Using rituals for psychedelic experiences can help to help bring a sense of presence, clarity, and feelings of safety to the experience. Ritual can also help connect to something bigger and help to mark the occasion out as something special, something that is beyond an everyday experience.

Before talking about how it can help with psychedelic practice, though, I’d like to give some examples of ritual and how it’s used by high performers as a means to help them in some way focus their attention, enter a specific state, and perform better.

Athletes’ Rituals

Many professional athletes use rituals. For example, a football player having very specific ways of doing things before either heading out onto the pitch or when setting up for a penalty.

One ritual I love is used by one of the greatest sport teams in the world: the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. At the beginning of every game the entire team performs the Haka.

The Haka is a traditional ancestral ritual from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a fierce dance and chanting ritual that connects the team to their ancestors, to their history, and to the lineage of their land.

This ritual in particular helps the players connect to something beyond themselves, to connect to something bigger. By doing so, they understand that they are part of a lineage that extends beyond the players on the pitch. With its fierce nature, I imagine the ritual also gets the players absolutely pumped up, blood pumping in their veins, ready to face anything when the first whistle blows.

Creatives’ Rituals

Another example is writer Stephen Pressfield, whose books have been a huge inspiration to me. Pressfield says a prayer to the muse every morning when he enters his office to write. For him, his office is a sacred space. The prayer is one part of a series of actions he does before starting to write that also includes putting on specific clothes.

Other examples that I love are from musicians who have backstage rituals before going out on stage for a show or performers who have some special sentence or prayer that is said before stepping out onto stage or heading out to film an especially intense scene.

Rituals Develop Focus

Rituals are normally performed in such a way that the person is highly focused on the task. The way they carry out the ritual is not in some absent-minded, haphazard way, but rather in a highly focused, very attentive, and precise manner. Doing actions in such a way helps to bring someone into the present moment and helps to focus the mind. Indeed, if someone does anything in a very meticulous manner it can seem as if they are performing some ritual. I am reminded of some of the Ramen chefs I saw in Japan, whose attention to detail made it fascinating to watch and their work an art and craft in itself.

Ritual helps to enter a different state of awareness and can therefore be used as part of a psychedelic session.

Using Rituals for a Psychedelic Experience

Following a Set Structure

Ritual can also mean something that is done every time in a certain order. This can be almost a kind of a muscle memory, in that knowing that one thing proceeds to the next can enable you to clearly move from one thing to the other, giving your whole attention to it without engaging the part of your mind that has to make decisions (asking yourself, “What should I do next?”). For example, having a morning ritual allows you to wake up and not think about whether you should have a coffee or take a shower. If you have a set morning ritual, perhaps you just wake up, get a glass of hot lemon water, stretch, meditate, and then take a cold shower. You did not need to think, you just move from one to the next. This can be helpful when taking psychedelics, as making decisions can be very difficult and it can be very helpful to have a structure in place that you simply follow, moving from one stage to the next.

Ritual as a container

Rituals can also help mark the beginning and end of events. Just like a frame around a picture or piece of art helps to bring more attention to the contents, a ritual can be used to frame a psychedelic experience, to focus your attention to what is going on inside, and function as a type of container for the experience. Having this clear delineation can be useful for psychedelic ceremonies because it helps in feeling safe during what can be a wild and crazy experience.

Using rituals to help contain psychedelic experiences can help to bring feelings of safety to the experience. Ritual can also help connect to something bigger and help to mark the occasion out as something special, something that is beyond an everyday experience.

Ideas for Rituals

There are many ways to ritualize the taking of psychedelic substances, so here are just a few examples. Maybe you already have a pre-session protocol, but here are some ideas:

Washing

Washing yourself and arriving to the session clean can help to feel more comfortable and relaxed. The sensations of water can also help bring you to your body, especially if it is in a natural body of water or a cold shower. A hot bath is also wonderfully relaxing.

Clothes

Wearing a certain or special set of clothes. Maybe you have a lucky top, a favourite or most comfortable t-shirt. Maybe you would like to dress up for ceremony as you would for any special occasion. If you put on a shirt for work, why not put on something specific for a session?

Prayer

Saying a prayer can help to humble yourself and to open yourself up to possibilities of experience. Saying a prayer, religious or not, is in some way acknowledging that there are things that are out of your control.

Giving thanks

This is, again, humbling and a good practice for that reason. I think it can be good to give thanks even just as a mental exercise before consuming a substance. You’re again acknowledging that you are part of something larger and also being thankful and appreciating what you do have. I also think it is a nice way to close the session and a great opportunity to develop gratitude.

If you are with friends or a group you can maybe just go once round the group with each person, saying one thing that you are all grateful for. This can help to bring up warm feelings at the beginning of the session and start out on a positive note.

Altar

Having an altar can be a nice addition to a session or ceremony and needn’t be a religious thing. It can be as simple as having a set place with items that are dear to you. These could be photos of people, like family/friends, an image of someone you have a great respect or admiration for, or precious memories that you have. These things can be comforting to have with you by your side when you journey. What they represent symbolically will be magnified and can be of great support. When you think of them you gain some type of strength or inspiration.

The items that you choose may also be carefully chosen based on the theme of the session. For example, if you are thinking about your family, add some items and pictures that remind you of your family members. Or, if you are considering creativity, perhaps you add some of your heroes or role models from music, art, or science to your makeshift altar.

Ritualise Your Psychedelic Sessions

Ritual needn’t be complicated and you can start very simple and small. A friend of mine once put on bombtrack while we were taking our first dose of MDMA, which I thought was a nice touch. Ritual needn’t follow any kind of preset idea, you can be creative and come up with your own, too.

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!

Here is a short list of what I have found to be the most useful resources that I’ve found online about psychedelics. The breadth of information you can find out with these websites is incredibly wide and includes:
  • effects, length of duration, routes of administration
  • info about various interactions between different substances
  • practical, step by step guides, dosages
  • scientific info, such as the structures of compounds and what brain receptors different drugs work on
  • historical and cultural info
  • people’s personal experiences AKA trip reports

Erowid

Erowid is a non-profit educational & harm-reduction resource with 60 thousand pages of online information about psychoactive drugs, plants, chemicals, and more. Erowid documents legal and illegal substances, including their intended and adverse effects.
Information is gathered from diverse sources including published literature, experts in related fields, and the experiences of the general public. Erowid acts as a publisher of new information as well as a library for the collection of documents and images published elsewhere.
Running since 1995 and with their headquarters are based in California, it is the oldest on this list and also the most complete. As a member-supported organization, their mission is to provide access to reliable, non-judgmental information.
Here is their vision:
“We imagine a world where people treat psychoactives with respect and awareness; where people work together to collect and share knowledge in ways that strengthen their understanding of themselves and provide insight into the complex choices faced by individuals and societies alike.
We believe that truth, accuracy, and integrity in publishing information about psychoactives will lead to healthier and more balanced choices, behaviors, and policies around all psychoactive medications, entheogens, herbs, and recreational drugs. Erowid’s vision is to facilitate and create resources that are part of the evolution towards this goal.”

PsychonautWiki

PsychonautWiki is a community-driven online encyclopedia that aims to document the field of psychonautics in a comprehensive, scientifically-grounded manner.

What it sounds like, PsychonautWiki is Wikipedia for Psychonauts. Tonnes of useful info and in the familiar format of Wikipedia.

Their primary motivations include:

  • documenting all aspects of psychonautic theory and practice (including meditation, lucid dreaming, psychoactive substance use, sensory deprivation, ritual, etc.) from an evidence-based, academic perspective
  • providing accessible education, encouraging safe practices, and reforming cultural taboos around the responsible use of psychoactive substances, utilizing both expert and crowd-based sources
  • promoting a culture of free thought and individual responsibility by safeguarding the information needed to make informed decisions over altering one’s consciousness.

The Third Wave

The Third Wave has some very good encyclopaedic style knowledge pages as well as some practical information which can be very helpful, such as their guide to volumetric dosing. They also have a lot of information on microdosing.
Their simple stylish modern design makes them a useful resource to share information about psychedelics with others who might find the topic a bit alien. It can present the information in a familiar and scientific manner which might be more comfortable for friends or family members who you might want to introduce the topic to.
Their mission is:
to share trusted, research-based content that helps you feel safe, supported, and empowered as you follow your path towards personal transformation.

Reddit

And as a bonus one I would like to mention reddit. Though not exclusively about psychedelics it is a great place to be able to ask people and communities questions on specific topics and get answers from a range of people.
Sometimes if I have a question I’d like to put out there and hear others’ thoughts I’ll put it up on reddit.
lsd reddit
The LSD subreddit
Reddit has subreddits on almost everything, which are basically subgroups dedicated to topics e.g. shrooms, LSD, psychonaut, psychedelics and even more niche like Psychedelic studies, psychedelicrock and psilocybin growers.
I have reddit especially useful to read about other peoples experience with combining different types of drugs or drug interactions.
However, don’t always expect the kindest responses and be prepared for some weirdos

A recent reader commented on a post that they tried microdosing but it didn’t work for them. My next question was, how much did they experiment with the dose? Finding the right personalised dose can take a lot of trial and error. We are all different and effects can vary substantially between individuals. This is true not just with microdosing but also higher doses and I think that finding the correct dose is an oft underestimated key to using psychedelics.

Consider this:

A medicine can be a poison depending on the dose.

The exact same substance, the same chemical compound, one that could heal you, could also kill you, depending on the dose. Suffice to say that dose can completely change a drug’s effects.

Though the psychedelics psilocybin and LSD are non-toxic, meaning that a fatal overdose is impossible, one could still consider an experience to be ‘poisonous’ in so much that it has negative effects on a persons psyche or wellbeing.

Dosage is, I venture to say, the no.1 reason why people have bad trips. Set and setting has been mentioned, say, people at festivals or parties around large groups of people, loud music, a lot of stimulation. But what about if they had taken a much lower dose? Would it have been overwhelming? Mightn’t they have gotten the enhanced party experience or mind opening adventure they were after?

I have had my own too much experience at a festival, and whilst it was big flashing lights and lack of a quiet space to lie down that could seem to be the problem, I could have had a more pleasant experience by simply being careful with the amount I was taking. Not everyone wants to have a peak mystical experience or deep inner journey, sometimes people just want to enhance their experience of something else they already enjoy. Much in the way coffee would enhance a workday, a mini or museum dose might enhance a party, concert or brainstorming session.

Dosage is More Important than Set and Setting

As has been said by the late, great Boston psychonaut Kilindi Iyi, at very very high doses of magic mushrooms, set and setting doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. So that would mean that dosage is the most important factor in a session.

Though this is on the extreme end, I think it illustrates a good point. Dose is, in my opinion, too often and too easily overlooked when it comes to taking drugs.

Consider for a moment the difference between:

  • a bump of ketamine vs. a big line
  • one small hit of weed vs. one huge bong rip
  • a shot of vodka vs. bottle of vodka

Very different experiences.

So how to get it right? Here’s some practical tips when it comes to exploring substances.

Practical Tips on Dosing

Use scales

Invest in a good set of scales and use them carefully. Especially important when using potent psychedelics that are active in very small doses like 2cb, or those with higher toxicity like MDMA. Eyeballing can be horrendously inaccurate.

Know the dose for specific route of administration

Don’t confuse the intranasal dose with the oral dose, for example. Those can be very different things.

Start out small, increase the next time

Research is good but I’d generally say that it always good to start lower than you’d like and work your way up.

“Those who received a small taster before a higher dose were observed as being even more likely to reap the benefits than those who were only given the higher dose.”

About study participants from John Hopkins’ psilocybin study – Link

The great Czech psychedelic pioneer Stanislav Grof used a step up approach in his psycholytic psychedelic therapy work. After some sessions to build trust between the therapist and patient, he would start patients on 100 micrograms of LSD, and gradually work them up on consecutive sessions until an optimum dose was reached. 

Make use of boosters

You can use a booster, this means adding a second dose on top of the first to boost the effect. The key to getting the booster right is the timing. If you add too early, before the first dose has reached its peak, you risk taking too much. If you time it too late, you miss the chance of adding to the peak of the first dose and just extending the session, or having a second peak that is similar to the first. To counter this this, take note of the time when you take your dose, and consider setting an alarm as a reminder to check in with how you feel and to then make a decision on whether or not to take the booster.

Use volumetric dosing for microdosing LSD

Volumetric dosing enables you to be very accurate and precise with dosage when you have paper tabs of LSD. You can find a guide on how to here.

Keep a drug journal

Logging and tracking has become quite a thing in the self improvement field and for good reason. By tracking our behaviours we get good solid data which we can assess objectively. Using only a scale and a notebook, you can track and log your ingestions and doses and make notes on the effects, gaining precious personalised data. 

Maybe you’ve heard of a food diary to raise awareness of what you are eating. Or a smoke diary for people trying to quit. Logging and tracking raises awareness of our behaviours, feelings, triggers and patterns.

Keeping a drug diary has to have been one of the most useful things I’ve ever done in regards to learning about my relationship with different substances and what doses work for me. The data has been invaluable for deciding doses and finding my sweet spot for different applications and activities. I know my optimum kratom dose to enhance focus on a work day, for example, my LSD minidose for a day out, and my MDMA dose for a session with friends, including booster & timing.

If you wanna know more about drug journaling, take a look at taking drugs like a nerd.

Don’t underestimate the dose. If you’re new, better yet, overestimate the dose!