psychedelic service sheet altar ritual

Taking a high dose of a psychedelic still scares me. This is true even after having embarked upon many high dose sessions. One thing that I’ve found helps me to find a sense of calm is having some kind of structure to the session.

Sometimes for my trips I will have a very minimal structure. Usually, with low or medium doses, I’d be more on the recreational tip; more loose and informal. On the other hand, for higher dose formal sessions, what I might call ceremonies, I tend towards a more formal and structured approach. For these more ritualistic high-dose experiences, I create a service sheet.

Psychedelic Service Sheet

Much like you might find at a ceremony such as a wedding, funeral or other church service, a psychedelic service sheet contains the order of proceedings. It may also include the words of any prayers, songs or readings that are part of the service.

I usually only create a service sheet for inner journeys. As I’ll be lying down with my eyes closed for these sessions, my service sheet is mostly just an order for opening and closing the session.

I really like having a service sheet because it makes the occasion feel special. It is also very practical. It gives me a clear step-by-step run through. Having this clear to do list, or, order of service, helps me to go through specific steps in order to bring about a sense of ease, order, and structure. This helps to create something of a container for the experience. When I’m a little anxious or fidgety before a high dose session, having this clear and simple run through helps me to follow steps one by one and sets me up nicely for my session. It’s similar to some athletes or musicians’ pre-show rituals. 

Contents of a Service Sheet

My service sheet will typically contain the steps for my opening and closing rituals, and the prayer that I read aloud as part of my opening. There is also space for me to write my intention, as well as other key details like the location, style of the session, the people present, and the date. It may include some navigation reminders or guidelines, and/or a couple of lines to help me connect to my inner resources. It also has a section for me to fill in the dosage, substance, and start time. 

Helps Create the Desired Set

On my service sheet I include things which help to move me into a desired state: feeling safe, relaxed, humble, and open. Here is a quick summary of items that I include and what they help connect me to.

Resources: safety, strength
Meditation: calm, open
Prayer: humble, open
Gratitude: heart opening

They are all, in some form or another, centering practices.

How & What I Use for my Service Sheets

Sometimes I have the sheet printed off on a sheet of A4 paper. More often I will use the double page of a notepad, which I lie open on a flat surface in a designated place. Depending on the setup and space, it may be part of or next to an altar. The pad then remains open there for the duration of the session, and is only put away once the ceremony has been closed.

psychedelic service sheet altar ritual

I typically like to include a sound, such as ringing a bell or making an OM, to both open and close. I also like to light and then blow out a candle as bookends, with the flame symbolizing the journey. When I blow it out at the end I can make a wish and do a little candle magic. This is, by the way, for you cynics, performed every day across the country when children blow out little flames on their birthday cakes.

My Influences

I think the ayahuasca ceremonies I attended in the Amazon were a large influence on me adopting service sheets into my practice. They were easily the most formalized ceremonies that I’d attended. They had a very clear structure to them, with distinct stages, or rounds, of the service. They also included many preselected readings and prayers. I really appreciated that approach and how special it felt. It also added to a sense of containment and made the whole thing feel more safe. I also think using to-do lists and practicing productivity concepts like ‘masterpiece days‘ and deep work have influenced me in this way.

Record of Doses and Journeys

Service sheets also work as a handy record. They can be used to look back on previous trips. For practical considerations, having things like doses noted can be helpful for calibrating and titrating your dosage over time. So if you think like ‘oh yeah, that time we tripped at Lisa’s place, that was a good level, how much did we take?’. You’ve got it there in your written records.

It’s a large part of ritualizing use which has many benefits of its own, and is also kind of like Taking Drugs Like a Nerd.

Making Your Own Service Sheet

If this idea interests you, I would recommend trying to create your own service sheet. If you find it’s not for you, you can go ditch it and go back to your usual approach. Here I will include a few examples of orders that might be included. You can consider them a starting point and take this idea wherever you like. Your service sheet might look totally different to mine.

Examples

Example 1: Group Inner Journeys Style

Once everyone is ready:

  • Opening Circle (A stick goes round the circle, and everyone shares how they feel)
  • 3 minutes silent meditation
  • Pass doses round in circle and bless them
  • Music begins (Inwards, by Tommi)
  • Take doses
  • Journey
  • Playlist Ends
  • Closing circle

Example 2: Group Dynamic Session

Opening

  • Ring Bell
  • Opening Circle
  • Eye gazing in pairs
  • Take Dose

Session (modeled on Osho Dynamic Meditation)

Playlist begins

  • Section 1: Loosening
    Shaking
  • Section 2: Activation
    Free flowing movement & dance
  • Section 3: Calm
    Standing or seated meditation
  • Section 4: Stillness
    Seated or lying meditation

Playlist Ends

(When participants feel ready to re-engage, they may move to the reintegration room)

Closing

  • Closing Circle
  • Give Thanks
  • Ring Bell

Example 3: MVO (Minimum Viable Order of Service)

  • Cheers
  • Take dose

[Session]

  • Closing joint

Would you ever use a service sheet? Is it too formal for you? Would you prefer a more relaxed approach? For high-dose sessions where things can get a little more out of control, I find a service sheet helps to make myself feel more grounded and ready to embark upon a journey. I believe it might help you, too.

Safe travels and best wishes.

psychedelics pray prayers

Two weekends ago I took 5 tabs of acid. A few moments before that, I said a prayer.  

Saying a prayer is one step of an opening ritual which I run through for more formal psychedelic ceremonies. This opening ritual also includes calling upon the support and help of my ancestors, bringing to mind internal resources, stating my intention out loud, and doing a short meditation. 

This ritual, and the prayer, is designed to centre me and enter an open state of being.

The Spirit of Prayer

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

I like using prayer because of the spirit in which it is given. A prayer is a humble and sincere request. It is earnest, coming with cap in hand. It’s the opposite of being arrogant or egotistical. That is the state that I think is most helpful to enter a deep psychedelic session, when we may have to give up all control of what we are experiencing and simply surrender.

Psychedelic Spirituality and Efficacy of Prayer

The use of psychedelics in a religious context is not new. They have been used for centuries by different cultures for spiritual, therapeutic, and divinatory purposes. In some traditions, there are rituals where psychedelics are used as an aid to meditation and prayer. Indeed, the West’s introduction to psychedelics, via Sabina and Wasson, was in a ritual context with prayers and incantations.

This makes sense as prayer has been shown to alter perception and mood, reduce anxiety, and have pain relieving, and antidepressant properties. It has also been shown to make similar long term changes in the brain to that of psychedelic users. In this sense prayer can also be considered an effective technology, comparable to psychedelics and meditation, and all three may be used as complementary practices.

In this post I’d like to share four prayers that I have used to open formal ceremonies for myself with a few comments on each.

Four Prayers I Have Used:

Universe, I know not what I ought to ask of you;

Only you what I need;

You love me better than I know how to love myself.

O universe, give to your child that which

he himself knows not how to ask.

I dare not ask for either crosses or for consolations;

I simply present myself before you,

I open my heart to you.

Behold my needs which I know not myself;

see and do according to your tender mercy.

Smite, or heal; depress me or raise me up;

I adore all your purposes without knowing them;

I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice;

I yield myself unto you: I would have no

other desire than to accomplish your will.

Teach me to pray. Pray yourself in me.

Amen.

I’ve used this prayer for a few formal high-dose journeys now, and will continue to use it. Each of those trips has been significant, both at times challenging but beneficial.

I like using this prayer because it opens me up. It is me acknowledging that I don’t know everything and that I don’t have all the answers. That ultimately I am part of something larger and there is wisdom and intelligence far greater than my own. In the context of a psychedelic session this brings me to a place of humility and that allows me to be open and receptive. I acknowledge that there may be hardships and that there may be reasons for them beyond my comprehension. This helps bring me to acceptance for potentially difficult things that come up.

This is a personal adaptation of a late 17th century prayer that psychedelic therapy pioneer Leo Zeff used to ask his clients to read (François de Salignac Fenelon Archbishop of Cambray, 1651–1715, AD.). For my adaptation, I replaced the words Lord and Father with the word Universe. This just felt right to me. This is an example of how prayers can also be used as a template and you may adjust and personalize them to your own preferences. The most important thing is that the chosen prayer should be effective in inducing a desired sense of being and state of mind to embark upon a journey. It should be personally meaningful. Much better that than parroting something which just doesn’t resonate with you.

 

2.

From the blossoming lotus of devotion, at the center of my heart,

Rise up, O compassionate master, my only refuge!

I am plagued by past actions and turbulent emotions:

To protect me in my misfortune

Remain as the jewel-ornament on the crown of my head, the chakra of great bliss,

Arousing all my mindfulness and awareness, I pray!

 

– Jikmé Lingpa

 

I found this prayer in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. It’s used in Tibet to invoke the presence of the master in our heart. Something about it just resonated with me and I immediately put it into a document that I keep to collect prayers I might use for ceremonies.

This one stood out to me because it calls upon the compassionate master. Compassion is central to the person I want to be and the attitude I want to engender in myself. I like to see this great master as being the highest version of myself, a deeper level of consciousness, a higher wisdom that is beyond small me. Welcoming a feeling of humility into my session is also strengthening. I like the closing line that calls for an awakening of mindfulness and awareness too.

 

3.

Om sahana vavatu

ॐ सह नाववतु

Om, may God protect both teacher and student

Saha nau bhunaktu

सह नौ भुनक्तु

May He nourish us together

Saha viiryam karavaavahai

सह वीर्यं करवावहै

May we work together with great energy

Tejasvi Navaditamastu

तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु

May our studies be enlightening.

Maa vidvissaavahai

मा विद्विषावहै

May there be no hate among us

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

Om peace, peace, peace

I first came across this classic Sanskrit prayer at a yoga class when I was living in Spain. I had to learn it as we would recite it together as a group at the beginning of every class. After leaving Spain, I continued to say it aloud at the beginning of every meditation session.

What I like about this is the use of the concepts of teacher and student. I like that it’s kind of open to interpretation. How I perceive and receive this prayer isn’t static, it changes over time, making it flexible depending on my mental state at the time. What I see as the teacher may be a more expansive consciousness or even the universe as a whole. It may be life, it may be the psychedelic experience, it can be the psychedelic substance I’m working with.

I also like the three shantis at the end, which in other translations I’ve read to mean removing impurities from my body, mind and spirit.

 

All Things Pass
All things pass

A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass

Nor a sunset all night
All things pass

What always changes?
Earth…Sky…thunder… Mountain…water… wind…fire lake…

These change
And if these do not last
Do man’s vision’s last?
Do man’s illusions?

During the session
Take things as they come
All things pass

This is one from Tim Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers; a selection of prayers, poems and meditations that are adaptations of book one of the Tao Te Ching. Leaving aside my thoughts of Leary as a person, I think this book, mostly written while Leary was visiting India in 1965, is a really cool contribution to psychedelic literature. The collection as a whole is a mixed bag, but there are a few gems in there, including this one, which served as inspiration for the famous George Harrison song.

I find this reminder of the impermanence of all phenomena to be especially comforting when heading into a trip in a difficult moment in life. It is helpful to keep in mind that some of my difficulties may be blown up and I’ll have to face them more intensely. It is this engagement with them, ultimately, that helps me find some resolution. The magnification of problems means having to face them head on, and knowing that they will pass helps to ‘take them as they come’.

Formality and Religious Connotations

Depending on the type of session a prayer may or may not be suitable. Clearly a prayer suggests a certain level of formality to a session. Personally I use psychedelics in a different variety of sessions but I will use prayer as part of my opening ritual for high dose inner journeys, AKA psychedelic therapy style sessions.

I know prayers have religious and spiritual links which can be very off-putting for some people. If you are one of those people, you may prefer to do something else or say words with different types of associations. It may just be words to oneself. It may be words of well wishing. It may be simply reading a quote. The idea is that it helps to bring something to mind and shift our internal state. It’s a type of orientation.

Quotes or Poems Instead of Prayers

If prayers and the overt spirituality is a bit much for you then I suggest choosing a meaningful quote or poem. Here are a couple of examples of quotes that I like:

“One cannot discover new oceans, unless one has courage to lose sight of the shore”
Andre Gide

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek”
– Joseph Campbell

These quotes help to stir feelings of courage in myself which can be very helpful when embarking on a journey. They also remind me that I’m an explorer, that I am travelling into unknown and possibly uncomfortable territory.

Making a Selection

In the run up to formal sessions, I will select which prayer or quote I will use. I will open the file on my computer and just choose one intuitively. There might be something about the theme that seems relevant to me at the time in my life, or for whatever reason it just seems to fit.

If in a group, it’s useful to consider the worldviews of everyone involved. Spiritual, religious, or ‘woo’ language can be somewhat triggering for some people, having the opposite of the desired effect of centering and calming. Or it might be something else that doesn’t sit well.

psychedelic prayers gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

“Gate Gate Pāragate Pārasamgate Bodhi Svāhā”
“Gone gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
– Heart Sutra

Before myself and a friend used these final lines of the Heart Sutra to open a ketamine session. I suggested the line as it evokes the idea of deep long journeys, and we settled on an English translation.

Saying a prayer at the opening of a psychedelic session can help enter into a centred, open and humble state. This can be beneficial before embarking on your journey. What quotes inspire courage in you? What poems bring you to your heart centre? What phrases remind you of the explorer you’d like to be? Put those in a collection, and try reading one at the start of your next session.

new full moon ritual psychedelics

Here we are, day 10, PSYJuly, Welcome back 🙂

Today we have a post from my great friend and spiritual ally Lucy Porter. I met Lucy in Mexico some years ago and we had some epic adventures together, spending our first days together in the desert eating peyote. Thrilled to share this piece from her today…

 

Syncing Psychedelic Sessions with Moon Cycles

Do you like entering into non-ordinary states of consciousness? How about surfing the ether on a wave of mutilation? 

I get it babe, me too. 

The use of psychedelics to open dormant parts of the psyche is no new practice. Hallucinogenic plants have acquired a sacred, animistic place in indigenous cultures for thousands of years. These psychoactive plants were consumed ritually and treated with the highest respect and intention. Being used primarily to commune with deceased ancestors and to receive important messages for the community. 

The dialogue around psychedelic usage is rife, and with practitioners emphasizing the importance of set and setting, clear intention and emotional safety; there is very little conscious integration of the why and the when. 

When is the Right Time to do Psychedelics?! 

Pre Christianity, The Ancient Sumerian Calendar was centrally focused on the moon’s transits. Infact, so focused that each month began on the darkest night of the month; the New Moon. There were no weeks in the Sumerian Calendar; the people lived solely on Moon Time. Astrologically, the Moon represents a person’s inner world. It’s the centre of receptivity and introspection. It’s their subconscious, their relationship to the mother, the womb, and the portal of life and death. Pretty cool right? Each month the Moon passes through four stages; New, Waxing, Full and Waning. Each phase symbolises a different living archetype, from birth, right the way through death and to birth again. Now, for those of you who have sat through a few psychedelic sessions; you know the feeling of dying to who you were and then being born again? But… then dying again?! 

I believe that committing to the conscious use of psychedelics is like the self signing a contract to transformation with a sharpie. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Priestess, it’s timing. Syncing up psychedelic ritual with the moon cycles is one of the smartest ways to utilize the direction you want your ritual to go. Ask yourself, am I taking this to call something into my life? Or, am I taking this to release something in my life? These are wildly different intentions and align with different points in the calendar month. 

New Moon and Waxing Moon

The New Moon and Waxing Moon are perfect for calling in. The New Moon is the very beginning of the month energetically and aligns with birth. Perhaps you’re using mushrooms to get inspired or to visualise a new way of doing things. Practicing ritual on the darkest night of the month helps you to bring in fresh energy from an open, receptive slate. 

The Full Moon and Waning Moon

The Full Moon and Waning Moon are for letting go rituals. Biologically the Full Moon marks the time of each month where the water retention in human bodies is at the highest. Equally, the tides come in and the oceans rise. Symbolically, Full Moons are emotional. They are a time for your sacred waters to flow. This is a great evening for a release ritual, and pairing psychedelics can help aid that process. It’s also important to note that having additional emotional support in the form of a friend or partner at the Full Moon ritual is recommended. 

We are part of a much greater tapestry, we are pawns in the eye of great spirits’ misty game of chess. In fact, we are eerily connected. The Moon is our sister and the Sun is our Brother, and you are both a small child, and an old man simultaneously. We are not an isolated incident but a fusion of interconnected energy. The more we can communicate with the Solar System’s natural rhythms, the deeper and more magnificent our rituals and psychedelic journeys shall be. 

I recommend the New Moon to start, call in some juicy goodness and learn to trust that Lunar Magic. Trust me, it’s worth it. 

Lots of love 

Lucy AKA Priestess in the City xo

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About Lucy
Lucy Porter is an Astrologer, Astrology Writer, Tarot Queen and Priestess living in the big, juicy city of London. She spends a lot of time sitting in her hot pink office talking people through their Birth Charts; and exploring their souls gifts and burdens through Astrology. Her mission in life is to make magic mega mundane and the mundane mega magic. She wants to see people reading each other’s palms on the tube and doing psychic readings at the pub.

santo daime ceremony ayahuasca

Day 7, PSYJuly!

Today I am sharing a post from my good friend and fellow explorer Robert Funke.

Myself and Rob go a few years back and have now collaborated on multiple psychedelic projects. Rob has previously guest posted on Maps of the Mind, and pre corona, he also came to work on the New Moon Psychedelic Retreat team. We were flatmates when corona hit a big pause button on that project, and during lockdown we both developed our practices, which included sitting for each other and journeying together.

During that time we also had formal meetings to discuss ritual and how it can be used for psychedelic journeys, developing our own understanding of the subject and practicing ideas. In that time Rob created a document which we worked on together, and the post today is a part of that work, with some practical examples that Rob has recently added to illustrate the ideas and concepts.

Rob is one of the single individuals through which my personal practice with psychedelics has evolved the most and I am delighted to share this work today.

My hope is that this post will spark ideas for you to create your own meaningful rituals to enhance your psychedelic experiences.

THE RITUAL

                                             A framework for psychedelic journeys.


The ritual creates community and connects the individual with the whole. It communicates values and complex concepts. The ritual emphasises that something is unique and extraordinary, that it is happening at a special time on a special place for a special reason, and the effects of it concern everyone participating.

The order and the sequence of rituals are very important. The structure is often foreseeable and the order is a reference to its social contexts. Movement is essential and highlights the transition caused by the ritual itself. Items become symbolic through a mysterious metamorphosis.

Who is active and who is passive within the ritual? And why? What does it tell about the religious, cultural or social context of the ritual?


Characteristics
    • ceremonious purpose realised in a very conscious way
    • use of symbols (items, scents, music, gestures – everything can be symbolically charged)
    • emotional involvement
    • personal meaning (no meaningless compulsive act)
    • more important than “what” is “how”
    • an inner structure
    • good rituals have space for everyone’s own expressions
    • sequence and symbols have to be well elaborated/considered

Functions

    • Spiritual: Who am I? Why do I live? Where do I want to go? To convey trust in a higher order
    • Psychological: Rituals open a room for emotions, dose and structure them
    • Social: They connect, bring together, assign roles
    • Time-Wise: They organize time, set a beginning and an end of an event

Dimensions

    • The interactive dimension emphasizes social interaction between individuals and groups
    • The innovative dimension creates something new without discarding the old/established
    • The symbolic dimension connects key symbols of a religious or cultural system with the ritual
    • The aesthetic dimension involves visual elements to create the ritual
    • The strategic dimension considers power structures
    • The integrative dimension tries to establish community and new social relations

Phases

    • Entry (preparation, opening ceremony, becoming present at the place and time)
    • Transition or threshold (the psychedelic experience itself)
    • Reconnection (closing ceremony, leaving no traces, back to life/everyday world)

Types

    • Initiation
    • Rite of passage
    • Healing
    • Celebration
    • Transformation/Transition
    • Cleaning
    • Mourning

Structure is dependent on

    • Intention/Type of ritual
    • Substance/Dose
    • Setting (alone/group, introspective/explorative)
    • Choice of the place and structure of the place (with base or center, circular, spatially open/closed, indoors/outdoors)

Tools

    • Altar (including items of everyone participating)
    • Power items for personal use
    • Burning incense
    • Fire place
    • Candles
    • Music/Silence
    • Singing/Voice/Speech/Chanting
    • Intuitive instruments for personal use (rattle, flute, drum)
    • Clothing, Jewellery
    • Decoration
    • Shaman/Guide/Sitter/Facilitator/Space holder
    • A place which is connected with the ritual and revisited every time only for this ritual

Scenarios/Examples/Structures

Rituals should be more about the structure or framework rather than a detailed sequence of the ritualistic act.

General Structure

    • Intention or purpose
    • The frame/rules/guidelines
    • The place
    • Companions, participators, facilitators, guides, sitters, etc.
    • Preparation (of the self/mind/body and the place)
    • The event/ceremony/ritual divided into opening, conduction or implementation? and closing

Single Session – Introspective

    • I tidy and carefully decorate my space, using an altar, items and scents
    • I wear clothes that are special or meaningful to me
    • I prepare everything I need to have in reach, like drinks, snacks, blankets, tissues
    • I prepare a playlist or am in silence
    • I am opening my session with a meditation and by saying out loud my intention and what I’m looking forward to, I wish myself a good and safe journey
    • I close my session with gratitude towards the sacred space I’ve created
    • I return the space to it’s previous form/function

Group Session – Retreat

    • held in a place that is the same/neutral for everyone and not personal to someone
    • it can be prepared only by the conductors of the ritual but it can also involve everyone participating in it
    • in a circle, it can be clarified or manifested whats the rituals but also the individual purpose
    • rules are defined and accepted by everyone
    • individual preparation before the ceremony starts
    • opening, ceremony, closing
    • aftercare and integration (optional, not necessarily essential or part of the ritual itself)

 

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 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.