What should you do when under the influence of psilocybin to make the most of the session? What should you do if you encounter fear? What is the best way to navigate a psychedelic journey?

These are all questions you might ask if you are preparing to embark on a psychedelic journey and hoping for an insight or nugget to help you on your path forward in life.

Research setting for a psilocybin study

Bill Richards, one of the founders of the psychedelic research team at Johns Hopkins – one of the leading research institutes in the world of psychedelic research and responsible for those studies boasting the remarkable results that you’ve probably heard – is one of the most experienced figures in the psychedelic field today. Richards, who has overseen hundreds of experiences and had his own too, has put together a set of flight instructions that are read to all study participants who take psilocybin at Johns Hopkins.

These instructions are one of the best resources I’ve found when it comes to high dose psychedelic navigation they offer advice on what to do at certain encounters or points on your journey. They are the basis for an adapted form of flight instructions I put together for New Moon retreat participants.

You can read more of the study instructions at trippingly here, and find Richards’ music playlist for tripping here.

Flight Instructions by Bill Richards

Please relax.  You will never be left alone during your experience.  You need not worry about physical safety, [the name of the other sitter] and I will be here to help you and maintain your safety.

You may experience a deep and transcendental experience.  You may have feelings of the loss of one’s self, experience a sensation of rebirth or even death.  You may experience a feeling that you have ceased to exist as an individual and are connected with the world or the universe.  If you experience the sensation of dying, melting, dissolving, exploding, going crazy etc. — go ahead.  Experience the experience.  Remember that the death/transcendence of your ego or your everyday self is always followed by Rebirth/Return to the normative world of space & time.  Safest way to return to normal is to entrust self unconditionally to the emerging experiences.  

Instruction for Study Guides

Avoid attempting to guide the participant down any journey. However, we encourage you to help the participant enter a deeper experience by encouraging the participant with phrases such as:

“If you see a door, what will you do”?  (Encourage the participant to “walk through it”)

“Trust the trajectory, follow your path”

“Let Go, Be Open, Trust”

“If you see a window, what will you do?”  (Encourage the participant to “look through it” or “open it”)

“If you feel like you’re dying, melting, dissolving, exploding, going crazy etc.—go ahead, embrace it.”

“Climb staircases, open doors, explore paths, fly over landscapes”

If the participant is feeling fear, encourage the participant to confront the fear:

“Look the monster in the eye and move towards it… Dig in your heels; ask, ‘What are you doing in my mind?’ Or, ‘What can I learn from you?’ Look for the darkest corner in the basement, and shine your light there.”

“The same force that takes you deep within will, of its own impetus, return you safely to the everyday world.”

If the participant is mild physical pain encourage the participant to investigate the pain using the phrases below (if confronted with intense or acute pain, immediately notify the medical staff):

“Look into the pain you are experiencing, visualize it and see it as clearly as you can.  Where is the source of the pain?  Can you embrace the pain or make the pain leave you?”

“Can you visualize the pain?  Can you see it clearly for what it is?  Is this pain serving you or should the pain leave?”

If the participant encounters nausea or vommits remind the participant:

“Part of your being is discomfort, which shall pass.”

“Feel the nausea leaving you, and you will soon return to comfort”

“Nausea is temporary and it will pass, embrace it and then send it on its way.”

If the participant becomes sick, use the waste bin and towel provided in the room and alert the medical staff.  Follow the training you received regarding nausea until the medical staff arrives.

My Psychedelic Story Part 1 | Part 2 After understanding that it is my path to be involved in some way with the psychedelic movement I began to be more active in the online community.

Last week I was interviewed on Awaken Atlanta, a breakfast show in the US that covers topics that mainstream media don’t talk about. I was on to talk about, of course, psychedelics, and shared a bit of my experience and answered some of their questions. The show is now available online. You can watch my interview below or see the full show here. Enjoy!

Join Tim and Shannon as they discuss psychedelics. They will be delving into different types of hallucinogens, how they can benefit your mental health, and its long-term effects, as well as hallucinogen addiction. They will be speaking with Alice Smeets, a Trauma Integration Therapist and Kerrie O’Reilly, a Trauma Integration Therapist, and Holistic Health Practitioner. They’ll also interview their John Andrew, a Psychedelic Explorer & Guide.

Set and setting are two of the biggest contributors in how a psychedelic experience turns out. They are arguably as important as the dose and substance itself and together form the context for the experience.

Set refers to mindset; the persons inner state when they take the drug; their frame of mind, attitude and mood.

Setting refers to the physical environment of the experience. This includes for example; the location or room, the company or trip sitter, and the music.

Setting: The Environment for a Psychedelic Experience

This post will look at setting and why it should be considered carefully when planning a psychedelic experience.

Setting is part of the experience

The environment for any experience is the vehicle in which it is received and can actually be considered a part of the experience itself.  As such, it should not be underestimated in terms of how much influence it can have.

Consider how a frame is used to change the experience of viewing a piece of art. Does it change the piece of art itself? Whether it has a frame around it or not, it is the same piece of visual information hanging on the wall. However, it changes how it is viewed and received. It is part of the experience.

Consider some other experiences and how much the environment or method of delivery influences the experience as a whole:

  • The experience of being in a fancy fine dining restaurant vs. eating in as fast food joint. Consider how the experience is different before you’ve even eaten any food.
  • Seeing a band play at a huge festival with thousands of people singing along, dancing and enjoying themselves vs. seeing a band play in a small half empty room with a handful of disinterested people
  • Taking a drink from a nice glass vs. from a cheap plastic bottle

Setting changes set

Setting can also influence the internal state of someone and their ability to do certain things. Imagine you have some work to do that requires your full focus and concentration.

Now imagine trying to do that work in a hot, noisy and crowded environment. Imagine trying to do it outside on a busy street on a hot day.

Now imagine doing that work in a cool, quiet, and distraction free room. Imagine being at home with an air fan to keep you cool, some noise cancelling headphones playing brain.fm, and an accountability partner to check in with at the end of an hour of work.

Do you think you would have the same level of focus in each scenario? Would the results of the work be the same?

In the scenario of a psychedelic session, setting can be considered to help one navigate their journey more successfully. It is like the difference between trying to steer a ship alone and heavily distracted vs. trying to navigate a ship in peace with someone by your side to support you. Which is more likely to get you to your destination?

Setting & Mood

Setting can have a big influence on how one feels. Taking a psychedelic in a club surrounded by many strangers with loud music and flashing lights is going to be a very different experience to being in a room with soft soothing music, low lighting, a comfortable place to lay down and a trusted friend. The second one will promote feelings of relaxation. In the context of a high-dose psychedelic experience this can be very beneficial to help someone let go more fully.

Creating the setting can be considered as creating the atmosphere or the ambience for a session.

Factors to consider when creating a setting

  • Sound
  • Music
  • Lighting
  • Art
  • Items/Decoration
  • Altar
  • Clothes
  • Comfort
  • Heat
  • Airflow
  • Smell
  • Company
  • Tripsitter

Themes to consider

  • Comfort
  • Privacy
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Safety
  • Simplicity
  • Space

Cultural Context

The setting can also include the city or country that you have your psychedelic experience in. Factors include the legal status; could you go to prison or worse for taking a psychedelic substance, or is it totally legal? and also the cultural context; the public opinion and media representation of psychedelics. An experience in New York will be very different to that of one in Peru and again likewise different to that of one in Amsterdam.

When planning a psychedelic experience consider not just the substance and dose but also think carefully about the setting. It is possible to have a meaningful experience on a lower dose if the set and setting are prepared accordingly and the experience infused with a kind of meaning. The effect of setting on an experience is magnified on psychedelics, and as such is worth careful consideration.

How can you increase the likelihood of having a mystical psychedelic experience? A paper by from the Imperial College Research Centre team details four clear indicators that increase the likelihood of a mystical experience:

– Feeling ready to ‘surrender’ to the experience.

– Having a clear intention for the experience.

– Having the experience in a therapeutic setting.

– Taking a higher dose.

 

The model above from the paper, shows that the same four factors, plus being in the company of well-trusted individuals, was protective against a ‘challenging’ psychological experience (AKA a ‘bad trip’).

These findings, based on data from the psychedelic survey project, again show the importance of set, setting, and dose when it comes to the outcome of a psychedelic experience. In particular, they show how these variables can be used to increase the likelihood of having a certain kind of psychedelic experience which the researchers label ‘peak’ – an intentionally secular term inspired by Abraham Maslow’s work – that can effectively be viewed as a synonymous with the concept of a ‘mystical’ experience.

“Mystical experiences, which typically are extremely ephemeral and unpredictable, can actually be catalyzed in a fairly reliable and replicable way with correct use of psychedelic substance (that is, if carefully prepared volunteers, with worthwhile goals and in a comfortable and uplifting setting, are given the right dosage”

G. William Barnard – Foreword to Sacred Knowledge

You can read the full paper online here:
Psychedelics and the essential importance of context