many profound ways. Don’t do it. Hugging, holding, non-sexual touching – all of these are and can be hugely healing in journeyspace, when appropriate. But there is a line, and if you, as sitter, don’t know where that line is, or if you feel you may be in any way tempted to cross that line – do the right thing and decline right up front to sit for the journeyer.
3. A Guiding Light
If the journeyer is having a difficult journey, they might be feeling more terrified, more anguish, more horror, more pain, than they’ve ever felt in their lives. This is a good thing. It will not feel that way to the journeyer, however. The fact is, what they feel and breath through in the journey is a release – stuff that they have been holding in their bodies since forever, and that by allowing themselves to really feel it in journeyspace, they are moving through it, processing it, and letting it go, forever. The more of it they allow themselves to feel, the lighter and happier they will be for the rest of their lives. All of this intellectual understanding will not mean very much to the journeyer when they are hiding in the corner, shaking and terrified for their lives. Your job as sitter is first and foremost to stay calm. Anything you see is ok. You can gently offer reassurance and safety during these moments, if reassurance is needed.
If the journeyer seems to be babbling and drooling in utter terror but they are breathing through it – fine. Let them be. But if they talk to you or reach out to you about their terror, they are probably looking for help. You can gently help them through it with one or two of the following phrases:“You are safe, now. It’s ok to feel the feelings.”And, if they are getting really overwhelmed:
“These are old feelings. It may feel like it but you are not in danger here and now.”
“Just breath and feel. You are doing really great work.”
“If you need to do something, just take some deep breaths. It’s ok to feel.”
“You’re being really brave to feel these feelings. You’re getting though a lot.”
"You can stop any time you want."The work is not all about releasing trauma. Taking breaks is just as much a part of the work as the actual release. Just like a toddler learns to separate from mommy, the toddler starts by going a few feet away from mommy, and then runs back to the comfort of mommy’s arms. That ability to run back is what allows the toddler to go a few feet farther the next time. So it is with grief and trauma work. The ability to stop, rest, find safety, play, have fun, joke, is what allows the next deeper level of work to take place. Treat the breaks as just as much a part of the “work” as the stuff that ‘looks’ like work.
"You have control over these feelings. You can take a break, if you need to.
4. The Gentle Reminder
Sometimes the journeyer may seem to ‘disappear.’ Not falling asleep, but seemingly get lost in some inner world -- their breath slows down, they no longer seem present in the room. This can be dissociation, which means they are no longer in their bodies, which is where their journey actually needs to take place. Allow this for a short amount of time – generally people snap out of it. If it persists, however, you might gently ask “I’d like to check in with you. Where are you?” It may be that their inner experience is hugely healing for them, and they will let you know. But if they respond with “I don’t really know,” or the like, then you might try gently suggesting some things that might bring them back into the room and back into their bodies. Lying on their back, doing some deep, even breathing, maybe doing some yoga or body movement, will generally bring them back, but it may not. You don’t want to force them to do anything, but you might engage them in a dialogue of; “What do they want to get out of this journey?” and; “What might they try to best achieve that result?” Sometimes people need to dissociate because they are on the cusp of some really difficult work. If that’s the case, make sure that you, the sitter, have a good book.
It is often very helpful for the journeywork to keep a record of what takes place. Keeping track of the flowing information is often useful not only for the immediate journey, but for guidance for later journeywork:
This information can be invaluable to help understand how a particular individual is responding with particular medications, particularly what kinds of meds at what kinds of dosages appears to be having the most productive results, or alternatively, are having less productive results. For example, mushrooms can be very effective at opening to feelings, but, at higher levels, can lead to dissociation (disconnection from feelings). By carefully observing results and matching them to the dosages taken, the effective working level short of dissociation can be established for that individual.
- The medicines, dosages, and time taken;
- Observable body reactions;
- Observable releases;
- Any words spoken;
- Notes on discussions during the journey;
- Anything else that occurs to the sitter for later discussion after the journey is over.
6. Agreed Upon Reminders
Prior to the journey, the journeyer may identify certain areas of work or inquiry that they wish to explore on the journey. These areas will promptly be forgotten once the journey begins, and the first couple of hours can be taken up with more urgent issues. The sitter can, when an opportune moment arises, remind the journeyer about one of those areas. What is an opportune moment is going to be totally within the discretion of the sitter. The middle of important emerging material or a major release is unlikely to be one of those moments. The sitter will simply have to use discretion and intuition (which will grow as the sitter gains experience) as to when this timing is appropriate.
7. Outside Contact
Sometimes the journeyer may get it into their head in the middle of a journey that they need to call someone, or go see someone – right now! This is never a good idea. Your job as sitter is to “suggest” to them that if they still want to call after the journey is over, and, if it is still a good idea at that time, then they can make their call. If they somehow make the call, the journeyer is unlikely to remember what they said, they may scare or alienate the person they are calling, and there may be a lot of difficult explaining to do later. Don’t let them do it. Make sure that their pre-journey agreement includes their promise not to do so, and unplug the phone.
If the journeyer wants to go outside during a journey, it depends. Going outside during a journey can be very healing. If you have a private back yard, if you live in nature, if you have isolated nature nearby, being in nature is a very healing environment for journeywork. If, however, the journeyer insists on going to the local 7-11, or down to a crowded public area, or to go visit a neighbor talk them out of it. This activity is potentially dangerous, and is unlikely to result in any productive healing work, which is why you are there, and further, it is not what you signed up for when you agreed to sit.
8. Primitive Behavior
In the midst of doing journeywork, the journeyer is likely (if they are lucky) to engage in actions and behavior that might be called “primitive.” There can be all kinds of things: screaming, screeching, jumping and howling, thrashing, full body tantrums, the unleashing of furious rage, animalistic behavior, throwing up, passing gas (loudly and frequently), taking clothes off, autistic behavior, yelling or having conversations with people not in the room.
Even though these things may be very scary for you, the sitter, it is really important for you to stay calm, grounded, and, if possible, pleased that this stuff is coming out. These are actions that you, the sitter, will not likely have seen anyone else do, especially so expressively or blatantly before. It is critical for you to know and understand that all of these things you are witnessing are hugely healing for the journeyer. Some wounds are incredibly deep. Such wounds can only find healing and release through behaviors which were much more available to our ancient ancestors, whose healing mechanisms still reside deep within us. ALL OF THIS STUFF IS GOOD. If you care for the person you are sitting for, you might find it within yourself to feel love and compassion as this behavior is released. The fact is, they must have been profoundly, deeply, horribly wounded for this stuff to be coming out, and empathy for the pain they must have suffered is hopefully within your capability. The more you can feel your love for them as they release, the safer they will feel to be able to release it. Shame is most likely a big part of their trauma. If you cannot find it within yourself to allow and even encourage their healing without your judgment, you should not be sitting for them. And if you are freaking out by what you see, the journeyer will immediately pick up on your repulsion, think that they are doing something wrong (which they are not) and the effect on the journeyer will be deeply traumatizing. Know going in that this stuff is coming, hope it comes, and support it fully when it does. This is the whole point of why we are here.
A journeyer whose feelings and thoughts were not seen, heard, or taken seriously in their family of origin will need your complete attention and emotional attunement. Journeyspace may then become a deep, corrective experience of being re-parented by a totally available, patient, honest, supportive, empathetic, non-shaming, non-judgmental, non-controlling surrogate Mom or Dad.
It is essential that you be willing to completely give up any personal agenda or ego needs in order to support and be present for the journeyer's unique process.
10. Silence is Golden
A sitter should refrain from excessive talking. In an altered state the journeyer will seldom be able to follow complex conversation. He or She may be in a regressed, child-like place or deeply immersed in feeling and sensation. The journeyer will be highly suggestible and vulnerable. Be careful what you say. Do not preach, analyze, or engage in intellectual discourse. Keep comments short. Speak in simple language. A judicious amount of guidance and support can be extremely important but when in doubt, don't say anything.
C. Special Guidelines If Your Sitter Is Your ‘Significant Other’
For many people, the inability to find a practitioner, and the general climate toward drug use in our society, may lead one to consider using your ‘significant other’ as your sitter. There are benefits to this, but there are also some significant downsides.
Journeying with your partner can open up some of the deepest, most vulnerable parts of yourself to the other. This can be a huge opening in your relationship. It can also bring up fears, projections, and displaced feelings that might negatively impact the relationship. Also, after a huge opening journey, there is, almost universally, a contraction from that opening. The contraction (closing down) is normal, and an essential part of the healing process, but may be felt as hurtful and confusing by your significant other who only a few days earlier experienced you as an expanded, luminous, loving human being, and now does not understand your need for solitude. Embarking on this path will entail the need for accommodation to the work within the context of the relationship. The internal organic processes in the self uncovered by the journeywork will trump the needs of the relationship in the short term, although it is also true that love for the significant other as a motivator will vastly aid the speed and depth of the work. The significant other will need to make room for the new selves that are emerging out of the former limited self. If love is the touchstone, then the new self emerging should not be a threat to the significant other. If the significant other is threatened by the new selves emerging, and fear is the response (fear of the new you, fear that the relationship will not survive if the journeyer continues to do their work, etc.), the relationship will be heading for rocky times.
Also, when a person uses their significant other as a sitter, it is critical for both parties to come to an understanding and agreement. The significant other ordinarily has an investment in the journeyer. The significant other, as a human being, has places in themselves that need to be healed and met and given to. The temptation to “guide” or “suggest” or “point out” areas that the significant other wants fixed in the journeyer is a very dangerous and detrimental practice. This is not the time for you, the sitter, to be fixing your partner. The fixing that is taking place is happening on a level that is far beyond the mind’s imagination. It is collaboration between the intelligence of the journeyer’s body and spirit and the medicines, and it is happening on a totally organic level. Your role as sitter is to make sure the journeyer does not injure themselves while in journeyspace. In essence, they are opening up their inner braincase on a surgical table, and are completely vulnerable. Stepping in with your own agenda when they are in this vulnerable place may, and likely will, lead to irreparable breaches of trust, and possibly the end of the relationship. Don’t do it – no matter how tempting the opportunity might be, even if they give you permission while in journeyspace. Wait until after the journey is over (several days is best), and then discuss with the journeyer how they would like to you handle that issue or insight or suggestion on the next journey.
VII. Setting Up Your Journey Room
Your journey room is very important. Things that seem minor to you during your set up can take on huge importance during your journey, which is the time you are least able to address those needs. So take time to read this section through and take time to prepare your journey room.
Sound. Some people, sometimes, have major releases of feelings during their journeys. Often, there is little or no warning. They can scream and yell, howl and screech, and make all kinds of animalistic or primitive sounds. A room that is as soundproof as possible is ideal. If you have an inner room in a home, or a room that is soundproofed, or can be made soundproof, these are best. If you have none of these, and you have close neighbors and no alternatives, you would be well-advised to talk to your neighbors, letting them know when you are going to be possibly making some noise (for your emotional release work), so that you do not get a visit from local investigators or curious neighbors investigating strange sounds emanating from your journey. Some people may have 20 completely quiet, inner journeys, but the 21st, without warning, can go bonkers, so be prepared. Screaming into a pillow can muffle some (but not all) of the sound.
Space. You want to have some room to move. Some people roll or thrash during journeywork (rolling can be fun!). Working on a large mattress or padded area is best. More space is good.
Sharp objects. Hard furniture with sharp edges is bad for journeywork.
Breakable items and journeywork also are not good companions. Gym mats, futons, or pads used for bedding can form protective spaces for the journeyer that needs a lot of real estate. Lining the walls with pads can allow the journeyer to roll into a wall without injury or damage to the wall.
Light. Options are good. A small dim light may be preferable or stronger light, or maybe both at different times. Have options for lighting available, so that on your journey you do not have to go searching for the right lamp.
Air. Because you may be protecting for sound, you may be limiting access to air. Provide for some means to get fresh air into your journeyspace. After 4-5 hours it can get quite stuffy, especially during the summer. If there is a way to pipe in air through a central air conditioning system, or by opening a door with a strong fan for a few minutes during a break, you will want to have this set up in advance so valuable journey time need not be wasted.
Soft and padded is good. Blankets, bedding, big pillows, little pillows – all are good.
VIII. Things To Bring Along On Your Journey
Needed:IX. A Framework for Treatment
- Comfortable clothing
- An unbreakable bowl (for throwing up, if need be)
- A towel or two
- Extra blankets and sheets (your body temperature may drop during the journey)
- Fan or heater
- Music for softly playing in the background – preferably instrumental, non-intrusive, emotive , personal music or music that may evoke important memories
- Pictures (of yourself when you were younger, your parents when they were young, brothers, sisters, other significant persons in your life )
- Drawing materials
- A favorite stuffed animal
- A punching bag, or firm, heavy pillow
- Tennis racket and gloves for hitting a pillow in anger release
- Toys, dolls puppets (play therapy)
- Recording device (video or audio)
- Sacred objects or objects personally significant to you
- Baby bottle with juice or milk
- A rubber dog bone or something similar to bite down on (for primal anger work).
A. Build trust, motivation, and safety in journeyspace.
B. Establish a lifestyle that supports journey work.
C. Introduce new medicines gradually to gain familiarity with the experience.
D. Identifying the blocks and traumas, and tailoring the medicines and dosages to permit safe release of trauma without retraumatization.
E. Digging down deeper to uncover hidden trauma.
F. Resourcing through “good” journeys.
G. Going slow through the difficult parts.
A. Build Trust, Motivation, and Safety in Journeyspace
Ideally, the initial journeys can be fun, enjoyable, and an opening to an amazing world that allows you to feel more of your life than you ever thought possible. If your first therapeutic journey was a nightmare of horror and terrors, you simply would never go back, and who could blame you? The body and the meds seem to have an awareness of this, and generally, the first journeys are a safe, sane, and enjoyable introduction to what “could be” in your inner experience, which is important to provide motivation for the journey worker to want to continue in this work.
MDMA is a good starting medicine for the first few journeys, two tabs taken an hour or so apart. The MDMA will generally provide a safe haven, deepen the trust bond between the journey worker and the sitter, and allow feelings long forgotten to be felt. It provides an introduction to journeywork though a med that is known for creating safe spaces. Even for experienced recreational users of this and other meds, these first, safe, gentle MDMA journeys are an essential building block in your overall work, so do not skip this step.
B. Establish a Lifestyle that Supports Journey Work
Starting this work will change your life – both inside and outside. If your outside life is structured with no tolerance for the changes that are occurring on the inside, you are better off postponing the work until more flexibility is available. Intense commitments and high-intensity work or lifestyle demands are the antithesis of the organic, slow, and gentle healing work you are trying to accomplish. Wounds take time to heal, and they do so on your body’s and psyche’s time scales, not your mind’s. Insure that you have the time to sit and just ‘vedge’ after a journey, with no urgent commitments for several days, to allow for integration and reflection.
Eating well, sleeping well, connecting with nature, plenty of exercise, and yoga will facilitate your journeywork. A good support system will help. You will be traveling to places that 99.9 percent of everyone you know has never gone, will never go, and will never approve or understand your going to. Find or make a support group for yourself, (online, if necessary).
Allow for your life to change. You will be feeling things you have not felt in your current manifestation of your life. These new feelings may be uncomfortable, inappropriate, and threatening to your old life. Your current life is a manifestation of you not feeling these things. You may encounter push-back from your outside life to not feel these things. The more rigid and unyielding your present life circumstances are, the harder it will be to allow the new you to feel free to come forth. You may need to spend weekends alone, or if you are generally a loner, you may need to spend weekends with company. Simply allow as much as possible, the room for changes to take place.
C. Introduce New Medicines Gradually To Gain Safety And Familiarity With The Experience
Your work with MDMA may be all you need. Depending upon your own unique circumstances and issues, MDMA might be sufficient to work though the issues you are presented with, without need to step into the world of the other available psychedelics. If it is working, there is no need to change it. If, however, after your introductory work (anywhere from 3-10 sessions), you feel ready to explore other aspects of your inner self, gradually introduce small amounts of mushrooms and/or LSD (perhaps a half or 1/3 tab) into your journeyspace. These can be in combination with the MDMA, or by itself, so you gain some familiarity with the unique properties and capabilities of this medicine.
It is important to go slow, introduce gradually, and work gently. While it might take 3-4 journeys to work up to an effective does that will work for you, it will likely take a dozen journeys to undo any retraumatization that results if you push to far, too fast. Indeed, one consequence of going too fast is that you may never return to journeywork again. What your mind thinks you can handle and what your feelings can actually handle may be two completely different universes, and it is important to respect and work with the realm in which the actual healing work is being done (body and psyche), instead of the mind, which thinks it knows all the answers. If your mind knew how to fix you, you would have been fixed long ago.
D. Identifying The Blocks And Traumas, And Tailoring The Medicines And Dosages To Permit Safe Release Of Trauma Without Retraumatization
E. Digging Down Deeper To Uncover Hidden Trauma
Mushrooms and LSD appear to be fairly effective at rooting out and uncovering deeply hidden trauma. It doesn’t take much. Low doses, every two weeks, more or less, depending upon your ability to tolerate the journeywork. By analogy, like running your fingertips over a surface that you are sanding down, the mushrooms/LSD appear to zero in with uncanny and relentless precision, all those areas in which your life is bumpy or jagged. Actually, by way of another analogy, whatever disturbing little creatures you have running around in the dark recesses of your mind and psyche, mushrooms/LSD are very good at turning into road kill, prominently displayed over your appalled and embarrassed sensitivities. Whatever lies you tell yourself, whatever fictions you have based your life upon, whatever rationales you use to justify behavior that you ordinarily blind yourself to – all will be thrust right into your face, and the whole smelly stink of your self-deceptions will be unceremoniously laid out right in front of you.
This is a good thing. This is why you came here. To become a more real and authentic person.
And, as you deal with the little lies and deceptions, you are laying the groundwork to deal with the big ones – the ones that involve real pain, betrayal, loss, and grief. The ones that have fucked your life up for real. Because without a hard, honest look at who you really are, now, you will never be able to face the truth about what happened to you in the past. Why you have been brought to the point where you are taking drugs to try to recover something that got lost along the way. Mushrooms are very, very good for that.
F. Resourcing Through "Good" Journeys
If you find what you are looking for, chances are it will be something bad. It was bad enough that it spun your life out of control and forever altered who you were when it happened. It was bad enough to shut out of your conscious mind and cause you to run from it as fast and as hard as you possibly could. Finding it can be a very rough and painful experience. It is a critical step on the healing journey, but now the real work begins. Counter-intuitively, however, the real work is not to plunge right back into the trauma. Healing does not work that way.
Studies show that healing is most effective when it is done by pendulating between the trauma and resourcing. Into the trauma, then into something good and pleasurable. Back to the trauma, back to something good and pleasurable. Good and pleasure provide resilience and resourcing that is absolutely essential in order to go into the trauma. One must take resources with them into the trauma, and if those resources are not available, than there is no way to absorb the trauma. All you are doing is walking into the inferno with no protective clothing or backup. You’ll get burned. So, build in lots of good stuff, good journeys, and fun – this is just as important as the trauma.
G. Going Slow Through The Difficult Parts
- Focusing on pleasant sensory stimuli like a fragrant flower, beautiful music and art, pleasing tactile sensations, and any places in your body that feel good. Because psychedelics can amplify sensual pleasure ordinary stimuli may be experienced as exquisite.
- Remembering and feeling places where you felt peaceful and safe...like a beautiful spot in nature, Gramma's house, etc. Remembering and feeling current and/or previous sources of love and comfort. These may be favorite relatives, caretakers, friends, lovers, or pets. Sometimes these good experiences may be buried in the past and long forgotten. Search for them.
- When loved ones die, abandon, reject, or betray us we often erect defenses to avoid feeling the pain, or we feel the pain then close down to avoid ever feeling that sort of pain again. By being willing to feel the loss and remember the good times that preceded it we begin to remove blocks to intimacy and restore our ability to let love in.
- You may also use your imagination to create a personal "safe space" that may include magical landscapes, people, animals, deities, etc.
- Spirituality. Much has already been documented about how psychedelics can promote a profound, direct experience of God, Higher Self, Spirit Guides, Soul, or Essence. This experience may or may not happen spontaneously in early journeys or at any point in one's process. The transpersonal experience will be unique to each person according to their beliefs and prior exposure to spirituality. The sitter must honor and work with whatever archetypes and belief systems emerge.
You’ve spent a lifetime building the defenses against the trauma that has brought you here. They were built organically and over a long period time. They cannot be unwound instantly, even with the miracles of modern chemistry. The reality of the healing process is that it is and will take place in the body and in the deep emotional feeling places in your being. Neither can be rushed, pushed, or reasoned with. They take their own time and work at a pace which is not within your control, no matter how many drugs you take. So, whatever time schedule you may be working under, throw it overboard, and allow yourself to be welcomed to a world in which time has a new meaning - none. The truth of the healing work is, your body has a consciousness, and your deep inner unconscious places have a consciousness, and just because they don’t speak to you in English doesn’t make them dumb. They have a wisdom and knowledge far beyond that of the mind when it comes to healing – we’re the dumb ones compared to them. They know what medicines you’ve taken, they know where they can go with those medicines, they know how far they can take the system with what they’ve got to work with (including how far they can take your supremely delicate and fragile mind), and they know when your next journey is. So, let the process happen and get yourself out of the way. It’s going to take time. Deal with it.
X. Recommendations and Guidelines for Doing a Journey
A. A Sitter
As frequently noted throughout this site, a sitter is essential for this kind of work. Aside from all of the warnings and cautions, there is a fair amount of administrative work involved in a journey. Note taking, answering the doorbell, administering the meds, keeping track of the time for a booster, helping you walk to the bathroom, providing a reality check --- all of these are things that you will either be unable to do yourself, or if you are doing yourself, your journeywork will be subject to too many distractions, and take away from the small amount of time you have available. Ideally, your journey should be not much more advanced from a womb-like setting, where you don’t have to worry about anything except what you are feeling in the moment. Let someone else take care of you while you are taking this time to take care of yourself.
The person can be sitting in the room with you, or available in the home within earshot, but the presence of a sitter is essential.
There are a lot of reasons that a sitter should be available:
No matter how many drug experiences you may have had in the past, even with the particular substances discussed herein, the journeywork will be completely unlike any of your prior recreational trips. By eliminating external distractions and having a focused intent you will be heading into territory for which your prior recreational trips may leave you totally unprepared.
Many parts of this kind of journeying are not pleasant. Those unpleasant parts are actually what you are looking for, since the more of the unpleasant stuff you release during your journey will allow your daily life to expand and enliven. But that does not mean that they will in any way be easy to experience. If your journey work is successful, you will likely go to places you have been running from your whole life. There is good reason you ran from those places then, and it will feel just as real now. You certainly ran then because the experience overwhelmed your capacity to absorb it. It will feel just the same today. A sitter will help you stay safe if and when you encounter those places.
Your defenses will be challenged during this journey work. Defenses can be scary, and they can be destructive. A sitter will help you through those defenses in a way that you, in journey space, will be unable to guide yourself. Furthermore, much of what you encounter in journeyspace will be magnified. Also, your perception as to how you should respond to those insights might be magnified. A sitter can help walk you off the ledge if your defenses have created an internal scenario which demands action that is better worked through when the journey is over. This is far more common than you might think – take this seriously – use a sitter.
You may have impulses and urgent needs to communicate with others outside your journeyspace while you are on your journey. Sometimes these impulses are overwhelming. Regardless of whatever insight you may be having on your journey, this is really never a good idea. Your sitter will and should stop you (and you will thank them later). If it was really a good idea during the journey, it will remain so after the journey is over.
Set aside at least 6 hours for your time in journeyspace, and at least the rest of the day for recovery, integration, and freedom from obligations. Make sure you are not expecting any visitors, deliveries, repair people, gardeners and the like, and make sure that regular callers will know you are not available. Unplug all phones. Even if you screen calls, you are better off turning them completely off during the duration of your journey, since even the vibration of a phone is magnified during a journey. So, too, is the expansion of the imagination into dire reasons for a totally innocuous call. The last thing you want to happen on your journey is for you to be opening up to a rarely experienced deep place, only to have the entire experience derailed by an unknown caller (probably a robo-sales call), which you spend the entire rest of the journey freaked out about as the mind’s imagination runs rampant.
C. Record Keeping
It is important to keep at least rudimentary notes of your journeywork. This should be the sitter’s job. The notes should reflect what you took, what the dosage was, and the time you took it. As clear and unforgettable as things may seem at the time, it is surprising how much is forgotten over very short periods of time. Keeping track of the substances, dosages, and time will help you refine your administration for later journeys.
A record keeper can also write down your comments, vocalizations, observations such as traumatic releases, and the time at which they occurred. This will help you reconstruct your journey for later, and help you gage, in your post-analytic review, what meds worked in what ways, and how long they took to bring in what kind of response. These notes will also help uncover patterns in your work or in your response to particular meds.
There is an astonishingly deep well of healing knowledge within our being. Unfortunately, for most people in modern society, this well is completely inaccessible in daily life. The psychedelics allow us an opportunity to open this well and allow healing from the inside. Thus, this process works best if we can just step out of the way, and “allow” the healing to occur. The healing process will organically evolve, and the best way to support that is to come into our journey with no expectations, no prejudgments, and no list of things we want fixed right then. If we can find and maintain the aspects of pleasant surprise, awe, and surrender, the healing work has the potential to meet not only all of our needs, but also those beyond our very limited imagination.
E. Coming On
The transition from normal waking state to altered state may be fraught with conscious or unconscious expectation, apprehension, and anxiety.... especially for beginners.
It generally takes 45 minutes to an hour for most meds to start working. As you begin coming on your heart rate may increase, you may begin to yawn, feel nauseous, stretch, tingle, and become very chilled. This will pass.
To relax into this transition and encourage the deepest possible immersion into an altered state: restrict extraneous talking, lie down, get comfortable, quiet your mind by breathing deeply, close your eyes and focus your attention inside your body. Doing yoga or dance movement also helps get you into your body.
Playing soft, meditative, instrumental music may help facilitate a gentle shift in consciousness.
After coming on, the potency of the meds will build for the next hour or so, then plateau for about 2 or 3 hours, then gradually diminish.
F. The First Commandment: Thou Shalt Stay Out Of Thy Head
The single most important rule for getting the most out of a journey on any psychoactive drug is to stay out of the incessantly chattering, analytical mind.
The first step towards getting out of your head is to realize that you are in it!
Most of us are so deeply identified with and possessed by our thoughts, that the concept of staying out of them may be quite foreign. Since the 17th century dawn of the “age of reason”, Descartes’ credo “I think therefore I am” has led westerners to equate their identity with their mind instead of their whole organism.
Our modern, technological culture forces us into our heads at an early age in order to survive and thrive. Those who are smartest and sharpest come out on top. For most of us, being in our head has become the dominant functioning mode required to earn a living.
Many bright children escape into their heads as a way of avoiding feeling the neglect or abuse they endure at home. They often become bookworms or A- students. As adults, they are often unconsciously addicted to ruminating as a way to avoid feelings.
Being habitually stuck in our heads blocks us from accessing the full experience of our bodies, our emotions, our soul, and our environment.
Without learning to control the mind’s chatter, we can never experience true peace. Having an uncontrolled mind is like living next door to a noisy neighbor who will not be quiet.
Hindus call the mind the “drunken monkey.” Even when we are trying to focus our brain on an important task, the crazed mind seems to delight in spewing out random, irrelevant gibberish like advertising jingles and song lyrics. It also seems to enjoy obsessing endlessly about food, sex, what you should have said to your date last week, what your date might say to you next week, that freckle on your arm that you fear might be cancer, and where you will find shoes to match your new outfit.
One of the mind’s favorite pastimes is worrying. This is a real attention-getter. Some of its favorite things to worry about are money, death, sickness, injury, old age, loss, global destruction, and what other people will think of me.
The human intellect is an exquisite servant but a tyrannical master.
Like “Hal”, the computer in the movie “2001”, our intellect has taken on a life and will of its own which many of us can no longer control.
To discipline a scattered mind you need to focus all its attention, like a laser beam, onto something simple like your breath.
Breathing deeply and concentrating on the rhythmic rising and falling of the chest and belly focuses your attention out of your head and into your body. Deep breathing also releases chronic tension and anxiety, allowing access to blocked emotions.
Every time you stop to intellectually analyze what you are experiencing during a journey you remove yourself from the direct experience. It is important to note that analyzing is different than insight. Analysis is a directed, linear, time-consuming process that uses the left brain to figure out or understand something. Insight that emerges from an altered state is a spontaneous “ah ha!” phenomenon, like a light bulb suddenly switched on in a darkened room.
In the course of a journey you may experience waves of exciting insight.
Familiar concepts and information may suddenly be understood in startling new ways. You may receive fresh perspectives and revelations about issues, situations, and problems you may have been grappling with for months or years. Psychological concepts that you’ve heard and understood intellectually may suddenly be felt experientially. Profound realizations may pop up out of the blue. This whirlwind of new information is exhilarating to the intellect. You may experience a rush of speeding thoughts that keep your attention engrossed in your head. Your mind may delight in pondering the significance, ramifications, and validity of all this titillating new information. Although it is usually difficult to follow lengthy trains of thought, it is still possible to get lost in your head for long periods of time. Some call this “mental masturbation.” It is a popular preoccupation among male intellectuals.
Staying in your head removes you from the rich, ongoing altered-state experience and takes you out of the present moment. This could be likened to thinking about the laundry while you are engaged in passionate sex!
In order to stay out of your head and encourage a steady flow of experience and insight, you may want to make an audio recording of your journey to take home. Thus, all important insights can be verbalized and recorded as they occur. This way, the journeyer feels free to stay present during the journey, knowing that he or she can remember, analyze and reflect upon insights at a later time, when the recording is played back.
G. Fear of Drugs
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
The first barrier to being open to using psychoactive drugs is confronting our fears.
At the entrance to Japanese gardens one will usually encounter fierce looking stone statues of demons guarding each side of the path. These demons symbolize our fears. A person who lives life dictated by their fears will be frightened by the demons and turn back, never getting into the garden. A wise person will be able to discriminate between legitimate fear, which protects one from harm, and illogical or obsessive fear. Knowing that these demons are made of stone and cannot attack, the wise person passes through them and gains entrance into the beautiful garden.
All of life's most beautiful gardens are guarded by the demons of fear. These fears have only as much power over us as we give them. Whenever we approach change, newness, or the unknown on our path to greater fulfillment and success, we can expect to encounter these demons of fear. Our willingness to venture beyond what's comfortable and familiar, and our courage to walk through our fears, will get us into the garden.
"Whenever there is a reaching down into innermost experience, into the nucleus of personality, most people are overcome by fright, and run away…The risk of inner experience, the adventure of the spirit, is in any case, alien to most human beings”-- Carl Jung “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”
H. Letting Go Of Control
Once you are confident that the drug, setting and sitter are safe, the demons you’ll face next will be your own conscious and unconscious fears about letting go of control and facing the deep, dark unknown realms of your own psyche.
If you are driving a car down a winding mountain road and the steering or brakes fail, you have lost control and have good reason to be terrified. In this example, being out of control is obviously and logically dangerous. To many of us, however, any kind of loss of control over ourselves or our environment may cause anxiety , whether there is real danger involved or not.
The idea of being under the influence of a mind-altering drug may be scary and seem dangerous. We may fear that the drug will be in control, not us. If we are not in control, something unknown may happen. The “unknown” frightens us. We fear that we may experience something scary or unpleasant that we will not be able to handle. Without our usual ego control, we may fear that we will act in a way that is embarrassing, shameful, or destructive. We may fear revealing parts of ourselves that are hidden or repressed. We may fear being too honest, open, and vulnerable. We may fear that we will get addicted, permanently incapacitated, go crazy, or die.
Controlling ourselves and our environment may help us to feel safe and protected, but it may also prevent us from experiencing newness, spontaneity, growth, and pleasure.
Moderate doses of psychedelics can be willfully controlled.
Beginners may need to experiment with techniques that modulate their experience in order to feel safe letting go. Generally, closing eyes, quieting thoughts, and full breathing promotes a deeper experience. Nurturing contact and reassuring words from the sitter may help. Guided meditations and peaceful music may also promote letting go. When feeling overwhelmed attention can be shifted to something pleasurable or neutral. With practice, the subject will begin to trust that he or she has control if things get scary.
Generally the psyche will only present to awareness as much difficult material as the subject can presently handle. Beyond that point the subject will usually dissociate, space out, get distracted, or get "sober".
I. Media During a Journey
Certain media have the potential to enhance or deepen the journey experience. Softly played background music that is emotionally evocative can have a surprisingly powerful effect in journeyspace. People who ordinarily have difficulty accessing feeling states might find that a soundtrack or song that evokes feelings of sadness or other rich emotional states can sometimes open up the spigot to deep emotional release. Movies that contain scenes that have triggered outpourings in non-journey states can also have a powerful impact when viewed while journeying. If you have insight into the nature of your wounding, there has certainly been some movie or scene that has explored that theme in a powerfully evocative way, and having this scene cued up for viewing in journeyspace might be a place to go if you get stuck.
What works for some people might have no effect or even be intolerable by others. Indeed, a song that brought out a river of tears on one journey might be experienced on the next journey by the very same person as an irritation. Feel free to experiment. This is not to say your journey should become a personal film festival. Media is a tool that can, at appropriate moments, be invoked to aid or assist in the process of getting to and releasing feelings.
J. What To Do (And What Not To Do)
The journeywork is organic. Everyone will have a different journey experience, and no two journeys for any one person will ever be alike. So, the first hard and fast rule is that there are no hard and fast rules about how to do it.
For example, a lot of people like to watch TV when they are tripping on psychedelics. That kind of passive, out-of-mind and out-of-body experience may not be highly conducive to delving deeply into your inner self, and for a lot of people, would likely be a waste of a journey. On the other hand, for someone who has been hammering away at deep and painful trauma, a mindless, light, “wasted” journey might be exactly the right medicine to permit the healing to take the next deeper step.
With the above context, creative journeying is going to be, for the most part, driven by what feels right to the journeyer, or suggested by the sitter. There is a gut aspect to this work that can be trusted, and the more of it you do, the more you will come to trust this inner guidance.
For the most part, you can’t go wrong if you simply breathe. If you are breathing, you are moving energy, whether you can feel it moving or not. If you don’t know what to do, lie down comfortably and breathe. Allow. Be open to anything, or nothing. It’s ok to go to sleep. Sometimes sleep is a necessary component in a resetting of the brain circuitry to allow for the next level of healing to take place.
Don’t judge the journey by what you think is happening during the journey. Though the perceptible effects may diminish within hours, these journeys actually often last for several days. Things unfold in ways and in places that often surprise us. The test for how successful or unsuccessful a journey might be is in the days and weeks following the journey – not the journey itself. Don’t be disappointed if nothing dramatic happens on the journey. Sometimes the least dramatic journeys yield the most dramatic changes in one’s life. What good is a journey in which you scream and yell and emote for 6 hours while in journeyspace, if nothing at all changes in your daily life?
K. Common Traps And Pitfalls (The Defenses) And How To Work Through Them
One of the most important pieces of information for both the person doing the journeywork and the sitter is the following:Virtually everything that comes up during the journey is a reflection of past feelings that have not been worked through.The mistake that almost everyone makes in journeyspace is that when a feeling comes up, it is felt as real in the moment, and the feelings are projected into present time, including, perhaps, onto the sitter.
Often in journeyspace, the journeyer will experience a range of feelings, including negative feelings. By treating these feelings as something to extinguish in real time, the journeyer will simply recreate the past negative experiences in real time, without any real healing of them. Thus, it is important for the journeyer going in, and the sitter, to have an understanding and agreement prior to the journey about how the journeyer will respond to guidance from the sitter, if such is needed.
For example, a common issue for people who are seeking healing, is trust. Feelings of mistrust are a natural and common response to bad things that may have happened in the past. Feelings or mistrust also commonly arise when we are afraid for our safety. Journeywork can be a place where scary stuff comes up, and fear for our safety can be a big component in our feelings during our journey. This kind of scenario lends itself to the ‘perfect storm’ of mistrust, or even paranoia, perhaps toward the sitter, sometimes in the middle of a journey. What should you do?
The first step is for the sitter to remind the journeyer that it is safe to feel whatever they are feeling. The feelings may be being felt in present time but in fact they are old. Further, that the feelings may seem like they are triggered by what is happening on the outside, but in fact, the real source is from the inside. Instead of trying to make the feelings go away (as is the common and reflexive response to fear and lack of trust for another), the journeyer should be reminded that they are feeling exactly what they should be feeling. The journeyer should attempt instead to try to go even deeper into the feelings of lack of trust inside themselves, to see if they can find where they come from. Breathing will almost invariably help move the feelings and transform them into something even deeper and more powerful. If the journeyer is not breathing, the lack of trust and paranoia can only increase.
Other kinds of feelings and scenarios that might come up that are often mistakenly projected into present time are: feelings of failure; feelings of not doing it right; wanting to die; feelings of dying; hopelessness; despair; hatred; intense fear.
All of these feelings are old feelings, and it is important that they be recognized as such. In journeyspace, however, a feeling is felt, it is felt powerfully, and, like all feelings, they are felt in the present. Feelings do have an expiration date. Old feelings do not feel stale in any way, so there is no way for us to know when a feeling is old. In fact, a 30-year-old feeling of fear and a present moment feeling of fear will feel absolutely identical – and there is no way for us to distinguish which is the old one and which is the new one. That is why many journeyers fall into the trap of believing that what they are feeling is real in the present.
The important thing is just to feel it. Breathing is the best way to do that. Engaging in deep, regular breathing will generally bring up the underlying material that is making the journeyer feel the feelings that are up.
If the journeyer is simply being overwhelmed by their feelings, and they need to alter their current experience, the journeyer can do yoga, or some other body-centered exercise, to bring the journeyer back into their body. Many of these negative emotional states can be worked through in a less threatening way when grounded in one’s body.
Prior to going into journeyspace, the journeyer can write a note to him or herself (in large letters), clearly in their own handwriting, reminding them where they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it.
If lack of trust for the sitter is a potential issue, the entire journey can be audio or videotaped, so that the journeyer has a clear record of anything and everything that transpired during the journey.
If all else fails, a tablet of MDMA can provide a soft landing for whatever major anxiety provoking issue has arisen that cannot be resolved through any other means. This in ONLY an option if the journeyer has taken no prior MDMA, or no more than one tablet of MDMA during the journey. This is an “in case of emergency break glass” option, and is usually a good reason to reserve for emergency use one tablet of MDMA if it is possible that the journey might bring up unresolvable issues. It should be stressed, however, that the urgent need to resort to the ingestion of an additional drug to make something intolerable go away is precisely the point at which the additional drug should be resisted. The ‘something intolerable’ might be the very thing that is being sought by the journeywork and the ‘not feeling of it’ may be the very cause of the distress that drove the person to the journeywork in the first place. Thus, before administering an emergency MDMA, if the journeyer is not threatening imminent harm to self or others, try working through the distress to see if it may be possible to tolerate what they are feeling. Nine times out of ten, these ‘crisis points’ can be a huge breakthrough that might otherwise be missed. On the other hand, if a real and clear crisis is present, and it is not resolvable with the passage of time or through grounding exercises, the journeyer may not have the needed resources to work through what they are being confronted with, and the MDMA can provide a safe container in which to deal with the crisis. Bear in mind that the MDMA will take approximately one hour to become effective.
L. Encountering Defenses
If you do not feel any effect, become restless, begin checking the clock and obsessing about how slowly time is passing, suddenly become very sleepy, hungry, chatty or feel compelled to flee, order pizza, or wash the dishes you are probably resisting the drug.
Resistance is a defense mechanism used to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Resistance is caused by fear. Fear of letting go of control and defenses, fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, fear of being overwhelmed by scary feelings, fear of finding and facing traumatic memories and repressed, unconscious parts of the self.
There are many forms of resistive behavior. The most common is the unwillingness or inability to stay out of one’s head. Getting entranced and seduced by exciting thoughts, insights and mental pictures can be a trap that may limit deep growth and healing.
Another common form of resistance is the unwillingness or inability to stay focused on intent. One may feel compelled to engage in diversionary activities to avoid dealing with more uncomfortable situations, issues and feelings.
A form of resistance occasionally found in spiritual people who are uncomfortable dealing with their "shadow" is the tendency to dissociate from their body and feelings in favor or floating in a state of transcendental bliss. This can be a valid, transformational experience for some, but a form of habitual avoidance and escape for others.
Some degree of resistance is normal for everyone. It may last only a short time and dissipate without much effort.
Rigid individuals who have a neurotic need to stay in control will have the most difficulty “letting go.” They may unconsciously fight the drug for the entire journey. These highly defended types will experience very little effect or may experience intense anxiety and/or a variety of unpleasant psychosomatic symptoms.
M. Confronting Defenses
Getting through persistent resistance requires sincere commitment and discipline.
The most universally effective tool to break through resistance is continuous, deep breathing.
In healthy, relaxed, unconstricted breathing both the chest and abdomen rise and fall with each inhale and exhale in a gentle, rhythmic sequence. During inhalation the abdomen begins to swell slightly before the chest expands. During exhalation the chest begins to deflate slightly before the abdomen. All effort is concentrated on filling up the chest and belly during inhalation. During exhalation the air is released effortlessly, not pushed out with force.
If you are a shallow breather you may find deep breathing difficult and even painful at first. Shallow breathing is a common defense mechanism that can minimize bad feelings. As a child growing up in an unsafe environment your diaphragm and rib cage may have become chronically “frozen in fear.” To control your sadness you may have learned to keep a “stiff upper lip” and hold your breath to stop sobbing.
Deep breathing reverses this process. It unlocks the rib cage and diaphragm, releases trauma, and allows you to feel your emotions deeply. Deep breathing also encourages you to stay out of your head, as previously explained.
Another tool to break through resistance is to amplify and express it verbally and physically. Allow yourself to scream out protests like “No!”, “I don’t want to!”, or “I won’t!” Scream out whatever words come to mind without editing or making sense. Kick or stamp your feet, pound your fists into pillows, growl like an animal, throw a tantrum. If you really get into this you may trigger repressed anger, unconscious issues and associated memories that can break the ice and launch the journey.
Another approach is to amplify and express the underlying fear in verbal and body language. Try saying aloud, “I’m frightened.” Repeat it many times until you connect with the fear feelings inside. Verbalize your fears in a continuous stream- of- consciousness flow without editing or concern about making sense. Allow yourself to curl up into fetal position, cover your face with your hands, or whatever your body spontaneously feels like doing to express your fear. Try focusing your attention inside your body to find where you feel the fear. You may discover jittery sensations or tightness in your belly, for example. Imagine that with each deep inhalation you are sending fresh oxygen into the frightened areas. With each exhalation imagine relaxing and releasing the fear. Breathing deeply into places in your body where you hold fear may release nervous system trauma and bring into consciousness traumatic memories and feelings that are stored there.
Another tactic is to honor the fear and seek comforting. Ask your sitter for whatever physical contact feels comforting (holding hands or being held). Hug a teddy bear. Visualize yourself in a peaceful, safe setting in your mind’s eye. For example, you may imagine yourself romping through soft grasses in a spring meadow, or lounging on a secluded, tropical beach. This can be a familiar place you’ve been or a fantasy place you make up. Immerse all your senses in this experience. Imagine feeling the warm sand under your feet, smell the ocean breeze, etc.
If you believe in a higher power, call on the presence of that power for protection and comfort.
Do not criticize or belittle yourself for being fearful. Underneath our tough adult armor we are all scared little children. A man who is fearless on the battlefields of war and business may be terrified to be soft and vulnerable.
It may be helpful to be aware that NOT facing and dealing with uncomfortable feelings, traumatic memories and repressed parts of yourself may have been an important survival mechanism that has allowed you to carry on and function. Resistance and denial may therefore be the cornerstones that support your internal status quo. Your very survival may feel threatened by disturbing this status quo.
To illustrate this concept imagine you are a two year old child playing at the seashore. A storm begins to generate terrifying six foot waves that could easily drown you. To protect yourself you build a thick, sturdy six foot wall between you and the menacing surf. As years go by you grow stronger and taller. The wall has successfully protected you from being drowned. Now you are nearly a six foot tall adult. You may have learned how to swim and surf yet you have never dared to look over the wall and are terrified to dismantle it. Inside you are still a vulnerable little two year old who is terrified of six foot waves. To unblock resistance it is often helpful to remind your frightened inner child that it is now safe to look at and deal with the waves. As an adult you now have the strength, wits and resources to survive six foot waves.
If you are resisting going deeper and are not able to break through, just notice that you are resisting. Becoming aware of when, how, and how often you resist and avoid unpleasant or scary feelings can be an important insight and the beginning of change.
The phenomenon of resistance is not limited to the beginning of the journey. You may even begin feeling sick with anxiety days before taking a journey. You can expect fear and resistance to reoccur whenever you begin dealing with scary issues, traumatic memories, or uncomfortable situations.
The amount and intensity of resistance is often directly proportionate to the amount and intensity of that which is resisted. You will strongly resist dealing with that which is the most traumatic or uncomfortable to deal with.
Breaking through strong resistance may take time. You cannot force it. Compassionate, gentle persistence over time will eventually soften any resistance.
N. Winding Down
The end of the journey can often be a time of deep reflection, a time of just vedging, or may offer a welcome and rare experience of your grounded self. Give yourself the gift of this special time – you’ve just spent many hours going into places where 99% of everyone you know or ever will know will never go, or ever have the courage to go. Reward yourself by allowing yourself to just be in the feeling places you have worked so hard to uncover. Jumping right back into your daily routine would be a disservice to the hard work you just accomplished. Your healing work is taking place at a very organic, very deep, and oftentimes very young place. The places in which this healing work happens does not work on the time schedule you are familiar with or with the same values and goals you carry in your daily life. You will get more out of your work if you allow for sufficient time afterwards to just feel. Just be. Be kind to yourself. You’ve earned it.
O. Post Journey
If you have the ability to make a cocoon of your life for a few days after your journey, you will see better and faster results from your overall journeywork. If you can take a few days from your work schedule to give yourself the time without causing negative consequences down the line, by all means take the time. Treat yourself to good stuff. Especially if you’ve had a difficult journey, the good stuff is what allows you to experience the bad stuff. It provides the resilience and the flexibility to go to the dark places, and has a huge effect upon your willingness to even want to go there.
‘Good stuff’ includes things like body work, massage, nature, touch, animals, gardening, play, fun, laughing, and relaxing. All of these things are a way to gain resources. It is like gasoline and oil in your automobile. If your car is not well lubricated (taken care of) and filled with fuel, your healing work will come to an abrupt halt. If your body (separate from your mind’s decision making), does not have any reason to continue going into painful or difficult places (no rewards, nothing good), nothing you ingest will make it go there. So you need to consciously feed your inner body, your inner child, and your vulnerable self, and give them support and rewards for it for all of the brave and courageous and difficult work they are doing.
XI. The Peak Experience As A Healing
A. Restoring Sanity With The Peak Experience
Traditional psychotherapy and psychoanalysis concentrates on exploring what Carl Jung called the “shadow.” The shadow is the unconscious part of ourselves that we deny and repress. Hidden deep in the shadow are painful, frightening thoughts, feelings, sensations, and disturbing memories of childhood trauma that create problems for us as adults. Traditional therapy attempts to bring this unconscious material into conscious awareness so it can be dealt with.
Psychological healing with psychedelic drugs involves not only this shadow work, but also includes what is called the “peak experience.” The peak experience is a direct experience of how we might feel and perceive life if we had never been programmed or traumatized at all. It is an experience of timelessness, peace, and relaxation wherein we can have a fresh,” here and now” experience of the joy of existing, without the fears, anxiety, neuroses, judgments, and conceptualizations that habitually contaminate our experience of reality. It is like having a glimpse of the goal, a brief moment of sanity that can be remembered and used as a reference point which we can learn to reproduce and expand more and more without the drug as we heal.
The peak experience may be likened to those few rare days in Los Angeles, when strong winds clear out the smog. During this time you can see mountains, hills, and trees you never knew were there. You can see how beautiful the area must have been before air pollution.
Most of us have been living in a toxic fog for so long we have become quite accustomed to it.
They say if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put the frog into a pot of cool water and slowly raise the temperature to the boiling point, the frog will stay in and die. Whether this is true or not, it is a poignant analogy for the human situation today.
Because we have gradually become accustomed to living in a stressful, alienating, toxic environment, most of us are totally unaware of how dangerously out of balance and insane we have become.
The beauty of psychoactive drugs is that within an hour or two, you can be lifted high above the fog and have a direct personal experience of profound peace and sanity that is your human birthright. Having such a “peak experience” can deeply enrich, balance, and transform your life.
"How narrow is the vision that exalts the business of the ant above the singing of the grasshopper."
-- Kahlil Gibran
A basic element of the peak experience is the experience of "beingness.” Beingness is the state of being fully present in the moment, fully aware of what is going on inside and outside your body. Beingness is becoming part of the experience of "what is." It requires a willingness to let go of control, personal agenda, and judgment in order to "go with the flow" of naturally unfolding events. It requires having a mind quiet enough to experience the exquisiteness of the ordinary.
Beingness is a natural, timeless state of simple existence that is shared by every species of life on the planet except adult human beings. The pace and complexity of modern culture has turned most human beings into" human doings." We are obsessed with achieving and consuming. We are driven by fear and desire. We habitually live in the past and future. We are committed to the belief that life is a struggle and a puzzle to be figured out. We are so focused on securing the pot of gold, that we miss the rainbow.
"Life," said John Lennon, "is what happens while we are making other plans."
Beingness comes naturally to house pets and other animals. Humans have great difficulty with it. Throughout history, mystics have dedicated their lives to meditation and the practice of all manner of austerities in order to experience pure states of beingness. What makes the achievement of these states so difficult is our human mind. Our thoughts cloud and distort our direct experience of life and keep us constantly absorbed in the past and the future. To experience the present moment fully we must gain control over the incessant chatter of our thoughts. Psychedelics can temporarily quiet the mind and induce states of beingness that are similar to those states that meditators spend years to achieve.
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
-- Marcel ProustAnother element of the peak experience is “seeing.” Seeing is the experience of perceiving things as they are, without conceptualizing, categorizing, projecting, or judging. It is the ability to suspend the clatter of the analytical mind long enough to behold things afresh, with the eyes of a child.
As we become adults, most of us lose the ability to really see things. We become jaded. We no longer experience a tree as we did for the first time. Our eyes notice something green and tall, and our brain instantly identifies this object as a tree. We no longer experience the awesome phenomenon of a tree, we experience the abstract concept of “tree.”
Most people in Western culture live in a world of concepts, words, and pictures in their head that is removed from the direct, sensory experience of reality. In reality, our nervous system and brain are bombarded with billions of bits of sense data every second. To protect ourselves from being overwhelmed and confused, our brains automatically ignore most everything that is not relevant for our immediate need, interest, or survival. Psychoactive drugs can temporarily override this reductive function and restore the full range of our awareness potential, lifting the veils that separate us from the beauty and magic of the world we live in.
“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large.....”
--Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception.
“I did not arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe with my rational mind.”
Another element of the peak experience is a sense of instinctive, intuitive “knowing” that facilitates insight, and provides guidance.
During a peak experience it is common to get fresh insights and see possible new solutions to problematic situations and relationships in your life. It is also possible to get clarity on the bigger picture of the overall direction and meaning of your life, and the meaning of life in general.
This wisdom comes from a place beyond the rational mind.
Being in an altered state enables you to shift from the aggressive, survival-orientated, intellect-dominated, waking state into a more relaxed, open, receptive state which invites heightened awareness of the subtle messages of instinct, intuition, and the wisdom of the “higher self.”
There are many ways that psychoactive drugs encourage this openness. Perhaps it comes as a result of the mind expansion that happens when the habitual ways our brains have been programmed to process information are opened up by psychoactive chemicals that encourage neurons to make fresh new connections.
Insight may also come from the temporary alleviation of long standing neurotic defenses and psychosomatic symptomology that often occurs under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
A common example would be an uptight, compulsive, perfectionist type woman who is neurotically driven to keep constantly busy working, cleaning, shopping, exercising, completing endless tasks, etc. (People can become compulsive about almost anything.)
The profound experience of peace and contentment characteristic of the peak experience allows this neurotic type person to sample an alternative possible way of being in the world. She may become acutely aware of how much chronic tension and stress she unconsciously holds in her body, and see clearly how she structures her life to perpetuate this state. She may also be able to get in touch with the deep, underlying, heretofore unconscious anxiety that causes this compulsive behavior. Being immersed for hours in an experience of natural perfection and sanity, the neurotic person is likely to have many useful insights. In addition, she now has an experience of true peace that acts as a reference state that can take root, be learned, and be reproduced at will without drugs. This works in a similar way as classic biofeedback training.
Insight may also come as a result of the awakening that happens when psychoactive drugs break our normal enculturated trance state, allowing us to see things from a fresh perspective.
Most of us unknowingly live in a trance state of consensus reality that is the result of lifelong programming by our family, culture, and mass media.
We believe that shadows are reality (Plato), and we see “Through a glass darkly” (St. Paul).
An infant born to a remote tribe in the Amazon jungle will grow up with a greatly different world view and experience of reality than an infant born in New York City.
Having a concrete experience of an alternative reality offers an expanded perspective from which we can see how our own culture’s mind-set colors all our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. We may be surprised to see how thoroughly our lives have been controlled by Madison Avenue, government propaganda, religious dogma, and social ethic.
As we begin to awaken from this trance, we begin to see clearly the arbitrariness of the social mores that have imprisoned us. This may open up an unlimited range of creative options and new possibilities that we had never considered.
We may also begin to appreciate the humor of it all. When people first begin using psychoactive drugs they often experience fits of uncontrollable laughter as they are struck with the absurdity of modern life!
Profound insight may also come from the shift of identification from the ego self to the authentic self.
Many westerners assume that “who I am” is a composite of my body, thoughts, occupation, social status, lifestyle, nationality, race, religion, political persuasion, favorite football team, etc.
It is not uncommon for psychoactive drugs (especially the entheogens like LSD and psilocybin) to break this trance and offer an experience of the primal, authentic self. This self is the “I am”, the “witness” that has been observing the world through your eyes and listening behind your ears since you were a little baby. It has witnessed your body growing up. It will witness your body growing old. It witnesses your thoughts, your emotions, your pleasure, your pain, your successes and your failures. It is your essence . It is constant, unchangeable, and indestructible. It is the pure consciousness that outlives the molecules of your body that, according to quantum physics, are constantly being born and dying every millisecond. Religions call it the soul.
Hindus call it “Brahman.” “The imperishable, the supreme, dwelling in each body.” “Weapons cut it not; fire burns it not; water wets it not; wind dries it not...”
--Bhagavad Gita 2:23
As you begin to shift your identification from the ego self to this “higher self,” you begin to become lighter, freer, and less fearful. You begin to have access to the resources and wisdom of this higher self. You now have a dispassionate vantage point from which you can clearly observe the ego self and its pathology. You can begin to monitor and examine your own thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and responses almost as if you were an objective outside observer. You begin to see the overall pattern and bigger picture of your life as if you were an eagle soaring high above your limited ego perspective.
A prominent attribute of the MDMA peak experience is a softening of emotional defenses and an engulfment in warm feelings that promote communication, intimacy, and bonding with others.“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
--Jesus (John 13:34)
Most of us in this culture walk around unconsciously protecting ourselves with thick walls of emotional armor. We have been forging and thickening these walls of steel since childhood.
As infants and children, we instinctively reach out for love and seek physical and emotional intimacy. If we are ignored, rejected, or abused, we learn to surround our tender little hearts with walls. We come to believe that no one can be trusted to enter. The same walls that protect us from being hurt again also hold us prisoner. Nothing and nobody can truly touch our heart, and we can no longer reach out beyond the walls. As the years go by, we get so used to the walls that we forget we are in prison.
Under the influence of MDMA, these walls begin to melt. Barriers of fear and judgment that separate us from others begin to drop. You may begin to feel a deep kinship, compassion, and unconditional love for those you are with. You may be filled with love and appreciation for dear ones that you think about. An overall feeling of well-being may promote uncustomary honest and open communication. Lowered fear levels may promote a dropping of inhibitions about being physically affectionate and close with friends and lovers. When there is mutual sexual attraction and consent, couples can experience extraordinary levels of sensuality and emotional/sexual unity. Lifelong sexual hang-ups can be healed and transcended.
If you have been imprisoned for decades inside your own emotional walls, this ecstatic experience of love and openness offers an opportunity to feel what it would be like to be set free. This pleasurable and deeply fulfilling experience may give you the awareness, motivation, and courage to begin the process of fashioning permanent doors and windows in your walls.
F. Limitations of the Peak Experience
Although the effect of the peak experience can be powerfully eye-opening and healing, it is only one component of the holistic healing process. Without doing further work to integrate the new awareness and insight that is experienced on the drug, old habits and neuroses can rapidly reassert themselves.
People who use psychoactive drugs recreationally are often depressed when the drug wears off and they are returned to their mundane lives. Without being willing to make needed life changes and do earnest inner work, the recreational user may become dependent on the drug to access states of bliss, and psychologically addicted to the peak experience as an escape. Using psychoactive drugs in this addictive way usually doesn’t last long. At some point, during some journey, the unhealed parts of one’s psyche will eventually surface and plummet the user into a “bad trip.” This unpleasant experience usually discourages further use. Others may eventually reach an unconscious barrier that shields unhealed parts of the psyche from awareness. When this happens, further levels of consciousness expansion and exploration are blocked, the peak experience is flattened and the user soon looses interest in the drug.
XII. Journey Checklist
One Week Prior
1. Check to determine whether you are taking any pharmaceuticals (prescription or non-prescription) with contraindications with any of the materials you will be working with. If you are using 5-htp or other serotonin or brain chemistry affecting supplements, cease use for 3-5 days prior to your journey.
2. Make sure in advance you have your journey day off for all commitments from work, family, and friends. Let people with whom you keep in regular contact, or who call spontaneously but get freaked out when they can’t find you, know that you will be unavailable all day (or evening). If you use Blackberry or tweet or other instant service by which you are, 24/7, in immediate constant communication with others, make sure people know that there are times when you will be offline, and that you are not dead.
3. Work out. Do some aerobic exercise. Journeywork requires stamina.
4. If you are taking any supplements such as amino acids that impact brain chemistry (e.g. 5-htp), consider stopping your intake at least one or more days before your journey.
One Day Prior
5. Take care of anything that needs doing on your journey day the day before.
6. Do some yoga or stretching. Journeywork requires flexibility and connection to body.
7. Get a good night’s sleep. Conscious and unconscious anxiety about the journey may make this difficult. You might consider taking Melatonin or some herbal sleep formula to help.
8. Grapefruit. There is anecdotal evidence that freshly squeezed grapefruit has a potentiating effect upon drug ingestion. The receptors in the liver that ordinarily screen out a substantial percentage of certain drugs get bound up by enzymes in the grapefruit, allowing more of the drug to pass through directly into the bloodstream. Do your own research to determine if this is right for you.
The Day Of
9. Do not eat for at least 4-5 hours prior to your journey. You should feel hungry when you start. You will not eat anything until after the journey is over. If you are feeling hungry, even famished, that sensation will go away once the journey starts. If you are hypoglycemic, a 3 hour fast will be adequate if your last meal is very light and quickly digestible.
10. Having taken care of all of your obligations the week and day before, you should be able to go into your journey without a load of unfinished business on your mind. Spend your time in quiet, nature if possible, feeling as much of yourself as possible.
11. Prepare your journey room.
12. Unplug your phones (all of them). Make sure all obligations, including pets and children will be someone else’s responsibility for the duration of your journey, and for some time thereafter.
13. Have a meal already prepared (needing only heating) for the conclusion of your journey.
14. Review you guidelines and agreements with your sitter.
15. Juice your grapefruits (if using). Mix in some Liquid Calcium Magnesium Citrate (available at health food stores), if you are using MDMA.
16. Spend some time quieting and communicating your feelings and hopes and expectations with your sitter.
17. Say a prayer, or state an intention, or whatever sharing you feel appropriate with the universe.
18. Take your planed medications, lie down, and start breathing.
After the Journey
19. If you have used MDMA during your journey, you may feel somewhat depleted post-journey. Of the medicines discussed herein, the use of MDMA appears to involve a slightly higher physical price to pay in terms of how you body is affected by ingestion of the medicine. There are a lot of different ideas on how to best repair the body after an MDMA journey. The following are some anecdotal suggestions that might have some benefit:
20. Do your own research. Try different things, and find what works best for you.
- B complex and vitamin C
- Liquid Calcium Magnesium Citrate (available at health food stores), mixed in juice, with between 100 and 150 of 5-htp.
- Fresh grapefruit may be helpful.
21. You will need some protein for grounding afterward – not much, but a moderate portion, even if you don’t feel like eating. Soup is often a soothing, warm, and nurturing option. Something easy to digest, since you will likely be eating after a significant fast and perhaps a huge amount of very strenuous work. MDMA often changes the taste most foods to cardboard, but you should try to eat nevertheless to get as much grounding as possible.
22. A bath or shower, something immersing yourself in water, will help with the aftereffects.
23. Quiet time with yourself, be gentle, resting, sleep if possible. It is recommended that you avoid socializing, as you have been to a place that few will understand or have the appropriate energy to support you where you are. It is also recommended that you avoid distractive media that evening (TV, movies, etc.). Media is designed to trigger or alter your energetic and emotional state, and after a journey, you will be totally unarmored against these influences. If, however, after a particularly difficult journey, there is a feel-good movie that will help nurture and soften the impact of the work, then such may be a helpful addition to winding down.
24. Some of the psychedelics can have a disruptive effect upon your sleep on the evening of your journey. If you have gentle sleep aids, and you are seeking to sleep, this may be a good time to use them. Your dreams may be vivid, that evening, or over the next week. Or you may have no dreams at all.
25. Be aware of “contraction.” During your journey, you may have experienced yourself in a hugely open state. You may have felt feelings in powerful and expanded ways. After a big expansion, there is usually a contraction. You will likely contract, but not all the way back to the way you were before the journey. However, your memory of what you felt during your huge expansion during your journey will remain with you in the days after the journey. It will be harder to see that you are more open than you were before the journey, and much easier to see that you are less open than what you felt on the journey itself. You may feel down, depressed, and closed when you compare those journey memories to the feelings you are now left with. Know that this is normal, and to be expected.
26. The real test of the results of the journey is in your life. You may notice differences in how you react to things, people, and situations. Anybody can get high and feel good. Where the rubber meets the road is who you are afterwards.
27. Give yourself sufficient time after your journey to assimilate the work you did, to allow for integration, and grounding. If it was a difficult journey, make sure you get in some rewarding fun, pampering, and treats for yourself. You need the good stuff in order to have the resilience and flexibility to go into the bad stuff, so make sure you get plenty of it. Allow for at least two weeks between journeys.
Sample Journey 1
Sample Journey 2
Sample Journey 3
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