setting psychedelic intentions

Setting an intention is something every serious psychonaut does as part of their session preparation. The process of creating and setting intentions not only helps to gain clarity on our motivations, but also allows us to take an active part in setting course for the journey ahead. But how to set an intention? And how specific should one be?

Keeping an Open Intention

What we think might be the highest priority when we’re heading into ceremony might not be what is truly needed for us to work on. The depths of the unconscious that emerge in the session reveal to us what really needs to be addressed. These inner depths are known as our inner healing wisdom. Each and every one of us holds this within us.

What needs to come up will come up. Leaning into that trust is an important part of psychedelic work. 

Having thoughts like “this isn’t what I’m supposed to be thinking about” or “this session was not supposed to be about this, I wanted to work on x” are counterproductive. This is resisting the experience. This is not allowing, not being open, not letting go. It isn’t dropping into the flow of experience. It isn’t trusting our inner healer.

Consider that it may be happening for an important reason.”
– The Zendo project, on difficult experiences

Holding a more general and open intention allows space for a wider spectrum of experience to be fully embraced. It allows for a greater flexibility and a wider range of interpretation. 

Sometimes the meaning of the content will be clear and obvious. Other times it is less straightforward. It can also be downright confusing. Unpacking and integrating afterwards is especially necessary for more opaque experiences.

Crafting An Intention

The process of creating an intention can be broken down into 3 steps:

  1. Start with your honest why

To start, we can simply ask:
‘Why am I doing this?’

The simple act of taking a moment to answer this will reveal basic motivations.

Try not to pass any judgement on the answer that comes up. All is valid.

If the answer that comes up seems shallow, overly specific, or otherwise inappropriate, this is the opportunity to change course or reframe. This might be a process of refining the motivation, or just looking at it from a different angle.

2. Use further whys to dig deeper

Maybe your intention is looking at a specific problem or area of your life where you would like some answers. When we start the process, it can be as specific as we like; continually asking more whys helps us get us to the root of it. The process here is digging deeper. Doing this, we uncover motivations that sound more and more general. 

3. Refine into a single, simple sentence

Once we have dug deeper, we can collate and distill our answers to form a single pithy line.

To illustrate, here is a rough walkthrough of a previous process of mine, when I was using psilocybin to quit smoking.

  1. Why am I doing this?

I want to quit smoking tobacco.

2. Why do I want to quit?

I am experiencing contradictory thoughts about my smoking habit. I feel guilty about smoking, but I still do it sometimes. There is a lack of clarity here. I want my mind to be clear. 

Quitting smoking is the #1 obvious thing I can do for my health. I enjoy leading a healthy lifestyle and place high value on my health. I want to be healthy. 

I’ve already quit twice in the past and the tobacco monster always finds a way to sneak his way back in. I’m tired of being on this merry go round and ending up back in a place where I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing. I experience a lack of self control and I feel ashamed of myself when I end up smoking in front of other people. I just want to be free from this addiction, once and for all.

3. Taking the key points from each of my reasons for wanting to quit, I ended up with my final intention:

‘I am clear, healthy and free’ 

My Experience

A few years ago when I was working at Myco Meditations psilocybin retreat in Jamaica, I remember my old mushroom mentor Eric Osborne saying that he often heads into a session with the approach of: “show me what you got”. This is a casual way of putting it, but a general and open intention. 

To give a final personal example, my intention for my most recent session was: to listen and learn. Setting such a broad intention meant that there was no real way to fight the experience or not accept difficult parts when this was brought to mind. Whatever was going on, there would always be an opportunity for me to listen. This could be interpreted in many ways: redirecting my attention to the music, tuning in and ‘listening’ to my inner voice, listening to my body and the physical sensations I was experiencing. Including ‘to learn’ gave me a good reason why I should listen carefully. It helped me to hold and steady my focus at various points on the journey.

Intentions For Integration

Intentions can also be useful in the integration stage. After reflecting on the experience and identifying key themes, it can be worthwhile to set an intention for the next phase of life. This might be for the following days, weeks, or even months.

Some examples:

If you have realised you would like to be less guarded, you might make an intention to be more open.

If you have been keeping things to yourself; it might be to share more.

If you’ve been giving too much of yourself; to practice saying no.

If you take up a lot of space; to listen.

An intention might even be just for the day after. ‘Self care’ or something thereabouts is one I always use on the integration day directly after a session. This allows me to be kind to myself and prioritise self care, but also to do integration work such as journaling, as making that investment of energy when the experience is still fresh helps me to gain the most benefit from my session and therefore caring for my future self. 

These types of integration intentions help give us direction in our lives. Their looseness means they can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways and require us to use our intuition. They can be used as a compass for action in all kinds of situations throughout the days, weeks and months that make up our lives.

what things i need for psychedelic trip

We all know how beneficial psychedelic experiences can be when we make the time for them. So why don’t we do them more often? Well, we all have our own reasons, but quite often it falls down to very 3 simple things. Recently, asking the psychedelic twitter crowd what their excuses were, I noticed these all too familiar things coming up.

Substance

Of course it’s difficult because of drug laws. So this may take some initiative on your part. Some options:

  • Grow your own. Possibly the best option for the serious psychonaut if you are able to. DoubleBlind offer an online course to grow your own.
  • Deep web. Admittedly I haven’t used this in about a decade and is fiddly to set up with all the crypto stuff. It does work though. Just go for domestic shipping and have your story straight.
  • Order a legal analog. AKA research chemicals, these are kinda new and a little unknown, so approach with caution. I myself have used 1P LSD and 1B LSD and I couldn’t tell the difference from standard LSD. PsychonautWiki is a good place to find out more info.
  • Order magic truffles. Psilocybin truffles are legal in the Netherlands. Some vendors in the Netherlands ship outside their country.

It may also help to go to where psychonauts hang out (post COVID) to build connections and network. Public talks, workshops, integration circles, and conferences are all good places.

Private Space

Having a private space is key. If you live in a flatshare or other shared space this can be a big obstacle.

Some options:

  • Ask friends who have their own place if you might be able to use it sometime. If you aren’t comfortable with telling them you’re going to trip you can tell them you’d just like some time to yourself. Perhaps a practice of silence, or some other kinda home practice, such as a meditation retreat.
  • If you live with your parents, maybe catch a time they are on holiday or away for a couple days.
  • Book an air bnb.

Time

Often the hardest one in our busy world.

A great quote I got from Psychedelic Experience founder Tim Cools:

‘Just plan it, and don’t cancel it’.

It really is as simple as that. Simple, not easy. Having a coach might be helpful, or planning to do a session with a friend. Organising with friends may take a bit more planning and coordination, but can help to stick to it as there’s social accountability. It’s also obviously a great way to deepen your connection.

I recommend taking 3 days. Day 1 to tie up loose ends (e.g. no urgent messages or emails hanging, all work and social commitments taken care of, letting anyone who needs to know that you’ll be offline). Day 2 to journey. Day 3 to integrate.

However, from my experience, a session squeezed in between work days is better than no session at all.

Set a date. Put it in the calendar.

That’s It!

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music headphones psychedelics

After the popularity of my previous post, 6 Music Playlists for Psilocybin Journeys, I’ve decided to write a follow up with some tips on using these playlists in a psychedelic session. Below that, I’ve also included links and info for six more playlists from two creators.

How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists for Psilocybin)

Prepare to be Offline

Download the playlist so it is available for offline use. Then for the session, put your phone on flight mode.

If using your computer to play the tracks, close all applications other than the music player. If you need to leave anything open, make sure there are no applications other than the audio player that can make a noise (like dings from messages received or calls coming in. Like with a phone, I suggest downloading the playlist offline and then disconnecting from the wifi. If you have a mac, make sure your Facetime is disconnected and there won’t be any calls coming through.

I also recommend downloading 1-3 hours of pre/post session music so you have something to put on before/after and can be offline for the entire day. I have found it is nice to put on some music beforehand whilst preparing the space, to set the mood and begin the process of entering. It can be helpful to have a short period of silent meditation between setup and dosing to centre before the journey begins. Once everything is ready and you’ve checked in, you can start the playlist and take your dose. 

Sound Set up

Check and set your sound levels before the start of the session so it is ready to go. Check both loud and quiet sections of the playlist. Ideally the music should be at a comfortably loud volume at the loudest sections. It should not be overbearing or too strong, but loud enough to be immersive.

I would recommend high quality over ear headphones for immersion in the experience, especially if you are in a location where there might be background noise or distracting sounds. You might consider noise cancelling headphones.

If possible, have the music playing simultaneously through headphones and speakers from the same signal. This is a tip I picked up from Mendel Kaelen back in 2017 and still use to this day.  This allows for continuity of experience if/when the headphones are taken off and also allows the opportunity to remove the headphones if one prefers. 

Group Sessions

When in groups or with friends, decide the playlist together beforehand. For a group session, I advise having a quiet room. This means that if anyone has a very strong aversion to a track, they can leave the room for a bit. If you don’t have the possibility of a second room, you might all use your own pair headphones. Another option if using speakers would be making an agreement beforehand that anyone can veto any track at any time and it will be skipped forward without discussion. 

In the case of someone having a feeling of aversion to a track, I would suggest that they try to sit with it for a short time before leaving the room or requesting a skip. They can look at and explore the feeling of discomfort inside themselves that the track is provoking, and see if there is anything to learn from it. If the feeling persists and the track is unbearable, they can leave the room or use their veto.

Spotify Settings (or other audio player)

Make sure your play queue is cleared. 

Make sure the tracks will play in order and not on shuffle.

Check your audio player settings for how the tracks will transition. Decide if you want a fade between songs or a standard transition with one track fully ending before the next one beginning. On spotify you can find this in settings > playback.

If doing a manual sync with two or more devices, make sure the playback settings are the same on each device.

6 More Playlists For Psilocybin Sessions

Here are links to 6 more playlists for use with psilocybin with some info on them and their creators below.

1. Music For Mushrooms– East Forest
2. Inner Peace – Tommi
3. Trust – Tommi
4. Gratitude – Tommi
5. Release – Tommi
6. Opening – Tommi

East Forest

  • Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner: Spotify

East Forest is an American musician who created this album live in underground ceremonies across the US. It’s a kinda neo ambient vibe with influences and instruments from world indigenous music. What I like about this as a soundtrack is its cohesion. Because this playlist is an album by one musician, it has the added bonus of it being curated as such and put together as an album specifically for mushrooms.

Its compositional shape guides, and is guided by, the arch of the experience.”
– East Forest

In this article, East Forest talks about how he feels the other therapy playlists out there miss the mark as they are compilations of lots of shorter tracks. By comparison, this album is just 13 tracks. Incidentally, East Forest is now one of the musicians working with Wavepaths, an organisation founded by Mendel Kaelen that is focused on creating music for psychedelic sessions.

I personally had a very beneficial session using this playlist for a medium dose journey last year. During the journey I was taken through people in my life, shown what I needed to say to them, able to appreciate recent personal achievements, and then given a directive on what I needed to do in my life (spoiler; it was clearing).

You can hear East Forest on the Psychedelics Today podcast here.

And, as an extra aside, Ram Dass was East Forest’s guru, and East Forest has used samples of his talks on his album, ‘Ram Dass’.

Tommi

Mysterious spotify user Tommi has created 5 playlists on different themes: gratitude, opening, release, trust, and inner peace.

They are generally a mix of styles and include ambient, neo classical, and classical music as well as more tribal and traditional music from distant cultures. 

Use of Silence

One thing that I really like about these playlists that is missing from the others is that Tommi has put short periods of silence into the playlists. I find these are good moments to re-centre and breathe during the journey, acting as ‘pit stops’. Interestingly, Mendel Kaelen inserted silence into the playlists on the original psilocybin studies at Imperial. Rather than Spotify playlists, they were actually mixed as one master audio file, with some tracks even faded out or mixed in to each other. These nuances and sections of silence were lost when it was converted to a Spotify playlist. So it is nice to see that Tommi has found a way to create a playlist with silence built in.

My Experience

I have tried Opening, Release and Trust and my sessions to these playlists have been very helpful.

I journeyed to Trust on the third and final psilocybin session of a 15 week course last year that was a study replica of a John Hopkins clinical study with psilocybin. The session was a beautiful rounding out to what turned out to be a somehow cohesive trilogy, and was one of the best psychedelic experiments I’ve ever done. During this final session I was able to grieve and cry in the first half, and as the cleansing section ended I was given a refreshed clarity and renewed inspiration, and a clear path forward. 

Tommi has also created banks of music based on different themes, so you can put together your own playlist too. You can find these on his Spotify user profile.

 





Do you know of any more good playlists for psychedelic journeys? If so, please get in contact!

Safe Journeys!

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flight sky instructions psilocybin bill richards

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.

Would you like to take your psychedelic use to the next level?
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!

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.

The picture trip is a technique that was employed by a pioneer of psychedelic therapy, Leo Zeff. It is done as part of the preparation and also during the psychedelic session itself.

This description of the method is from the book about Leo: The Secret Chief Revealed.

Preparation

To do this exercise you will need to gather some photos before the trip. These photos will form a history of your life. Go back home or get them wherever you are or write for them. Get all the pictures that you can and bring them to wherever you are.

Pictures to Gather:

  • Yourself, one at age two and one every two years thereafter through adolescence, up to adulthood.
  • Two pictures each of your mother, father and any siblings; one when they were young but you can still remember them, and a recent one.
  • Pictures of any other family members that are or were significant in your life.
  • A picture of your husband/wife, or any woman or man who has had great significance in your life. Lovers, current or past. If you’re married, wedding pictures.
  • A picture of a grandparent that was significant in your life.
  • If you have children, a picture of them when they were about two years old, and a recent one.
  • Any other significant pictures. Any pictures with an emotional charge.

As you collect the photos

“I ask them to select the pictures in this manner: Gather them all together—boxes, albums, however they are, and put them in front of you, and start with one. The top one or anything like that.

Pick it up and look at it. Just look at it to see what you experience in connection with that picture. Look at it a little while. You may not experience anything. It’s all right. Put it aside, pick up the next one, then look at it. If it provokes any memories, kinda sit with the memories a little bit, let them go where they want to go. Whatever feelings you have, allow them to be there. Whenever you come across a picture that’s on the list, set it aside in a separate pile. Go through all the pictures you’ve got, every single one of them, doing that. You may have to have two or three sittings to do it.

I ask them to do it no further away than a week before the trip, as close to the time of the trip as they can. I want to tell you something. That really turns them on. When they come they’re in the middle of their trip.”

During the session

A few hours into the trip, when you’re functional and can move around, get up and sit down at a table to do the picture trip.

Start out with pictures of yourself. Take the first one.

“Just look at it, just look at it and see what you experience. Look at it as long as you want to. When you’re through looking at it, hand it back. If you have anything to say, fine. Say it. If not, you don’t have to say anything.”

One at a time go through the pictures.

“The pictures, they don’t react much to the two- to four-year-old pictures. Some time around the age of six is a very significant picture for them. That’s the point in life where we lose our naturalness and we start taking on the acts of the world and behaving the way people tell us to and start squelching our own naturalness. Frequently they get to that picture and they start to cry. And cry and cry and cry.”

This can be really powerful exercise and help to stir things up or move things around in the emotional body. The beginning of these movements can help to shift something inside. The first time I used the photo trip remains one of my singular most powerful and releasing journeys of my life and as Leo says happens with most people, I cried and cried, and cried. It was beautiful. Try it out!

You can find the book about Leo as a pdf on the MAPS website: The Secret Chief Revealed. I can absolutely recommend it for both journeyers and tripsitters.