psychedelic compatibility group who

The cast of characters you trip with is one of the biggest parts of the setting. It’s certainly the most alive, and in some ways, unpredictable.

A helpful metric to consider when choosing your company is psychedelic compatibility.

I define psychedelic compatibility as:
The level at which two or more people are able to trip together without problems or conflict.

It might also be understood as the ability for multiple people to successfully journey together.

This can be thought of in the same way that you might consider which friends you travel well with, work well with, or could live with. You might have friends who you love, but wouldn’t want to live with. You might have a friend who’s a bestie and hanging out is awesome, but you don’t travel well together. These are all types of compatibility. This is the same for psychedelic trips.

Contributing factors to psychedelic compatibility include like mindedness, alignment of intentions, expectations, and flexibility or openness.

If there is low compatibility, it may result in mismatched experience and some disappointment from people in the group. I’ll give an example to illustrate how this might occur.

Low Psychedelic Compatibility

Dave and Lisa are friends. They both want to trip and decide it might be nice to do it together. However, they are some differences in how they approach the session…

Dave is looking for an introspective experience. He’s at a bit of a crossroads in his life and would like some clarity on how to move forward.
Lisa is up for a more recreational experience. She’s just moved to a new city, started a new job and generally things are going pretty well. She’s up for letting loose and having fun.

Dave wants to create a setting that lends itself to an introspective experience; soft lighting and music. He wants to use a psychedelic therapy approach, listening to a preset playlist which brings him through emotions, and includes flowing music for reflection.
Lisa wants doesn’t want to choose all the music up front. She wants to be able to choose and change music as she feels like it.

Lisa wants to dance around the room.
Dave finds that distracting.

Dave wants to lie down with his eyes closed.
Lisa finds that boring.

Lisa wants to talk and interact with Dave. Make jokes, silly sounds, explore philosophical topics and look at art.
Dave wants to lie down with his eyes closed.

Dave wants to journal, Lisa wants to cuddle.

Clearly, Dave and Lisa have a low psychedelically compatibility.

Psychedelic Compatibility Can Change

It’s useful to bear in mind that psychedelic compatibility between people isn’t fixed permanently. Whilst Dave and Lisa are not very compatible for their next session, that doesn’t mean that can’t change at a later date. Maybe in the future Dave would like to have a fun session. Or, Lisa will be more open to trying an introspective experience. It can depend on the time of life, so it’s useful for parties to talk before, to check their level of compatibility before going ahead for a session.

Compatibility can be increased if parties talk about potential scenarios in advance that could prove to be a problem. This can improve the ability to successfully navigate differences that come up.

For example:
What if one of us wants to go outside for a walk, and the other/s wants to stay inside?
What if someone really can’t stand the music that is playing?
What if, in a dyad, one person wants to be left alone and the other wants to talk?

Finding High Compatibility

If intentions and expectations are aligned, there is a much higher possibility that groups will be psychedelically compatible.

To reach a high level of psychedelic compatibility, everyone has to be more or less on the same page. This can include things such as intention, expectation, session style, agreements. Here are a few examples:

Intentions:
What are everyone’s intentions for the session? Do they align? Intentions might include: fun, exploration, introspection, emotional release, partying, spiritual exploration.

Expectations:
Is there an expectation that the group will be spending the whole trip together, or that each person will have time to themselves? Is there an expectation that you remain in one place for the session, or that you may be on the move?

Style:
Is the session formal or casual? It is highly structured, ritualised even? Is it free flowing? It is inner journey style? Are you doing any activities together? Will you be making art or music? Watching a movie? Will you prepare for any of these? Will you just flow into it and see how it goes?

Music:
Will you listen to a collaborative playlist? Will you select songs as a group together? Does one person play DJ, taking requests? Or will you just wing it? Is everyone cool with that?

How to Assess Psychedelic Compatibility

The way to assess psychedelic compatibility is through honest communication and conversation. If you’re planning to share a trip with friends, you can simply share what are your intentions and expectations for the experience. How does each person envision it going? What is the setting? What is the level of interaction? Are you all in the same room? Is talk to be kept to a minimum? Is communication limited and only use for practical purposes (e.g. things like the level of music, water and tea, blankets, opening windows for air flow etc.). Are you aiming to avoid getting into conversations?

If you’d like a list of questions to run through with a friend before a trip, check out my guide, which you can get by signing up to my newsletter.

I hope you can find high compatibility with your next journey buddy or crew. Best wishes and safe travels!

psychedelic service sheet altar ritual

Taking a high dose of a psychedelic still scares me. This is true even after having embarked upon many high dose sessions. One thing that I’ve found helps me to find a sense of calm is having some kind of structure to the session.

Sometimes for my trips I will have a very minimal structure. Usually, with low or medium doses, I’d be more on the recreational tip; more loose and informal. On the other hand, for higher dose formal sessions, what I might call ceremonies, I tend towards a more formal and structured approach. For these more ritualistic high-dose experiences, I create a service sheet.

Psychedelic Service Sheet

Much like you might find at a ceremony such as a wedding, funeral or other church service, a psychedelic service sheet contains the order of proceedings. It may also include the words of any prayers, songs or readings that are part of the service.

I usually only create a service sheet for inner journeys. As I’ll be lying down with my eyes closed for these sessions, my service sheet is mostly just an order for opening and closing the session.

I really like having a service sheet because it makes the occasion feel special. It is also very practical. It gives me a clear step-by-step run through. Having this clear to do list, or, order of service, helps me to go through specific steps in order to bring about a sense of ease, order, and structure. This helps to create something of a container for the experience. When I’m a little anxious or fidgety before a high dose session, having this clear and simple run through helps me to follow steps one by one and sets me up nicely for my session. It’s similar to some athletes or musicians’ pre-show rituals. 

Contents of a Service Sheet

My service sheet will typically contain the steps for my opening and closing rituals, and the prayer that I read aloud as part of my opening. There is also space for me to write my intention, as well as other key details like the location, style of the session, the people present, and the date. It may include some navigation reminders or guidelines, and/or a couple of lines to help me connect to my inner resources. It also has a section for me to fill in the dosage, substance, and start time. 

Helps Create the Desired Set

On my service sheet I include things which help to move me into a desired state: feeling safe, relaxed, humble, and open. Here is a quick summary of items that I include and what they help connect me to.

Resources: safety, strength
Meditation: calm, open
Prayer: humble, open
Gratitude: heart opening

They are all, in some form or another, centering practices.

How & What I Use for my Service Sheets

Sometimes I have the sheet printed off on a sheet of A4 paper. More often I will use the double page of a notepad, which I lie open on a flat surface in a designated place. Depending on the setup and space, it may be part of or next to an altar. The pad then remains open there for the duration of the session, and is only put away once the ceremony has been closed.

psychedelic service sheet altar ritual

I typically like to include a sound, such as ringing a bell or making an OM, to both open and close. I also like to light and then blow out a candle as bookends, with the flame symbolizing the journey. When I blow it out at the end I can make a wish and do a little candle magic. This is, by the way, for you cynics, performed every day across the country when children blow out little flames on their birthday cakes.

My Influences

I think the ayahuasca ceremonies I attended in the Amazon were a large influence on me adopting service sheets into my practice. They were easily the most formalized ceremonies that I’d attended. They had a very clear structure to them, with distinct stages, or rounds, of the service. They also included many preselected readings and prayers. I really appreciated that approach and how special it felt. It also added to a sense of containment and made the whole thing feel more safe. I also think the Japanese tea ceremony has influenced my adoption of service sheets, as well as using to-do lists and practicing productivity concepts like ‘masterpiece days‘ and deep work.

Record of Doses and Journeys

Service sheets also work as a handy record. They can be used to look back on previous trips. For practical considerations, having things like doses noted can be helpful for calibrating and titrating your dosage over time. So if you think like ‘oh yeah, that time we tripped at Lisa’s place, that was a good level, how much did we take?’. You’ve got it there in your written records.

It’s a large part of ritualizing use which has many benefits of its own, and is also kind of like Taking Drugs Like a Nerd.

Making Your Own Service Sheet

If this idea interests you, I would recommend trying to create your own service sheet. If you find it’s not for you, you can go ditch it and go back to your usual approach. Here I will include a few examples of orders that might be included. You can consider them a starting point and take this idea wherever you like. Your service sheet might look totally different to mine.

Examples

Example 1: Group Inner Journeys Style

Once everyone is ready:

  • Opening Circle (A stick goes round the circle, and everyone shares how they feel)
  • 3 minutes silent meditation
  • Pass doses round in circle and bless them
  • Music begins (Inwards, by Tommi)
  • Take doses
  • Journey
  • Playlist Ends
  • Closing circle

Example 2: Group Dynamic Session

Opening

  • Ring Bell
  • Opening Circle
  • Eye gazing in pairs
  • Take Dose

Session (modeled on Osho Dynamic Meditation)

Playlist begins

  • Section 1: Loosening
    Shaking
  • Section 2: Activation
    Free flowing movement & dance
  • Section 3: Calm
    Standing or seated meditation
  • Section 4: Stillness
    Seated or lying meditation

Playlist Ends

(When participants feel ready to re-engage, they may move to the reintegration room)

Closing

  • Closing Circle
  • Give Thanks
  • Ring Bell

Example 3: MVO (Minimum Viable Order of Service)

  • Cheers
  • Take dose

[Session]

  • Closing joint

Would you ever use a service sheet? Is it too formal for you? Would you prefer a more relaxed approach? For high-dose sessions where things can get a little more out of control, I find a service sheet helps to make myself feel more grounded and ready to embark upon a journey. I believe it might help you, too.

Safe travels and best wishes.

psychedelics pray prayers

Two weekends ago I took 5 tabs of acid. A few moments before that, I said a prayer.  

Saying a prayer is one step of an opening ritual which I run through for more formal psychedelic ceremonies. This opening ritual also includes calling upon the support and help of my ancestors, bringing to mind internal resources, stating my intention out loud, and doing a short meditation. 

This ritual, and the prayer, is designed to centre me and enter an open state of being.

The Spirit of Prayer

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

I like using prayer because of the spirit in which it is given. A prayer is a humble and sincere request. It is earnest, coming with cap in hand. It’s the opposite of being arrogant or egotistical. That is the state that I think is most helpful to enter a deep psychedelic session, when we may have to give up all control of what we are experiencing and simply surrender.

Psychedelic Spirituality and Efficacy of Prayer

The use of psychedelics in a religious context is not new. They have been used for centuries by different cultures for spiritual, therapeutic, and divinatory purposes. In some traditions, there are rituals where psychedelics are used as an aid to meditation and prayer. Indeed, the West’s introduction to psychedelics, via Sabina and Wasson, was in a ritual context with prayers and incantations.

This makes sense as prayer has been shown to alter perception and mood, reduce anxiety, and have pain relieving, and antidepressant properties. It has also been shown to make similar long term changes in the brain to that of psychedelic users. In this sense prayer can also be considered an effective technology, comparable to psychedelics and meditation, and all three may be used as complementary practices.

In this post I’d like to share four prayers that I have used to open formal ceremonies for myself with a few comments on each.

Four Prayers I Have Used:

Universe, I know not what I ought to ask of you;

Only you what I need;

You love me better than I know how to love myself.

O universe, give to your child that which

he himself knows not how to ask.

I dare not ask for either crosses or for consolations;

I simply present myself before you,

I open my heart to you.

Behold my needs which I know not myself;

see and do according to your tender mercy.

Smite, or heal; depress me or raise me up;

I adore all your purposes without knowing them;

I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice;

I yield myself unto you: I would have no

other desire than to accomplish your will.

Teach me to pray. Pray yourself in me.

Amen.

I’ve used this prayer for a few formal high-dose journeys now, and will continue to use it. Each of those trips has been significant, both at times challenging but beneficial.

I like using this prayer because it opens me up. It is me acknowledging that I don’t know everything and that I don’t have all the answers. That ultimately I am part of something larger and there is wisdom and intelligence far greater than my own. In the context of a psychedelic session this brings me to a place of humility and that allows me to be open and receptive. I acknowledge that there may be hardships and that there may be reasons for them beyond my comprehension. This helps bring me to acceptance for potentially difficult things that come up.

This is a personal adaptation of a late 17th century prayer that psychedelic therapy pioneer Leo Zeff used to ask his clients to read (François de Salignac Fenelon Archbishop of Cambray, 1651–1715, AD.). For my adaptation, I replaced the words Lord and Father with the word Universe. This just felt right to me. This is an example of how prayers can also be used as a template and you may adjust and personalize them to your own preferences. The most important thing is that the chosen prayer should be effective in inducing a desired sense of being and state of mind to embark upon a journey. It should be personally meaningful. Much better that than parroting something which just doesn’t resonate with you.

 

2.

From the blossoming lotus of devotion, at the center of my heart,

Rise up, O compassionate master, my only refuge!

I am plagued by past actions and turbulent emotions:

To protect me in my misfortune

Remain as the jewel-ornament on the crown of my head, the chakra of great bliss,

Arousing all my mindfulness and awareness, I pray!

 

– Jikmé Lingpa

 

I found this prayer in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. It’s used in Tibet to invoke the presence of the master in our heart. Something about it just resonated with me and I immediately put it into a document that I keep to collect prayers I might use for ceremonies.

This one stood out to me because it calls upon the compassionate master. Compassion is central to the person I want to be and the attitude I want to engender in myself. I like to see this great master as being the highest version of myself, a deeper level of consciousness, a higher wisdom that is beyond small me. Welcoming a feeling of humility into my session is also strengthening. I like the closing line that calls for an awakening of mindfulness and awareness too.

 

3.

Om sahana vavatu

ॐ सह नाववतु

Om, may God protect both teacher and student

Saha nau bhunaktu

सह नौ भुनक्तु

May He nourish us together

Saha viiryam karavaavahai

सह वीर्यं करवावहै

May we work together with great energy

Tejasvi Navaditamastu

तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु

May our studies be enlightening.

Maa vidvissaavahai

मा विद्विषावहै

May there be no hate among us

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

Om peace, peace, peace

I first came across this classic Sanskrit prayer at a yoga class when I was living in Spain. I had to learn it as we would recite it together as a group at the beginning of every class. After leaving Spain, I continued to say it aloud at the beginning of every meditation session.

What I like about this is the use of the concepts of teacher and student. I like that it’s kind of open to interpretation. How I perceive and receive this prayer isn’t static, it changes over time, making it flexible depending on my mental state at the time. What I see as the teacher may be a more expansive consciousness or even the universe as a whole. It may be life, it may be the psychedelic experience, it can be the psychedelic substance I’m working with.

I also like the three shantis at the end, which in other translations I’ve read to mean removing impurities from my body, mind and spirit.

 

All Things Pass
All things pass

A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass

Nor a sunset all night
All things pass

What always changes?
Earth…Sky…thunder… Mountain…water… wind…fire lake…

These change
And if these do not last
Do man’s vision’s last?
Do man’s illusions?

During the session
Take things as they come
All things pass

This is one from Tim Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers; a selection of prayers, poems and meditations that are adaptations of book one of the Tao Te Ching. Leaving aside comment’s on Leary as a person, I think this book, mostly written while Leary was visiting India in 1965, is a really cool contribution to psychedelic literature. The collection as a whole is a mixed bag, but there are a few gems in there, including this one, which served as inspiration for the famous George Harrison song.

I find this reminder of the impermanence of all phenomena to be especially comforting when heading into a trip in a difficult moment in life. It is helpful to keep in mind that some of my difficulties may be blown up and I’ll have to face them more intensely. It is this engagement with them, ultimately, that helps me find some resolution. The magnification of problems means having to face them head on, and knowing that they will pass helps to ‘take them as they come’.

Formality and Religious Connotations

Depending on the type of session a prayer may or may not be suitable. Clearly a prayer suggests a certain level of formality to a session. Personally I use psychedelics in a different variety of sessions but I will use prayer as part of my opening ritual for high dose inner journeys, AKA psychedelic therapy style sessions.

I know prayers have religious and spiritual links which can be very off-putting for some people. If you are one of those people, you may prefer to do something else or say words with different types of associations. It may just be words to oneself. It may be words of well wishing. It may be simply reading a quote. The idea is that it helps to bring something to mind and shift our internal state. It’s a type of orientation.

Quotes or Poems Instead of Prayers

If prayers and the overt spirituality is a bit much for you then I suggest choosing a meaningful quote or poem. Here are a couple of examples of quotes that I like:

“One cannot discover new oceans, unless one has courage to lose sight of the shore”
Andre Gide

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

These quotes help to stir feelings of courage in myself which can be very helpful when embarking on a journey. They also remind me that I’m an explorer, that I am travelling into unknown and possibly uncomfortable territory.

Making a Selection

In the run up to formal sessions, I will select which prayer or quote I will use. I will open the file on my computer and just choose one intuitively. There might be something about the theme that seems relevant to me at the time in my life, or for whatever reason it just seems to fit.

If in a group, it’s useful to consider the worldviews of everyone involved. Spiritual, religious, or ‘woo’ language can be somewhat triggering for some people, having the opposite of the desired effect of centering and calming. Or it might be something else that doesn’t sit well.

psychedelic prayers gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

“Gate Gate Pāragate Pārasamgate Bodhi Svāhā”
“Gone gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
– Heart Sutra

Before myself and a friend used these final lines of the Heart Sutra to open a ketamine session. I suggested the line as it evokes the idea of deep long journeys, and we settled on an English translation.

Saying a prayer at the opening of a psychedelic session can help enter into a centred, open and humble state. This can be beneficial before embarking on your journey. What quotes inspire courage in you? What poems bring you to your heart centre? What phrases remind you of the explorer you’d like to be? Put those in a collection, and try reading one at the start of your next session.

mind escape psychedelic podcast john maps of the mind

Last month I was on the Mind Escape podcast with Mike and Maurice. We riffed on psychedelics, personal experiences, and got into synchronicities. We got deep but also had some good laughs 🙂

This conversation was truly a pleasure and hope to be back on some time. You can check it out on youtube below or listen to wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Enjoy!

 

wild entheology podcast psychedelics

One of three podcasts I recorded this month has just gone online 🙂

I really enjoyed this sit down with Will and Kaylee from Wild Entheology. In the show we discuss practical methods of discovering and developing a personalized approach to using psychedelics and the value of finding what works for you. I also talked about my upcoming course for psychedelic explorers: R/Evolution.

Enjoy!