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Rather than do a best psychedelic books list, I thought it would be fun to explore my psychedelic story through books that I’ve read over the last 10 years.

When I was thinking about writing this piece, I thought: ‘is it strange to only count books since I started taking psychedelics? Shouldn’t I include important books from before I started my psychedelic journey?’. I thought about what books I would include from before and I remembered that there weren’t really many.

Though I’d read a few, I actually only really started to get into books after my first psychedelic experiences. The curiosity they fed me gave me an insatiable hunger for learning and knowledge, as well as the patience to read slower, more challenging books and those above my level. My renewed sense of childlike curiosity also made reading more inherently rewarding, worthwhile simply as a means of exploration even if there would be no take away lesson or practical benefit.

Now the idea of living without books seems like a deprived existence. Suffice to say reading remains one of my favourite and most rewarding hobbies.

For this piece I will just run through in a roughly chronological order books that I remember reading and that somehow seem significant or influential as part of my journey over the last decade. It won’t be thorough or complete, but will surely give you an idea of my course.

The form of this piece is going to be loose as I think this will just be a fun way to chart my journey via literature and continue to embrace using this month of blogging to cultivate the experimenter’s mindset. I’ll adjust text size to show significance and add comments by some of the books that I feel have been especially important.

Important Books In My Story

The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley

I read this in the aftermath of my first experiences and I fell for Huxley’s literal, almost scientific way of describing, while also diving into cultural commentary and philosophical and spiritual ideas. I even remember at one point standing up and punching the air whilst reading this. Huxley has since become my most read author. His mind and words just get me in some special way. I find the way he explores ideas both through novels and essays to be incredibly stimulating and energising.

The Psychedelic Experience – Tim Leary, Richard Alpert, Ralph Metzner

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

As cliché as it is this beat classic was a big fuel for me in my wild travel and wanderlust ways. It was a perfect companion on my first budget travel trip around Europe, and it also planted a seed of desire for me to visit Mexico; a journey I made around seven years later and ended up staying in the country for five months. My time in Mexico remains one of my all time favourite chapters and cherished memories.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Woolfe

A rollicking great story following Kesey and those crazy band of merry pranksters. Woolfe plays with form in a psychedelic style which fits perfectly.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest – Ken Kesey

May be my favorite novel that I’ve ever read. Rightly a classic, just brilliant.

The Path of Tibetan Buddhism – The Dalai Lama

 

Introduction to Zen Buddhism – D.T Suzuki

How to Meditate

The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tze

Wisdom packed, almost mystical, fundamental Taoist text. I’ve read a few different translations and this is a book I expect I’ll be continuing to revisit for the rest of my life.

Be Here Now – Ram Dass

An incredible story and many great tools for aspiring spiritual practitioners. This book began my yoga practice, I used the core asanas it provided, and was very useful with the step-by-step instructions to both these and pranayama breathing exercises.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
1984 – George Orwell
Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

Island – Aldous Huxley

This remains one of my favorite pieces of literature that I’ve ever read. The island of Pala that Huxley describes is in many ways the beautiful world our hearts know is possible. Incredible vision from Huxley of a spiritually and scientifically informed society where psychedelics integrated and used in a coming of age ritual.

Peace Is Every Step – Thich Nhat Hanh

I bought this book in Bangkok train station on my way heading south to find a peaceful beach where I could unpack after my 14 month stint in China. I lived in a hut by the beach for a couple weeks, reading in hammocks, relaxing, and practicing meditation ahead of my first silent retreat which was coming up a few weeks later.

Reading this book really helped evolve my meditation practice from a mostly seated stillness practice into a daily life mindfulness practice. Though a simple and very readable format and style, it has depth and gave me ideas for many ways to return to a mindful state throughout the day.

Savor – Thich Nhat Hanh
Shamanic Trance and Modern Kabbalah – Jonathan Garb
The Perennial Philosophy – Aldous Huxley
Against Nature – Joris-Karl Huysmans

The Book – Alan Watts
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
The Way of Zen – Alan Watts

War God – Graham Hancock

An incredible semi-historical flight of fancy from one of my favourite authors in the psychedelic space. An absolute page turner, couldn’t put this one down and had me staying up late reading and waking up for work tired.

Vagabonding – Rolf Potts

True travel classic. Certainly one of the most influential books on my path and somehow practical in a philosophical way. Potts saved money for his travels whilst working as an English teacher in the South Korean coastal city of Busan. I read this book whilst saving money for travel whilst working a an English teacher in Busan. That was not planned, but surely another reason why it resonated so strongly with me. Potts was also an inspiration for me as an aspiring adventure and travel blogger.

The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss

 

The Sunhitcher – Tomi Astikainen

The Book of Tea – Kakuzō Okakura

 

Thousand Cranes – Yasunari Kawabata
The Old Capital – Yasunari Kawabata
Snow Country – Yasunari Kawabata

The Joyous Cosmology – Alan Watts

The Teachings of Don Juan – Carlos Castaneda

After having been out in the Mexican desert picking peyote and smoking DMT with a band of travellers, I picked up this book upon heading back to the city of San Luis Potosi, where I was based. Reading Castaneda I became so inspired and re-invigorated with that adventurelust I once again packed up and headed back out to the desert town for what turned out to be another incredible chapter which began with bailing a friend out of a local prison for possession, had consecutive days of peyote sessions in the desert, a Mexican country village fair, and lead to me being invited to The Dance Of The Sun – a native American shamanic ritual that includes fasting and blood sacrifices.

The Daily Stoic – Ryan Holiday

Can’t recommend this book highly enough. Ryan holiday has become one of my favourite authors.

Waking Up – Sam Harris
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – James Fadiman

The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron Stolaroff

Western psychedelic therapy has been huge in informing my approach and I still use methods from this book both as a practitioner and as a guide.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chögyam Trungpa

The Book Of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa

The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday

The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield

This book has been absolutely hugely influential and inspiring for me. Recommended to anyone looking for inspiration for creative endeavour they’d like to embark upon.
Getting Higher – Julian Vayne

Siddhartha – Herman Hesse

Atomic Habits – James Clear

I followed blogger and habits expert Clear for a few years before he released this book, being so interested in the subject of habit formation. Atomic Habits is the ultimate compilation of his works and I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone interested in habit change.

Zig Zag Zen – Alan Badiner

Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn

I read this book over the time I was doing mindfulness coach certification and found it to contains so much in so little. Each chapter is 1 to 2 pages, so it’s one of those books where you can read a page a day and slowly digest all the wisdom and depth that is packed in.

Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins

Psychedelic Psychotherapy – R. Coleman

Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss – Dennis McKenna

Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport

This is a book for our times. It has changed my digital life (mainly, getting me off whatsapp and telegram) and continues to inform it. I love the way Newport thinks I found it especially satisfying that the practical system he proposes in this book is almost structurally identical to a practical system I have devised for psychedelic integration. Great minds!

The Pocket I Ching – Richard Wilhelm
Ego Is The Enemy – Ryan Holiday

Currently reading:
Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse

That bring us up to date!

I’m not sure how interesting this post may have been to read but it was really fun to write! Reflecting on how much these books have contributed to my life has me really excited to read a bunch more. If you enjoy reading, try exploring your story through books, its a fun activity 🙂

I think I’d like to return to this post sometime to add photos but for now, I’m off to finish Steppenwolf.

Tschüs!

My Psychedelic Story Part 1

Soon after returning home from Latin America in 2017, My Mum decided to leave my Dad after many years of difficulties in their marriage. It was a very difficult time for us all, for both of them, for my older brother, and for me.

I managed to take it reasonably well, understanding the reasons why after seeing it not really working for many years. I wanted them to stay together but didn’t want to continue seeing the pain that they were both in in the relationship. It broke my heart but felt like it was the only real way forward. In the end, I just wanted both of them to be happy.

I tried my best to conduct myself as a good son, to do the best that I could, supporting them both through the process, having long talks with both of them, hearing both of them, and not taking either side.

It was during this period of separation, whilst we were still living in the same house, that I went again up to Sheffield for a private solo psychedelic session.

I was in an emotionally rocky patch with everything going on, and even cried on the train ride from my home town of Leamington up to Sheffield. I stayed in a friends house whilst he was away for the weekend. One of those friends who I’d had my very first experiences with.

I conducted this session in the most considered and ceremonial way of all the trips I had yet. I had done the photo trip in the weeks before, and had a selection of them with me. On the day, I tidied the space thoroughly before, burnt sage, opened with a prayer in a simple dropping ceremony, then I took around 2 and a half tabs of 1p-LSD.

I used headphones and an eye mask for the first time, following the standard protocol used in the research and by the practitioners in the books I’d read by James Fadiman and Leo Zeff.

The come up was pretty bumpy and early on I used nitrous oxide to ground myself and drop in to experience. However, I continued to I encounter hurdles of anxiety and doubt as my sense of self continued to shift and dissolve. I just kept reassuring myself ‘I am OK, I have taken LSD, this is part of the experience, relax yourself’. I continued to follow my meditation training, relaxing myself by returning to my breath, breathing deep, and relaxing all the muscles in my body. 

In the first chapter I flew through music, and even before hearing them, saw notes and sounds as objects formed in colourful patterns, flying through wide open space, and crashing in to an invisible wall and exploding as those sounds actually reached my ears and I heard them. I felt my perception open wide beyond me and I lay marvelled at a sense of liberation and wonder. My first album of Brazilian psychedelic rock ended and I put on some Brian Eno.

At some point I’m not really sure what or how it happened, but I left.

I dissolved in to the energy of the universe. I became one with the all encompassing stream of energy that makes up all spirit, matter and life. But at the same time there was some how some witness experiencing it. It’s strange in that I only came to understand it in this way after I came out of it and some how back in my body later on. Whilst in it, it just was, but I wasn’t there.

In that experience, there were visions of what felt like a past life, and alternate realities, or sub realities to the one in which we inhabit.

There were cryptic messages, somehow transmitted to me, that my mother and father will come together again, though it may be after these current incarnations.

Somehow in some way, they will find their way back to each other and it will be the most beautiful reunion. They will both see and understand it all, and that their separation in this way was just a part of a larger story. 

As parents, they have more than done their part. They have done so much for me. I will forever be thankful for them, all the love and support that they have shown me and the most incredible parents that they have been. They will, and we as a family, will find our love for each other again. Their break, as everything, is temporary. Everything will come together again.

Somewhere in this universal experience, I saw my life within the great story of life and of humanity. Somehow, my whole life, not just up to that point, but of my years to come, had already happened. I understood that my life is just an expression of the universe. Just like how a single one of my smiles is an expression of me, John Robertson, at one moment in my life, I understood how my entire life as John Robertson is a singular expression of the universe, at one extended moment. Again, I didn’t see it and understand it in that moment, it somehow happened after, coming to me in bits and pieces during the hours, days and weeks after the experience as I reflected and processed.

Half returned to my body but still very much in the experience. I flooded with tears. I sobbed and wept like a baby. I don’t believe I have cried so hard since I was an actual baby, so full and unashamed as it was. Full throttle, deep and reverberating, out and out bawling. It was right, to let it out, and I felt all the pain of my parents relationship flowing out as memories of situations from our home came back to me. 

After my weeping descended, on a toilet break, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, my eyes still wet with tears. I saw myself as a young boy of around 8 or 9. I saw this poor young boy standing before me and felt a compassion and lovingkindness towards him. And then a thought came to my mind…. ‘so this is what our society deems to be a criminal’. Here was this boy, trying to help myself, doing no harm to anyone else… and this is a criminal activity. It felt so wrong.

Why should this be illegal?

I was extremely fortunate in that I had a friend who had a house that I had access to. But that was extremely lucky. What if he hadn’t gone away for the weekend? And what about all the people who don’t have access to a private space?

I received tremendously from this experience but it was a massive logistical struggle to set up. Before even beginning to think about the space, it was very difficult to procure that LSD in the first place. It was only because of my prior experiences, combined with reading reports from the studies and research, that I knew there was something really there with psychedelics, something really worth discovering. If I didn’t have such a firm conviction, I would have given up long before.

I considered how many people could benefit from this type of experience but are prohibited from doing . It upset me. The criminalisation of LSD and other psychedelics made no sense. It felt deeply unjust. 

That feeling stayed with me. I felt indignant about drug policy and with a new clarity I saw how insane current drug laws are. In a burst of passion I wrote a draft on my journey home, trying to find the angle from every side, scribbling in notebooks on bus and train rides back. 

Back at home, I had gained a deeper understanding and insight in to my parents separation. I could place no blame on either side. I thought of their upbringings, raised in different continents, from different cultures and backgrounds. It was just unfortunate that didn’t work out in the way we had all hoped. Any lingering feelings I had of frustration and resent towards my parents dissolved. I understood them as my way of trying to deal with the difficult feelings that came from losing my family and home as I knew it.

I came to a deeper compassion for both of my parents. Neither of them wanted this and they both suffered as a result of it too. No one was to blame, it was just how it went. Whatever happened, I know I had super parents, and I understand how incredibly fortunate I was to have grown up in such a loving and caring household, that always wanted me to succeed, that always supported me, that has always been there for me.

Mum and Dad, I love you both so much and will be forever grateful. I hope that I can only show the world the love you have shown to me. If I can bring an ounce of that to others, I know the world will be a better place. Your love has given me deep strength and inner resources to go on in my life. You have taught me to always try my best, to try to do the right thing, and at the bottom of it all, with heart.

This experience gave me a deep reverence for the high dose ceremonial psychedelic experience. For the depths of healing and understanding, for the incredible mystery of existence, for the mystical dimensions of the universe, of the divine, the sacred, and the absolute mystery of it all.

It made me aware of how incredibly sensitive and vulnerable we are in these spaces and states, and that is something I carry with me every time I sit down next to someone for a session.

It also led me to believe that nearly all problems stem from misunderstanding. When it comes to understanding each other, communication is key and I have come to value communication as a key life skill.

Back to the weeks and months following the trip…
Reflecting on that experience, I thought: how many people could benefit from this experience?

It became my mission to make this experience more accessible. 

I understood that this is the field I want to work in and dedicate my life to.

I wanted to go all in on the movement and help in any way that I could, but I didn’t have a clear direction.

I started where I was. I wanted to work on social stigma, seeing cultural perception as a means of shaping advocacy and civil rights movements, and broadening the field of people who might be interested; so I continued on with the blog, citing research more, using logos and science, the language and religion of our world today.

I also wanted to work on being able to offer safe and conducive places for people to have them. The drug laws might take decades to change. That wasn’t good enough. But where to begin?

I needed more experience, more knowledge, and I needed to really engage with the global psychedelic community.

Accordingly, I took the next steps…

Welcome to 30 Days of Psychedelics!

I have recently gotten a bit obsessed / addicted to 30 day challenges. Since the start of Corona, I have completed the following:

  • 30 days of cold showers 
  • 3x 30 days of yoga (thanks Adrienne!)
  • 30 day digital detox
  • 30 days of speaking to a new person
  • 30 days of no alcohol
  • 30 days of no smoking weed
  • 30 days of both no alcohol & smoking weed

I love the 30 day challenge and have decided to go for my biggest and most daring yet. Writing and publishing an article on Maps Of The Mind for 30 days in a row.

From the 1st to the 30th July, I will publish a new article here each and every day, on the theme of psychedelics.

The prospect of this is quite scary to me and I know it will be a stretch experience. It feels edgy, and that is why I’d like to take it on. One of my personal growth heroes and mentors (if I can call someone that who I’ve never met?) Steve Pavlina introduced me to this idea that a good growth challenge should feel a little scary, like its almost out of reach, for it to be a real stretch goal. And I have to agree. It also makes life exciting.

So this is an orientation and introduction post to my 30 days of Psychedelics, what I’m calling PSYJuly.

psyjuly 30 days of psychedelics blog writing challenge

If you were hoping this was going to be a blog series about someone taking psychedelics for 30 days in a row, well sorry to disappoint, though I hope it will be as enlightening and mind expanding as that would be, whilst also being slightly more practical and more sanity prevailing and reality holding for myself.

Intentions

Upon embarking a new course of learning or growth, I like to set intentions. This is something that I’ve picked up from psychedelic work, the Power Of Awareness Mindfulness Course I am nearing completion of, and Steve’s Pavlina’s Character Sculpting course which I started in January this year. So I have decided to take the opportunity of this post to write out my intentions and to share them with you.

My intentions for PsyJuly are:

  • to cultivate and embrace the experimenter/explorer mindset and overcome debilitating perfectionism.
  • to be pushed to think differently about how I create
  • to evolve my relationship with and how I tap in to inspiration, channel it, and express it in the outer world as form that can be shared with others.
  • to develop a clearer flow from inception of an idea to expression of it

In the long term, this will enable me to publish more frequently and share more, thus creating more ripples and having a larger positive influence on the world.  If I am able to share more, this will enable me to do more of my original intention when creating Maps of the Mind:

to share my experiences, to pass on ideas and resources that I enjoy or have been useful to me, and to share my thoughts, some of which I hope can inspire others.

To that I’d like to now add:
and have a positive influence on the world.

To those intentions I’d like to add:

  • to explore my own thoughts on the topic of Psychedelics. After years in and around the psychedelic world/community and approaching a decade of personal practice, it will be a great chance for me to assess where I’m at on my journey.
  • to present myself and my thoughts without over-editing. To use the challenge and awkward feelings I encounter as a practice in openness and honesty.

The challenge won’t enable me to get in to my over editing ways. So, prepare to see a rawer, unedited version of John!

The rules of the game

To publish one post each and every day for 30 consecutive days,
on the theme of Psychedelics.

Day 1 : July 1st.
Day 30 : July 30th.

Click publish on each post by midnight CET time.

That’s it. The rules outside of this are loose. The post could be:
a text post, a video post, an audio post, a post linking to other resources, a list post etc. There is no lower word limit (generation of words is not something I need to work on); the key is clicking ‘publish’ each and every day. I am allowed to create more than one post per day and save them for other days so I can have a day off. I may also use previously written but as yet unpublished material that is knocking around on my computer. Guest posts are also fine, so long as I write some kind of intro or outro for it myself.

What to expect / What I’d Like to Cover

My Experience as:

  • a psychedelic practitioner
  • a guide/facilitator
  • a retreat organiser

Tips & Practical Info:

  • How to make the most of sessions
  • Mindset
  • Tools
  • Session/Protocol creation
  • DIY Resources
  • Preparation
  • Navigation
  • Integration
  • Supporting Practices
  • Magic in psychedelic practice (AKA psychology, consciousness hacking, self programming, de-conditioning and re-conditioning)
  • Ritual
  • Non-psychedelic consciousness enhancers

My Thoughts & Perspective on

  • How psychedelics play in to change on individual and collective level
  • Their role in our species development at this time; psycho / activism, problem solving (collectively we are facing some pretty huge problems at this time), community building.
  • The psychedelic movement and its shadow side

My Favourite & Recommended Psychedelic Things

  • Books
  • Films
  • Influencers/figures
  • Articles
  • Music
  • Websites
  • Resources

…and potential for many more. Let’s see how much of that I can cover!

Psychedelics are something that I feel I could write and explore forever about, so the potential for ideas is not something I am worried about at all. Ideas are not something I am short of and writers block, in the sense of not knowing what to write, is never an issue. My block, or greatest Resistance, is my over-perfectionism, which can at times lead to an unhealthy obsessiveness. So this is the challenge and block that I am focused on overcoming.

I hope you will join me on this journey and hopefully in the process glean some insight, useful information… and enjoy the ride. I am excited! If you know of someone else who may enjoy, please share and I hope that this can spark some debate and continue to push the psychedelic movement forwards. I also invite you to speak about psychedelics a little more during the upcoming month, with whoever you like. I hope that this series will be able to provide some fuel for those conversations.

Perhaps you have one final question….

Why Psychedelics?

I’ll answer that tomorrow 😉 See you then!

2019, three quarters through and so far, what a year. This blog has been quiet, falling behind my average snail’s pace of one post a month, but I have good excuses. My year has been jam packed with a healthy blend of projects along with the usual and ongoing quest to simultaneously find and create myself in an ever changing world.

I’ll get to some of the other stuff in other posts as I take stock to digest and process in this final quarter but today I’m writing about the entity that has by far and away received the most of my time, energy and focus this year:
New Moon Psychedelic Retreats.

new moon psychedelic retreat

New Moon Retreats is the culmination of my journey over the last decade; a psychedelic retreat integrating meditation and mindfulness practices. 

My first psychedelic experiences, almost a decade ago, made me more creative and curious, and encouraged me to adventure and explore the world. They also kickstarted my meditation practice. Because of how much I felt I’d benefitted, I was inspired to create this blog in an effort, amongst other things, to share information and make the experience more accessible to others.

I see New Moon as a natural extension of what I aimed to do with Maps Of The Mind; making psychedelic experiences accessible, but more than by means of information: by directly offering physical spaces and in person guidance. 

Finding My Way

Two years ago I had an experience that was itself a culmination of my journey to that point – a fruit of my travels inner and outer, readings and writings, studies and practices; a peak experience that I felt profoundly grateful to have had. It gave my path a new direction and clearer purpose, and a vision crystallised.

That vision was a centre where people can go to learn meditation and have deep psychedelic experiences. A place where anyone can go and have the opportunity to dive deep within, to develop understanding of themselves and others. Not everyone has access (yet), but creating New Moon Retreats has been a significant step towards that vision.

The venue we host New Moon Retreats

With direction and fresh inspiration, I committed more fully to my path and began going to trainings, workshops and conferences. I began to facilitate privately in the therapeutic model of using headphones and eyeshades, and was fortunate enough to spend time and work on retreat with Myco Meditations in Jamaica, where I learnt a tremendous amount about psilocybin mushrooms and group retreats. After moving to Berlin, I completed a mindfulness coaching course and began a meditation meet up. Through it all, my personal practice has remained fundamental, and I’ve continued to write about my learnings to consolidate them, journal my thoughts to reflect on them, and continued to make an effort to develop and evolve my personal meditation practice.

Finding The Others

psychedelic psilocybin retreat

On my way I met the others who currently make up the rest of New Moon. During my year travelling through Latin America – when I documented my explorations with ayahusaca in the amazon, San Pedro in Peru, peyote and DMT in the Mexican desert, and mushrooms in the mountains of Oaxaca – I met Tuk whilst staying at a hostel Buenos Aires. He was in the continent to explore psychedelics too and our shared interest provided fertile ground for a budding friendship. After exploring the capital together we reconnected in Peru and remained in touch after our American travels.

Whilst visiting Tuk in Copenhagen, I met his mother Ulla at the Psychedelic Symposium, and then a couple months later volunteered alongside Maria at Altered Conference in Berlin. A year later, whilst at Beyond Psychedelics, I decided to move to Berlin, where, finding myself two weeks later, I reconnected with Maria and together we began to organise psychedelic integration events at her studio. When the seeds for New Moon began sprouting, the team was already connected.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls”
Joseph Campbell

What Is Different About The Retreats?

Meditation
Our retreats place the psilocybin sessions amidst meditation and mindfulness practice because I understand this to be the perfect container for deep and rewarding psychedelic sessions. I haven’t seen meditation as an integral part of the program on other psychedelic retreats and is something I wanted to offer. Our program includes an accessible course of meditation practice with guided meditations and mindfulness exercises.

Small groups & high ratio of facilitators to participants
We have 4 facilitators for each group of 8 participants. This is so that we can give each person due attention and care, allows us time for one to ones with everyone, and aims to enable a deeper level of connection and intimacy with each group.

Option of 1 or 2 psilocybin sessions
We currently have two retreat formats: a 3 night and a 5 night. The 3 night format is with one psilocybin session and the 5 night format is with two. The five night is for people who want to explore psilocybin more deeply and includes further integration activities and awareness practices. Having multiple sessions on a retreat is something I felt was excellent about Myco Meditations as it allows people to go deeper.

A New Moon Dawns

new moon psychedelic retreats

The garden at the retreat venue

On the New Moon of the 1st August, we commenced our first retreat, and over the next 11 days guided 11 participants through two retreats: a 4 day with 1 psilocybin session, and a 6 day with 2. We had two groups of people who came with honest and earnest intentions to learn and grow, and we were fortunate that everyone who came was understanding and accommodating in that it was our first retreats.

Working with people so intimately over these 11 days was humbling, heart opening, inspiring, and ultimately, meaningful. Spending time in a small community in nature surrounded by people who are making an honest effort to work on themselves, in an environment where everyone is encouraged to open up and share themselves, was hugely enriching.

Reviewing The First Retreats

So how did the retreats go? Overall, I’d say they went as well as we could’ve hoped for. Though I don’t believe psychedelics are a panacea or cure all, they certainly can facilitate potent and powerful experiences capable of triggering significant shifts. And our participants did have powerful experiences. From their end, the feedback we have received has been good and of the 8 people who’ve completed our anonymous feedback form, all have given us a final 5/5. That is something I wish to maintain.

psilocybin psychedelic truffles

Psychedelic truffles used on the retreats

Our initial aim was to do 2 retreats this year as pilots and then to assess if we’re doing a good thing and should continue. The first wave of feedback has been enough to affirm this and has supported my belief that this is the most impactful way I can have a positive influence on a world on which I feel significant and drastic change is needed.

Though the retreats have given me confidence and courage to go on creating these spaces and offering this experience, I feel now more than ever the importance of developing as a facilitator, a leader, and a person. The feeling has only become more certain and one of my favourite adages, that ‘there is always room for improvement’, remains as true as ever. In a new field that is directly involved with people’s mental wellbeing but that has no cultural container or tradition in the West, I feel a growing sense of responsibility and the requirement to live with integrity and be accountable for my actions. I realise too that the people I want to work and surround myself with are also those who won’t rest on their laurels or get caught up patting themselves on the back, but who seek continued growth.

Moving Forward

With the encouragement from our first groups, New Moon will move forward and we have booked our next retreat for the end of November. Moving on, I would like to develop the mindfulness part of the program and, after being inspired by seeing Vanja Palmers talk recently, feel more drive than ever to make it happen. I have some exciting ideas to integrate these schools and look forward to implementing them.

community hands group

The integration, follow up and aftercare is also an area I would like to develop. Specifically, I’d like a focus on community, empowering people to find and create communities where they can find support and accountability on their path. I’d also like to introduce aspects of habit formation psychology that I’ve found hugely beneficial, and some means of loosening the grip of digital addiction, something I want to continue working on myself and which I honestly see as a major epidemic contributing to much of the mental health problems in the world today.

As for a longer term vision, we would ultimately like to make the experience more financially accessible. As I’ve mentioned before, something like vipassana system where anyone can go for free and make an optional and anonymous donation at the end would be ideal. That is something we can only do once we are financially stable, but in the shorter term, having a free spot per retreat or a donation based retreat a year might be a good stepping stone.

Much to do and plenty to be getting on with then. But, one thing at a time, and as we go, let’s try to enjoy the ride.

sunrise mountains

Thanks for reading and hope to see you on retreat soon.

“Only three things go fast in Jamaica: the cars, the runners, and your money”

Having just spent the last 10 weeks based in Treasure Beach, a rural area on the south coast of Jamaica, I can definitely agree with the above expression. I was working there in a number of roles with a magic mushroom retreat operator and though there was plenty to do, the pace of life was slow. The high heat and humidity was probably at least partly responsible for this, but even when pushing past that, any top speed was always kept down by frequently occurring periods of enforced waiting and delay. A few examples;

During the retreats – which warrant posts and memoirs of their own – the ‘schedule’ was loose and changing. When people asked each other what time a meet up would be for a meal, meeting, or departure; the scheduled time would be given, usually semi-jokingly followed by ‘Jamaican time’ – i.e. allow for tardiness.

meeting jamaica treasure beach

Morning meeting with the team – think this one actually ran on time

Between retreats, when trying to set up video interviews with the locals on the retreat team, I suggested a time and day, and got at most a tentative confirmation. When that time came the interviewee was either elsewhere or doing something else. When I caught up with them later…
‘OK, so can we get the video tomorrow?’
‘Yeah man we got plenty of time.’

I did finally get those interviews, the following week. Getting them online was impossible though, because of the – you guessed it – slow internet on site. Even just getting a few photos online wasn’t easy, a batch of 20 onto dropbox could take over 10 hours, when the internet was working.

Uploading…

Expectation Versus Reality

As someone who is high in conscientiousness, I like and expect things to run on time and to a schedule, especially when its work-related. Suffice to say, the time in Jamaica was at times difficult and frustrating. This is an example of a clash between expectation and reality – I expected things to run to my schedule and at my speed, and the reality was that they simply wouldn’t.

Trying to resist the inclination to get frustrated when things weren’t ‘how I liked them’, I tried to remain like any good traveller in a new place – flexible, adaptable, and open – and in my attempts to adjust to a new pace of life, I found some guidance from the locals and their language.

Switching To Jamaican Time

jamaica jamaican flag

“Soon come”

Guidebook wisdom

‘Soon come’ is one of the first Jamaican expressions you’ll learn after arriving on the island and is really all I needed to remind myself when I was becoming impatient. A perfect mantra for when things aren’t going as fast as you’d like, on or off a Caribbean island.

Considering Jamaica’s history from early slave rebellions through the anti-slavery movement – which was only able to make progress in its goals over a number of generations – its not surprising that ‘soon come’ is one of many Jamaican proverbs that counsel patience and forbearance…

One one coco full basket

This means that you’ll get a full basket by adding one coconut at a time, so take it easy and you’ll get there. For me, perhaps ‘one one photo full dropbox’ may have been more appropriate, but I got the message.

jamaica rasta dreads dreadlocks

Konga, patriarch of the house. Photo by Jason Anderson

Every mickle mek a muckle

One evening sat out on the veranda with Konga,  I asked him about the meaning of this expression. He pointed to the rolling paper I’d laid down in front of me and the weed in my hand that I’d slowly been tearing into small pieces. He told me it was like how I was making my spliff; little by little, slowly and steadily, we get there. Obviously I enjoyed learning about the meaning of a Jamaican expression through making a joint, and I think smoking it helped too.

I like this expression because it also applies to thriftiness, something worth cultivating when you consider that money translates to time and freedom. And especially when you’re in a place where cash goes as fast as the cars and runners.

Changed Man… ?

So did a couple months in Jamaica transform me into a slower and more laid-back guy? Not exactly. My inclination towards schedule and punctuality remains. I believe schedules are the most efficient way to get things done and my conscientiousness is a trait that I like in myself. However, this isn’t how everyone operates and, though I expect fewer outside of Jamaica, there will always be unforeseen delays popping up in life. But having now spent this time on the island, I hope that when I’m forced to wait or proceed with anything at a speed slower than desired, I’ll be able to tap into that Jamaican spirit, let go of that urge, and patiently tell myself ‘soon come’.