This is a common question I get asked by people planning their psychedelic sessions. In this post I will give my recommendations. As a bonus, I will also include suggestions for during and after the trip.
Pre-psychedelic session meal
I recommend eating a light, healthy breakfast about three hours before the start of a day time session. At least two hours. A green smoothie or a bowl of oats with seeds and fresh fruit are both good options. I think it’s good to be hungry by the time the session starts. That hunger will disappear during the trip for most people, and return later on.
The aim is to not have any food digesting in your stomach. Firstly, it’s better if your body isn’t expending any energy on the digestive process during the onset. Secondly, the feelings of digestion can be heightened and this can be uncomfortable. It can also contribute to feelings of nausea.
The best pre-session food does vary for different people, but I’ve found the empty-stomach-but-not-starving approach to work well for most people. If doing a session later in the day, I recommend having the same period of two-three hours without food before dosing.
For most people, hunger disappears entirely during the session. It may begin to return in the later stages after the peak, so it can be good to have some snacks ready. Hand food like fruit and nuts are good for this purpose. They are easy to handle and eat, ideal for grabbing a bite. I don’t really recommend eating much during an inner journey style session as it brings attention to the outer world. That said, it’s fine on a short break, or if the hunger is becoming distracting and actually a hindrance to the purpose of the session.
After the session
After a long journey some people do not experience much hunger at all and can barely eat. Others return ravenous, and enjoy eating a substantial meal. Others still, like myself, do not feel hungry or find the thought of food particularly appealing, but as soon as they take a bite, they realise that they are actually really hungry and enjoy eating a good meal. Bear this in mind and if you don’t feel hungry, consider trying a small amount.
I recommend having something healthy, hearty and wholesome ready to eat afterwards. You can prepare something before the session day that can be easily heated up on the stove or in the microwave when you’re ready to eat. This ensures minimum fuss in the kitchen after your session when you might still be feeling some of the after effects. Good options include a vegetable stew or curry because they often taste better after having been left to sit for a day 🙂 Including potatoes or bread can help bring a grounding, comforting element to the meal.
I recommend vegetarian or plant based dishes because if you have any kind of conscience around animal products, this can be magnified under the influence of psychedelics. You might well find that food very unappealing.
Food in the run up to a trip
Leading up to the trip, and at least for the day directly before, I again recommend eating light and healthy. Avoid any particularly greasy or spicy food the day before. You want a settled stomach for the big day. A friend of mine once had a really spicy curry the evening before a session and had a few more ‘spicy’ trips to the bathroom during the day than he would’ve liked. For the same reason, and also to ensure a good night’s rest, I recommend avoiding alcohol the day before, ideally for a week leading up to the session.
Any difference for psilocybin or LSD?
My advice is the same for both LSD and psilocybin because most of the same still applies. Nausea is more commonly experienced on psilocybin so might be of greater importance, but it can also be experienced on LSD (and 2-CB), especially in the early stages of higher dose journeys. Like a flight, there can be turbulence on the way up. The best you can do is try to weather the storm, surrender, and remember that it will pass.
It can be useful to have some raw ginger to chew on. The ginger is anti-nausea, and having something to chew on can also be comforting. If eating mushrooms, this can also help to cover the flavour which in itself makes some people gag. Another option is to drink a nice strong brew of ginger tea before hand so it’s already in your system when you take off. One thing to bear in mind is to not drink too much, as this can lead to multiple trips to the bathroom.
I’ve thought the same thing myself before. If it sounds strange, I invite you to just try it. Before deciding on what to eat or buy from the supermarket, take a moment to tune in to how you feel in your body. See if anything comes up. You can even ask: ‘what food would you like to receive?’ or ‘what would you like to be nourished with?’. This tuning in to your body is a good integration practice in general and also useful for embodying emotions and feelings that surface in the days, weeks, and months afterwards.
Try to follow a healthy diet but not to the point where it becomes stressful to maintain. It’s important to remember that happiness is important to health too, so treat yourself to nicer, and sometimes more celebratory meals too. Practicing mindful eating, to savour each mouthful, can make these types of indulgences more enjoyable, and the need for them less frequent too. Also, sometimes a heavier, more substantial meal might be helpful if you are feeling a bit ungrounded.
Improving your diet can be seen as a long game in the part of improving physical health, so take care and be mindful if making big changes that might shock your system or be hard to maintain.
Of course, as with anything, the best diet before, during and after your trip will depend on the person. If you haven’t yet found a personalised approach that works for you, I recommend starting a drug journal and collecting your own data. You can make a few simple notes after each session so you have them in one place for future reference. Until then, I believe this advice will serve you well as a solid starting point.
https://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Food-Suggestions-for-Before-During-and-After-Psychedelic-Sessions.jpg12801920John Robertsonhttps://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MAPS-MIND-LOGO-29.pngJohn Robertson2021-07-14 11:29:252022-06-18 17:11:21Food Suggestions for Before, During, and After Psychedelic Sessions
Hello and welcome back for day two of PSYJuly! So, we are well and truly in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, boom, even. How do we each go about navigating this chapter in human history? Today we have Leia Friedman with a step by step guide…
How to Survive the Psychedelic Renaissance
What will they say about this moment in time 25 years down the road? 100 years? 1,000 years? Will humanity survive for that long?
Clinical trials of psychedelic therapies show promising results. Public approval of and interest in psychedelics increases by the day. More and more jurisdictions have decriminalized psychedelics, some even all drugs. Venture capital pours into the psychedelic field.
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples face violence and a legacy of threat to their way of life from globalization, colonialism, extractive industries, climate change and more. The American public remains divided on issues of identity, equity, access and oppression. The number of suicides may match the rates we saw at the height of the Great Depression. The pandemic made it abundantly more clear that distribution of power in our human race is grossly disproportionate. Climate change charges forward, yet there is little sense of urgency to address it.
How can we embody the psychedelic values of oneness, exploration, connection and interdependence as this psychedelic renaissance unfolds?
From a political, social, ecological and psychological (OK, psychedological) lens, I offer some tips and prompts to help psychedelic activists, therapists, enthusiasts, researchers, and beyond as we traverse this uncharted territory.
Practice nonviolent communication
Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a technique that can help us embody self-connection, honest expression, empathic presence, self-empathy, and awareness of/right use of power. Learn more about the theory here, and a foundation of the practice here.
Do your own healing work
“We have to be called into our own healing sometimes. We have to be called out into the desert, to the wilderness, to do the work on behalf of others.”
In a podcast conversation on Finding Our Way, Lama Rod Owens, Buddhist teacher, author and activist, shares his concerns about healers not doing their own work. He quotes Whitney Houston: “show me the receipts.”
Lama Rod continues: “There are a lot of us who don’t have receipts. Who are trying to put our hands on people and heal them when in fact we’re the ones who need to be healed. It’s nothing more than a perpetuation of violence and trauma on the bodies around us.”
Indeed, we can do more harm if we try to heal others when we ourselves have not done our own work. It can be an ongoing process, an upward spiral; invest in your own healing, especially if your intention is to help others on their healing journey.
Learn about and engage in accountability
Accountability is the responsibility that we each have over our own behavior, especially behavior that impacts others around us and in our community.
Although psychedelics are regarded as having tremendous healing potential, psychedelic communities are not immune to consent violations, interpersonal and systemic harm and abuse.
A transformative justice facilitator once told me, “we don’t hold people accountable. People get to be accountable.” It is a privilege to have the opportunity to look at our harmful behaviors and get the support needed to change, even to repair harms what we have participated in in the past.
Before we can actually hold people accountable (or give them the chance to be accountable) in our communities and on a wider level, we need plenty of practice with accountability in our own social circles and with our trusted loved ones.
Connect with nature
Have you ever taken a trip and felt the planet supporting you? Or looked at a tree and watched the leaves shimmer, felt the trunk breathing, heard the gentle hum of water moving up the roots and spreading through the branches? Nature is all around us, giving life to us, sustaining us, teaching us about ourselves. Studies (like this one and this one) have shown that psychedelics can increase our nature relatedness. This is so incredibly important, especially now as the consequences of human activity run the risk of destroying the delicate ecosystem on our spaceship, mother earth.
Side note: a carpenter ant crawled up my arm just as I finished writing this paragraph. 🙂
Connect with yourself
Modern society seems determined to disconnect us from ourselves. Taking time and space to connect with yourself and nurturing the connection between your body, mind and spirit is a revolutionary act.
A guideline that I try to live by is that I am responsible for my own emotions, needs, boundaries and desires. (Side note.. It is challenging AF to actually do this). In order to uphold this commitment, I need to prioritize connecting with myself enough that I can be aware of those things and advocate for them appropriately.
Know where you come from
If you have little or no connection or awareness of your ancestors, know that we all have roots that were once deeply intertwined with land and tradition.
Through the colonization of ancient Europe over the last 2,000 years, my ancestors were separated from their traditional ways of being. Millions of “witches” were burned for working with the healing power of plants. I believe that some of my relations (and their knowledge of plant healing ways) perished in those fires.
Rather than communing with nature, the cosmos, and the spirit and tradition of my people, I prayed to the gods of media, capitalism and superficial beauty standards for the first 24 years of my life, until I began working with psychedelics.
Studying permaculture, engaging in my own anti-racism and anti-oppression work, and sitting in tender presence with the fragility that still arises in me sometimes has been part of my process of finding belonging. Psychedelics and psychedelic community has taught me that it is never too late to come back to who I am and where I come from. It is a painful and intimidating process, but worthwhile.
If you, too, are disconnected from your lineage, I invite you to embark on the psychedelic journey of looking back to find your roots. You may also want to explore the idea of tending to your relationship with your ancestors.
Listen to, support and co-conspire with indigenous people
Many psychedelic plant medicines have been stewarded by indigenous cultures for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I offer thanks to the wisdom keepers, the water protectors and the healers.
Have these peoples consented to the widespread use and commodification of their sacred traditions? Will the money being generated by this psychedelic gold rush actually end up back in the hands of those who we have to thank for these medicines? Can the psychedelic renaissance stop the spread of colonization and the devastation of people, land, wisdom and culture that comes with it?
I don’t know about you, but I went through 13 years of public education, 4 years of undergraduate education at a state school and 2 years of grad school and I never once learned about the genocide of indigenous people on this continent. Colonization wasn’t a word in my vocabulary until I deliberately sought to learn about it.
Psychedelic communities must talk about colonization. Equally as important, recognize that decolonization can only be done in collaboration and alliance with indigenous peoples. Our groups, conferences, and organizations should become accurately informed about the true history of the plant medicines and the people that they come from, and committed to justice and equity as we move forward.
If you don’t already know, learn about the land you are on because sure enough, it once was stewarded by peoples who may still be struggling for their autonomy and continued existence amidst increasing deforestation, development and destruction of the land and their ways of life. It will probably be painful to recognize the reality if you don’t see it already, so be sure to tend to your own body and nervous system as you learn how to be a better ally and co-conspirator.
And please, listen to indigenous people.
Recognize that all of these issues, including our personal traumas, can be traced back to capitalism
I believe it to be true, and I don’t have the capacity to unpack it all here. But I will say this..
If you are free, if you have access to resources, if you were born into a body that this society confers certain privileges to, let’s use that to help usher in a new era of collective liberation and healing.
“I think the major difference between a social justice and a white/colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety—that safety is a resource that is simply ‘out there’ for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy.
“I was once at a training seminar in Toronto led by a famous & beloved somatic psychologist. She spoke brilliantly. I asked her how healing from trauma was possible for people for whom violence & danger are part of everyday life. She said it was not.
“Colonial psychology & psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo in their approach to trauma: that resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society, when in fact society is the source of trauma.”
How much longer can we operate under this lie that if we just work hard enough, we’ll be safe, healed, and whole? In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “no one is free until we are all free.” Let’s embody this truth in our healing work, our organizing, and our actions.
I am a queer, white, jew-ish, middle class, college-educated cis-woman with US citizenship. I can use the privileges that I have to protect others and fight to change the conditions under which such gross inequity currently exists in our society. I can put my body on the line and use my voice to advocate for access to psychedelic therapies for people belonging to historically marginalized identities.
Reciprocity in the Quechua language is Ayni, meaning “today for you, tomorrow for me.” In the spirit of ayni, perhaps you can support the roots of the psychedelic movement. You may be in a position to offer financial support, especially to BIPOC-led projects and organizations, and those that have meaningful relationships with indigenous and traditional plant medicine communities. Let’s stand in solidarity through activism and advocacy, not charity or pity. Check out this list of foundations and initiatives that are engaging in sacred reciprocity.
This blog post isn’t about how you can survive the psychedelic renaissance. It’s about how we, as one human family, can survive and thrive, together in balance with the rest of the planet.
The more that I do this work, the more I feel my ancestors encouraging me and guiding me in the directions of my own continued healing, and toward that fulfilling the dream of a collective liberation and belonging for all beings.
May we thank the plants, animals, and fungi, and give back their right to take up space and thrive.
May we all put our efforts toward achieving balance again.
May we look within ourselves and find belonging.
May we look at each other and see common humanity in the shared struggles, hope and dreams reflected back to us.
May we contribute to a culture of freedom, agency and reciprocity, where all people can access nourishing food, clean water, good medicine, and room to grow, play and explore.
May we all vision and manifest the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
May all the beings in all the world be happy, peaceful and free.
Leia Friedman loves to connect the dots as a teacher, writer, and permaculturist. Born and raised in Lowell, MA, Leia obtained her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Rivier University and worked as an in home therapist before psychedelics turned her world inside out. She is now a psychedelic integration facilitator, a student in psychedelic somatic interactional psychotherapy (PSIP), a trainee in restorative and transformative approaches to conflict, a budding herbalist, and the host of a podcast called The Psychedologist: consciousness positive radio. Leia holds her permaculture design certificate from Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training, a program that emphasizes social permaculture and spirituality in regenerative land care. Leia has written for Wiley Encyclopedia, Psymposia, Lucid News, Psychable and DoubleBlind on topics relating to consciousness through the lens of social and environmental justice. You can find her teetering on a slack line in Costa Rica, up to her elbows in dirt from working in the garden, or nose in her laptop, grading papers for her psychology students.
https://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/mountain-nature.jpeg12801920Maps Of The Mindhttps://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MAPS-MIND-LOGO-29.pngMaps Of The Mind2021-07-02 12:00:332021-08-06 12:29:34How to Survive the Psychedelic Renaissance
A reader recently reached out to me and asked about dealing with nausea from psilocybin. This is a common issue with shrooms so in an effort to find out more, I put it out there to the psychedelic Twitter community.
With the help of a retweet from The Daily Shroom I received a wide variety of answers. In this blog post I summarise them for other users…
This method breaks down the psilocybin to psilocin before entering the digestive system and apparently there’s some research which shows this helps with nausea. Here’s another guide from those legends at Double Blind here.
Lemon Essential Oil
On the citrus note, one of the members of the R/EVOLUTION course has found luck with lemon oil:
“Out of everything I’ve tried so far, lemon essential oil (in a gel capsule) seems to work best for me at preventing nausea. Should also work with any other serotonergic substance, as it contains Beta-Pinene, which is a 5-HT3 antagonist.”
Take on an empty stomach
This is a technique that I personally use, though admittedly I do still sometimes have some nausea. It was a widespread answer on the Twitter thread so there must be something to it. It makes sense that if your body is not having to digest food then you’re not gonna have those stomach grumblings to be sensitive to during your trip.
Take with food
Interestingly many people advised taking food with the shrooms, or eating food shortly after.
This could be to mask the taste of the shrooms or to somehow settle the stomach in another way. Chocolate was a common recommendation, as was honey. A few people shared eating something fatty helps, like coconut oil, peanut butter or greasy chips, and a couple of people said they swear by this method.
Clean up your diet
This is something which can be done on the long term and also on the short term. On the short term this can mean eating very clean the day before or the week leading up to your trip.
I do suspect, though I have no strong evidence for it, that cleaning up your diet generally and improving that aspect of your physical health will lead to a decrease in the experience of nausea from psilocybin. Consider what eating a clean diet means to you. Thinking about how to improve that aspect of your physical health might be a little ongoing side project for you that will aid your psychedelic journeys.
This was the most common reply and was something we also used on the New Moon Psychedelic Retreats. It seems that fresh ginger is the best and most effective. Chewing on raw ginger can also help to mask the taste and having something soft like that to bite on can be good when dealing with strong waves of nausea. Other options include tea, high-quality extract, and capsules.
I have never tried this but it makes sense as peppermint is known to relax the digestive system. Most people recommended a peppermint tea but it was also suggested to use essential oil:
“Rub some peppermint essential oils on your hands and inhale and exhale slowly, […] breathe in the smell.”
This one was competing with ginger for the most common reply. This is one I have used to excellent effect with San Pedro, where there can be very strong nausea. However, I have never used it with psilocybin. The Twitter thread shows that this is a widespread method for many people. One thing I’d mention is that you want to consider how the effect of marijuana is going to affect your trip. The psychoactive effect is a reason why I personally don’t use weed with psilocybin. Someone did mention CBD, so that might be a way of utilising the soothing effect of the marijuana plant without the psychoactive effect.
Grind and encapsulate
Drying and grinding is something I do. To me it just makes sense that having part of the breaking up of the matter itself already done makes it easier for the body to handle. More than one person mentioned the efficacy of encapsulating powder.
“Grind them into dust with a coffee grinder. Get gel cap stuffing tools and 000 gel caps. Filling a 000 cap as much as you can stuff it is within .05 of a half gram. I hate whole ones and have never had nausea issues this way”
If eating, try chewing very well before swallowing. The saliva can already begin the process of digestion and as with any food, chewing well helps aid digestion.
Breathing and stillness
Lying down, remaining still, breathing, relaxing into and accepting your current experience is always a good way of dealing with any unpleasant feelings that just won’t go away, nausea or otherwise. Acceptance.
Consider a synthetic alternative
You might consider switching to a psilocybin pro drug like 4-AcO-DMT. A couple of users said they swear by this so it might be worth a shot.
“I recommend try switching to one of the psilocin prodrugs such as 4-AcO-DMT. I actually prefer using 4-AcO than shrooms since dosage and potency is much more consistent, and it doesn’t make me nauseous at all (none of the toxins contained in normal shrooms)”
Acclimate through microdosing
It was also suggested to allow the body to acclimate to psilocybin by microdosing in the run up to the trip.
This is another one that came from one of the founding members of R/EVOLUTION. The theory here is chitin (a fibrous substance found in mushrooms) causes inflammation, which can cause issues in the lower bowel or gut, and this can result in discomfort. Tomato paste contains chitinase which counters these effects by dissolving or digesting the chitin.
This journeyer noted that, whilst they used to experience discomfort…
“…I have not had any issues since I started adding the tomato paste.”
Here is their method, a mix of tea and paste:
“It is basically lemon tea plus tomato paste. I soak the ground up mushrooms in lemon juice (enough to wet the mixture – about a 1/4 lemon) and a dab of tomato paste (1/3 – 1/2 tsp). I let that sit for about ten minutes before steeping in hot water for another 10 – 15. I then make my tea adding honey and ginger to mask the awful taste….
Anti sickness medication
This is not one I would personally recommend. However, I will include it in the interest of brevity as it was mentioned by a few people. Names that were thrown up were Zofran and Dramamine.
Experiment, Document, Personalise
When it comes to taking psychedelics, I encourage all users to experiment and find their own personalised approach. There is no one-size-fits-all. We are all different and different approaches will suit different people.
I recommend keeping a drug journal or log and trying different methods and taking notes. In regards to nausea, you can note how you served your dose, what you ate and when you ate it relative to your dose, and how your experience of nausea was. Eventually you will find what works for you and have your own personalised approach.
The practice of keeping a drug log is something I keep coming back to so I will probably write a more in-depth article at some point soon (update: I did it). In the meantime, you can find more in my articles on dose and nerdy drug taking.
Legal in the Netherlands, psilocybin containing magic truffles are one of the only legal psychedelics anywhere in the world. The problem with them is that they can get rotten quite quickly, growing a nasty mould and becoming inedible and unusable. As such, it’s very useful to dry them when they are still fresh as this extends their shelf life for a long time, meaning they can be stored for many months. The good news is that the process of drying magic truffles is actually very easy and takes only a few days.
This post will cover how to dry truffles and then how to store them. With our dried truffles, I’ll finally show you how to calculate a desired dose, equivalent to their fresh weight doses.
How to Dry Magic Truffles
Take your truffles out of whatever packaging they might be in and lay them out on a sheet of paper, leaving space between each of the pieces. The spaces allow air flow, which aids the drying process. The paper should be kinda absorbent (e.g. not fine printer paper), newspaper works fine.
Break up bigger truffles into smaller pieces as this will also help to speed up their drying process. As best you can, leave this in a place where there is a good air flow. For example, somewhere out in the open, or in the middle of a room is ideal.
If you aren’t able to leave them in an open place which is well ventilated, they will still dry but will just take longer. If this is the case, just fan them with some air from time to time to get the air around them flowing, making sure there isn’t any stagnant air around them.
Be sure to occasionally let fresh air into the room and to allow air to flow through. You can keep a fan over them but it’s not necessary.
If you have them, put packets of silica gel by them which will help to absorb moisture in the air around them and can help to speed up the process.
Left like this, you can expect your truffles to dry completely in 2-3 days. In some cases, it might take up to a week. If you can, it is best to leave them out for a day or two longer to make sure they are completely dried.
You will know they are completely dried by the fact that they become extremely hard, to the point that it’s not possible to break them by hand. Half dried, they will be harder, but completely dried they become like stones.
Once they are dry, you can store them away.
How To Store Magic Truffles
Put your dried truffles into a container and keep them in a cool, dark place. Kept like this they will maintain a shelf life of many months.
Dried and powdered magic truffles
How to Take Dried Truffles
Because they are so incredibly hard, chewing dried truffles is not an option as it is with fresh ones. I’ve found easiest way to consume dried truffles is to grind them into a fine powder, mix with water, and then drink the whole mix. It doesn’t taste great, but it works.
A coffee grinder works well to grind the truffles. After grinding, wait a few minutes before opening the grinder to allow the truffle powder dust to settle.
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Dosing with Dried Truffles
The process of drying truffles makes them lose a lot of their weight. It is important to take this change into account when calculating your dose with dried truffles. As a general rule of thumb, dried weight equates to one third of fresh weight, so 30 g fresh truffles becomes 10 g of dried truffles. However, it is best to weigh batches of truffles when they are fresh and then dried to know exactly the quantity that you have as the dried weight can vary depending on how thoroughly they have been dried – it can be that truffles are partially dried, becoming hard, but still carrying some water weight, meaning that they are closer to half of the weight of fresh truffles.
Weight your batch of fresh truffles and make a note of their weight.
After drying them, weigh them again to see the change in weight.
Then when it comes to calculating your dose, weigh the powder before (I recommend weighing the powder directly before preparing the dose rather than the dried truffles as parts of the truffles can get caught in the grinder).
An Equation To Calculate Desired Truffle Dose
Here is a useful equation you can use to calculate your dried truffle dose from your fresh truffle dose.
N/B*F = D
N = What truffles weigh now
B = What they weighed before
F = Desired dose fresh
D = Dose with current truffles
Say you had a batch that was 55 g of fresh truffles.
They have been dried, and now their total weight is 19.5 g
You want a dose of 25 g of fresh truffles.
One of the most common features (and frustrations) associated with the DMT experience is that despite being profound, it can also be very difficult to recall. DMT has a dream-like quality to it, in that you quickly lose your memory of the DMT trip as you return to normal waking consciousness. Terence McKenna drew attention to this quality of the experience when he said: “the way a dream melts away is the way a DMT trip melts away,” adding that “[t]here is a self-erasing mechanism in it”.
Image by Pretty Drug Things
Many people who experience DMT, especially at the breakthrough levels, will find that they simply can’t remember the bulk of what they experienced. This is something quite unique to the DMT flash and I think part of it comes down to the extremely ineffable nature of the DMT experience, which you could even call hyper-ineffable, with certain aspects not only being indescribable but also unrememberable.
Some people might accept this is a DMT quirk and think nothing of it, whereas others might feel that a lot of important knowledge and insight was lost when the amnesia set in. Whatever your attitude may be about DMT and memory loss, one challenge remains: how can you integrate a DMT experience that is difficult to remember?
In this article, I’d like to share my own experiences of DMT and memory loss, relating to one experience, in particular, that took place six years ago, but which I still mull over sometimes. This has been my most profound psychedelic experience to date, yet it has also been the most difficult to remember, with essentially most of the trip (apparently) erased from my memory. However, over the years, I have still been able to integrate the experience by way of helpful discussions, enlightening books, and productive introspection. First, here’s a brief description of what my experience was like.
My Mystical DMT Experience
One day, I decided to go on a solo psychedelic journey and took 430mg of mescaline HCL. This experience was highly profound in itself, with emotional and life-affirming insights. It felt like the negativity bias had been flushed out of me, replaced instead by existential joy. At the peak of the experience or perhaps just after, however, I had the thought of smoking DMT. I wanted to aim for a breakthrough.
I got everything ready and, for the first time, I had zero anticipatory fear or anxiety, something that was usually quite prominent any previous time before blasting off. I think the lack of pre-trip jitters (and the mescaline, no doubt) helped me to go deeper into the experience than I otherwise might have.
I was ‘congratulated’ for taking the last hit by some presence or presences, to my amusement. After that, I began to lay down and remember a tsunami of colour and patterns enveloping me. I’m not sure I even remember feeling my body completely lay down; my sense of self and body was snuffed out in an instant.
From this point on, the memories are hazy and sparse. My clearest memory was having what felt to be universal knowledge. Every question was answered. There were no mysteries left to be solved. These insights felt as clear as the understanding that follows when you finally solve a problem you’ve been working on for a long time: the immediate relief of clear understanding. There came a point though where I had to leave this realm of universal knowledge and I was told (or knew) that as I was leaving, I wouldn’t be able to bring this knowledge back with me. The cosmic secrets had to remain in this realm and this realm only. A pity, I thought.
I do have a snapshot memory of then travelling through a psychedelic wormhole or tunnel, ending up in a realm with ever-shifting activity. This activity was going on for what felt like an eternity – I definitely had the sense of being away for aeons and certainly could not imagine that there would be a time or place in which this experience was not happening.
But eventually, I gained some perception of my body, feeling the pressure of the floor against my back. At this point, though, my ‘body’ felt nothing more than pulsating, pleasurable energy – everything about me seemed to have melted into the totality of the experience. As I regained more bodily awareness, at a certain point I opened my eyes, as if in shock. I saw multi-layered DMT-like patterns above me, so I was half in my room, half in this heavenly realm. I closed my eyes again and I was still somewhat back in hyperspace. There were entities engaged in all sorts of frenzied, zany activities.
After opening my eyes a second time, I went into the fetal position and began sobbing, feeling like pure consciousness. I had felt the presence of the divine: this titanic, loving, and merciful force. I had the feeling of being shot out of some cosmic womb, reborn, and given a second chance at life. I was utterly stunned and in disbelief about the whole experience. Slowly, piece-by-piece, I regained my sense of identity and my memories, realising I had a life here on Earth and had returned to it.
After the Experience
I have thought about this experience a lot since it happened six years ago, but one of my personal frustrations has been how little I remember and whether my thoughts about the experience or what I wrote down some time after the experience even approaches what actually occurred.
There are many things, nonetheless, that have helped me to integrate this experience (and other DMT experiences), despite the gaps in memory. Before describing these techniques, I’d first like to touch on why integration has helped me and how it might benefit you, as well.
The Benefits of Integration
Integrating this particular experience has helped me to sort through some of the confusion, such as endless questions and doubts about what certain elements mean. You want to remain mindful after such an intense experience, as there is often a difference between healthy introspection and unhealthy obsessive thinking.
Integration, for me, has been a process of creating a clear and meaningful narrative that benefits my attitudes, beliefs, and actions, rather than forget about the experience as something ineffectual and inconsequential. If you are struggling with memory gaps and confusion about a DMT experience, you may find peace of mind by accepting that the experience is likely to remain deeply mysterious to some degree and will always be open to re-interpretation.
Integration has also motivated me to explore different ideas and belief systems, especially those relating to transpersonal, humanistic, and Jungian psychology, spirituality, mysticism, world religions, and wisdom traditions. In these explorations, I found connections to my DMT experience, which helped to add new meaning to the experience, by providing frameworks in which to interpret it and use it to benefit myself and others.
As an atheist confronted with ‘the divine’, I also felt a need to reconcile my atheistic worldview with this undeniable experience. This is not a process that has finished (which is true of integration, in general), but so far viewing this divine quality and experience as something human and interior (rather than necessarily exterior) has been productive. You may likewise discover that integration will allow you to find more wholeness, through the reconciliation of different aspects of yourself, as well as the expression of unrealised aspects.
6 Ways to Integrate a Difficult-to-Remember Experience
1. Let Integration Happen Organically
What I’ve found is that the process of integrating a DMT experience will happen organically when I stop trying to force interpretations onto it and when I give up obsessing about what I might or might not remember. Often, more memories may arise further down the line or existing memories can become clarified or take on a new meaning.
Integrating a DMT experience that is hard to remember might just require patience, time, and being mindful of any new ways in which the experience seems to influence your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, choices, behaviour, and lifestyle. Integration can be organically going on without you even being aware of it.
2. Read Widely
For me personally, there have also been spontaneous moments of integration or clarity when reading a book, article, or someone else’s trip report. A word, phrase, or sentence can seem to bring a memory into focus, create an emotional reaction that feels meaningful, or elicit some sort of constructive thought or insight.
I can give a few examples of books that seemed to help with the process of integration. One was the sci-fi novel Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon. It tells the story of a nameless narrator who travels through the cosmos, eventually coming into contact with the ‘Star Maker’, the divine creator of everything. The description of this meeting with the Star Maker helped to clarify my own contact with ‘the divine’ during my DMT experience.
Another book was the novel Narcissus and Goldmund (1930), written by Hermann Hesse. There were just a couple of phrases that reignited my memory of the DMT experience:
“At any rate, Goldmund had shown him that a man destined for high things can dip into the lowest depths of the bloody, drunken chaos of life, and soil himself with much dust and blood, without becoming small and common, without killing the divine spark within himself, that he can err through the thickest darkness without extinguishing the divine light and the creative force inside the shrine of his soul.”
The phrases ‘divine spark’ and ‘divine light’ helped me to recall how, coming out of my DMT experience, I felt that ‘the divine’ was something in me. The reason these phrases stood out to me, pregnant with meaning, might have been because this aspect of ‘divinity’ in the self held some importance that I should pay attention to. While I am still unsure and sceptical about what this inner ‘divine’ quality actually is, I do believe it is a positive quality and that if I can focus on that feeling of the divine, it will lead to greater well-being and more positive experiences and actions.
One more book that I’ve come across that benefited the process of integration was The Idea of the Holy (1917), written by the philosopher and theologian Rudolf Otto. In this book, Otto introduces the concept of thenuminous, which stands for ‘the holy’ or ‘the divine’, which Otto conceives in a particular way.
He argued, firstly, that this experience of the divine, the “wholly other”, was at the basis of all religions, something that I understood, based on my experience with DMT. I came out of the experience thinking that my encounter with this powerful force, this divine ‘other’, reminded me of descriptions of prophets or Biblical characters being overwhelmed by the presence of God, such as Moses’ vision of the burning bush and Saul’s Road to Damascus experience, when Jesus appears to him, an experience that was so overwhelmingly powerful it caused Saul to fall to his knees.
Otto describes the experience of the numinous as involving fear, mystery, and fascination. This mixture of fear and fascination towards the power of the divine was very relatable and Otto’s elaboration on the numinous helped me to further clarify my experience, although it still remains shrouded in mystery, which, after all, seems to be an essential quality of this divine presence.
So, if you are struggling to both remember and integrate a DMT experience, I would recommend searching for books, articles, and trip reports that relate to the particular themes of your own experience. Reading fiction, non-fiction, and anecdotes can, when you least expect it, trigger some recall or allow you to look at your experience from a different light, helping you to make sense of it. While you may not remember much of your experience, what you do remember can, as it turns out, contain a great deal of potential for meaning and growth.
3. Talk Openly About It
One of the most effective ways to aid integration, when your experience is difficult to remember, is to talk about it openly with someone else. You can turn around an experience in your head for years and wonder about what it means, but sometimes the perspective of someone else can lead you to conclusions you might not have reached on your own. This is especially true when the person you’re talking to has had similar experiences, is aware of such experiences, or is knowledgeable about areas of psychology – such as transpersonal psychology – which deal with altered states of consciousness.
When I was seeking a therapist one time during a bout of depression, I found someone who specialised in transpersonal psychology and remember thinking this person could help me examine my DMT experiences in more depth. I believed the positive nature of the experience could help me in my depressive state. When I first met the therapist, however, and voiced this intention of mine, the reaction was not what I had hoped for. Rather than view these experiences as meaningful material that could benefit me, she stressed that because I had depression I should not have used psychedelics, that I put myself at risk of harm, and that if I were to continue therapy, I would have to avoid all drug use.
Not only was this response surprising, given her training as a transpersonal psychologist, but it was also anathema to the integration I needed, as it cast the experience in a negative light, with ‘wrongness’ attached to it. I did not see this therapist again. If you are trying to integrate a DMT experience, it is crucial to be selective of who you speak to and to avoid talking about it further if you are met with any judgement. Integration is a highly personal and vulnerable process and so, if other people are to help you in this process, they will need to be open, empathetic, and non-judgemental.
Fortunately, I have seen two other therapists whose attitudes about my DMT experiences were completely different. And I am grateful that I was able to discuss these experiences so openly, especially considering that these therapists were not specifically trained (as far as I’m aware) in psychedelic integration. I talked about some elements of my mystical experience with DMT and my frustration with being unable to remember much of it.
Interestingly, both therapists had similar responses to this frustration of mine. They said something to the effect of “you will remember what is most important about the experience”, with one therapist saying that I was lucky to have had it, as it is a rare experience. I think this helped to make the process of integration much smoother, as it made me realise I didn’t have to obsess about what I do and don’t remember, or regret not being able to remember more, as the most meaningful aspects are still there, and that the experience is something to be immensely grateful for.
Again, even if an experience is hard to remember, this doesn’t mean integration isn’t going on unconsciously, affecting the way you view yourself, others, and the world at large. However, because a lot of this process is unconscious, you may find it beneficial to seek out a therapist who can work with you in becoming aware of this material and processing it, which can be conducive to personal growth.
Others find that psychedelic integration circles offer the ideal environment in which to discuss and make sense of their psychedelic experiences.
4. Write About the Experience
Writing about DMT experiences that are difficult to remember is another great way of trying to integrate them. Fleshing out ideas in writing is a different process than speaking about those ideas. You can write in a stream of consciousness sort of way, writing down whatever thoughts about the experience arise moment-to-moment. You can write in a divergent, creative way, producing as many new and interesting avenues of interpretation as you can and seeing which interpretation for you, subjectively, holds the most meaning and significance.
For me personally, writing – whether that’s privately or publicly in the form of articles – has allowed me to make a lot more sense of my DMT experiences than I think I could achieve through just introspection and conversations with others. For example, when I get some moments of clarity – moments where memories of DMT experiences start flooding into conscious awareness – I have made sure to make a note of that memory, usually as notes on my phone, or in a notepad if I have one nearby. These moments of clarity are fleeting, but trying to capture them in written form can help you create a clearer picture of the DMT experience, even if what you write down seems harder to relate to once the memory fades again.
5. Recreate the Context of the Experience
Context-dependent memory refers to the phenomenon whereby it is easier to retrieve certain memories when the context in which the memory was formed is replicated. For example, if you are struggling to remember what a DMT experience felt like, but you were listening to particular music during the trip, re-listening to that music could help you to retrieve memories of the visual, emotional, and conceptual components of the experience. The more you can do to try to recall the experience, the easier it will be to integrate.
Another aspect of context-dependent memory is state-dependent memory: the phenomenon in which it is easier to recall a memory if you are in the same state – or a similar state – in which the memory was formed. One possible reason DMT experiences can be so hard to remember is that the memories relating to such experiences (or at least some aspects of them, anyway) are state-dependent. So, if you can put yourself in the same physical or mental state in which the memory was formed, or a similar state, you may find it easier to retrieve the memories of the experience in question, which may provide you with valuable information.
You can access state-dependent memories in a variety of ways. One way would be to use DMT again, as this would mentally and physically put you in the same state in which the memory was formed relating to a previous experience. You may not even need to take a high dose, as even a light DMT experience may be similar enough in its quality to trigger the retrieval of memories.
I have not used DMT since my experience six years ago, so I can’t personally speak on the effectiveness of using DMT again to retrieve memories. However, when I occasionally used cannabis in the past, I would have vivid memories – like snapshots of hyperspace, imbued with emotions – of previous DMT experiences (although it’s hard to say which particular experiences they relate to).
Of course, if you don’t use cannabis or don’t want to, this doesn’t mean you can’t retrieve the memories in other ways. I have also remembered DMT experiences under the influence of different psychedelics, as well as experienced short moments of remembering during meditation. It seems that the ‘similar’ state you need to be in to remember a DMT experience can encompass a range of altered states.
6. Prioritise the Emotional Dimension
While many aspects of the DMT experience can be difficult to remember (e.g. the sequence of events and various details), usually one of the strongest impressions of the experience is its emotional quality. It can be easier to question and interpret how the entities and hyperspace appeared to look than how one felt entering hyperspace, traversing hyperspace, and then coming out of hyperspace.
Many strong emotions and feelings may be involved in the DMT experience, such as awe, bliss, euphoria, joy, unconditional love, gratitude, fear, panic, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. By taking the time to really feel into the emotional aspect of these experiences, you can let your mind freely engage with them, seeing what meaning arises.
Emotionally-charged memories may be connected to important insights and lessons. For instance, you might recall how you felt when experiencing love and comfort from the entities during the experience. You may realise that this was connected to greater well-being and so decide for yourself that in order to experience this greater sense of well-being in daily life, it is wise to try to treat yourself just as the entities did. Part of integrating this lesson may involve more attention placed on self-care and self-compassion. This is just one possible interpretation, of course. Integrating the emotional aspect of the DMT experience will always be highly personal.
By prioritising the emotional dimension, you may find you can remember more details of your DMT experience, as well as make more sense of it, offering you some nuggets of wisdom when you least expect it.
A DMT experience might be brief and hard to remember, but it can also be extremely powerful and rich. With patience, self-awareness, and conscious effort, you can unearth meaning and benefits from a single experience over the course of many years.
Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics.You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.