keeping a drug explorers journal

Yesterday I posted three best practices for serious psychonauts. However, there was one key one that I left off because it deserves its own post. That is keeping a drug journal.

What is a Drug Journal?

A drug journal is a place to make a written record of all drug use. This includes key information of all ingestions, such as substance, dose, route of administration, and times taken. It also acts as something of a diary, and includes other things such as notes on subjective experience and musings of the mind. You can also include information such as company, the type of session, and the location.

Why Keep a Drug Journal?

We are all different. What works for one person and makes one person feel a certain way is not going to be the same for someone else. 

Just as people keep food logs tracking everything they eat and making notes on how they feel after certain types of food, a drug log can be used in the same way. Keeping a personal drug journal is so useful because it allows the user to gain personalised data. It means we can refine and individualise our use. 

There are many benefits to keeping a drug journal and many areas to gain valuable data for optimised personalised practice. Here are a few…

Types of ingestion

By keeping a drug journal, we can see how different types of ingestion affect us. 

Making notes on different ways of ingesting psilocybin can help us find what helps with nausea. For some, it might be making tea. For others, using peppermint. If you are making a kratom smoothie, you can write down the ingredients you used. With some experimentation, over time you will find your favourite recipes. If taking MDMA, you can note down the last thing you ate before your initial dose and the time you ate it. You will notice how the time of onset varies from taking it shortly after a large meal or on an empty stomach. 

You can try different methods of ingestion and find what works for you, finding and creating your own preferred methods over time.

Dose and Tolerance

What is a low dose for one person might well be a high dose for someone else. We all have different biological make ups and react in different ways. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where one person has been really high, or drunk, and someone else has not been, even though they’ve had the same dose. This is because of individual differences which we all have. These may come from a variety of factors, such as diet, medication, body size, previous experience or genetic make up. Different bodies metabolize different substances in their own unique ways.

For example, five dried grams of magic mushrooms is known as a heroic dose. But for me it’s more of a medium dose. In general I’ve found that I have quite a high tolerance for most drugs which is funny because many people see me as someone able to smash down large quantities. Actually it’s just because I have a naturally high tolerance which I think is largely due to having a high metabolism, and otherwise I am actually quite a sensitive person. This type of individual variation occurs with all drugs. 

Maintaining a written record can help track tolerance over time. This is useful as tolerance can change as we do. These changes may come from things like a change in diet or personality. As our personality changes, our relationship with certain substances and how we interact with them also develops. A drug journal gives us information on how certain doses affect each of us. 

Boosters

Having a written record of the times of ingestions is very useful if you are going to be taking boosters. Having the time written down is a very useful reference point to check before you take any additional doses.

It is well known that people often end up taking more edible marijuana than they really wanted because it takes a long time to kick in. Getting impatient, people redose before the effects from the first dose have begun to take effect. Then all of a sudden, whammy!

If you don’t make a note of the time then it can be anyone’s guess when the original dose was taken. This is especially true with drugs that affect perception of time. With times written down you have that reference point. You might see that ‘oh OK it was only 30 minutes ago we took the initial dose, let’s wait a full hour before taking any more’. 

Making that decision of course depends on the time of onset for the substance in question and the route of administration. For example, oral onset is longer than intranasal, for ketamine and 2-CB. Having a written copy of various doses and times in the back of your journal is good practice. 

Objective Reassurance

Having the time written down can also be very helpful as a reassurance if you are having a difficult experience. 

In this way your journal can act as something of a sitter. If it feels like the trip is going on and on, you can bear in mind that the effect will eventually wear off. You will be able to see exactly how far you are into the experience and how long you have left. There’s no question of how long ago you took the dose, wondering ‘was it 30 minutes, or three hours?’. The time that you took the dose remains objective and the numbers do not lie.

Raise Awareness of Use

Keeping a drug journal raises awareness of use. By logging every ingestion you are able to see exactly how many times you take a drug and how much you have taken of it. It can be useful to conduct a monthly review to keep an eye on use to keep an awareness of the frequency and quantity. When you have the information in front of you there’s no way around it. Again, numbers do not lie. 

Fun

Keeping a drug journal is also just great fun. I really enjoy looking back through my journals from time to time because it shows me what was on my mind at various stages in my life. This ranges from issues in personal relationships to revolutionary plans to change the world. I also see lots of divergent thinking, creative ideas and fun explorations. In this way I’ve found it useful to nurture creative and divergent thinking.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a drug journal is how you go from being a drug user to a drug nerd. It has got to be the best practice I’ve ever adopted in terms of refining, developing, and improving my drug use. If we consider substances to be incredible tools, why not invest some time and energy into learning about how to best utilise them?

tripsitting buddha

As psychedelics continue to gain popularity, there are more and more people beginning to offer their services as a tripsitter. At this point in history we are in a transitional phase where lots of people are using psychedelics, but there aren’t really any established structures and training programmes around to support safe use. 

As it stands, fully licensed, legally practising trip sitters are extremely rare. Outside of clinical research, on the whole, psychedelics are still illegal in most parts of the world. In the few cases where they are legal, there are no licences or recognised authorities to hand out qualifications in the country.

This means that almost anyone working as a tripsitter is unlicensed, and if they are not operating in a country or state where it is legal, underground. I have previously worked underground, and now fall into the category of an unlicensed tripsitter, though my tripsitting work takes place in the Netherlands, so it is legal. There are many people working in this same category of unlicensed but legal, and organisations like The Guild Of Guides are working to take care of this area. However, they will still not cover underground guides. 

Underground Guides

I know there are people currently practising underground who probably will continue to do so for a good few years to come. I have made my share of mistakes on my learning curve as a guide and I would like to share what I’ve found to be best practices. This article will cover some practices that I think all practising tripsitters should follow, but I especially hope that they will be of use to underground sitters. I believe this area of practice to be a larger cause for concern at this point in time due to the inherent isolation and secrecy of their work, which tends to result in a lack of accountability and open channels for feedback and critique.

Recommendations for Best Practices

Acquire Knowledge & Experience

The first thing is to learn, and gain both knowledge and experience, on two levels: firstly, personal experience, secondly, as a tripsitter.

Knowledge may come through reading books, taking courses, or finding a coach. Be studious. Do your research. Personal experience may come in many forms: organising sessions with friends, going on a retreat, working with a professional facilitator or psychedelic coach.

This is really about developing your own practice and learning about how to use psychedelics through first hand experience. Imagine you were seeking a ski instructor, if they didn’t have any knowledge and experience of skiing themselves, would you want them as your guide?

When it comes to tripsitting, again seek knowledge where you can. Read books (see recommendations at the bottom of this post) and become well versed in practices in different traditions and cultures of using psychedelics. You then might start by facilitating sessions for friends and family members. After that, you might volunteer at a retreat centre. 

The path I have followed has been along these lines. I had my own journeys, and began reading books on the topic, whilst slowly incorporating what I was reading into my practice. Along the way I organised sessions with friends, which developed into tripsitting people close to me, before reaching out and working at Myco Meditations in Jamaica. I first went there as a volunteer, eager to gain experience, and in due course I was offered a paid position. I continued to organise sessions with friends, and this expanded to tripsitting people in my community, before I decided to set up New Moon Psychedelic Retreats and took on a role as a lead facilitator. This dual approach of seeking knowledge and experience, exploring and experimenting, and steadily evolving my practice is the approach that I still use to this day. Most recently, pre-corona, I worked as a tripsitter on a Truffles Therapy retreat in late 2019, and in 2020 I underwent a course of psilocybin therapy as part of a replica of a study at Johns Hopkins.

Screen

A basic level of screening is the first step to sitting someone. Information that you should gather before moving forward includes: 

  • personal past or present mental health conditions (including depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, behavioural addictions, eating disorders and PTSD)
  • personal or family history of schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or any other psychotic disorder.
  • current medications 
  • the person’s history and experience with psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs.

Personal and family histories of mental health issues should be carefully considered when deciding who to tripsit for. Those with psychotic disorders are at an increased risk of a psychotic break triggered by psychedelics so do your research on this. In terms of medication, one must make sure there are no contraindications between their medication and the substance that the journeyer will be taking. Understanding a person’s personal history with substances will help to assess their readiness and calibrate dosage.

Acknowledge Your Limitations

When it comes to deciding who you will tripsit for and who you won’t, it is important to understand the limits of your training, experience and knowledge. For example, if you are not a medical professional, do not recommend someone to taper off their medication. They should consult with the doctor about this and make their plans clear.

Acknowledge your limitations and refer out as appropriate. 

If you are truly passionate about your path as a facilitator, then you should consider what knowledge, experience and qualifications you need to move forward and be able to competently tripsit for those people you want to, but aren’t yet fully equipped to do so. Professional qualifications are emerging fast within the psychedelic space, so there are plenty of opportunities for learning and improving your skills.

Until then, don’t accept dubious cases. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution. If you want to help that person move forward on their path, you can recommend them to work towards a state of readiness in the meantime. This could be directing them towards trying breathwork, attending a meditation retreat or course of meditation, partaking in a vision quest, or attending some other kind of spiritual or wellness retreat. Otherwise, you might refer them on to a more experienced practitioner.

Consent, Confidentiality, Follow Up

These are the three pillars for clinicians in the field, and due to the psychologically dismantling effects of psychedelics and the sensitivity of the human mind in these states, are just as important in informal practice.

Consent

The journeyer must understand and know that anything that happens within the session will be 100% consensual. This creates a safe space and enables them to engage more fully with the experience. Conversations and agreements about what happens in the session, the type and level of interaction between the sitter and tripper should be covered in the preparation stage. 

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is important to create a safe space for the session. Allowing the person to feel safe will mean that they are more able to let go during the experience and allow whatever needs to come up to come up. This is then going to enable them to have a more beneficial experience. 

This is something that is very easy to forget as an amateur practitioner. For this reason, it is very important to state to the person you are tripsitting that everything that they tell you and what happens within the session, as well as the preparation and follow up meetings, remains strictly confidential. Do not make exceptions to this rule. This should be stated explicitly at the first preparation meeting. Such a clear declaration will help to reinforce this to yourself too.

Even with friends or more casual acquaintances, I think confidentiality is an important principle to follow, and is a basic sign of respect for those you are serving. 

Follow Up

Because of the potential of psychedelics to dismantle psychological boundaries, they can be destabilizing and also increase the emotional sensitivity of participants in the days and weeks, and potentially even months afterwards. For this reason, checking in with people after their experience is important. Some people may require extra support, and again, may need referring to specialists in some cases. The MAPS list and psychedelic.support are two options for finding an integration provider.

If the person is a healthy functioning individual, the need for personalised follow-up may be reduced by making sure that the person has sufficient support in the event of some kind of emerging personal crisis. This should also be checked in the preparation phase. A useful question to ask someone is: if you had an emergency who would you go to help for? If you had to show up on someone’s doorstep in the middle of the night, who would that be?

A check should also be made about which other people know the person is undertaking the psychedelic trip. If you are the only person who knows, then it’s very possible that you are the only person that they feel comfortable speaking to about their experience and what is coming up afterwards. Ideally, they should already have a therapist, friends or community of people that know what they are doing. A psychedelic-friendly therapist is a great person for them to speak to and have the designated time and space to talk about and process their experience. Where this is not the case, an assessment should be made as to how much useful support they will be able to receive from their own network. With this in mind, you should consider what you will provide yourself.

Final Thoughts

When sitting for others the focus should be on care. This comes naturally when sitting for close friends or family members. It is essential, however, to maintain the same attitude if deciding to move into paid work. For this reason, I would recommend you to develop your practice slowly by moving outwards from self, to family, friends, community, and finally, paying journeyers. 

If deciding to pursue tripsitting as a professional vocation, one should avoid the tension between the legitimate need to earn a living, and the duty of care. For more on this see the talk linked at the end of the article.

For me it comes back to respecting the substances for the power that they hold. I believe a patient and grounded approach is the wisest course of action when it comes to working with psychedelics, both as a practitioner and a tripsitter. Move forward with caution and care.

Best wishes on your journey.

.

Recommended Books For the Aspiring Tripsitter:

Psychedelic Psychotherapy – R. Coleman | Goodreads
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron Stolaroff | Goodreads
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – Jim Fadiman | Goodreads

Recommended Talk:
Charging Money For Ceremony – Jerónimo Mazarrasa | Beyond Psychedelics 2018

 

Read more on Maps of the Mind:

tips advice psychedelic integration providers

If you are a psychedelic integration coach, provider or just interested in becoming one, this piece shares five best practices when providing services and helping others with their integration process. 

If integration is a new term to you, start here:

Here are the contents, I’ll expand on each point below.

  1. Understand What You Are Practicing
  2. Manage Expectations
  3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth
  4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)
  5. Seek Continued Development

Credits

Before beginning, I’d like to acknowledge that this piece is pulled from my notes from workshops, webinars and presentations on the topic. Primarily, from an excellent webinar on integration hosted by MAPS last summer which featured two people I consider leaders in the field: Marc Aixalà, and Ingmar Gorman. Some is also taken from a workshop with Ingmar at Insight Conference in Berlin last year. You can find out more about them at the bottom of this post.

Alright, let’s get into it!

1. Understand What You Are Practicing

Integration is a broad term and will look very different depending on a person’s needs. One factor in determining a person’s needs is when you see them in relation to their psychedelic experience.

ingmar psychedelic integration scale

In this scale from Ingmar, we see that there is the post acute psychedelic effect on the left end, and long term psychotherapy on the right.

The post acute psychedelic effect on the far left would be the hours and days directly following an experience, sometimes known as the ‘afterglow’ period, where as on the far right it would be a long term and ongoing therapeutic relationship. 

Working on a psychedelic retreat where you are with people directly after their experience, for example, will be on the far left of the scale. If you are conducting a follow up call two weeks later, you will be closer to the middle. If you are working with someone in an ongoing process over many months and years, you will be on the right side. 

Another factor to consider is how a person is doing following the experience: did it bring difficulties or benefits?

marc psychedelic integration scale

On this scale from Marc, we see the different ideas of what could constitute integration, from dealing with undesired effects (e.g. emergence of repressed traumatic memories) to maximising benefits (e.g. greater sense of peace, connectedness, more mental clarity).

Working on the left end of the scale requires more specialisation and looks more like a clinical practice, whereas further to the right could look more like coaching.

Knowing where you are practicing on these scales should inform your approach and help you to know what you are capable of doing. For example, for a therapist, empathy alone is not sufficient; a capacity to recognise what is happening with transference and countertransference and how to respond to that, is also necessary.

Although they can be combined, integration and psychotherapy could be very different processes, so be clear about which you are doing. Acknowledge your level of expertise and limitations, and be ready to refer when helping someone effectively is outside of your scope.

2. Manage Expectations

Psychedelics are getting hyped. Retreats are the new trend. Trips are the latest ‘cure all’. Stories of seemingly overnight change in the media are backed by incredible results from clinical studies.

A desire for fast change is fed by our cultural leanings to quick fixes and instant gratification and the idea of a ‘magic bullet’ is very appealing and draws many people to psychedelics.

Coming back to reality after a ceremony or retreat, and the realistic pace of change, can bring a surprising realisation that there is continued work to be done. 

The non-linear rate of improvement after an experience can fall short of people’s expectations, and this can lead to disappointment and frustration.

non linear progress integration

Falling back into old ways, as often happens on a path of growth, can also bring a sense of failure.

Handling these challenges can be handled well by managing expectations and bringing them to a realistic level.

Of course, hope is an important factor in the process.

So how does one manage expectations whilst maintaining a sense of hope?

It is very useful to first try to understand, what is their expectation of the outcome?

If expectations are high, then balance bringing them to a more realistic level with keeping a sense of optimism and hope.

10 Years of Therapy Insight

It’s often heard that psychedelic sessions are ‘like 10 years of therapy’ or ’10 years of transformation’. Sat next to me at Ingmar’s workshop in Berlin, Marlene Rupp of the excellent Sapiensoup put it perfectly in more real terms: ’10 years of insight’.

See Marlene’s talk at Beyond Psychedelics here:
How To Start A Psychedelic Integration Circle

Insight isn’t worth much until it is realised and actualised in the world; when it is integrated. There is a big difference between understanding a profound truth and embodying it. We could all read a quote from a text or book, but getting to the place of living in accordance with that wisdom is something else. This takes time and effort, something useful to recall in managing expectations.

A useful way of putting it that Marc shared is:

“You will have an experience.
That experience can be very useful, if you do something with it.”

3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth

It can be the case that a repressed or traumatic memory is recovered during a psychedelic session. For example, abuse from a family member.

In this scenario, the person who has experienced or re-experienced the memory may ask you if it is true, if it really happened.

Even if they don’t say it in words, they may in one way or another be fishing for a confirmation on the validity of their memory.

When it comes to recovered memories, the advice is simple: if you are in any way asked about their validity, do not confirm one way or the other.

The only correct answer you can give is ‘I don’t know’. A false confirmation one way or the other can have seriously negative consequences.

Worth mentioning here is Elizabeth Loftus and her groundbreaking work on false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse – very interesting stuff for those inclined.

 

In general, be very careful when interpreting others’ experiences. This leads us nicely on to…

4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)

Someone comes to you who has recently had deep and powerful mushroom trip. Perfect, you’ve had many deep and powerful mushroom trips so you know exactly what they’re going through.

Not so fast.

Just because you’ve consumed the same substance as someone else, be it ayahuasca, truffles, acid or any other, it doesn’t mean that you’ve had the same experience. It doesn’t mean they were even remotely similar.

No matter how many similarities there may be, you can’t assume you’ve had the same experience. The width and variety of psychedelic (and life) experience should never be underestimated.

four agreements don miguel ruiz assumptions

That Don Miguel was on to something

Now of course, there can be similarities (and if so, great, because then your experience and learnings will be more easily translated to the other person). But if there are, then try to uncover them with non-directive questioning and patient listening, rather than assuming them from the start and then reaching them skewed by confirmation bias.

When it comes to asking questions, I personally try to take the approach of a non-judgemental exploration characterised by curiosity – seeing the interaction as a means to explore the person’s inner world alongside them. Rather than knowing and leading, trying to go deeper and uncover more.

As an integration coach, it isn’t necessary to share your own personal psychedelic experiences. After all, this isn’t about you. What is more important is that you let them know that you understand the challenges they are facing.

Be A Good Listener

On this point I think it’s useful to emphasize the importance of being a good listener. 

“There are three things you can do to help someone. The first is to listen. The second is to listen. The third is to listen some more.”

When you find yourself talking, WAIT.
That is, remember the acronym:
W. A. I. T.
Why Am I Talking?

wait acronym psychedelic therapy ingmar integration workshop

From Ingmar’s workshop at Insight Conference 2019

5. Seek Continued Development

Continued and sustained effort is fundamental to becoming great at anything. As Goenka would say; diligence, patience, and persistence.

dhamma dipa vipassana

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the best way to learn comes from a combination of both study and practice, so read plenty, and seek practice where you can.

However, this final point is a tricky one. As psychedelic integration is a nascent field, there aren’t really any obvious ways to go about further development. By contrast, if you want to become a psychotherapist, for example, there are some pretty clear roadmaps to do so. How to become an integration provider on the other hand, isn’t so clear.

Globally, our only long standing traditions around using psychedelics have survived through indigenous cultures – e.g. Native American Indians, Amazonian tribes – where practice has never been totally discontinued and knowledge around practices has been passed down through ancestral lineage.

Because of the preservation of practices in those cultures, experiences are naturally integrated in to their communities. For this reason, they don’t really have models for integration that are applicable to us in the West. Here, psychedelics have only recently begun to emerge as a tool for awareness, growth and therapeutic application, and as such are not integrated in our society.

Though we currently lack these systems, they are on the way. In the meantime, seek education and practice where you can; go to workshops, start a circle, learn in related areas e.g. breathwork, mindfulness, support group and community building. Marc gave a couple hints: become a good listener, and become a good therapist in whatever school you’re comfortable in.

You can find some useful and related resources in this post:

If you have any further tips, resources, or ideas, feel free to get in contact.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

.

Resources & Credit:

As promised above, here is more information on Marc and Ingmar. I’ve been lucky enough to attend in person workshops with both, a tripsitting workshop in 2017 by Marc in Copenhagen and an integration one with Ingmar last year in my home city of Berlin. They both have a lot of experience in the field and I’d recommend both as good sources of information. 

Marc Aixalà is an engineer, psychologist, psychotherapist and certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, specialized in supporting people who face challenging situations after experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness. He coordinates support and integration services at ICEERS. You can find out more about ICEERS here.

Ingmar Gorman is a psychologist who specializes in assisting populations who have had experiences with psychedelics and other psychoactive compounds. He is director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program, and co-founder of Fluence.

space universe man

What’s the best way to prepare for a psychedelic experience? When I ask this question, what I mean is: how can one prepare in a way that will maximise the positive benefits of an inner journey; the insights, increased awareness, greater sense of connection and wellbeing, and all those other magical things you’ve probably heard that psychedelics can do.

In this post I will outline some practices and techniques that I believe constitute a preparation that, if undertaken, considerably improves the chances of these benefits.

traveller journey night

Prepare well for the journey, there is a long road ahead.

Preparing the ‘Set’

When it comes to shaping a psychedelic experience, there are two key words: set and setting. Set refers to mindset and setting means the environment. This post is not complete in this regard and will focus on the set; the inner state of the individual. It will focus on preparing the mind.

The practices and techniques covered here are:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • The Photo Trip
  • Life Timeline
  • Forming An Intention
  • Clearing

Meditation

Familiarising yourself with mindfulness techniques and developing a meditation practice is always my number one recommendation for a session prep. 

The potential benefit of meditation is twofold. The first is to relieve anxiety and approach the session from a more relaxed place. The second is to practice exploring your thoughts and feelings without avoidance, judgement, or resistance.

meditation

In this second way, meditation can get the psychedelic process going before taking any substances; exploring your inner world and cultivating introspective and reflective states. Getting comfortable facing your thoughts and feelings, including uncomfortable ones, will serve you well, and can be thought of as something of a psychedelic warm up.

With all this in mind, meditation aids one in their ability to follow the ultimate tenet of psychedelic navigation: let go and surrender. This basic rule of thumb follows the observation that difficulties occur in a session when one resists or fights the effects of the psychedelic. Thoughts like ‘this isn’t what I signed up for’ or ‘this isn’t what was supposed to happen, I don’t like this, get me out’, are more problematic than actually going into what we understand as negative feelings; sadness, grief etc. and prevent us from processing something that might’ve been stuffed down. Meditation gives one practice in being with these feelings, allowing them, and all the while, breathing.

Leary Metzner Alpert meditation quote ram dass

Janis Phelps’ referencing Leary & co in her talk at the Breaking Convention conference

If you are new to meditation, you’ll need some basic instruction and guidance to begin. Try finding a group or class near to where you live as some in person guidance with the support of a group is an excellent way to begin.

If that’s not possible there are many resources available online. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Center is a good place to start. Headspace and Waking Up are apps that both have a free run of short guided sessions and are a great introduction. Insight is another that has many guided meditations.

If you have the time and are serious about learning, a silent course is probably the best way to become well versed with meditation quickly. You can find donation based ones with Vipassana all around the world at dhamma.org

dhamma dipa vipassana

If you’d like to read more about psychedelics and meditation, I have written about how they’ve influenced each other on my personal journey, and also on the mutual relationship of the two on the New Moon retreat website.

Journaling

If meditation is difficult for you, try keeping a journal.

Rather than recording what you’ve done each day as one might do in a diary, invite introspection. Focus on your inner world, writing about feelings and thoughts, and include more general reflections and ideas about life. As author and write-letters-to-yourself enthusiast Cal Newport has pointed out, composing thoughts in the structured form demanded by written prose can often help to gain clarity.

journal

Journaling, like meditation, can help to increase awareness of your perceptions. Though it need not be one or the other, and journaling can be an excellent companion to a meditation practice. Though it’s not necessary to write on a regular schedule, some kind of minimum regularity, say once a week, will probably help to begin the practice.

Alternative Option: Audio Journaling
You might try audio journaling, opening a voice memo app and speaking your mind, if thats easier for you.

The Picture Trip

The ‘picture trip’ is a technique that was employed by a pioneer of psychedelic therapy, Leo Zeff. This description of the method is adapted from the book about Leo and his methods, The Secret Chief Revealed.

To do this exercise you will need to gather some photos before the trip. These photos will form a history of your life.

photos collection

Pictures to Gather:

• Yourself, one at age two and one every two years thereafter through adolescence, up to adulthood.

• Two pictures each of your mother, father and any siblings; one when they were young but you can still remember them, and a recent one.

• Pictures of any other family members that are or were significant in your life.

• A picture of your husband/wife, or any woman or man who has had great significance in your life. Lovers, current or past. If you’re married, wedding pictures.

• If you have children, a picture of them when they were about two years old, and a recent one.

• Any other significant pictures. Any pictures with an emotional charge.

As you go through your photos to find these, spend some time looking through your photo collection. Spend a few moments with each photo, looking at it and seeing what you feel with each one. If any memories or feelings come up, sit with them and see where they go. When you come across a picture for the picture trip, put it aside. Try to do this no further away than a week before the trip, as close to the time of the trip as you can.

secret chief revealed

Leo Zeff was a pioneer in the modern psychedelic therapy movement

As a teaser to convince you of the potential of this method, I’d like to share this quote from Leo found in the book:

‘People will come to me who have already tripped who want to have my particular kind of way of tripping. One of them had tripped at least five hundred times on acid, others who have tripped three, four hundred times, down through the early Sixties, clear up to recent times. You know, plenty of trips their own way […] We talk about it, and [..] so I’d say, “Sure.” They would have their trip on acid. Invariably these people have said, “I’ve never had an acid trip before in my life! This is the first time I’ve ever really had an acid trip.”

Personally, I can also tell you that my first acid trip using this method was the one of the most significant events of my life. So, I can recommend!

Life Timeline

If you aren’t able to collect the photos for the picture trip, you can do the life timeline. The aim is the same, to explore your life story. If you feel up to it, you can do both.

pen draw write

• Begin with a wide piece of paper, approximately 1 metre in width. At least A3. It’s fine for you to stick or tape together smaller pieces if you don’t have one this size.

• Draw a long horizontal line across the length,.

• Mark your birth on one end and your current age on the other.

• Divide the line into segments which mark every five years of your life.

• Fill the timeline with people, happenings, decisions, events and anything which was significant. Use pictures and symbols, and you can write words, quotes or sentences. Anything which helps you to reconnect with these chapters and what you went through during these times of your life.

As you go through your life, spend some time thinking about and exploring feelings around the significant events. When you’ve finished, spend a few moments with each mark on your timeline, seeing what you feel with each one. As memories or feelings come up, sit with them and see where they go. Try to do this no further away than a week or two before, again ideally as close to the time as you can.

Formulate An Intention

Understanding your intention helps to give clarity and direction for a journey, so its worthwhile to consider.

Set aside some time to yourself and sit down with a journal or pad. At a park or somewhere in nature might appeal to you but anywhere without potential disturbance or distraction is fine.

person nature contemplative

Here are some questions to think about and make notes on.

  • Why are you doing this? What are you seeking?
  • What would it mean for this psychedelic journey to be ‘successful’?
  • Where are you now and where do you want to get, related to your motivation
  • What is working in your life? What isn’t?
  • What are you curious about? What would you like to learn more about?

As the journey approaches, try to have something of a clear intention for your journey. If it is wide ranging and incorporates many areas, try to sum it up so that it can be stated as one precise sentence by the day of the journey.

Some examples of how this might work:

  • “I intend to have a healthy life’ could be a sum of ‘I intend to quit smoking, I want improve my relationship with food, and understand how I can get into a good exercise regime”.
  • “To explore past traumas and to gain insight into my potential’ might be summed up as “To learn about myself”.
  • “To get outside of my mind, to experience a higher dimension, and to go beyond my normal consciousness” might be put together as ‘to explore spirituality’.

lotus flower

The intention is formulated to plant seeds in your mind and the process of refining it helps to get to the essence of what you are searching for. Though formulating an intention can be powerful, the process of formulating it is as important as the final result. This is to say that it should not to be held on to too tightly during the session. You should be open and able to go with the experience as it unfolds. It is often said about psychedelic experiences that you don’t get what you want but that you get what you need. Clinging too tightly to a specific intention may mean that you miss something that offers insight in other areas, ones that actually are related to your intention, albeit in less obvious ways.

Having a clear intention can also help in that you have a clear motivation and it gives you an answer and some frame of reference for when you might think ‘Why am I doing this?”. This question can come up in difficult times and it can be very useful to have a clear answer ready, to aid you in letting go of resistance and moving in to the experience. In moments of your journey when you would like some direction, your intention can be called to mind.

Clearing

Clearing can be thought of as making space. Space for insight, space for discovery, space for expansion. If you like Chinese proverbs, another way to put this might be: “Empty Your Cup”.

Firstly the basics; clearing the day, the day after, and ideally day before of any obligations. Book them out so you can be offline and effectively disappear from the world.

clear schedule

Next, try to tidy up loose ends in your life to help clear some space in your mind and heart. Stuff that you might’ve been putting off, like difficult conversations and resolving any current difficulties in your relationships. If this isn’t possible, try journaling about it or writing a letter to the person even if you can’t send it to them.

This clearing process should also include physical and practical things, which can be done a little closer to the journey, like cleaning your room, paying overdue bills, sending certain emails and making phone calls you’ve been putting off. Even taking the trash out (a nice symbolic act).

Keep phone use and digital communication to an absolute minimum during the day of the journey, so take care of potential calls and emails in advance. If you think you might want to speak with someone like a close friend or family member soon after, its a good idea to notify them in advance so they will be available and ready for the conversation.

Prepare Well, and Journey Safely

The preparation one takes will significantly influence how a journey plays out and is the groundwork for a transformative experience. Put simply, the influence of a good preparation should not be underestimated. That said, it should not become a gruelling undertaking or huge burden. It should be done with enthusiasm and should help you, rather than stress you. So go, prepare well, and take care!

I wish you well with your preparations and on your journey.

path nature journey

Did I miss anything? What do you think are the best ways one can prepare for a deep and rewarding journey? Please share in the comments below!