psychedelic path meditation

Are you serious about your development on the medicine path? Today I’d like to invite you to consider these quotes from experienced psychonauts.

 

“The longer I have worked with psychedelics, the more convinced I have become that a daily meditation practice is vital to harnessing the waves of energy and insight that sweep through us on a session day.

“My sessions have deepened my meditation practice and my meditation practice has helped ground my psychedelic practice. In my experience, these are complementary and mutually reinforcing undertakings that can be integrated well.”

— Christopher M. Bache, Ph.D. Author of LSD & the Mind of the Universe

 

“It is quite obvious that skills in meditation, the practice of being at peace within one’s body and mind, even in uncomfortable places, can be of great help in the course of a psychedelic session.”

— Vanja Palmers, Zen Priest, Psychedelics & Meditation

 

“The ability to, I think, objectify one’s experience, to see it as something which is just there and very natural, that is a powerful skill, and its a skill that can be developed through meditation, which is why I think actually that a nice long course of meditation is the perfect pre-requisite for psychedelics, because I think that people who have done that will have fewer problems dealing with psychedelic experiences.”

— Craig, participant on a John Hopkins study on the effects of psilocybin on long-term meditators

 

“The foundation laid by any previous inner work will hold us in good stead at such times by virtue of the attention skills we have developed. These skills make it easier to remain focused when confronted with the unexpected…

“We regain our balance through the proper application of attention and awareness. This is the slowing down, which we can facilitate physically through relaxed, deep breathing and helps release any tension in our bodies. Once we’ve slowed ourselves down and replanted our psychic feet, it is easier to move our consciousness through the resistance or block.”

— Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule and lead researcher on the DMT studies at the University of New Mexico

 

“Training in meditation is an excellent preparation for confronting the expanded states of consciousness which entheogens generate and, conversely, the intensity and forthrightness of these expanded states can provide a great impetus to apply the achievements attained during meditation in an emphatic way”

— Dokusho Villalba, The Spiritual Potential Of Entheogens – Dissolving The Roots Of Suffering – Zig Zag Zen

 

Read more:

LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven | Goodreads
Psychedelics & Meditation | MAPS website
DMT: The Spirit Molecule | Goodreads
The Divine Spark | Goodreads
Zig Zag Zen | Goodreads

Bonus:

Reset: How Meditation and Psychedelics Can Go Hand in Hand | MAPS website

In terms of creating positive ripples in my community, starting a meditation circle has been one of the best things I’ve done since moving to Berlin 2 years ago. To this day, the group still meets regularly to meditate and has become a community of people that can support each other and offer a space for each of us to be heard. This is a great way of bringing people together and creating a friendship group, as well as providing support for my own practice.

Having experienced the positive effect it has had, I would love to see more of this and others doing similar. So here is a way, step by step, to start your meditation group:

Enlist Support

Before starting, as an optional first step, if you have a friend or know someone who is interested, enlist their help. Getting started with something like this is always easier with someone else. I had a good support friend at the beginning and eventually got comfortable doing it alone. This step is optional and you can of course do it alone.

1. Find A Place

You can do it at your place, a friend’s apartment, a park… ideally a place where there is not much outside noise coming in and you won’t be disturbed by other people.

2. Set a Time and Date

Pick a day, maybe two weeks ahead. Consider whether you’d like to have regular meetups and whether this day will suit you going forward. You could also change the day every week, depending on your needs, but a consistent day helps establish a routine and helps people plan around it.

3. Spread The Word

Tell any friends who might be interested in joining about your event. Share it online. You could do this via Meetup or facebook, or, as I did, on Couchsurfing. In your post, include info such as: basic information about yourself and why you’d like to hold a meditation meetup, who it is suitable for, when it is and how long it will last, and what type of meditation and exercises it will include. You can use a simple name, we held ours on Wednesdays so called it Midweek Meditation Group.

If you have limited space, I’d suggest not including the address. Instead, put a contact number or email so people can contact you to tell you if they are coming. That way it will be easier to manage numbers. You can also add info like if it’s free or if you’ll accept donations. You can also ask people to bring tea or candles, snacks, and things that you’ll use for future meetups.

Now that you’ve organised it and have a date, you need to prepare!

4. Get Ready

Get anything you may need, such as candles, cushions, tea, and maybe some snacks for after. All you will absolutely need are enough cushions for the amount of people attending. If you are short you can also ask people to bring their own cushion, like I did when first starting out. Then, the day of, go a bit early to prepare the space and make it nice and cosy. Clear away clutter and have some nice low lighting, either with lamps or some candles.

5. Hold the Circle

Ask people to arrive on time to prevent latecomers disturbing the sit. When people arrive, give them a warm welcome and take them through to a place where they can sit down and talk to others. Ask people to turn off their phones. You could even have a box where people can drop them for the time of the meet.

Once everyone has arrived, you can say hello and remind them of the basic plan for the session. A nice way to begin is a short sharing round. Before that, it might be useful to offer some sharing guidelines. In the first session, I think a nice thing to do is ask people why they came and are interested in meditation. In future and consecutive meetups, I think it’s nice to have a round where each person just takes a moment to check in with themselves and share how they’re feeling with the group. When you have a consistent group, each person can share a little more with what has been going on with them since last time.

You can guide the meditation yourself if you feel comfortable doing that. Otherwise, you can prepare a guided meditation and play it. You can also just decide a set time and do a silent meditation.

Then, you have successfully held your first meditation meetup. Here’s some further tips:

Be Open to Evolve and Mix It Up

It can be nice to offer a few different types of mindfulness activities to keep the practice fresh, and as different things will work for different people, it’s nice to expose people to different tools.

Some activities that we’ve done include:

  • Pranayama (breathing exercise)
  • Mindful eating
  • Sound Meditation
  • Body Scan
  • Mindfulness of Breath
  • Open Awareness
  • Eye Gazing
  • Loving Kindness Meditation

As you have more experience holding the circles and getting to know the group you will feel more comfortable mixing it up and can also include other things like authentic relating exercises.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small

Don’t worry about how many people show up. Keep going! More and more people will reach out and you will find your community. For my first one, which a friend and I hosted, we had one person show up. The next week we had 2, and the following week we were at capacity of 10 and had to turn people away. Over time a regular group settled and I stopped posting about the event online.

Keep It Regular

I think keeping some kind of regularity is great to help build connections between people and offer some consistency to people’s support and practice. If once a week is too much, consider every two weeks.

That’s it. I have seen how initiatives like this can really help people so if this idea calls to you I encourage you to take the first steps to hold your first circle today!

RAIN is a meditation technique for dealing with difficult emotions and as such is an especially useful tool for psychedelic journeying. Difficult emotions often offer the greatest opportunity for learning or insight during a psychedelic journey and having this technique in your toolbox is especially handy. RAIN allows you to go towards those difficult emotions with the ultimate mindset for psychedelic exploration: that of an explorer.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek“
Joseph Campbell

You will also find on Bill Richards’ flight instructions used on psilocybin studies that participants are advised to go towards difficult emotions and to investigate them. This is exactly what RAIN does in a systematic and easy to follow way.

So let’s have a look at RAIN, which if you hadn’t figured out yet, is an acronym. Let’s go step-by-step.

Recognize

what is happening
This is the roots of understanding

 

Allow

life to be just as it is
This is the grounds of love

 

Investigate

with gentle attention
This deepens understanding

 

Nurture

with friendliness
This awakens love

 

From my notes

After the RAIN, (what was previously the N before being recently updated) is non-identification. This is realizing freedom from a narrow sense of identity. For example, identifying ourselves with thoughts or feelings. The process of RAIN helps to bring spaciousness around these things and an expanded awareness of the scenes which we often mistake for ourselves.

So let’s go through it more deeply by way of example.

Let’s say for example you are on a psychedelic journey and you feel fear.

R

Starting with R you recognize that you feel fear. You can do this by mentally naming that emotion “fear, fear“.

A

Once recognized move onto the A. Allow it to be, give it permission to be there. You can mentally say “yes OK“. Doing this may mean that the feeling gets stronger, and this is OK. For example anxiety may develop into a fullness of fear. This is OK. Allow the fear to express it self fully.

When allowing, you may have a sense that it feels too much for you to take. If you’re naming it “fear, fear”, and its too strong, then surrender yourself to it. Say: “alright, take me, kill me, I’ll die of this feeling of fear.”

Another example of where complications may come in at the Allow stage. If your first emotion was for example sadness, and you find difficulty allowing it due to the feeling that it is too much then again go back to R and recognize what you are feeling. This would be fear. Feelings can morph when going through this process, so stay fluid. Whatever is on top, start there.

I

After the R&A we begin to deepen attention by investigating with kindness.

Approach that feeling of fear as a curious and friendly explorer. This feeling is there for a reason and has something to show you. So go towards it and try to see what it is that is this fear made of.

N

Nurture is the approach to the investigation. Use a sense of friendliness and gentleness to investigate the felt sense of what’s going on.

Treat this feeling as a friend that is asking for your attention that needs your love. Sit down with the fear and take time to get to know it.

What’s the quality of the sensations?

How do I know I’m feeling fear?

Explore your beliefs around the feeling. Ask:
What am I believing right now which is causing me to feel fear?
What am I thinking about?

Key in any investigating and with any core belief is that when you are doing it come into your body. Find out where this feeling lives in your body. Some practice in body scan or vipassana meditation will come in useful in this step.

Non-Identification

Completing RAIN brings a quality of openness and presence. Anxiety can shift to a space of presence where you are no longer identified with that fear and you can rest in a kind awareness.

Practice RAIN with a guided meditation

Learning and practicing RAIN is something I would recommend to any aspiring psychedelic practitioner. It is something I learned from meditation teacher Tara Brach and you can find one of her guided RAIN meditations here. As with learning any type of meditation it can be useful to begin by doing a few guided meditations and then once you are familiar with the practice you do it alone.

My psychedelic history started for real in late 2011. It was an experience with LSD, MDMA, marijuana and nitrous oxide (AKA laughing gas) all together in one session that ended up lasting around 24 hours.

At the time I was a regular weed smoker and had tried salvia once in a crazy student drug experience story, and MDMA one or two times at festivals. Other than that the only other psychoactive substances I’d tried were alcohol, coffee, and M-cat (a popular student drug around 2009).

Back to late 2011. I’d graduated with a degree in broadcasting the year before and was lacking any real direction in life. After entering and leaving the media industry – quick disillusionment – I was back at home and living with my parents, unemployed. I was disillusioned with the global political system and didn’t feel any real desire or inspiration to participate in what I saw as a game controlled by elites. I enjoyed spending time staying home, listening to music, half heartedly looking for jobs, and smoking weed whilst walking the dog.

Around that time some school friends of mine tried some magic mushrooms and had a good experience and invited me to try them with them. I was eager, and headed up to Sheffield to join them a few weeks later. It was a fun recreational experience and afterwards they came across someone who had LSD. I’d wanted to try acid for a while, having appreciated how weed was able to change my perception and creative ideas, and vaguely aware of LSD’s influence on many great musicians including one of my all time favourites, The Beatles. My friends were never so keen on trying LSD, but after a couple of positive experiences with mushrooms, they were in.

We set a date for a few weekends away.

In the run up, I’d read online that taking MDMA before can be a good way to enter in to an LSD trip, as it gets you in a good mood and that is a good place to enter the trip from.

I can agree, though the come up was absolutely mega and intense. Admittedly, we did help those matters by continuing to smoke weed and knock back nitrous oxide.

What happened over that 24 hour period was surreal. The world of perception totally changed. I became in tune to the mysteries of existence, awareness, perception, how fluid reality is. I had never experienced anything like it before. Listening to music with my eyes closed, I surfed epic chunky guitar riffs through space like an exhilarated cosmonaut. At some point between nitrous oxide hits, I came to a deep realisation; that all existence is a huge game.

I let out huge bellows of laughter that reverberated deep throughout me.

The understanding that it is all a game took all the pressure of life off. It is all a show! We are all characters of a play. It is a game. So… I should play!

The perspective that stayed with me made me embrace the idea that I should explore and experience more. On some level my fears were eroded and I began to dream about what I wanted to really do with the life, the incredible chance at a life I have been given.

Growing up with maps in our home and hearing my Dad’s stories, I had always wanted to travel. I got a temp job as a teacher and began saving. Travel took over my life and in autumn of 2012, I set off with a friend on a 1 month inter-rail tour of Europe, which lead to me shortly thereafter moving to China. Asia had been a place I’d long wanted to explore, drawn back to my roots and to the side of my family that I have been so disconnected from.

By China, my fascination with psychedelics had evolved into a deep interest in consciousness and mystical experiences. The trail lead me to meditation and there I found joined classes and began practicing everyday.

Towards the end of my year in China, a friend of mine and I made a visit to Huang Shan, the epic mountains that were the inspiration for the floating mountains in Avatar. On one early morning, we dropped some aMT, an obscure tryptamine, before heading out to see the sunrise.

I still count this as one of the most incredible experiences I’ve been witness to. Seeing that gas ball appear over the horizon, we both instantly understood millennia of sun worship. I felt a deep connection to my ancient ancestors and all those religions who worshipped the Sun.

After leaving China, I attended my first vipassana retreat, 10 days of silent meditation. At the time I was pretty serious about spiritual practice and was actually aiming for a full spiritual enlightenment in this lifetime. That does seem quite funny to say now, but its true. Suffice to say that I was with a strong determination and practiced very diligently. I feel that by being so driven I and my practice have derived some benefit in the long term. However, with such a strong work ethic, the retreat was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. Afterwards I concluded that the monks life, which I had seriously considered (becoming ordained and all), was not for me. The retreat made me appreciate the pleasures and treasures of samsaric existence, of being in the world and engaging with it. I have since come somewhere in the middle. I maintain a spiritual practice but I am also man of the world and enjoy interacting with reality in this way.

In 2014, I moved to Spain, joining a weekly sitting in the tradition of zen and Thich Nhat Han and joining my first regular yoga class. At the end of my time there I attended my first psychedelic retreat in Andalucia. This was my first encounter of any shaman, facilitator or any kind of guide in the psychedelic world. As a group of around 10, we had 2 salvia ceremonies, 2 ayahuasca ceremonies and one san pedro. After one of those ayahuasca ceremonies, deep into the night and after everyone had gone to bed, feeling disappointed that nothing had happened, with my guard finally down, I broke down, floods of tears falling down, weeping for hours. I felt the pure suffering of humanity. How hard it is, what struggle a human existence entails.

During and upon leaving the retreat I had questions about our shaman and the way the whole thing was held. This later became the topic of my talk at the Beyond Psychedelics conference a couple years ago.

Soon after, in the summer of 2014 I moved to Korea. I had the whole year drug free and figuring the break from weed would be good, doubled down on my meditation practice, keeping it consistent, reading more books, attending a temple stay and a local mindfulness meetup. I saved diligently as I was planning to take time off work and explore options outside of English teaching. I began my first version of this blog, called Mindmaker, feeling that I had some things to share and wanting to start some kind of side project related to my interests.

I had adventures in Japan, Taiwan and Egypt, and after another vipassana retreat to touch base, I began planning my epic psychedelic adventure…

February 2016, I arrived in Brazil on a one way ticket. Lured to Latin America by their native psychedelics and plant medicines, I ended up staying there over 13 months and travelling to 12 countries.

As I moved through South America, I did 3 ayahuasca ceremonies over a week in the Bolivian amazon, high dose San Pedro alone in the Peruvian Andes. In Mexico I sought out peyote in the Mexican deserts of San Luis Potosi, before leaving, reading Carlos Castaneda, and then deciding I needed to go back, heading back out there for more desert peyote sessions.

I made my way onwards to the state of Oaxaca, famous for the Western discovery of magic mushrooms by Gordon Wasson. Whilst there, a post on my blog went semi-viral through reddit and it encouraged me to keep creating and writing about my travels and experiences. I upgraded the site and got the name Maps of the Mind (thanks Joe!). I continued on and made my way to the mountainous region of Oaxaca where mushrooms were around, first visiting from my beach location home and tripping with a friend for her first time, and then packing up and heading with my belongings to spend more time there.

I was there over new years, taking mushrooms alone in the wilderness of nature on consecutive days. Working with the mushrooms as I entered 2017, I set my intentions for the year ahead.

My time up in those mountains is still one of my most treasured memories to date. The atmosphere of the place, the people passing through, the views and sunsets. It was a magical time.

I finished off my travels, continuing to practice writing, learn photography and Spanish, and finally returned to the UK in the spring.

What is funny is that, after all my travels, experiences, and ceremonies in Latin America, I finally got the experience I was really looking for upon returning home. Back in an old red brick house in the North of England on a grey day. A solo experience in a self made ceremony, put together by drawing upon work from the pioneers of Western psychedelic therapy of the 50s and 60s.

This experience was where my appreciation of the deep mystical and healing potential of psychedelics began. It is where my journey in the psychedelic world went a whole nother level deeper. It is what lead to me really engaging with and being involved with the psychedelic movement and worldwide community. This experience started a whole new chapter…

woman breathing air

Here’s an easy and effective way to get more mindfulness, patience and peace in your life. With this technique you’ll open up lots of opportunities for mindful moments. Even better, those moments will replace time that would normally be filled with impatience, boredom, or mindless distraction. It’s like the six point swing of mindfulness practices.

Here it is:

Waiting Is Meditating

Or, waiting is mindfulness.

That’s it. You remove waiting from your life, and replace it with awareness.

Anytime you find yourself in a state of ‘waiting’ for something, use this as a reminder to be present and practice mindfulness. Take 3 long deep breaths, relaxing yourself, then bringing your attention to your body. (Or, whatever other mindfulness practice you like).

woman peaceful

Sounds easy, and in principle it is, but it takes some practice and mental reprogramming to get there consistently. I won’t pretend I practice this everywhere, but I do it often and find it to be a great tool to have in the mindful kit, and certainly most worthy of a share.

How To Practice

An example to demonstrate….

supermarket

You enter the supermarket to do some grocery shopping. You’re in a hurry and just want to buy your stuff and get on with your day. You whip round and with your basket full you join the queue for the checkout. It’s a little longer than you’d like.

Now, instead of entering a state of ‘waiting’ and whatever that might normally bring up, (maybe a feeling of hurried restlessness and/or a compulsive urge to get your phone out and check some feed), you check yourself. You stop for a moment.

and breathe

You take 3 deep breaths.
You bring your attention to the sensations in your body.
You observe them patiently until you reach the front of the line.

When you reach the cashier you’re more relaxed and focused, and go on with your day, happy to have taken the opportunity for a mindful moment.

Opportunity Is Everywhere

queue line

If you consider how many times you find yourself waiting, you’ll see how many opportunities there are for mindfulness:

  • Any queue or line: shops, airports, banks, post offices etc.
  • Stopping at a red light
  • Something is downloading, buffering, loading, converting
  • Coffee is brewing/tea steeping/water boiling
  • Bus stop/tram station/train station platform

I’m sure you can think of many more.

Try to think of one now. What is something you often have to wait for? Think of how it would affect you if you slowed down every time.

Mental Reprogramming

To frequently and effectively use this in your life, it helps to mentally program yourself to associate waiting with this practice, so you catch those opportunities rather than missing them in a blur of hurried and unconscious thoughts (hey, we all do it).

To do this, first find a short phrase that is catchy for you. Some examples:
‘Waiting is breathing’
‘Waiting is slowing down’
‘Waiting is mindfulness’

breathe sign

Then once you have your phrase, drill it in. As if you were learning a new word or other behaviour; repetition repetition repetition.

Sit down for 5 minutes and meditate on it, repeating it like a mantra. Saying, over and over again, ‘waiting is breathing, waiting is breathing, waiting is breathing…’.

You can also write your phrase down and leave it somewhere you’ll see it a lot, like your desk or mirror (post its work!), whilst you train yourself to associate waiting with your practice.

mindfulness sign

Implement this in to your life and over time you’ll naturally become more patient in times when you’ve found yourself mentally (or loudly) saying ‘hurry up!’ Or ‘come oooon’. You know what I’m talking about 😉

As with anything, it takes practice, so keep it up!