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This Psilocybin Story comes to you from Samantha Scrivens.
And if you have a Psilocybin Story the world needs to hear, email firstname.lastname@example.org with why you’d like to share your experience, even if you aren’t a writer!
The world needs more of these right now and forever.
Thank you so much Samantha for sharing yours!
Here is “Psilocybin Surrender”
Can you sequence a dream?
Pinpoint when it started?
Likely the setting is a murky, submerged Monet. Conversations of grave importance are whittled to a phrase or single word, if you can recall any at all. Often it’s the sheer fear of being chased, the horror of teeth cracking from oozing gums, the uncontainable joy of flying, that sticks with us in the waking state.
I can no more eloquently detail my solo psychedelic expedition.
But as you might describe your nightly and matutinal routines: brushing, flossing, drifting off to monotonous tones of a murder mystery podcast, so can I share my trip prep and epilogue: SET, SETTING, SUBSTANCE, SITTER, SESSION, SUPPORT, & SURRENDER.
I asked myself “Why?” Why take psilocybin mushrooms under a blindfold and headphones for four hours? My journaled response:
- to look the dragon of fear in the mouth
- to gain experience and knowledge to offer others.
There’s always a certain fear surrounding psychedelics. What if I have a bad trip? What if I’m that one person that keeps tripping forever? What if I need the paramedics? What if…whatif…whatif…Every time, without fail, this preparatory cry plagues me like a colicky infant to an exhausted mother. I console my small self with wisdom from Michael Pollan, who experienced a similar protest before each of his psychedelic experiences in How to Change Your Mind.
“That voice, I came to realize, was my ego trying (selfishly) to prevent me from a having an experience that, among other things, would undermine that ego.”
Even as I sat with the chocolate truffle in my perspiring palm, invoking divine Reiki energy and protection, my heart slammed like a relentless wave. I took a deep breath, then another, until my pulse subsided.
Fear would undoubtedly rear its ugly head again, snarling and snapping jaws at my bliss, and so I designated my breath as my anchor. After years of practicing yoga and advising students to “return to the breath”, I figured this would be second nature, a well-honed tool to mitigate anxiety during the trip.
As beginner in the burgeoning field of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, I needed to wade through my own internal terrain before I could hope to hold space for others. Hence I write right now, attempting to distill the ineffable experience into words.
Next I SET intentions:
- to dissolve mental barriers
- to make peace with the past and calm qualms for the future
- to immerse myself in love and gratitude
At least, that’s what they would have been. There is no guaranteeing what will emerge in the psychedelics state. Whatever needs to surface from mental rabbit holes around which I typically veer, will surface. So I chose, with full faith in my spiritual guides, higher Self, and divine energy, to SURRENDER to the process, leaving my open journal alongside my bed as a remindful totem.
Although I find that submerging in nature is the most idyllic setting for psychedelics, this adventure was meant to explore the inner landscape. Snuggled in bed behind a locked door with sunlight splashing upon my thawing body on a cold winter afternoon created physical and mental comfort from which I could embark on my journey. With a fully charged battery and downloaded playlist compiled by John’s Hopkins University’s psilocybin researchers, I cut cyber connection to the outside world.
I knew that the music would evoke an array of emotion, that some songs I simply wouldn’t like: the deep Gregorian chant reminiscent of a Catholic Mass; the tinny pitch of a single flute; another crescendo of screaming violins. I promised myself that I wouldn’t skip a song in attempt to skirt something I’d rather not face. “Music becomes a mirror of transcendental forms of consciousness,” the playlist developer, psychologist Bill Richards, Ph.D., explained in an interview with Inverse. My only option would be to surrender to the piercing choir and sharp cello notes evoking tension in my hands, as well as the Hindi chanting and drumming spreading smiles across my face. Along with the music, I steeped a fresh thermos of chamomile tea alongside lavender essential oil and tissues, and cleared the air with sage plumes, additional esoteric comforts to augment calm throughout the experiment.
Just like a beginning backpacker might start with a one-night trip before venturing out into the wild for a weeklong excursion, I wanted to dabble with a light dosage for my first solo expedition sans sitter. After an hour, I considered nibbling an additional sliver, but I decided to give the mushrooms time to work their magic. I’m grateful for that patience, as I soon felt akin to the protagonist in Gulliver’s Travels, subject to minuscule pixies swarming my skin suit. Of course due to the lesser dosage, I was very much still grounded in the realization that I was, in fact, settled in my own bed and not strapped down on the tiny island of Lilliput.
Physically, psilocybin connects parts of the brain that aren’t usually linked, temporarily dissolving the default mode network that is responsible for the ego. My ego, however, was still very much present, albeit in the passenger’s seat rather than behind the wheel. I would’ve (and still would) liked to more deeply explore the universe from within through a stronger dose, but not without a sitter to hold space.
“Would you mind staying with me for upwards of 5 hours while I lie in bed and listen to classical music?” is a huge favor to ask; and in fact probably categorizes better as a job. As I didn’t have access to such, I shrugged and said, “I’ll be my own sitter, let my breath be my guide.” Although that resolute determination seems sensible in sobriety, it quickly dissolves under a mind altering substance.
I used the bathroom mid-trip, dazzled by the ethereal, vibrant world glowing outside myself. As I nestled into bed again and saw the eye pillow’s slow descent, the Fear Dragon’s scorching breath ignited my worry. I don’t want to go back under. Oh God. I actually just want this to be over. Maybe I should stop the music, toss the eyemask, and explore myself through yoga. No…that won’t solve this anxiety either. Fuck, I’m thirsty. Gulp. Should I call a friend?And tell them, what, that I took mushrooms and am having a difficult time? That would only make me (not to mention them) more uncomfortable. Oh God, this is why having a sitter is recommended.
“A SITTER” was the first bullet point I scratched in my journal towards the tail end of the trip. Have a sober someone to hold safe space; a thread of continuity weaving a safety net to assure that you’re doing great, that everything is ok, is paramount. That presence provides a foundation from which the ego can relax so that the rest of consciousness can continue traversing the unknown.
At first it felt like I was lying in bed for an afternoon nap. Sunlight danced between branches seemingly in time to Vivaldi’s mandolin measures. But I can no more sequence thoughts or detail images after the first hour than describe how I fell asleep last night. I can, however, identify warm fuzzy feelings of contented bliss amongst harmonious strings and hauntingly enchanted voices. Until I had to tinkle during the trip’s peak.
It was as I returned to bed that I struck myself with a sudden desire for it all to be over. It dawned on me that I was in the middle of the ocean in a rowboat. Briefly I deliberated biting into an emergency Xanax, but realized that I would be robbing myself of a rich opportunity for growth.
“Surrender” the word jumped from my journal as I sipped tea with shaky hands. I knew that, even if I had a sitter, shaman, entire paramedic team, I would be the only person able to help myself. The psychonaut mantra echoed, “The only way out is through.” And the music will carry me through, I told myself. Although there wasn’t another physical person present, I knew that I wasn’t alone. Calling upon divine feminine energy, The Great Earth Mother for protection, I saw my small self cocooned into her cosmic cuddle.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
A moment later Mozart’s heavy Vesperae Solennes de Confessore gave way to Vivaldi’s Gloria in D Major, releasing rushing relief throughout my entire being. Through jubilant strings I saw a landmass, a continent upon the horizon, and knew that I was going to make it.
Night darkened. I’d been lying in bed for nearly 5 hours. I really wanted to make it to the end of the playlist, featuring Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles and Louie Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, but needed a break from music and my room. As I ventured outside to gaze upon the moon and stars, tears welled, not from relief or astonishment at life’s intrinsic beauty and interconnectedness, but from an overwhelming sensation of isolation. Mopping exhausted eyes, I returned inside, grounded myself with (non-psychoactive) dark chocolate, transcribed what I could, and slept.
I’d always experienced psychedelics with another soul, holding hands to skirt dark shadows. Afterward, the space that was usually full of reminiscent giggling was rife with lonely contemplation. I’d noticed the gaping disconnect between the altruistic, wholesome life I desired and my current, unfulfilled existence. As after every psychedelic trip, I felt as if I’d come back with a handful of seeds, but lacked the tools with which to cultivate them. Wreaked with worry, I reached out to an old friend.
Over chips, salsa, and frosted mug of Pacifico, Smeagol held space for me to vent smoke clouding my mind. “We can really only do the best we can with what we have,” she mused in response to my whines of wasting potential and squandering opportunities. With a wry smile she added, “Besides, it’s not like we’re really free,” nodding to our many past dialogues on of the farce of free will. It was a relief, but still I realized why these experiences are often communal, as in ayahuasca ceremonies, and involve a shaman for integrating a transcendental overload.
In the days following, I wrote and wrestled, attempting to solve a mental Rubik’s cube, spinning worries round and round, until I noticed that the puzzle was color changing. Maybe there is no solution. It’s ok to not be ok, to walk away from this battle with anxiety.
Surrendering, I realized, was an avenue to peace.
As for the seeds, I’m planting them one at a time. Literally in gardens, and figuratively, through this piece here, hoping to grow a community in which we can facilitate safe, supported consciousness exploration, thus expanding awareness of interconnectedness.
Thank you for reading🙏❤️😄💙🍄