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!

the psychedologist psychedelics podcast

Last week I had the great pleasure of speaking as a guest on three psychedelic podcasts in three consecutive days.

The first of these thoroughly enjoyable conversations was with Leia of the Psychedologist. We first connected earlier this year when Leia wrote my favourite guest post of this year’s PSYJuly: How to Survive the Psychedelic Renaissance, and it was a real joy to connect with her again for the show.

On the show, we discussed considerations for long term psychedelic work, and I spoke a bit about my upcoming course, R/Evolution. Leia will be taking part in the course and I’m thrilled to have someone with her experience take part. I am really excited about this first group, we already have some great people on board and I’m excited to see where it goes 🙂

See the podcast and show notes on Leia’s page here.

Enjoy!

explorer revolution psychedelic course

On November 1st, in just over three weeks, I will open the course portal for R/EVOLUTION.

R/EVOLUTION is a deep dive course for psychedelic explorers. If you’d like to find out more about the core information or sign up, visit the course page. Here I will share more of a behind the scenes blog post.

The Openings of R/EVOLUTION

I am excited to say that after having done a soft launch, we already have the first members of our first cohort signed up and on board. I have ‘soft launched’ over the last week by emailing an early version of the course page to previous clients, those who filled out the feedback form, and my mailing list, and adjusting and editing the course page based on their feedback. I am really excited to see the first group for this course beginning to come together. This cohort will be a key part of what I see as a co-creative group experience.

Group Experience

One aspect that I want to bring to R/EVOLUTION is the group experience aspect. Connecting with others is something that many people on the psychedelic path have difficulty with, for obvious legality and stigma reasons, and a few people who were generous enough to give early input mentioned that this aspect of the course would be very appealing and go some way to making the course a meaningful experience.

One of these early contributors even mentioned that they feel like integration is like a solo sport, and this is something that resonated with me. I remember often feeling like a total outsider after my first psychedelic experiences ten years ago. I was fortunate enough to have one friend who also had his worldview thoroughly shaken to talk with, though at the time, I had never heard of the term ‘psychedelic integration’, let alone had a framework or guide. I fumbled through and found my way, leaning heavily on meditation as a support and finding some semblance of community support in meditation groups or gatherings in the places I was living. Though I have found my way, I can see how beneficial it would have been to have had a dedicated group or community that I could share my experiences with and learn from through those years. I think it would have supported my growth massively.

Community

The theme of community comes up again and again in psychedelic integration because support is so crucial on a path of growth. Also as humans we are social animals and have a desire to connect with others.

Even in Buddhist tradition, which is often seen as having a very solitary practice, community, or Sangha, is one of the three key supports, or ‘refuges’ – the other two being the Buddha and Dharma. 

In R/EVOLUTION, we will have a series of live zoom calls to give participants a chance to connect with other members of the group. Each call will have a section for small group sharing and connection exercises. Depending on the number of people who attend each call, we may split into smaller and go into breakout rooms for exercises. I tried to fix the dates based on availability of the first signups, but alas it is very difficult to coordinate across different peoples schedules, so I’ve just done my best and tried to include a mix of days so most people can at least attend one. The calls will be recorded and available to people who can’t make them live, and there will be another opportunity to connect through a private Signal group.

The Signal group will offer a place for members to ask questions and share difficulties and learnings as they go through the course. It will also be a space to allow any members to set up peer led calls in addition to the calls I will be hosting as part of the course itself. 

Personalising a Psychedelic Approach

Although I hope the group and social aspect will be a big aspect of the course, another key aspect will be that of the individual. The core content of the course will be delivered in audio lessons and associated homework exercises, and I am designing the course in a way that facilitates a personal experience for each participant.

No individual is the same, and I’ve found that developing a personalised approach is the best way to work with psychedelics. Whilst frameworks and structures can be extremely helpful, I believe they are best used as a basis or starting point for exploration, experimentation and customisation. 

Throughout the lockdowns of the last year and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time developing and refining my own protocols by way of practice and feedback. The middle section of the course will guide people through the process of doing this themselves, and I will be offering my own protocols and rituals as models and templates to give people ideas.

The templates will be bases or starting points for people to work from and develop their own customised approach. The level that people deviate from the suggestions given is entirely up to them. 

I hope that course participants will share their own ideas and customisations with each other too, building something of a repository of knowledge, and together making a contribution to the field of psychedelic exploration.

The Atmosphere of the Space

I hope to create a space of learning, with an atmosphere of genuine warmth and comradeship. It’s also vital to me that community members are respectful of each other, as this is important with the type of openings that psychedelics can bring about and that I hope to facilitate. 

I love the feeling of being in a group which has a special bond and I hope we are able to create that by bringing together people who have a shared love of psychedelics, and offering opportunities for connection and bonding. I have found that psychedelic work is especially conducive to forming special bonds and I hope that will be true here too. 

I also want members to feel supported and heard, to have a space to share both their learnings and their struggles too. Walking the psychedelic path is no easy feat. For that reason, resources, support systems and finding the others will also feature in the core material too. 

My Approach to Creating the Course

Though I have many lesson outlines and a couple folders of material and ideas, I have not yet finalised any lessons. It makes the most sense to tailor the information to those who will actually be using it, so I will be refining the course content based on the input of those who will be taking part.

As such I will be creating a lot of the course content throughout the month of November. When the portal opens on the 1st November, I will have the first few lessons uploaded, so that people can begin, and I will then be creating the rest of the course and finalising lesson plans and recording the audios and uploading them to the course portal as we move through the month. By the 30th, all 30 lessons will be uploaded. This will allow the fastest people to work through the material at one lesson a day, and the rest to go at their own pace. On a personal level, not having everything done beforehand is about leaning into trust, creating something unique and inspired, and developing my creative flow.

I am quite excited about the 29th lesson, which will be decided on by the group. I will be accepting ideas and listening to feedback for the weeks before then, and as we approach that day I will put it out there to the group to decide. I will then do my best in creating a lesson on the specified topic, or perhaps even try to make it something of a group creative collaboration. I will feel into that with the group as it approaches but I’m excited about this as I’m not aware of anything like this already out there. 

Creating the Course

Over the last couple weeks my main focus has been building the main infrastructure for the course, such as the course platform, payments system, setting up my home recording studio, and some marketing and outreach. With most of that now taken care of, my focus has begun shifting back to the course content itself.

One of my main challenges right now is that I have too much that I want to pack in and I’m already feeling like the 30 lessons isn’t enough. That is a nice problem to have, and I will see this as an exercise in condensing information as succinctly as I can to the most fundamental principles. I believe that this will lead to each lesson being relistenable and I am aiming to create a course that people can repeat and still make big gains.

Each audio lesson will end with an exercise. These will be a mix of journaling, guided meditation, and awareness or out-in-the-world practice exercises. Currently my thinking is that for some of the lessons, I will offer two or more exercises and people can choose which one they want to do. This fits in nicely with the personalised approach theme that will run through the course and explorers will be able to re-run the course and do any alternate exercises in the future. For those that aren’t sure which one to do, or if nothing in particular calls, I will offer a suggestion as a default first option.

Where I’m at

I am beginning to brew with anticipation and excitement for this experience. As I was setting up my microphone in my home work space yesterday, I reflected on the fact that creating this course will require me to draw upon the vast majority of my professional experience from the last decade of my life. Having studied broadcasting, I worked in media, spent years in education as an English teacher, and then transitioned to workshops and facilitation work in psychedelics.

It really feels like this is how I can best offer my unique gifts to the world at this moment in time. With most of the administrative and organisational work to be taken care of by the end of the week, I am especially excited to shift my energy to the content and finalising and recording a few of the first lessons.

If this course interests you, I invite you to take a look at the R/EVOLUTION page, and if it is calling you, join us! 

As I write this, there are still some early bird tickets left 😉