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.

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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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.

The quiet room is something I picked up from friend and New Moon colleague Tuk a few years ago and is something I always try to arrange for group sessions whether it’s in a house or an apartment.

The Quiet Room

The quiet room is basically a designated room in which there is no talking and no music playing. It functions as a place anyone can go to for some quiet or solo time and is normally used as a secondary room to the main room where people will be together.

Quiet space is very useful when:

  • Being in a group or in a sociable setting is too much or becomes uncomfortable
  • If someone doesn’t want to or is finding it very difficult to talk
  • Anyone wants some time to themselves
  • Just want some peace

What I love about the quiet room is that you can still have a recreational style trip with friends and still have an opportunity to get introspective. At any time you can head to the quiet space and find some time in the session to do that.

For example, if you are taking truffles with friends then you could at some point head to the quiet room to spend half an hour journaling answers to some questions you have prepared for yourself. In this way you can still get some good introspective and reflective work done without having to devote a whole session to it and without having to choose between either a solo inner work style journey or a recreational style journey with friends.

Setting Up & Guidelines for a Quiet Room

To set up a quiet room all you need to do is suggest the idea to your friends and make sure everyone agrees on it beforehand. I would say its a good idea to agree that there is no talking in the quiet room and have this clear from the outset. This helps to prevent someone coming in and disturbing another while they are wanting some peace and quiet. This type of innocent mistake can happen for different reasons whilst tripping; it could be that someone is extremely excited and wants to share that with everyone, or that someone is worrying about another person who has been quiet for a while. Both scenarios can lead to someone unintentionally bothering another who is fine but just wants to be on their own for a while.

Having the quiet room clearly defined makes it clear that anyone who is in there will not be spoken to and it is fine for two or three people to be in there at the same time, each minding their own business and doing their own thing. It’s useful to remember to keep the door closed to stop noise from spilling in.

Creating Setting

Once you’ve decided which room you will use then the first thing you need is some comfortable places for people to lie down. Mattresses on the floor work perfectly, but otherwise any mats or even floor space for people to lie down and get comfortable. Cozify with blankets and pillows. Creating a cozy space with your fellow journeyers can be a fun activity in itself and building the set together is a great way to begin connecting before journey.

It’s also nice to leave a couple of music players and pairs of headphones in there. Load the music players up with a nice selection of music beforehand and if they are phones, make sure they are on airplane mode or even better, with SIM removed. It can also be nice to leave some pens, papers and art supplies in there for people to use for journaling or getting creative. Finally, equip with some basic supplies like water and snacks.

As with general setting space I would recommend a low lighting and cozy ambience. I would not recommend any open flames such as candles, but rather some nice lamps. With lamps, be careful not to use ones that heat up if they are left on a long time as these can also start flames if certain materials are left on them.

Allowing Space to Check in

The quiet room acts as a kind of designated safe space for group sessions. It can promote feelings of safety and relaxation for everyone involved, knowing that they can retreat if at any time they feel anxiety, social or otherwise. It can give you a chance to step out from the group dynamic, a chance to check in with yourself and really take a look at and see how you’re feeling. It can also be used to step out and actively investigate some things going on in your life that you don’t want to share with the group but would like some time to think about and reflect on. It can also be useful to maybe do some problem-solving by yourself.

A quiet room is definitely a key aspect to creating the setting and I would say it’s useful even if the group session is not a recreational or sociable one. For example, even if the main room is used as a formal ceremony room where journeyers are not speaking to each other, the quiet room can still be very useful because the energy of a group ceremony can be quite intense. Although a being in a group ceremony can be enlightening and a great way to learn about how we relate to others and our own social insecurities, it can still be quite a lot to take in and it can be nice to have the option of stepping away from that. It is something we arrange for retreats with New Moon and it was also nice to see a quiet room put in place when I worked on retreat with Truffles Therapy.

If you are unsure of whether you would like to do a group trip with friends I encourage you to suggest having a quiet room and ask them what they think about that.

Viel Glück!