psychedelic therapy

After the popularity of my previous post, 6 Music Playlists for Psilocybin Journeys, I’ve decided to write a follow up with some tips on using these playlists in a psychedelic session. Below that, I’ve also included links and info for six more playlists from two creators.

How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists for Psilocybin)

psychedelic therapy

Prepare to be Offline

Download the playlist so it is available for offline use. Then for the session, put your phone on flight mode.

If using your computer to play the tracks, close all applications other than the music player. If you need to leave anything open, make sure there are no applications other than the audio player that can make a noise (like dings from messages received or calls coming in. Like with a phone, I suggest downloading the playlist offline and then disconnecting from the wifi. If you have a mac, make sure your Facetime is disconnected and there won’t be any calls coming through.

I also recommend downloading 1-3 hours of pre/post session music so you have something to put on before/after and can be offline for the entire day. I have found it is nice to put on some music beforehand whilst preparing the space, to set the mood and begin the process of entering. It can be helpful to have a short period of silent meditation between setup and dosing to centre before the journey begins. Once everything is ready and you’ve checked in, you can start the playlist and take your dose. 

Sound Set up

Check and set your sound levels before the start of the session so it is ready to go. Check both loud and quiet sections of the playlist. Ideally the music should be at a comfortably loud volume at the loudest sections. It should not be overbearing or too strong, but loud enough to be immersive.

I would recommend high quality over ear headphones for immersion in the experience, especially if you are in a location where there might be background noise or distracting sounds. You might consider noise cancelling headphones.

If possible, have the music playing simultaneously through headphones and speakers from the same signal. This is a tip I picked up from Mendel Kaelen back in 2017 and still use to this day.  This allows for continuity of experience if/when the headphones are taken off and also allows the opportunity to remove the headphones if one prefers. 

Group Sessions

When in groups or with friends, decide the playlist together beforehand. For a group session, I advise having a quiet room. This means that if anyone has a very strong aversion to a track, they can leave the room for a bit. If you don’t have the possibility of a second room, you might all use your own pair headphones. Another option if using speakers would be making an agreement beforehand that anyone can veto any track at any time and it will be skipped forward without discussion. 

In the case of someone having a feeling of aversion to a track, I would suggest that they try to sit with it for a short time before leaving the room or requesting a skip. They can look at and explore the feeling of discomfort inside themselves that the track is provoking, and see if there is anything to learn from it. If the feeling persists and the track is unbearable, they can leave the room or use their veto.

Spotify Settings (or other audio player)

Make sure your play queue is cleared. 

Make sure the tracks will play in order and not on shuffle.

Check your audio player settings for how the tracks will transition. Decide if you want a fade between songs or a standard transition with one track fully ending before the next one beginning. On spotify you can find this in settings > playback.

If doing a manual sync with two or more devices, make sure the playback settings are the same on each device.

6 More Playlists For Psilocybin Sessions

Here are links to 6 more playlists for use with psilocybin with some info on them and their creators below.

1. Music For Mushrooms– East Forest
2. Inner Peace – Tommi
3. Trust – Tommi
4. Gratitude – Tommi
5. Release – Tommi
6. Opening – Tommi

East Forest

  • Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner: Spotify

East Forest is an American musician who created this album live in underground ceremonies across the US. It’s a kinda neo ambient vibe with influences and instruments from world indigenous music. What I like about this as a soundtrack is its cohesion. Because this playlist is an album by one musician, it has the added bonus of it being curated as such and put together as an album specifically for mushrooms.

Its compositional shape guides, and is guided by, the arch of the experience.”
– East Forest

In this article, East Forest talks about how he feels the other therapy playlists out there miss the mark as they are compilations of lots of shorter tracks. By comparison, this album is just 13 tracks. Incidentally, East Forest is now one of the musicians working with Wavepaths, an organisation founded by Mendel Kaelen that is focused on creating music for psychedelic sessions.

I personally had a very beneficial session using this playlist for a medium dose journey last year. During the journey I was taken through people in my life, shown what I needed to say to them, able to appreciate recent personal achievements, and then given a directive on what I needed to do in my life (spoiler; it was clearing).

You can hear East Forest on the Psychedelics Today podcast here.

And, as an extra aside, Ram Dass was East Forest’s guru, and East Forest has used samples of his talks on his album, ‘Ram Dass’.

Tommi

Mysterious spotify user Tommi has created 5 playlists on different themes: gratitude, opening, release, trust, and inner peace.

They are generally a mix of styles and include ambient, neo classical, and classical music as well as more tribal and traditional music from distant cultures. 

Use of Silence

One thing that I really like about these playlists that is missing from the others is that Tommi has put short periods of silence into the playlists. I find these are good moments to re-centre and breathe during the journey, acting as ‘pit stops’. Interestingly, Mendel Kaelen inserted silence into the playlists on the original psilocybin studies at Imperial. Rather than Spotify playlists, they were actually mixed as one master audio file, with some tracks even faded out or mixed in to each other. These nuances and sections of silence were lost when it was converted to a Spotify playlist. So it is nice to see that Tommi has found a way to create a playlist with silence built in.

My Experience

I have tried Opening, Release and Trust and my sessions to these playlists have been very helpful.

I journeyed to Trust on the third and final psilocybin session of a 15 week course last year that was a study replica of a John Hopkins clinical study with psilocybin. The session was a beautiful rounding out to what turned out to be a somehow cohesive trilogy, and was one of the best psychedelic experiments I’ve ever done. During this final session I was able to grieve and cry in the first half, and as the cleansing section ended I was given a refreshed clarity and renewed inspiration, and a clear path forward. 

Tommi has also created banks of music based on different themes, so you can put together your own playlist too. You can find these on his Spotify user profile.

 





Do you know of any more good playlists for psychedelic journeys? If so, please get in contact!

Safe Journeys!

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psychedelics process emotions

You might have heard the advice that it’s best to not take psychedelics when you’re not feeling good. General mainstream advice for DIY users is to ‘wait until you’re in a better place’.

If your aim is to feel good during the session itself, then I would agree: wait until you’re in a better place. But when taking psychedelics for reasons of personal growth or learning, this maxim may be trumped by deeper considerations. 

Trippers With Severe Depression & Anxiety

Two groundbreaking studies have helped bring credibility and prominence to mainstream psychedelics based on the psychedelic experiences of people who would not be considered to be feeling good. At Imperial College London, their landmark study explored using  psilocybin to help  those with treatment-resistant depression, in other words, a persistent depression that many treatments have failed to ameliorate. In another landmark study at Johns Hopkins, psilocybin was shown to alleviate end of life anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients. In both these cases, participants clearly faced challenges in their emotional state.

The ‘set’ of the psychedelic tenet of set and setting generally refers to the mindset of the tripper and is broadly understood as the psychonaut’s internal state. This can include their outlook, how they’re feeling, and their mood.

However, when it comes to having a beneficial session, I would say that mindset is a far broader concept than mood, feelings, or emotional state.

Mindset Beyond Emotional State

As well as feelings and emotions, mindset includes how the experience is framed. How we frame something shapes how we see it: it is our perspective on what we are doing. Is the session billed as a time to have fun? Or is it understood as a rare and precious opportunity for learning? These intentions determine how we approach the session. Is it approached with respect? Is it approached with trust in how the experience may unfold?

Those taking part in the studies I’ve mentioned were prepared accordingly in matters of mindset; you see the psilocybin flight instructions here. Their sessions were not approached as a fun time with friends, but with a formality more akin to that of a ceremony or sesshin. Accordingly, participants were directed to be open to whatever arises, to trust in the experience, and to let go of any preconceived ideas about how the session ‘should’ go.

If the mindset is right, the person adequately prepared, in a safe setting and sufficiently supported during the experience, and with support systems in place for afterwards, and  then I would say that tripping when you’re feeling low can be one of the most useful and dare I say obvious times to trip.

storm sunlight

My Experiences

I have personally taken psychedelics in a session format in some of the more rocky emotional patches of my life. 

One example is the time my parents were separating and I was coming to terms with the fact I would be seeing the home I’d always known being put up for sale. My mood and emotional state at the time was not what would be described as good; I was crying on the train up to do my session. However, I approached the occasion with great respect and formality. The resulting experience provided me with enormous relief and understanding, and I now see it as one of the landmark healing experiences of my life.

I have used psychedelics at various other times when going through bumpy patches and difficult chapters – at times when it might be considered ‘not the best time to trip’.

On these occasions, psychedelics have allowed me to see what was beneath, to really be in touch with my deeper, hidden, often repressed and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and given me a chance to process them.

I have seen shadow parts of myself, parts of myself that I was ashamed of. Some examples include a desire to earn more money, a desire to have more creative control on a project, and a sadness that was hidden. I avoided them because of various unconscious beliefs I held around them: that wanting more money means I’m greedy; that wanting more control means I’m power hungry; and that I shouldn’t feel sad about a certain event because I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The experiences I’m describing helped me to see all of these things and better understand myself. This was the first step towards acknowledging these hidden thoughts and as such, accepting them. Psychedelics have been such honest allies, revealing things inside me that I’ve found hard to accept. 

In every one of these sessions I had rough journeys and difficult experiences, and each time, I have felt so grateful for the opportunity.

These are tools which have helped me tremendously, through good times, but also especially through the bad times. 

 

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This post is following on from 30 Day Writing Challenge Review.

Many things helped me to make it through my way of publishing 30 times in 30 days, and today I’ll continue to share a few more.

Connecting to something bigger

At times of difficulty when I encountered a resistance to hit publish I returned to my why. It was a personal challenge, but personal only in so far as that I want to improve my ability to write and put out content so that ultimately I am more able to spread knowledge and information about psychedelics and to share ideas that I believe can be useful to other people. So when I had doubts I returned to the thought of ‘this is about much more than you’. This helped me to get over myself and think about the people my writing could reach and help. My feelings about how I might come across or how nice my writing is to read took a back seat to the primary aim of getting that information and those ideas out there into the world. This made it a whole lot easier to not get overly concerned with editing.

Knowing that it’s about more than myself was very helpful as those difficult feelings that I encountered were in the end just my personal difficulties. If I want to actually play my part in something bigger and contribute to the world in a meaningful way then I’m gonna have to get over myself.

Before the month I made a small reminder card with an image of the world and a heart that I now keep over my desk. This was to connect to the bigger picture of love and all those lives of the people around the world to help drive me on in times of difficulty.

Inspiring Material

I read Steven Pressfield’s Do The Work before and during the month on a timely recommendation from a friend. I think I’ve blown Pressfield’s trumpet enough on this blog by now for you to get it that his work speaks to me. One thing that stuck out from this work was that doing research can become a form of Resistance and procrastination. So for this month I actually did zero research for any of the articles. I referenced other materials and websites, but only ones that I was already aware of or had in mind that I could use. Aside from being hugely practical in terms of saving time, this was nice in that it was a good chance to test myself and my knowledge of psychedelics and it felt really good to keep churning stuff out without looking at what others had to say on the topic. It has been a great confidence boost for me and I feel way more ready to embark on creative challenges without spending so much time doing prep and just coming up with things on the spot. This is something I’d like to explore more in the future with workshops and talks and have more confidence in myself to do this than before.

Rituals & Routines

I had a few rituals and routines which helped me throughout the month. Here are a few:

Waking up early

I am a fan of a strong morning routine. In July I would wake up around 6, drink a glass of hot lemon water and stretch, take a cold shower, meditate, walk once around the block and then eat breakfast before settling down to begin writing. Having such a consistent routine with an early start was definitely helpful.

The 6AM start did go out the window after my accident as I had difficulty sleeping due to the pain in my arm, but I did get back to early rising once I was able to sleep well.

Fiery Music

Music was a huge help on days when I felt tired or low on inspiration. On most mornings during my short morning walk I would listen to some slamming track which would get me fired up and generally ready to kick some ass. My go to anthem for the month was The Bronx’s cover of Black Night Crash, a punk track which opens up with a ‘yeah!’ that got me going on even my most sluggish of mornings. I would often bounce around the block and always returned home ready to face a new challenge.

Pre-Writing Statement

Once at my desk, immediately before beginning the first draft, I would read a short passage aloud:

“Anything and everything that arises today can be written down,
Anything and everything that arises is a gift from my basic wealth, is bringing me closer to the truth, could be part of the message I want to convey… even if it’s a poop joke”.

This was inspired by Stephen Pressfield who makes a prayer to the Muse every morning before he begins writing. I liked the idea of using the same one but it just didn’t quite feel right for me. I found the above one whilst searching for prayers/odes to read before writing. This one was simple and straightforward and felt right, reminding myself that whatever I put down would be OK. Having this in the forefront of my mind before writing helped to settle me and then to blast through doubting resistance and keep moving forward with my first draft.

I had these placed in front of me every day. On the right, my passage, plus a picture of my ‘muse’, and on the left, my mantra.

A Positive Mantra

The idea for this challenge came in the latter part of a magic truffle journey and both excited and scared me. It seemed like a pretty big ask but at the same time the belief came to my mind, and it came with two words: ‘I can’.

This served as a mantra for my month and I repeated it many times in the week before starting as a way to psych myself up. I even changed the password on my computer to ‘I can!’ before the month so that every time I logged in I would again put it out in to the world and internalize this belief. I believe there is a great power to this and developing a mantra for a challenge is something that I will probably do again in the future.

Final Thoughts

So those are a few things which supported and helped me through the process, to finish here are a couple of final thoughts from the challenge.

Creativity breeds creativity

Before going into the month I brainstormed a few article ideas and kept them in a list for my reference. Initially it was useful to have so I felt reassured that I wouldn’t draw a blank but as the month went on what happened was a surprise. Rather than the list getting shorter as I wrote different pieces, what I found was that the opposite actually happened, and the list of ideas for articles kept growing. As I wrote more articles, more ideas for other articles that I wanted to write just kept popping up. This was a great feeling as I find that moment when a new idea pops up in the mind to be quite satisfying. In a creative sense it feels great to have such an abundance of ideas out there. However, deciding to act on them or let them go is another step and definitely something for to me consider as I make decisions about how I will spend my time and what projects I want to devote my time and attention to.

Writing More

This was the first 30 day challenge I used for a creative project and I think that is what made it so rewarding. It forced me to engage my mind in a particular way every day that is different than other challenges I’ve done and I noticed my mind working in a new and novel way that I haven’t since I learned Spanish. That psychedelic (reality broadening) aspect was hugely interesting and definitely will push me to do more of these types of challenges in the future.

Also, just being that creative felt great in and of itself. I was away for work the two weeks immediately following the challenge and didn’t have an opportunity to blog. (I wrote How to Start a Meditation Circle on a double day during the 30 day challenge so I’d have something to publish whilst away on work). I have actually missed getting up and writing and publishing every day. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling other than totally agreeing with Seth Godin’s comment that ‘blogging is good for the soul’. Although I feel rusty coming back to it after a couple weeks out it feels good to write again. There is a new version of Maps of the Mind coming later this year and I will then settle in to a schedule of one to two articles every week. I noticed that I had more regular readers for the month of July and that also felt great to have new content for people coming back.

Finding Purpose

One of the most remarkable things I experienced was the sense of purpose I felt throughout the month. The daily challenge gave me a real raison d’être each day and I woke up each morning excited for the day and to see what it had in store.

So there’s my review for my 30 day writing challenge.  Ultimately it was an incredible, magical, and especially empowering month. It has just further developed my love for the 30 day challenge and I am excited to throw myself in to many more. Taking a break for the month of August, I am already looking forward to embarking on a new one for September….

🙂

Last month I completed my most difficult 30 day challenge yet; publishing a new blog post about psychedelics every day for 30 days of July.

It was an incredible month packed with synchronicities and very meaningful to me in terms of challenging myself and cultivating a growth and exploratory mindset. I can say that it has been one of the most interesting months of my life and so many things occurred, not all clearly because of the challenge, but in ways that I don’t think were entirely coincidental.

The month also nicely coincided with two other milestones for Maps of the Mind, the most views and visitors the site has ever received in a month, and also during the month, 2020 became the year with the most views and visitors. With 5 months left this is very promising and by years end will set a nice new bar for me to reach in 2021.

I’d originally planned to do a review on the final day of the month but in the end needed the time to prepare for a work trip to the Netherlands. I just arrived back on Wednesday and today wanted to take the time to sit down and review the challenge and allow the lessons and all that passed to sink in a little deeper.

PSYJuly Review

Going into the challenge I was both excited and nervous. At the start of July I’d averaged around one post per month on the blog so this was effectively multiplying my output by a factor of 30 – no small amount. However, I knew that my slow rate was due largely to overthinking and perfectionism and the idea of making a jump that was so ridiculous in this regard was that I knew it would push me to overcome this resistance and through whatever was holding me back.

I learned an incredible amount about my writing process and was able to experiment with different ways of approaching writing articles, from structuring, drafting and also using different writing tools.

It was a challenging process and although letting go of those perfectionist tendencies was one of the main difficulties, there were were other hurdles such as days when I didn’t feel that motivated or inspired, and other days when I was tired and was still faced with the fact that I still had to crank out another piece. There were also some very personal things I wrote about which I’ve never shared in public and was nervous about posting online.

At those difficult moments, there were many things which helped. Here I will share a few of those things and I believe these will be most useful for me to remember going forward into new challenges.

Fully committing beforehand

Fully committing 100% to completing the challenge beforehand helped me to find ways and solutions through tight spots. The biggest example of this came on day 11 with an unexpected obstacle.

I was out on my skateboard early on the Sunday morning (I have found weekend mornings are the best times to skate as the city sleeps and you have the roads to yourself). One third in to the 30 days of publishing, I was feeling great about my creative output and in an excellent mood. The sun was shining, I had music playing in my headphones and, skating on some newly paved smooth ass roads, I felt on top of the world. I busted out a few new tricks that I haven’t in a while and was getting a little bit cocky. What happens when you get too cocky? You get a hard lesson.

Flying down the road on my way home from Alexanderplatz I attempted something I haven’t landed in years, and clipping the curb, fell hard. After lying on my back for around 15 minutes, making strange noises whilst I dealt with the pain, I picked myself off the tarmac and with a blood stained T-shirt, gingerly got myself home.

With my cuts and scrapes cleaned and bandaged up and an icepack applied to my right elbow, I was OK, but I’d totally lost the use of my right arm. No movement whatsoever, I couldn’t use my fingers, I couldn’t use my hand. The whole right arm was immobile and in a lot of pain.

At this point I might’ve thought that maybe I can’t go on with the challenge. After all, losing all use of your dominant arm is quite a setback if you are planning on writing. However by this stage I was so committed to the challenge that I knew I had to find a way.

Coincidentally, I had read article the day before called Setback or step up? about whether a change is a setback or an opportunity depends on your framing. It clicked in my mind that this is actually an opportunity for me rather than a hindrance. Thinking back to my original intentions, one of them was to force myself to think differently about how I create. If this wasn’t an opportunity for me to to think differently then what was?

I began dictating my first draft directly into Google Docs using voice typing and did my editing one-handed with my left hand. This editing process was tedious and time-consuming, but determination and resolve kept me going and I feel like I really strengthened these muscles through this trial. Fully committing to the decision to finish 30 days is something that ultimately pushed me through and kept me determined.

In this regard taking the time before hand to think about why I was doing it and having clear intentions very much helped me.

Revisiting Intentions

When stuck in some way, revisiting my original intentions helped a lot. I was able to remember why I was doing this and use it was a compass and impetus for action. There were many occasions when I started to get a little bit jammed or doubting and one of my intentions absolutely cleared up the issue for me and gave me a clear focus and direction to move forward.

Explorer’s Mindset

Seeing the month as an experiment very much helped to let go of perfectionism. I was able to tell myself that it was an experiment and that I would gain valuable data whatever happens and whatever I put out. This is one of the most useful mindsets I’ve found in terms of growing and something I wish to continue to cultivate.

Setting Limits

The first week was difficult and I had to overcome a lot of resistance to hitting the publish button when I was not happy with what I was putting out. Fortunately I had a very busy month outside of the writing challenge and though that might seem like the worst time to do such a challenge, it was actually a blessing. It pushed me to hit publish early in the day so that I could move on and get on with the rest of my day. It meant that I couldn’t afford to continually edit or try to refine the post.

I would set a deadline early in the day, do the piece to the best that I could by that time, publish it, and then move on. When my deadline came, usually around 10 or 11 am, I would remind myself that the point was to practice hitting publish even whilst not being satisfied with the final piece. Some days I really didn’t want to publish, but coming out the other side can say it was definitely worth it. I always have the opportunity to revisit and edit pieces in the future if I like too.

More next time…

There is plenty more to this, but alas I am out of writing time and need to move on with the day. I’ll continue in a part two of this post soon… see you next week!

My Psychedelic Story Part 1 | Part 2 After understanding that it is my path to be involved in some way with the psychedelic movement I began to be more active in the online community.