creating music playlists psychedelic journeys

Welcome to PSYJuly day 17 🙂
Today we have a guest post from Max, AKA Welsh Integration Circle, one of my favourite people in the psychedelic twitterverse.

After seeing his work creating playlists (1, 2) for members of his community, I invited him to create a post to share his experience on a topic I feel there is ample room for discovery and development in the psychedelic space: music. More specifically, playlists for inner style journeys. Over to Max…

Creating Music Playlists for Psychedelic Journeys

There are infinite ways to use psychedelics. Nobody can tell you how you should use them, but as you move through life and gain experience your psychedelic use may evolve. Many of us start off in our youth: at home, in the park, at a festival or a concert.

One thing that you can say about the way people use psychedelics is that it frequently involves music. Psychedelics and music go together like Fish and Chips or Superman and Lois Lane. The altered state of consciousness that psychedelics induce, amplifies, enhances and transforms music into a completely new experience. Some people can even smell or see colours from music in the phenomenon known as synaesthesia. Music is not only heightened by psychedelics, but it can influence the entire atmosphere and mood of those under the influence.

There are many discussions online regarding the best tunes to trip to. You can guarantee that any of these will include the likes of Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Phish, Shpongle or The Orb. Now these are great artists who were heavily influenced by psychedelics and aimed at an audience who might use them too, but this article is about creating personalised playlists that won’t include these artists or styles and the music is used in a different way.

Music, set and setting

We’ve all heard the phrase “Set and Setting” so many times that it has become a cliché, but it is still undeniably relevant. Al Hubbard was a psychedelic pioneer, who in the 1950’s, helped develop the idea that the setting could have a major influence on the psychedelic experience and even the outcomes in a therapeutic context. According to his instructions, the person taking the psychedelic lies down in a comfortable place, like a bed or sofa, puts on some eyeshades to block out all light and a pair of earphones to listen to the music. The idea is that by blocking out all other sensory input, one is directed to focus the attention inwards and be guided by the music. In combination with advice like Bill Richards’ mantra of “Trust, let go, be open”, one is encouraged to allow one’s mind in its altered state of consciousness to go wherever the music takes it. This is essentially the same format used by today’s trials at Imperial College and Johns Hopkins, and was recently the subject of a patent application by Compass Pathways, much to the anger of many a psychonaut.

First of all, ask yourself why you would consider this style of psychedelic experience. It may not be for everyone, but if you have only ever taken psychedelics recreationally, at a festival or party, then give it some consideration. It amplifies the effects and is particularly suitable for people who want to use psychedelics for personal or spiritual development, to address difficult life experiences, to change your life with regard to alcohol, tobacco or other drugs or just learn more about yourself and your consciousness. It’s also wise to have a sober tripsitter for these experiences, just someone being there will allow you to immerse deeper into your inner journey.

Now you could just pick one of many playlists on Spotify or other music providers that have been created, including the original Bill Richards playlist and those used by MAPS, Imperial and Hopkins, but I think it’s more interesting to create your own, although they can give you some good inspirations for your playlist.

So with this in mind, let’s explore the how and why of crafting a playlist.

Crafting a playlist

The aim is to relax the subject while the medicine starts to work, then to take them on a journey of inner experience which fits with their intention and their life story. The more you know about the person the better. The more you know about their music tastes, favourite movies, travels and previous psychedelic experiences, the more you can choose suitable tunes to guide them.

The first things to consider are what substance and dose are going to be used. If using LSD you will need more than 2 hours of music, but it’s unlikely that someone is going to lie still for 12 hours. For psilocybin I tend to aim for 5 hours’ worth of music. 

Use instrumental music, this allows the journeyer to focus on the sounds, rhythms and melodies, without the distraction of language. Foreign languages are fine, especially if they include chanting – non-lyrical singing also works well. I tend to avoid typical bands that have the usual pop, rock or jazz sound. Classical music can be excellent, but some people may not be used to listening to classical, so choosing a piece that is interesting is important. Electronic music can play a huge role with unusual sounds that can have dramatic effects while under the influence, but I tend to avoid dance music that one would hear at a club or rave and stick to more ambient styles. There is also great crossover between classical and electronic, sometimes called neo-classical, which includes some of my favourite artists like Max Richter, Nils Frahm and Joep Beving.

Beware of using too many floaty, unstructured tracks. As Michael Pollan explained in How to Change Your Mind, he had to listen to a lot of boring yoga and new age music for his journeys, and this is why personalised playlists can be more stimulating than generic ones.

Having said that, music that is less busy can have profound effects, as can silence. If you have ever tried meditation under the influence, you’ll know that it can be very powerful, and silence or empty tracks can provide a similar space. They can also be useful to contrast with other more energetic or dramatic tunes. It’s important not to overwhelm someone with too much noise for too long, and if you do choose tracks with drama, intensity and tension, it’s important to give them release as well. The order of the tracks can be very important, and I also insert some silent tracks of up to a minute long at crucial moments to build tension and atmosphere before a special piece, or after a particularly challenging one.

I tend to start off with some very light, relaxed music while taking the medicine and allowing it to take effect, and then slowly build the complexity and intensity of the tracks towards the end of the first hour. Knowing how long it might take your listener to start feeling the effects will help you plan.

Personalising playlists

Discover what kind of music the journeyer likes. Are they up for more complex and difficult tracks? Or are they very anxious and prefer gentler tunes and familiar styles? Try to imagine when the peak might be, and think about what kinds of atmosphere and feelings you are trying to evoke.

I also use my knowledge of them to add highly personalised music. One friend has Native American heritage which is important to them and they have partaken in ceremonies before. I added a short piece of pow wow chanting which had a very dramatic effect and still does to this day. The experiences that people have during their journeys become strongly associated with the music, so that they often listen to their playlists in the weeks after and have strong emotional connections to certain tracks for years to come.

Foreign music is also a great place to look. You can create a great atmosphere, transporting someone to a place of previous travels or residence, and help to bring up some of the memories and emotions from that period of their life. However, one should be aware not to overly manipulate someone’s emotions and journey. 

If they are very knowledgeable about a certain style that is relevant to their life or ancestry, choosing a track that is not stereotyping them or the music could be a challenge. Many cultures have beautiful and diverse music which is very different to Western styles and on my playlists I have used classical Indian, west African, South American icaros, Tibetan chanting, Mongolian and Armenian music, all with great effect. 

You can use music from important films from their life. Film soundtracks make great fodder for playlists and I have included tunes from Bladerunner, Black Hawk Down, Ad Astra, Twin Peaks and even Star Wars or The Omen. I’ve also asked their friends and family to give me some tips on favourite music and experiences. This needs to be done cautiously as not everyone can afford to be open about their psychedelic use, but music choice can be asked about in tactful ways.

I have given journeyers the option of a particular one or two tunes that they really want to hear on their playlist, and I ask why. Having listened to the tracks myself, I interpret how it might make them feel and decide on where in their journey it should appear and how to lead into it and follow on. Having a few key tunes as marker points in the playlist provides a structure to build the playlist around and helps you navigate what can become a tense and frantic process. It always feels like a big responsibility, knowing that the playlist is going to have a significant effect on their experience. The music truly drives the entire inner experience.

Collecting and Test Driving Tunes

To select tunes, I find that using cannabis whilst listening to music is a great way to get a sense of which tunes will be interesting during a journey. I tend to put them in a depositary playlist in the weeks before, so whenever I hear a tune I want to use, I have easy access to it when it comes to the final creation. Once you have selected all your tunes then ordering and editing can still take a long time. I often listen to the end of a track to try and work out how the transition between it and the next tune will work, to get it as smooth as possible and so that it isn’t a jarring change. A very soft and gentle track, silence, or some sounds of nature like cicadas or rain can also be a good way to give them some space between.

Try to let people relax into longer tunes, but perhaps not so long it gets boring. A variety of styles, pace and intensity is good and challenging them with unusual styles and sounds can provide opportunities for the imagination to run wild. Rhythmic tunes can be dramatic, and driving intense visuals, this is a perfect use of electronic music like some Steve Roach tracks, and artists like Philip Glass and Estas Tonne can create similar effects. 

Know your audience, their tastes and their level of challenge, and have some fun making a personalised psychedelic playlist for your friends and community.

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About Max

Max is a member of a small community of psychedelic users in Wales, who started with recreational use and have moved on to help each other with mental health issues as well as  personal and spiritual development, through solo and group journeys, and support each other through informal discussions and integration work.

 

tripping as a tool for self realisation

Welcome to PSYJuly day 14 🙂

Today we have a post from fellow psychedelic blogger and comrade Cody Johnson. I first reached out to Cody whilst I was based in Mexico and setting up the first version of Maps of the Mind back in 2016. He gave me great support and advice as I started out on my blogging journey and I’m grateful to still be in touch with him to this day. I’m pleased to be sharing one of my favourite posts of his here, and notably, one that introduced me to The Secret Chief Revealed, an important book in my story. I hope you enjoy.

Tripping as a Tool for Self-Realization

Psychedelics are the chameleons of the drug world — amenable to a variety of uses, dependent on the user’s attitude. The importance of set and setting cannot be overstated. If you use them as intoxicants, you will become intoxicated. If you want to see pretty shapes and colors and “trip out” to music, then they will act as sensory enhancers. If you just want a new mode of consciousness that leads you to experience life in a novel way, they will satisfy that urge.

There’s nothing wrong with these approaches. “Getting fucked up” can be a completely legitimate reason to trip (though not the safest or most productive one). There’s no need for self-described “serious” psychonauts to condescend to recreational users. (See Sacredness is in the eye of the beholder for my thoughts on that issue.) Everyone enjoys sovereignty over his or her own consciousness — this is the meaning of cognitive liberty.

But the fact remains: these psychedelics can go much deeper than recreation. Those who never choose to explore psychedelics more seriously than as intoxicants or sense-enhancers will miss out on their greatest potential. Why stop at pretty sounds and colors when these medicines can catalyze deep epiphanies and lasting change?

Because they encourage such ruthless honesty, these molecules are ideal mirrors for the art of self-reflection.

And psychedelics are very much agents of change. They can show you your shadow self, dragging your insecurities and internal conflicts into the light for examination. They mediate a conversation, even a partnership, with the subconscious, unseating your deepest assumptions and leading you to question the most rigid habits and biases. Psychedelics are molecular battering rams, crumbling the castle called Ego, often raising from the rubble a profound feeling of pure love and unity.

They can introduce you to God, bridging for a time the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the human and divine spheres of existence. Perhaps more importantly, they can help you get to know yourself. Your real self, defenses down, moat drained, drawbridge lowered. Because they encourage such ruthless honesty, these molecules are ideal mirrors for the art of self-reflection.

Much of this potential is likely to pass the recreational user by. You often get what you ask for, and if your attitude does not predispose you to a therapeutic or spiritual trip, you are less likely to experience one. Of course, a casual user will sometimes stumble upon personal revelations quite by accident. Even the most stubborn eyes and minds can be opened, allowing some insights to filter in. Such is the power of these chemicals, and the human mind.

Leo Zeff

Leo Zeff, the underground psychedelic therapist profiled in The Secret Chief Revealed, believed that a trip’s value is in catalyzing personal growth.

But those who approach the psychedelic experience with respect and intention will learn much more from their trips, and will be better prepared to integrate those lessons into their daily lives. As Leo Zeff, a pioneer of the underground psychedelic therapy movement, used to say, the quality of a trip is measured not by your experience that day, but how you grow in the subsequent months as a result. If we commit ourselves to being accountable to the insights received, then every trip can become a transformative event, a tool for self-realization. The best kind of trip is one you grow from.

Casual trippers often overlook two important stages of tripping: preparation and integration. Without attending to these steps the user is unable to reach the pinnacle of a truly therapeutic trip and maximize the learning process. Many people don’t realize that psychedelics are a school — and like any school, you need to do your homework. I’ll elaborate on preparation and integration in future posts; they are terrific methods for making the most of the dose.

Myron Stolaroff, a researcher and advocate of psychedelic psychotherapy, describes how recreational use tends to taper off:

The use of psychedelics is self-regulating in most cases. Their true purpose is to enhance growth and interior development. Used only for pleasure, or abused, the Inner Self is thwarted, which leads to unpleasant experiences and depression. Though everyone who pursues the use of psychedelics for personal growth must be prepared for the “dark night of the soul” experiences, those who seek only entertainment will lose interest in these substances.

Tripping for entertainment may lose its charm, but tripping for personal growth can lead the intrepid psychonaut to ever greater heights over years of directed use. Rewards increase as self-understanding deepens.

Transformation is the highest purpose we can set for ourselves when exploring consciousness. “Psyche-delic” means mind-revealing, and indeed, seeing oneself more completely may be the most psychedelic activity there is. I take Leo Zeff’s advice, measuring a trip’s true value by how much I grow from it afterwards. Heck, that’s a great way to rate any experience, psychedelic or not: how has it changed your life?

While I honor every individual’s right to choose how to explore consciousness, I encourage those of you who have never had the pleasure to try out the self-discovery approach. If you trip, trip with intent. Bring questions to explore. Treat it with gravity and respect, like a therapeutic session. That’s what the psychedelic experience can be: a deep and honest interview with yourself. Plan to dig deep, committing yourself to confronting all conflicts and negative feelings as they arise.

Best of all, “tripping with intent” not an alternative method so much as a complementary one. People use psychedelics for all sorts of reasons — to improve sex, deepen their connection with nature, channel the divine, explore their internal emotional landscape, and so on. A focus on self-discovery, with proper preparation, method, and post-trip integration, will help bring more meaning to all of these activities.

Focus on your deepest emotions before, during, and after the trip, and you will wind up with extraordinary lessons from the other side of the psychedelic frontier.

Besides, an LSD trip can last twelve hours, and shrooms is at least six. That’s plenty of time for a variety of activities and settings. If you’re accustomed to recreational tripping, especially in a social setting, try setting aside some alone time on each trip for quiet introspection. Then ask yourself, what’s holding me back in life? How does my behavior compare to my goals and self-beliefs? What would I like to change about my life? Don’t just think through the questions; feel them. Focus on your deepest emotions before, during, and after the trip, and you will wind up with extraordinary lessons from the other side of the psychedelic frontier.

If you’re looking for more specific guidance about tripping for self-discovery, stay tuned! That’s the main goal of this blog — to awaken people to the highest potential of psychedelics; to help you make the most of the dose. In the meantime, you can read up on psychedelic psychotherapy and trip guides. Researchers like James Fadiman, Myron Stolaroff, Leo Zeff and others have shed some light on the best techniques for therapeutic tripping. You don’t need a psychology degree to gain insight from psychedelics; you just need to pay attention.

psychedelic-explorers-guide-fadiman secret chief revealed

If you’ve experienced positive results from tripping with intent, share your experience with others! Give your “recreational” friends the opportunity to take tripping more seriously. Some people will resist, but others will be ecstatic that you opened their eyes to the higher potential of these chemicals. You never know, it just might change someone’s life.

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About Cody
Cody Johnson is an intrepid psychonaut and humanist who writes about mind-expanding plants and compounds at PsychedelicFrontier.com. His book, Magic Medicine, is an armchair adventurer’s guide to all things psychedelic: their history, emerging scientific research, therapeutic and spiritual applications, and legality.

Food Suggestions for Before, During, and After Psychedelic Sessions

‘What should I eat before my trip?’

This is a common question I get asked by people planning their psychedelic sessions, so in this post I will give my recommendations. As a bonus, I will also include suggestions for during and after the trip.

Pre-session meal

I recommend eating a light, healthy breakfast about three hours before the start of a day time session. At least two hours. A green smoothie or a bowl of oats with seeds and fresh fruit are both good options. I think it’s good to be hungry by the time the session starts. That hunger will disappear during the trip for most people, and return later on. 

The aim is to not have any food digesting in your stomach. Firstly, it’s better if your body isn’t expending any energy on the digestive process during the onset. Secondly, the feelings of digestion can be heightened and this can be uncomfortable. It can also contribute to feelings of nausea.

The best pre-session food does vary for different people, but I’ve found the empty-stomach-but-not-starving approach to work well for most people. If doing a session later in the day, I recommend having the same period of two-three hours without food before dosing. 

Session food

For most people, hunger disappears entirely during the session. It may begin to return in the later stages after the peak, so it can be good to have some snacks ready. Hand food like fruit and nuts are good for this purpose. They are easy to handle and eat, ideal for grabbing a bite. I don’t really recommend eating much during an inner journey style session as it brings attention to the outer world. That said, it’s fine on a short break, or if the hunger is becoming distracting and actually a hindrance to the purpose of the session. 

After the session

After a long journey some people do not experience much hunger at all and can barely eat. Others return ravenous, and enjoy eating a substantial meal. Others still, like myself, do not feel hungry or find the thought of food particularly appealing, but as soon as they take a bite, they realise that they are actually really hungry and enjoy eating a good meal. Bear this in mind and if you don’t feel hungry, consider trying a small amount.

I recommend having something healthy, hearty and wholesome ready to eat afterwards. You can prepare something before the session day that can be easily heated up on the stove or in the microwave when you’re ready to eat. This ensures minimum fuss in the kitchen after your session when you might still be feeling some of the after effects. Good options include a vegetable stew or curry because they often taste better after having been left to sit for a day 🙂 Including potatoes or bread can help bring a grounding, comforting element to the meal.

I recommend vegetarian or plant based dishes because if you have any kind of conscience around animal products, this can be magnified under the influence of psychedelics. You might well find that food very unappealing.

Would you like to go further with psychedelics?
I’m currently creating a course on psychedelics for intermediate users (no first timers, sorry!). If you are interested in taking part, please let me know your answers to a few questions you can find here. Thank you!

Food in the run up to a trip

Leading up to the trip, and at least for the day directly before, I again recommend eating light and healthy. Avoid any particularly greasy or spicy food the day before. You want a settled stomach for the big day. A friend of mine once had a really spicy curry the evening before a session and had a few more ‘spicy’ trips to the bathroom during the day than he would’ve liked. For the same reason, and also to ensure a good night’s rest, I recommend avoiding alcohol the day before, ideally for a week leading up to the session.

Any difference for psilocybin or LSD?

My advice is the same for both LSD and psilocybin because most of the same still applies. Nausea is more commonly experienced on psilocybin so might be of greater importance, but it can also be experienced on LSD (and 2-CB), especially in the early stages of higher dose journeys. Like a flight, there can be turbulence on the way up. The best you can do is try to weather the storm, surrender, and remember that it will pass.

Ginger

It can be useful to have some raw ginger to chew on. The ginger is anti-nausea, and having something to chew on can also be comforting. If eating mushrooms, this can also help to cover the flavour which in itself might makes some people gag. Another option is to make a nice big brew of strong ginger tea to drink before hand so it’s already in your system when you take off. One thing to bear in mind is to not drink too much, as this can lead to multiple trips to the bathroom.

For more tips, read how to avoid nausea when taking psilocybin.

Food in the days and weeks afterwards 

After the journey, listen to your body.

‘Listen to my body? What does that even mean?!’.

I’ve thought the same thing myself before. If it sounds strange, I invite you to just try it. Before deciding on what to eat or buy from the supermarket, take a moment to tune in to how you feel in your body. See if anything comes up. You can even ask: ‘what food would you like to receive?’ or ‘what would you like to be nourished with?’. This tuning in to your body is a good integration practice in general and also useful for embodying emotions and feelings that surface in the days, weeks, and months afterwards. 

Try to follow a healthy diet but not to the point where it becomes stressful to maintain. It’s important to remember that happiness is important to health too, so treat yourself to nicer, and sometimes more celebratory meals too. Practicing mindful eating, to savour each mouthful, can make these types of indulgences more enjoyable, and the need for them less frequent too. Also, sometimes a heavier, more substantial meal might be helpful if you are feeling a bit ungrounded.

Improving your diet can be seen as a long game in the part of improving physical health, so take care and be mindful if making big changes that might shock your system or be hard to maintain.

Final Thoughts

Of course, as with anything, the best diet before, during and after your trip will depend on the person. If you haven’t yet found a personalised approach that works for you, I recommend starting a drug journal and collecting your own data. You can make a few simple notes after each session so you have them in one place for future reference. Until then, I believe this advice will serve you well as a solid starting point.

Before you go! I’m currently building a deep dive course on psychedelics and I would like your help! If you are interested in taking part, please let me know your answers to a few questions you can find here.

Thank you and safe journeys!

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Read more from PSYJuly 2021 🙂

cancer treatment patients psilocybin

Welcome to day 13, PSYJuly! Today’s post is from Sasha T. Sisko exploring the world of underground therapy…

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Imagine a world where you’re recovering from surgery, praying that your doctor will give you optimistic news about your cancer prognosis. Instead, you’re told that your tumor is more advanced than previously thought. They inform you that your time left with loved ones is limited. While attempting to console you, they remind you that there are many options for people in your situation, but nothing can seem to penetrate the inescapable dread that comes with that terminal diagnosis. Stories like these are all too common.

You quickly realize that most of the treatment options afforded by modern medicine focus more on prolonging the number of days you have left, but not their quality. After months of dealing with feelings of demoralization, powerlessness, denial, isolation, and loss of connection, you approach your doctor hoping to find relief from your emotional pain. They tell you how the available pharmaceuticals will come with side-effects, but they can’t speak with certainty about whether these medicines will work for you.

After beginning the medication regimen, you still feel disconnected from the ones you love and the world around you. Your hastened desire to die, you realize, isn’t lessened by the fact that your oncologist, like most of their colleagues, did not inquire about your spiritual needs. You realize that connecting with some faith system can potentially ease your suffering, but you feel more lost than ever. Such solutions, you think, are impractical and not enough to overcome your listlessness.

Thoughts about death fill your every-waking moment and you begin to worry about your ability to die in peace with dignity. All you wish for is a temporary respite from your anxiety and depression so that you can cherish the last weeks and months you have left with family and friends. Above all, your life depends on finding a solution. Then someone tells you about psilocybin — your whole world changes and a glimmer of hope appears.

A Glimmer of Hope

Over the past two decades, nation-wide research has been conducted to investigate the clinical potential of psilocybin — the active compound within so-called ‘magic mushrooms’. Simply put, an international coalition of scientists has agreed that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy displays groundbreaking potential in effectively combatting a variety of treatment- resistant mental illnesses including substance use disorder, PTSD, depression, and even cancer- related distress (Grob et al., 2011; Ross et al., 2016; Griffiths et al., 2016). Though this clinical psilocybin research has produced promising results, the USA is still years away from FDA approval.

Psilocybin allows people to experience a profoundly mystical sense of connection with their inner self and the world around them. In a 2012 interview with New York Times Magazine, Dr. John Halpern described these experiences as an epiphany that “there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning” (Slater, 2012). After such experiences, the fear associated with death is greatly diminished and often replaced by an undeniable truth that we are gifted with the present moment — that everyone has the ability to cherish what Terence McKenna called “the felt presence of immediate experience”.

Johns Hopkins recently reported that psilocybin-mediated psychotherapy elicits profoundly uplifting long-term effects for many patient populations, including those with terminal cancer diagnoses. In their 2016 paper, Dr. Roland Griffiths and colleagues indicated that more than eighty percent of several dozen cancer participants “endors[ed] moderately or higher increased well-being or life satisfaction” after their psilocybin session. At the six-month follow-up, 67.4% of cancer patients rated the experience as one of the “top five most meaningful of [their] life” while 69.6% described the experience as being among the “top five most spiritually significant of [their] life” (Griffiths et al.,2016).

Another study conducted by Drs. Stephen Ross and Anthony Bossis involving cancer patients found that psilocybin generated significant decreases in “demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life” (Ross et al., 2016). Given that palliative care aims to improve quality of life, psilocybin has become a feasible option for those seeking relief from cancer-related distress.

For cancer survivors currently seeking psilocybin therapy, it’s a difficult road to walk down. Only a handful of certified medical practitioners are capable of administering psilocybin within safe and supportive settings — widely considered to be the only ‘legal’ way.

Given that most of these clinical studies only recruit participants who live within the immediate area (for preparatory sessions and long-term follow-up), there exists a substantial lack of access to psilocybin for those suffering from cancer. Even worse, it will be years before the FDA approves the use of psilocybin for end-of-life distress — a length of time that many people don’t have left.

Amid these clinical trials, one Seattle palliative care physician is suing the DEA after the agency denied his request to treat terminally-ill patients with synthetic psilocybin under the ‘Right to Try Act’. Though psilocybin meets the eligibility criteria for investigational medications, the DEA cited psilocybin’s status as a Schedule I compound when denying Dr. Aggarwal’s request.

In response, he filed a civil suit with the 9th District Court of Appeals to overturn the DEA’s ruling. In a surprising twist of fate, eight separate state attorney generals filed an amicus brief with the 9th District Court urging those judges to side in favor of Dr. Aggarwal. Though another forty states have ‘Right to Try’ laws, the DEA has made it clear that they have zero tolerance for those who do not ‘play by the books’.

The Current State of Affairs

This year in the US, nearly two million cancer patients will be diagnosed and over 600,000 Americans will lose their lives to this insidious disease (Siegel et al., 2021). Based on data from 2016 to 2018, approximately 39% of Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point within their lives (SEER, 2021).

Compared to the general population, cancer survivors currently face a four-fold risk of suicide (Zaorsky et al., 2020). Deficits of spiritual well-being within cancer patients are significantly correlated with hastened desire for death, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts (McClain et al., 2003). Such forms of psychological distress are also associated with lower compliance of pharmaceutical regimens, quality of life, and social function — a situation that no cancer survivor should withstand.

At the present day, several meta-analyses have failed to properly demonstrate that prescription antidepressants are more effective at treating cancer-related distress than a simple placebo. Dr. Giovanni Ostuzzi and colleagues concluded in a 2018 Cochrane article that there presently exists “an urgent need for large, simple, randomized, pragmatic trials comparing commonly used antidepressants versus placebo in people with cancer who have depressive symptoms” (Ostuzzi et al., 2018). Given the lack of effective therapies for depression within the medical sphere, millions of cancer survivors are desperately seeking a solution.

Enter the Underground

Between cancer patients’ substantial lack of access to effective forms of psychotherapy and their strong desire to find healing, many have turned to ‘underground’ psychedelic therapists who are willing to acquire and administer psilocybin mushrooms within the container of a therapeutic and supportive setting.

Given the lack of regulation within this field, concerns have been raised about this community of therapists. Despite these concerns, cancer patients will continue to seek out underground therapists, whoever they may be. This will certainly continue at least until the FDA approves psilocybin for end-of-life distress. During the course of writing this article, I was approached by two separate people asking whether I know a ‘psychedelic death doula’.

Numerous above-ground educational facilities offer training within the burgeoning field of psychedelic psychiatry. While many have attended Janice Phelps’ ongoing training program at California Institute of Integral Studies, other psychotherapists have undergone training while studying under names like Roland Griffiths, Rick Doblin, and Stanislav Grof.

While it is true that thousands of qualified, compassionate therapists operate within these underground circles, no sort of accreditation is necessary to enter this unregulated domain. Even worse, there are some unethical actors within the underground — some of whom are predators seeking monetary gain or the thrills associated with positions of power (Liana, 2020). Without naming names, coverage of an esteemed Oregonian practitioner raised serious questions about the underground field of therapists (Psymposia, 2021).

Underground Elicits Mixed Opinions

Dr. Robert Meisner, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Emergency Department and a medical director at McLean Hospital, told the Wall Street Journal back in March that he was “concerned” about “well-intentioned patients” who are searching for “treatment from unregulated sources”, especially if they don’t fully understand the pharmacological “profile” of psilocybin (Cooper, 2021).

Three months ago, Dr. Eric Sienknecht gave an educational web-based presentation on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for Mt. Tam Integration, a support-centered network for psychedelic advocates. Near the end, the clinical psychologist was posed a question about the underground community. One anonymous participant noted that there are presently plenty of “people out there that would like to be a guide for others and try and maybe become that kind of trip sitter […] where would you recommend people start and is it even a financially viable pursuit?”

Himself a clinical psychologist, Dr. Sienknecht responded that “Yea […] I think it is a financially viable pursuit and more and more so as time goes on and as public perception shifts”. Hesitating, he told those attending the webinar that “there’s training available” for above- ground and underground practitioners and that he is a “firm believer in the importance of getting good training” and “ethical engagement with the work”. With a nervous smile, Dr. Sienknecht informed eager listeners that he had “no comment on the underground training” and that was unwilling to provide “any information” about the underground.

In late June, Vermont-based clinicians gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Psychedelic Society of Vermont (PSOV) — a coalition of dozens of care-givers seeking quality educational content about psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. While answering a question

about the legality of this novel form of therapy, Dr. Rick Barnett, an addiction specialist and co- founder of PSOV, commented on the growing number of underground practitioners.

Without giving endorsement to these unregulated practitioners, Dr. Barnett indicated that some within the underground “certainly know what they’re doing” while others “probably don’t”. Giving a stern warning to the clinicians attending, Dr. Barnett advised that those who interact with underground practitioners do so “at their own risk” given the illegality of the practice.

By way of contrast, others are less concerned and see underground therapists as “heroes of conscience who risked their necks to give medicine [where] no one else would” (Capps, 2021). Despite state and federal laws prohibiting this practice, underground therapists are compassionately assisting an under-served community. These care-givers feel morally compelled to act on their expertise even though they actively risk their lives and freedom to do so. Driven to help those who have been failed by modern medicine, underground therapists understand that psilocybin has been utilized for millennia as a medicine and, indeed, a sacrament.

A History of Evidence

After Robert Gordon Wasson’s 1957 article in Life Magazine introduced psilocybin to the western world, a flurry of scientists began to investigate the novel substance’s clinical potential. Though there were excellent studies indicating the mushroomic alkaloid was effective at combatting a wide variety of treatment-resistant mental illnesses, the first person to suggest that psilocybin had potential for cancer patients was Dr. Valentina Wasson, Robert Gordon’s wife.

Like her husband, Valentina consumed psilocybin mushrooms while in Oaxaca — a tale described in a May 1957 article in This Week, a nationally-syndicated newspaper supplement. Without disclosing the fact that she was suffering from cancer, Valentina remarked within her article that once scientific research began on psilocybin, it would inevitably “become a vital tool in the study of psychic processes” including “treating terminal illnesses accompanied by acute pain and in mental diseases”. The following year, Valentina’s life was cut short, but her memory lives on (Bartlett & Williams, 2021).

Thousands of years before Robert and Valentina Wasson explored Oaxaca in search of the ‘sacred mushroom’, the indigenous people of Central America heralded psilocybin mushrooms for their inherent medicinal qualities and their theophanic potential to induce mystical states of consciousness placing people in direct communication with the divine.

To this very day, indigenous Mazatec practitioners consider psilocybin mushrooms to be both a medicine and a sacrament of their syncretic Christian faith. Doña María Sabina, the esteemed Oaxacan curandera who introduced the Wassons to the ‘Little Saints’, was but one person in a long line of indigenous healers who utilized psilocybin mushrooms alongside other plant medicines in order to heal the sick.

Flashing forward to the present day, the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Research has become the epicenter of psychedelic research. After over two decades of rigorous, double- blind, placebo-controlled studies, Hopkins has aptly demonstrated (Davis et al., 2020) that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is more than four times as effective as antidepressant medications (Fournier et al., 2010) and approximately two-and-a-half times as effective as therapist-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy (Rubin et al., 2017).

Though psilocybin has been considered a Schedule I drug for over five decades, an international consensus of medical professionals has agreed that its placement alongside heroin and freebase cocaine is highly unwarranted. Several rigorous studies have provided robust evidence regarding the low harm potential of psilocybin relative to actual drugs of abuse. In the late 2000s, Dr. David Nutt of Imperial College of London gathered with the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs to utilize a more extensive decision-making approach to determine the individual harms of various drugs and their effects on society. Utilizing sixteen criteria to weigh the relative harms of twenty drugs, alcohol was found to be the most harmful substance with an overall harm score of 72 out of a possible 80. Remarkably, the study’s lowest overall score (6/80) was attributed to Psilocybe mushrooms (Nutt et al., 2010).

Five years later, Dr. Jan van Amsterdam gathered forty European addiction experts to score the harms of twenty different drugs in terms of sixteen different factors (van Amsterdam et al., 2015). The comprehensive study found that the lowest rate of individual and social harms was, once again, attributed to psilocybin mushrooms.

Though psilocybin seems to display a remarkably safe track record, not everyone is able to physically tolerate the mushroomic alkaloid. In order to demystify this important matter, I journeyed into the underground only to find a mixed bag of CIIS-trained clinicians, indigenous people carrying many generations of teachings, self-taught medical students, white people posing as ‘shamans’, and those who openly sell psilocybin mushrooms on the ‘dark web’. Among these figures hiding in the shadows, I found ‘Raymond’.

Advice from ‘Raymond’

After searching through troves of underground practitioners advertising their services on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, I stumbled upon an oncologist who is up-to-date on the ongoing psilocybin research. As a clinician who specializes in end-of-life care and finished their clinical postdoc research at the Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, I knew that ‘Raymond’ was more than qualified.

Raymond claims to be very “burnt out” from his job given that there is so much “internal corruption” and greed within the medical & insurance industries. In fact, Raymond would, according to my source, “regularly” face punishment from his superiors “for spending too much time with patients who were clearly dying when he could be billing other patients for simpler procedures”. After hearing this, I knew that he was the person I wanted to speak with.

After a lengthy family sabbatical, Raymond finally returned my emails. Pouring over his words, I could tell how concerned he was to potentially be outed for participating in this interview. Speaking in precise terms, Raymond simultaneously expressed his qualms with the current landscape within the field of cancer care, the drug propaganda that has poisoned the minds of clinicians across the globe, and the relative lack of awareness about psilocybin by oncologists.

Raymond shared his “impression” that there is a substantive lack of “general awareness within the field of oncology” about psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Clarifying his remark, he informed me that while he was in graduate school, “little distinction” was given to the vast differences between psilocybin, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. Raymond conceded that these “wildly different substances” continue to be “broadly labeled as ‘drugs of abuse’ in mainstream allopathic medicine”.

Though Raymond was clearly distraught about so much within his field, he expressed the common sentiment that Johns Hopkins, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and Michael Pollan’s 2018 bestseller How to Change Your Mind have all generated “stunningly swift progress in shifting the paradigm for the therapeutic roles of psychedelics”.

When I asked if he wanted to speak directly to cancer patients desperately seeking psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, he advised that they should “see if any clinical trials were suitable and enrolling”. After investigating the government’s website for clinical trials (ClinicalTrials.gov), I could only find one study in Maryland currently enrolling cancer patients. Given the substantive lack of access to psilocybin therapy, the numerous states and cities that have passed decriminalization measures, and the growing field of underground therapists, Raymond asserted that the “legal aspects” related to the underground community “warrant[s] explicit discussion”.

While it is true that lack of medical access to psilocybin has led many distressed cancer patients to seek underground therapists, Raymond claimed that the substantive lack of access to this effective form of therapy “represents one of the least egregious injustices committed by the structurally-violent corporate American healthcare system”.

Providing evidence for his claims, Raymond noted that cancer patients and their families are suffering from overly-burdensome medical bills, frontline healthcare workers are facing wide-spread furloughs and layoffs, and oncologists are dealing with higher rates of depression and suicide (McFarland et al., 2019) — facts which became severely apparent after the COVID pandemic began.

For psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to “reach its full potential”, Raymond remarked that society needs to initiate “meaningful healthcare reform” while eliminating the “stigma” associated with mental health issues within both the medical sphere and the general population.

He also made it clear that certain cancer patients should not be seeking psilocybin therapy whether it is facilitated by an above-ground facilitator or otherwise. Among other known exclusion criteria, Ray sternly advised that psychedelic therapists should be extremely cautious when considering administering psilocybin to cancer patients with grade 3-4 elevation in Liver Function Tests, those with brain tumors, and those who are currently taking MAOIs, antidepressants, or dexamethasone. The risks? Ray pointed out that ignoring these exclusion criteria could result in patients experiencing stroke, seizure, serotonin syndrome, or acute anxiety attack — each of which has the potential to severely impact the quality of life of these cancer patients.

Raymond concluded his email by remarking that oncologists are overburdened by their work and the emotional toll of watching their patients die. He lamented that doctors often delay discussions about cancer prognoses “until the 59th minute of the 11th hour” given that “oncology providers frequently get caught in between the unrealistic expectations of patients/families and the corporate system applying endless pressure to achieve assembly line efficiency”.

Speaking from his experience, Raymond asserted that those oncologists who make effort to fully discuss treatment options with their patients while providing adequate documentation “easily end up working up to 100 hours a week”. Given these “perfect storm conditions”, Raymond wished to make it clear that many cancer patients “delay” seeking psilocybin therapy “because they don’t realize how near they are to the end of life” — a fact which reiterates the dire need to reform the systemic dysfunction present throughout the healthcare industry.

Final Words

Though it will be years before the FDA finally approves psilocybin for use within clinics, underground practitioners are satisfying the needs of those who simply wish to find peace in their final weeks and months. Many clutch their pearls at the thought of an unregulated market of therapists, but I wish to remind them that the true risks of psilocybin stem from how the medicine is handled, not the medicine itself. Those who wish to carry the psychedelic torch must utilize psilocybin ethically, wisely, cautiously, and with complete respect for its intended purpose: healing. If one cannot abide by these principles, the underground community will do their best to find these unethical actors and cast them out of their tightly-knit community of care-givers.

In an effort to offer all that I can, I will leave some final remarks for those who are currently struggling with suicidal ideation and cancer-related existential distress. As someone who has personally dealt with suicidal thoughts, I understand that words of wisdom and compassion rarely penetrate the sorrow that comes with clinical depression. With that in mind, I will share what the ‘Little Saints’ have taught me.

Though your heart has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, you are not alone in the world. Do not fear, for there is boundless depth and joy already present within your life. Arm yourself with the knowledge that our world contains unfathomably complex beauty. Take time every single day to simply witness the splendor within everyday life. Love ceaselessly and celebrate this opportunity to be alive, aware, and breathing. Embrace what life still has in store for you — choose not to live behind a self-erected wall which keeps you disconnected from the world around you. Instead, live each day alive in the world and continue to move forward despite the fear and pain that you feel is controlling your life.

“He who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity’s sunrise”- William Blake

To this end, Wyly Gray, a United States Marine and founder of the non-profit organization Veterans of War, often shares a profoundly moving axiom with those who cross his path. As someone who overcame suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress by drinking Ayahuasca in Peru, he enjoys reminding others that inner peace and joy comes from “pushing through the darkness into the light”.

The light, I submit, is the intentional choice to cherish the “felt presence of immediate experience”. May we all be blessed by that light within eternity’s sunrise.

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Works Cited

Bartlett, A., & Williams, M. (2020, November 30). The Cost of Omission: Dr. Valentina Wasson and Getting Our Stories Right. Chacruna. https://chacruna.net/dr-valentina-wasson-and-getting-our-stories-right/

Cancer of Any Site – Cancer Stat Facts. SEER. (2012, August 29). https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html.

Capps, R. (2021, May 5). A Song for the Underground Psychedelic Psychotherapist. Chacruna. https://chacruna.net/a-song-for-the- underground-psychedelic-psychotherapist/.

Cooper, L. (2021, March 10). Could Group Therapy Get a Boost From Psychedelics? The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/could-group-therapy-get-a-boost-from-psychedelics-11615395614

Davis, A. K., Barrett, F. S., May, D. G., Cosimano, M. P., Sepeda, N. D., Johnson, M. W., Finan, P. H., & Griffiths, R. R. (2021). Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 78(5), 481–489. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.3285

Fournier, J. C., DeRubeis, R. J., Hollon, S. D., Dimidjian, S., Amsterdam, J. D., Shelton, R. C., & Fawcett, J. (2010). Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(1), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.1943

Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., Cosimano, M. P., & Klinedinst, M. A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 30(12), 1181– 1197. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116675513

Grob, C. S., Danforth, A. L., Chopra, G. S., Hagerty, M., McKay, C. R., Halberstadt, A. L., & Greer, G. R. (2011). Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(1), 71–78. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116

Hasler, F., Grimberg, U., Benz, M. A., Huber, T., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2004). Acute psychological and physiological effects of psilocybin in healthy humans: a double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-effect study. Psychopharmacology, 172(2), 145–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-003-1640-6

Liana, L. (2020, May 19). Bufo Deaths & Fraud Involving Toad “Shamans” Octavio Rettig & Gerry Sandoval. EntheoNation. https://entheonation.com/blog/death-fraud-octavio-rettig-gerry-sandoval/

McClain, C. S., Rosenfeld, B., & Breitbart, W. (2003). Effect of spiritual well-being on end-of-life despair in terminally-ill cancer patients. Lancet (London, England), 361(9369), 1603–1607. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12747880/

Nutt, D.J., King, L.A., Phillips, L.D. (2010). Independent Scientific Committee on Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. Lancet (London, England), 376: 1558-1565 Ostuzzi, G., Matcham, F., Dauchy, S., Barbui, C., & Hotopf, M. (2015). Antidepressants for the treatment of depression in people with cancer. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2015(6), CD011006. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011006.pub3/full

Psymposia. (2021, March 18). #32 – It’s All Red Flags: 5-MeO-DMT with Dr. Martin Ball. https://www.psymposia.com/podcasts/32-its-all-red-flags-5-meo-dmt-with-dr-martin-ball/

McFarland, D.C., Hlubocky, F., Susaimanickam, B., O’Hanlon, R., Riba, M. (May2019). Addressing Depression, Burnout, and Suicide in Oncology Physicians. American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book. 39, 590-598. DOI: 10.1200/EDBK_239087

Ross, S., Bossis, A., Guss, J., Agin-Liebes, G., Malone, T., Cohen, B., Mennenga, S. E., Belser, A., Kalliontzi, K., Babb, J., Su, Z., Corby, P., & Schmidt, B. L. (2016). Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 30(12), 1165–1180. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116675512

Rubin, A., Yu, M. (2017). Within-Group Effect Size Benchmarks for Cognitive– Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Adult Depression. Social Work Research. 41(3):135-144. https://academic.oup.com/swr/article-abstract/41/3/135/3979362

Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D., Fuchs, H. E., & Jemal, A. (2021). Cancer Statistics, 2021. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 71(1), 7–33. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21654

Slater, L. (2012, April 24). How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/how-psychedelic-drugs-can-help-patients-face-death.html

Tucker, K. (2021, May 21). Amici Curiae Supporting Case Seeking to Compel DEA to Allow Access to Psilocybin Therapy for Seriously Ill Patients. Emerge Law Group. https://emergelawgroup.com/2017/amici-curiae-supporting-case-seeking-to-compel-dea-to-allow-access-to-psilocybin-therapy-for-seriously-ill-patients/

van Amsterdam, J., Nutt, D., Phillips, L., & van den Brink, W. (2015). European rating of drug harms. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 29(6), 655–660. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881115581980

Zaorsky, N. G., Zhang, Y., Tuanquin, L., Bluethmann, S. M., Park, H. S., & Chinchilli, V. M. (2019). Suicide among cancer patients. Nature communications, 10(1), 207. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08170-1

About Sasha

Sasha Theodore Sisko is a non-binary student of ethnopharmacology, author, integration coach, advocate for social justice, and professional musician. A decade of academic research within the field of psychedelic sciences has led Sasha to become a zealous advocate for environmental justice, indigenous communities, recovery communities, veterans, and other marginalized populations.
Sasha is the host of the soon-to-be-released podcast Ultradelic: Conversations with Psychedelic Pioneers. In 2017, Sasha began work on their first piece of non-fiction, Graced By Nature, an extensive literary illustration of the therapeutic potential which entheogens bear for those living with mental illnesses. The multidisciplinary non-fiction work demystifies the politically charged history of the clinical applications of entheogens — sacraments traditionally utilized for healing purposes within indigenous American religious rites. Feeling morally compelled to publish their book, Sasha understands that these medicines can help lessen the severity of the ongoing crisis in the mental healthcare industry.
Raised on stolen land once inhabited by the Calusa people, Sasha now lives in Central Florida where they enjoy hiking nature trails, reading prose, listening to vinyl records, and finding joy in expressing their compassion in all that they do.
 You can find Sasha on Ultradelic, Twitter, Patreon, Insta, and Facebook.
go offline psychedelic journeys

Welcome back to PSYJuly, day 12 🙂
Today we’re looking at an aspect of psychedelic setting and how in preparing that, we prepare ourselves for a richer experience.
I’m tired today, so I hope this one reads alright!

Going Offline for Psychedelic Journeys

Going offline is a foundation to doing deep work.

There is a reason why you are not allowed access to your phone at any serious meditation retreat. At Vipassana, for example, you have to put it in a locker for the 10 days of a standard retreat. If you’re doing Deep Work, a la Cal Newport, your phone is off, or in another room.

Why?

You want to be fully immersed in your experience, without distraction. 

If we want to make the most of our psychedelic experiences, the same goes for them.

What greater source of distraction in our lives these days than our phones and our inboxes? 

These are the things that fall onto the urgent but not important section of our task matrix and should definitely not be attended to in the midst of a deep psychedelic experience. Just as if you are travelling and at a beautiful location, you don’t want to be looking at your phone. You want to be immersed in the beautiful landscape that you’re in, experiencing the experience. 

Sending Important Messages

Maybe you will have a realisation in your session about a personal relationship. With that may come a deep desire to send a message. You may feel there is something you need to say, or a conversation you need to have. 

This should be done as part of the integration, not as part of the session.

You’re probably going to need to review your message. To get clarity on what it is you’d like to express, and how you’d like to express it. If it’s a written message, you’re probably going to want to read it over again, in the sober light of day. Or you might want to get a second opinion on it from a close friend. 

If you have something to say, learning to say it when you’re sober is an important step of long term integration and growth.

The Challenge of Using Tech Whilst Staying Disconnected

The tricky bit is that tech is awesome and we may have much use for it during our sessions. We might actually be using our phone or computer to play music. If it’s a lower dose session, we might want to keep that access to the internet for exploring a theme or topic. After an intense experience, watching a film or nature documentary can be soothing on the glide down. A phone can also be very useful as a Spotify remote for a more relaxed session.

This tech dilemma is something that is not easy to navigate. Having access to all of these things enhances psychedelic sessions. But a message, phone call or email can really throw off the mood, depending on what is being delivered. A challenge for a psychonaut in the modern world is being able to use the benefits of technology whilst staying disconnected from the day-to-day back and forth messages of daily life.

You can find your own solution for this. Here I will share what I do.

How I Disconnect Whilst Still Using Tech

For my psychedelic therapy style sessions I will download the playlist offline on both my phone and my laptop. I will also download some other music that I might want to listen to afterwards or the day after. I’ve found that it’s a good idea to have a good selection for different moods.

That enables me to disconnect completely, putting my phone on airplane mode and disconnecting from the wifi on the computer. I can still connect to the sound system via bluetooth and use that technology without any possibility of receiving a message or phone call. 

I also keep a rule that I will not come off airplane mode until the playlist is finished. Usually, until the day after.I have this agreement with myself to rule out any possibility that I may get sucked back into the super addictive device that is a smart phone.

For lower dose or more relaxed sessions, I find having my phone as a Spotify remote for music playing from my computer to be very useful. Downloading music beforehand doesn’t really work because I don’t really know exactly what I’m going to want to listen to, and I like to be able to just go with the flow. I enjoy following the feeling of a song and diving into that a little bit.

For these sessions I put my phone onto airplane mode but leave my Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections on. I keep all notifications switched off on my messaging apps so there’s never a problem getting a ping from whatsapp, telegram or whatever. I have to actually go into those apps to see new messages.

This allows me to keep that connectivity and access to control music without any potential texts or phone calls coming in. I also just have as a rule and agreement with myself that I will not enter email during those sessions. I’m not working, it is not the time. No email cannot wait til the next day.

Another option is keeping a separate device which has nearly all the benefits of a phone (music, podcasts, internet browser, watch, timers, voice memo recorder) but is not something through which anyone can reach or contact you. This can be an old phone simply with the SIM removed and all messaging and email apps removed.  I actually just got a new phone to have as a separate offline device as part of my evolving practice of digital minimalism (read: ongoing battle against the addictions of tech), attempting to follow Deep Work and Digital Minimalism author Cal Newport’s principle of maximising the benefits of technology whilst minimising the downsides. 

Side note: I love applying Newport’s ideas to psychedelic work, something about that just makes me happy.

Final Thoughts

If you really wanna be able to dive deep within yourself and look inside, then respect the meeting with your inner healer and make sure that you’re offline. Doing digital clearing as a preparation can help to relax into this.

Awesome travels, happy exploring. 

Stay in, stay deep, and stay offline.