Setting an intention is something every serious psychonaut does as part of their session preparation. The process of creating and setting intentions not only helps to gain clarity on our motivations, but also allows us to take an active part in setting course for the journey ahead. But how to set an intention? And how specific should one be?
Keeping an Open Intention
What we think might be the highest priority when we’re heading into ceremony might not be what is truly needed for us to work on. The depths of the unconscious that emerge in the session reveal to us what really needs to be addressed. These inner depths are known as our inner healing wisdom. Each and every one of us holds this within us.
What needs to come up will come up. Leaning into that trust is an important part of psychedelic work.
Having thoughts like “this isn’t what I’m supposed to be thinking about” or “this session was not supposed to be about this, I wanted to work on x” are counterproductive. This is resisting the experience. This is not allowing, not being open, not letting go. It isn’t dropping into the flow of experience. It isn’t trusting our inner healer.
“Consider that it may be happening for an important reason.” – The Zendo project, on difficult experiences
Holding a more general and open intention allows space for a wider spectrum of experience to be fully embraced. It allows for a greater flexibility and a wider range of interpretation.
Sometimes the meaning of the content will be clear and obvious. Other times it is less straightforward. It can also be downright confusing. Unpacking and integrating afterwards is especially necessary for more opaque experiences.
Crafting An Intention
The process of creating an intention can be broken down into 3 steps:
Start with your honest why
To start, we can simply ask: ‘Why am I doing this?’
The simple act of taking a moment to answer this will reveal basic motivations.
Try not to pass any judgement on the answer that comes up. All is valid.
If the answer that comes up seems shallow, overly specific, or otherwise inappropriate, this is the opportunity to change course or reframe. This might be a process of refining the motivation, or just looking at it from a different angle.
2. Use further whys to dig deeper
Maybe your intention is looking at a specific problem or area of your life where you would like some answers. When we start the process, it can be as specific as we like; continually asking more whys helps us get us to the root of it. The process here is digging deeper. Doing this, we uncover motivations that sound more and more general.
3. Refine into a single, simple sentence
Once we have dug deeper, we can collate and distill our answers to form a single pithy line.
To illustrate, here is a rough walkthrough of a previous process of mine, when I was using psilocybin to quit smoking.
Why am I doing this?
I want to quit smoking tobacco.
2. Why do I want to quit?
I am experiencing contradictory thoughts about my smoking habit. I feel guilty about smoking, but I still do it sometimes. There is a lack of clarity here. I want my mind to be clear.
Quitting smoking is the #1 obvious thing I can do for my health. I enjoy leading a healthy lifestyle and place high value on my health. I want to be healthy.
I’ve already quit twice in the past and the tobacco monster always finds a way to sneak his way back in. I’m tired of being on this merry go round and ending up back in a place where I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing. I experience a lack of self control and I feel ashamed of myself when I end up smoking in front of other people. I just want to be free from this addiction, once and for all.
3. Taking the key points from each of my reasons for wanting to quit, I ended up with my final intention:
‘I am clear, healthy and free’
A few years ago when I was working at Myco Meditations psilocybin retreat in Jamaica, I remember my old mushroom mentor Eric Osborne saying that he often heads into a session with the approach of: “show me what you got”. This is a casual way of putting it, but a general and open intention.
To give a final personal example, my intention for my most recent session was: to listen and learn. Setting such a broad intention meant that there was no real way to fight the experience or not accept difficult parts when this was brought to mind. Whatever was going on, there would always be an opportunity for me to listen. This could be interpreted in many ways: redirecting my attention to the music, tuning in and ‘listening’ to my inner voice, listening to my body and the physical sensations I was experiencing. Including ‘to learn’ gave me a good reason why I should listen carefully. It helped me to hold and steady my focus at various points on the journey.
Intentions For Integration
Intentions can also be useful in the integration stage. After reflecting on the experience and identifying key themes, it can be worthwhile to set an intention for the next phase of life. This might be for the following days, weeks, or even months.
If you have realised you would like to be less guarded, you might make an intention to be more open.
If you have been keeping things to yourself; it might be to share more.
If you’ve been giving too much of yourself; to practice saying no.
If you take up a lot of space; to listen.
An intention might even be just for the day after. ‘Self care’ or something thereabouts is one I always use on the integration day directly after a session. This allows me to be kind to myself and prioritise self care, but also to do integration work such as journaling, as making that investment of energy when the experience is still fresh helps me to gain the most benefit from my session and therefore caring for my future self.
These types of integration intentions help give us direction in our lives. Their looseness means they can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways and require us to use our intuition. They can be used as a compass for action in all kinds of situations throughout the days, weeks and months that make up our lives.
Hello. My name is John Robertson and I am a Psychonaut.
A psychonaut is someone who uses psychedelic substances as tools of exploration. Exploration of the mind, of reality, of the universe. Like cosmonauts, psychonauts willingly enter into the unknown on a mission of discovery. We are explorers.
This year marks 10 years of being a psychonaut with my first psychedelic experience in late 2011. My use of psychedelics has evolved over time and so has my relationship with them. In the name of openness, today I’ll share what my current use looks like, including styles, intentions, substances, and frequency.
Psychedelic Therapy Style Method
I use psychedelics in many different ways but of the classic psychedelics my most common use is that of a psychedelic therapy style.
This means taking a medium to high dose in a comfortable and controlled indoor environment. I use headphones and an eye mask, while listening to a preselected playlist of music from start to finish. The headphones to immerse me in the experience, with the music acting as a type of guide, and the eye mask helps to keep my attention directed inwards.
I sometimes do this with friends but more often I do this alone. I find doing it alone really allows me to let go: I can express myself freely without worry of disturbing someone else. This might be sobbing, weeping, laughing, talking to myself out loud, groaning, grunting or making other animalistic or primal expressions. It may also be moving my body in some way like shaking, pacing around the room or even beating my chest.
When working alone I have a set procedure that I follow and have built through practice. On the day, my ritual includes putting my phone on airplane mode, saying a prayer and giving thanks, and writing down my intention and saying it out loud before I consume the dose. I also close the ceremony by giving thanks and finally ringing a bell. It includes various preparation and integration practices, such as clearing in the days before, checking in with both of my parents, and journaling while listening to the playlist again on the day after the session.
I find this type of session to be the most useful thing I can do to gain access to the hidden realms of my psyche, to make the unconscious conscious, and to gain a better understanding and acceptance of myself. It helps to clarify things for me and I nearly always come out of a session with an extremely clear sense of where my heart wants to go and what I need to do next in my life.
I use this style of session as a tool for personal growth and view it as a foundational part of my spiritual practice.
These days I almost exclusively use psilocybin, though I have used LSD in the past and had great results.
Exploring for Fun
I also use psychedelics in more casual ways and often with the express intention of having fun with friends. This may be inside, it could also be outside. The one thing that is consistent is that I like to be well prepared in terms of equipment, such as basics like having some food, drinks or snacks ready, and comfortable spaces to lie down with blankets. I also, like in the psychedelic therapy style, always write down all the doses I take and the times I take them. If I’m out or at a friends’ place, I will do this in my pocket notebook which I take everywhere with me.
I also like to give some thought to the types of things we might want to do beforehand, and may prepare things to entertain or amuse myself or the group with. These may be things to look at, things to touch, ponder, or experience. For example, music videos, wikipedia articles, or pieces of visual art.
When exploring for fun it is usually with LSD or 2C-B and sometimes combined with MDMA. Nitrous oxide has also often been in the mix in the past, but that is less common and more reserved for special occasions these days. Still, hitting a gas on a candy flip is something that I think every psychonaut should try once in their lives 😉
Between Fun and Therapeutic
Though I place the highest value on the classic psychedelics, I also use non-classic psychedelics such as MDMA and ketamine for having a comfortable exploration at home. This is usually a mixture of growth oriented introspective style work and a fun exploration of ideas or themes. I sometimes also mix in 2C-B for this type of session and have enjoyed trying different combinations of these three substances. I also like to experiment with different types of ratios in terms of dose and timing of doses, and sometimes also blend in some marijuana to mix it up and increase entropy in my streams of thoughts and experience.
For introspective style work, I do journaling to explore my thoughts and feelings. Generally the content is often about my relationships with others, things I’d like to do such as lifestyle changes or experiments, and ideas around creative and professional projects.
For the fun exploration of ideas or themes I will also explore with certain materials like music or art and journal about them.
I also like to do things which are a little more creatively ambitious which may extend over the course of multiple sessions to create a deeper exploration and expression. For example, during lockdown this year I explored the theme of ‘the Loner’ and loneliness. This is something I identify with and, living with two couples and not being allowed contact with anyone else for 2 months, this came up strongly for me. I explored it by creating a playlist of songs on the theme, reading the wikipedia pages of loneliness and solitude, and gave myself expression by writing and recording a punk song: ‘Loner’. It was awesome.
On more casual sessions like this I will also often just have an open free association brainstorm kind of thing just using pen and paper to externalise thoughts and ideas so I can see them and more easily make new connections.
Normally sessions will not be either therapeutic or fun, but a mix of both, always with the therapeutic and more challenging content coming up at the start of the session before giving way to a more relaxed tone and sense of agency about where I want to put my attention.
I also do this type of fun/therapy session occasionally with a good friend of mine. We use ketamine as it is his preferred substance. Likewise, the first section of the session we generally do more therapeutically oriented work, and we will go for a more psycholytic style approach, using our conversation and interaction as a means to to dig in to and look closely at perceptions and feelings, question beliefs, reach deeper levels of understanding, and ultimately find some resolution with current issues in our lives. We also sometimes do role plays, acting out interactions with different people in our lives who we currently have tension with, and look at quotes from our favourite philosophers.
I am a huge fan of music in general and just love listening to music on all psychedelic substances. I also occasionally like going to concerts and taking something. For example, a couple years ago, I went with some friends to see one of my faves Kurt Vile at the Kulturastrahaus and for the whole show just danced my little heart out down front.
One of my more recent all time favorite life experiences was taking 2C-B with MDMA and seeing the-man-the-myth-the-legend, Ty Segall. Front row I got absolutely pounded in a tornado of thumping guitars that swept through the core of my being and left me mixed parts obliterated and exhilarated. Yeah, just awesome.
Less often I take psychedelics out in nature so I guess I’m more of a city psychonaut. However, I think that is mostly due to the fact of psychedelics being illegal and my uncomfortable feelings of being outside and exposed in an uncontrolled environment. After all, psychedelics can and often do increase feelings of sensitivity and vulnerability. That is, however, something I would like to change because I would like to deepen my appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.
How often I take psychedelics
The frequency of my use really varies season-by-season and year-by-year. My practice and use, like life and myself, is a living, evolving thing. I do try to make time for psychedelic therapy style sessions at least a few times a year but there isn’t a set pattern that I stick to. Use of the non classics is more regular, even though I would say it is less beneficial. That is because my psychedelic therapy style sessions are a bigger deal, a 2-3 day affair, also with the added preparation time needed in the run up. They require more from me, in time and energy commitment, so it is harder to fit in. Still, I think I do a decent job.
For example, in 2019 I did around ten sessions with classic psychedelics, (about half in psychedelic therapy style), and ten-fifteen with non-classics. Last year, overall use increased with corona and I had around nine sessions with classics, and fifteen-twenty with non classics. So far in 2021, I have had two experiences with the classics, and a hearty handful of the non-classics to get me through a protracted lockdown.
I also sometimes microdose psilocybin or LSD but not often or with any kind of consistent frequency.
My Name is John Robertson
Up until now I have written and worked under the name John Andrew. Andrew is my middle name and I first used this name before I was working in the psychedelic field.
At the time I had just finished a stint of three years as an English teacher and I was taking something of a sabbatical to travel. I was hoping to make it as a blogger but I wasn’t sure if at some point I would need to go back to teaching English or find some other kind of more conventional job to give myself another injection of cash that would enable to go on doing the types of projects that were closer to my heart.
I was worried about potential employers googling me and finding my blog writing about all my crazy and illegal psychedelic adventures and ultimately limiting my options and ability to work. It is kind of sad that I felt I had to hide such a huge part of what I see as a beautiful and core part of my identity but such was my predicament.
I used the name John Andrew for jobs such as workshops and public talks and continued to use it as I entered more deeply into the wider psychedelic network. When finally committing to full-time psychedelic work some years later I thought that it would be kind of fun to continue using what had become my pen and now psychedelic name. After all, having a pen name is kind of cool, and I also wanted to build on the name I’d started to establish.
By this point it was not that I was really hiding it from anyone that was important to me. I revealed my psychedelic side to both of my parents at the time of their separation. With everything that was going on I felt the need to reach a much deeper level of openness and honesty with both of them. I wanted them to really know their son.
Initially my Dad was more accepting than my Mum and he was actually a huge support to me in the founding of the New Moon Psychedelic Retreat project which launched in 2019. He encouraged me to follow my heart and seeing that I had clarity on what I wanted to do, he pushed me to fully go for it. That is what I did and I committed myself to a project of a scope that I had never taken on before. I put a part of my heart and soul in to New Moon in a way that was a deeply meaningful and formative experience.
Since then it has then now come the point where people know me through my public psychedelic work and will actually call out to me as John Andrew. Or people closer to me know that my name is John Robertson, but they’ve also seen my name around as John Andrew and there is some kind of confusion. It’s not really that I was trying to keep those sides separate in recent years, it’s just that I had used that name for a while and just thought it would be more convenient to continue using it.
I now want to clear up this confusion and be called by my family name for my work. This is me taking one more step on my path of long term integration.
https://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/IMG_9717-e1619700488431.jpg11451605John Robertsonhttps://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MAPS-MIND-LOGO-29.pngJohn Robertson2021-04-29 14:56:252021-06-09 09:00:49I am a Psychonaut
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.
Self-care is an important part of integrating a psychedelic experience and in general some good practices are:
Spending time in nature
However integration is an individual process and will work best if you personalise and find things that work best for you.
What is Self Care?
Self-care is often be understood as things which promote health, rest and relaxation such as going for a walk or taking hot a bath. However, a much more effective way of understanding self-care is by broadening its definition to anything that replenishes your energetic reservoir. Anything that energizes you, replenishes you or (re) charges you in some way can be considered a self-care practice. This includes activities that really light you up, nourish your soul, and invite your presence. Any activities that fall in to these categories can be considered excellent self-care practices and used to develop your own personalized integration system.
Today I’d like to share an exercise in two parts that can help you to develop your own personalized self care kit.
Creating a Personalised Self Care Kit
1. Make a To Be List
We all have long and seemingly unending to do lists, but what about a to be list? Take a moment to journal your answers to these questions:
What are the inner experiences that you love?
What are the inner experiences where you feel most at home?
Examples: calm, peaceful, inspired, confident, creative, playful, at ease, humorous, loving, adventurous, kind, powerful, motivated, courageous, disciplined etc.
2. Which activities?
Once you have your to be list, journal answers to:
What nourishes those states?
What activities help to cultivate those states?
What are the activities that really light you up?
What activities really serve your soul?
Examples: listening to music, travel, writing, hanging out with friends, cooking, going to see a film, creating art, exercise, cuddling, going camping, getting a massage, going on a retreat etc.
When creating your list of activities do not be afraid to really personalize it and include activities which most people wouldn’t generally expect to be a self-care or recharging practice. Somethings which may energize or inspire you may seem strange to other people but don’t be afraid to write what is true for you. This can really make a big difference and this is the big advantage of creating a personalized self care kit rather than following generic self care practices. You can build a much more complete kit for yourself by including things that are unique to you.
It could be watching a video from a specific influencer that you find inspiring, or reading a challenging book. Some things that are unique to my kit are watching a music documentary, learning to play a song on the guitar and jamming it out with the volume cranked up, and watching a movie with one of my favourite comedy actors.
“In the trance of daily life we can be so organised around shoulds that we lose touch with what we love”
– Tara Brach
Let what you love be what you do
Try to really honour yourself and create space and time for the activities on your list. If you are the type of person who tends to slip in to prioritizing work or doing things for other people ahead of yourself it can be very helpful to actually schedule in your self-care activities. Put them in your calendar and protect them as you would any important meeting. After all, it is a very important meeting: a meeting with life, for yourself. If you think that sounds selfish, consider that you won’t have anything to give to others if you are depleted and empty. Caring for others begins with caring for ourselves.
Weaving Self Care in to Integration
Making time for these activities is especially important in the days and weeks following a psychedelic experience. Psychedelics increase neuroplasticity which means that you are more able to create new connections between neurons in the brain. In plainer English, this means it is a great opportunity for re-wiring; creating new patterns of thought and behaviour. This is a way of wearing in newer, healthier and more self compassionate grooves into your day-to-day life. It can be useful to do this exercise before a psychedelic experience so you have your personalized kit ready afterwards.
Integration is key to moving forward on the psychedelic path. Although some shifts may happen organically, a lot of it will need deliberate and intentional work.
As I tweeted a while ago:
Returning to twitter after my recent digital detox, I asked the psychedelic twitter crowd:
What would your #1 integration tip for psychedelic first timers be?
There was a great thread which covered many areas important to integration and included: self care, quality rest, community, selective sharing, facing what came up, avoiding distractions, remembering your why, and setting intentions.
Answers came from knowledgable people around the world, including Psychedelic anchor David Wilder, Canadian author James W. Jesso, and mental health writer Sam Woolfe, so I thought I would share some of my favourites here…
Top Integration Tips From Twitter
Take Time Off
Give yourself plenty of time and space to process the experience. During that period, make self-care your top priority.
Turn your phone off, have 2 days. One day for the experience and one to reflect and rest the day after. Remember to breathe and you’re likely more resilient than you give yourself credit for.
Get Quality Rest
Get a good night’s sleep after the experience, so enough sleep (7-9 hours) and good quality sleep (avoid cannabis, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, as these can interrupt REM/deep sleep, which are both involved in memory consolidation). The more you remember, the better.
Stay with the Experience
Don’t distract yourself for the days after. Instead feel & embody all of the emotions that come up after the experience.
Take time to feel into the emotional impressions left in you by the most significant moments of your journey, really feel into them, and then let yourself wonder about it. Journalling in this context is great, but be mindful to whom and how (and if) you choose to share the story.
Beforehand, glean information from those you really trust about their experiences. Just like you know who to talk to in your circle about music or whatever, so to for the psychedelic journey. Also, integration can take forever so expect decades not weeks.
Find some like-minded people to work with and start a journal or diary for your deepest thoughts. Be prepared to be vulnerable but don’t be afraid of it
Remember Your Why
Remember why you tripped. Beginning to think about what you wanted from the psychedelic can be an important first step towards using the feelings and thoughts that came up in order for you to transform your life.
Don’t be afraid of what the mushrooms are showing you. Listen to your mind & heart and proceed accordingly. Set intention. Everyone has their own journey
You can read the full thread on twitter here. Thanks to all the contributors and commenters.