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This is a guest post from the great Sam Woolfe.

One of the most common features (and frustrations) associated with the DMT experience is that despite being profound, it can also be very difficult to recall. DMT has a dream-like quality to it, in that you quickly lose your memory of the DMT trip as you return to normal waking consciousness. Terence McKenna drew attention to this quality of the experience when he said: “the way a dream melts away is the way a DMT trip melts away,” adding that “[t]here is a self-erasing mechanism in it”.


Image by Pretty Drug Things

Many people who experience DMT, especially at the breakthrough levels, will find that they simply can’t remember the bulk of what they experienced. This is something quite unique to the DMT flash and I think part of it comes down to the extremely ineffable nature of the DMT experience, which you could even call hyper-ineffable, with certain aspects not only being indescribable but also unrememberable.

Some people might accept this is a DMT quirk and think nothing of it, whereas others might feel that a lot of important knowledge and insight was lost when the amnesia set in. Whatever your attitude may be about DMT and memory loss, one challenge remains: how can you integrate a DMT experience that is difficult to remember?

In this article, I’d like to share my own experiences of DMT and memory loss, relating to one experience, in particular, that took place six years ago, but which I still mull over sometimes. This has been my most profound psychedelic experience to date, yet it has also been the most difficult to remember, with essentially most of the trip (apparently) erased from my memory. However, over the years, I have still been able to integrate the experience by way of helpful discussions, enlightening books, and productive introspection. First, here’s a brief description of what my experience was like.

My Mystical DMT Experience

One day, I decided to go on a solo psychedelic journey and took 430mg of mescaline HCL. This experience was highly profound in itself, with emotional and life-affirming insights. It felt like the negativity bias had been flushed out of me, replaced instead by existential joy. At the peak of the experience or perhaps just after, however, I had the thought of smoking DMT. I wanted to aim for a breakthrough.

I got everything ready and, for the first time, I had zero anticipatory fear or anxiety, something that was usually quite prominent any previous time before blasting off. I think the lack of pre-trip jitters (and the mescaline, no doubt) helped me to go deeper into the experience than I otherwise might have.

I was ‘congratulated’ for taking the last hit by some presence or presences, to my amusement. After that, I began to lay down and remember a tsunami of colour and patterns enveloping me. I’m not sure I even remember feeling my body completely lay down; my sense of self and body was snuffed out in an instant.

From this point on, the memories are hazy and sparse. My clearest memory was having what felt to be universal knowledge. Every question was answered. There were no mysteries left to be solved. These insights felt as clear as the understanding that follows when you finally solve a problem you’ve been working on for a long time: the immediate relief of clear understanding. There came a point though where I had to leave this realm of universal knowledge and I was told (or knew) that as I was leaving, I wouldn’t be able to bring this knowledge back with me. The cosmic secrets had to remain in this realm and this realm only. A pity, I thought.

I do have a snapshot memory of then travelling through a psychedelic wormhole or tunnel, ending up in a realm with ever-shifting activity. This activity was going on for what felt like an eternity – I definitely had the sense of being away for aeons and certainly could not imagine that there would be a time or place in which this experience was not happening.

But eventually, I gained some perception of my body, feeling the pressure of the floor against my back. At this point, though, my ‘body’ felt nothing more than pulsating, pleasurable energy – everything about me seemed to have melted into the totality of the experience. As I regained more bodily awareness, at a certain point I opened my eyes, as if in shock. I saw multi-layered DMT-like patterns above me, so I was half in my room, half in this heavenly realm. I closed my eyes again and I was still somewhat back in hyperspace. There were entities engaged in all sorts of frenzied, zany activities.

After opening my eyes a second time, I went into the fetal position and began sobbing, feeling like pure consciousness. I had felt the presence of the divine: this titanic, loving, and merciful force. I had the feeling of being shot out of some cosmic womb, reborn, and given a second chance at life. I was utterly stunned and in disbelief about the whole experience. Slowly, piece-by-piece, I regained my sense of identity and my memories, realising I had a life here on Earth and had returned to it.

After the Experience

I have thought about this experience a lot since it happened six years ago, but one of my personal frustrations has been how little I remember and whether my thoughts about the experience or what I wrote down some time after the experience even approaches what actually occurred.

There are many things, nonetheless, that have helped me to integrate this experience (and other DMT experiences), despite the gaps in memory. Before describing these techniques, I’d first like to touch on why integration has helped me and how it might benefit you, as well.

The Benefits of Integration

Integrating this particular experience has helped me to sort through some of the confusion, such as endless questions and doubts about what certain elements mean. You want to remain mindful after such an intense experience, as there is often a difference between healthy introspection and unhealthy obsessive thinking.

Integration, for me, has been a process of creating a clear and meaningful narrative that benefits my attitudes, beliefs, and actions, rather than forget about the experience as something ineffectual and inconsequential. If you are struggling with memory gaps and confusion about a DMT experience, you may find peace of mind by accepting that the experience is likely to remain deeply mysterious to some degree and will always be open to re-interpretation.

Integration has also motivated me to explore different ideas and belief systems, especially those relating to transpersonal, humanistic, and Jungian psychology, spirituality, mysticism, world religions, and wisdom traditions. In these explorations, I found connections to my DMT experience, which helped to add new meaning to the experience, by providing frameworks in which to interpret it and use it to benefit myself and others.

As an atheist confronted with ‘the divine’, I also felt a need to reconcile my atheistic worldview with this undeniable experience. This is not a process that has finished (which is true of integration, in general), but so far viewing this divine quality and experience as something human and interior (rather than necessarily exterior) has been productive. You may likewise discover that integration will allow you to find more wholeness, through the reconciliation of different aspects of yourself, as well as the expression of unrealised aspects.

6 Ways to Integrate a Difficult-to-Remember Experience

1. Let Integration Happen Organically

 What I’ve found is that the process of integrating a DMT experience will happen organically when I stop trying to force interpretations onto it and when I give up obsessing about what I might or might not remember. Often, more memories may arise further down the line or existing memories can become clarified or take on a new meaning.

Integrating a DMT experience that is hard to remember might just require patience, time, and being mindful of any new ways in which the experience seems to influence your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, choices, behaviour, and lifestyle. Integration can be organically going on without you even being aware of it.

2. Read Widely

For me personally, there have also been spontaneous moments of integration or clarity when reading a book, article, or someone else’s trip report. A word, phrase, or sentence can seem to bring a memory into focus, create an emotional reaction that feels meaningful, or elicit some sort of constructive thought or insight.

I can give a few examples of books that seemed to help with the process of integration. One was the sci-fi novel Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon. It tells the story of a nameless narrator who travels through the cosmos, eventually coming into contact with the ‘Star Maker’, the divine creator of everything. The description of this meeting with the Star Maker helped to clarify my own contact with ‘the divine’ during my DMT experience.

Another book was the novel Narcissus and Goldmund (1930), written by Hermann Hesse. There were just a couple of phrases that reignited my memory of the DMT experience:

“At any rate, Goldmund had shown him that a man destined for high things can dip into the lowest depths of the bloody, drunken chaos of life, and soil himself with much dust and blood, without becoming small and common, without killing the divine spark within himself, that he can err through the thickest darkness without extinguishing the divine light and the creative force inside the shrine of his soul.”

The phrases ‘divine spark’ and ‘divine light’ helped me to recall how, coming out of my DMT experience, I felt that ‘the divine’ was something in me. The reason these phrases stood out to me, pregnant with meaning, might have been because this aspect of ‘divinity’ in the self held some importance that I should pay attention to. While I am still unsure and sceptical about what this inner ‘divine’ quality actually is, I do believe it is a positive quality and that if I can focus on that feeling of the divine, it will lead to greater well-being and more positive experiences and actions.

One more book that I’ve come across that benefited the process of integration was The Idea of the Holy (1917), written by the philosopher and theologian Rudolf Otto. In this book, Otto introduces the concept of the numinous, which stands for ‘the holy’ or ‘the divine’, which Otto conceives in a particular way.

He argued, firstly, that this experience of the divine, the “wholly other”, was at the basis of all religions, something that I understood, based on my experience with DMT. I came out of the experience thinking that my encounter with this powerful force, this divine ‘other’, reminded me of descriptions of prophets or Biblical characters being overwhelmed by the presence of God, such as Moses’ vision of the burning bush and Saul’s Road to Damascus experience, when Jesus appears to him, an experience that was so overwhelmingly powerful it caused Saul to fall to his knees.

Otto describes the experience of the numinous as involving fear, mystery, and fascination. This mixture of fear and fascination towards the power of the divine was very relatable and Otto’s elaboration on the numinous helped me to further clarify my experience, although it still remains shrouded in mystery, which, after all, seems to be an essential quality of this divine presence. 

So, if you are struggling to both remember and integrate a DMT experience, I would recommend searching for books, articles, and trip reports that relate to the particular themes of your own experience. Reading fiction, non-fiction, and anecdotes can, when you least expect it, trigger some recall or allow you to look at your experience from a different light, helping you to make sense of it. While you may not remember much of your experience, what you do remember can, as it turns out, contain a great deal of potential for meaning and growth.

3. Talk Openly About It

Talk openly about it

One of the most effective ways to aid integration, when your experience is difficult to remember, is to talk about it openly with someone else. You can turn around an experience in your head for years and wonder about what it means, but sometimes the perspective of someone else can lead you to conclusions you might not have reached on your own. This is especially true when the person you’re talking to has had similar experiences, is aware of such experiences, or is knowledgeable about areas of psychology – such as transpersonal psychology – which deal with altered states of consciousness.

When I was seeking a therapist one time during a bout of depression, I found someone who specialised in transpersonal psychology and remember thinking this person could help me examine my DMT experiences in more depth. I believed the positive nature of the experience could help me in my depressive state. When I first met the therapist, however, and voiced this intention of mine, the reaction was not what I had hoped for. Rather than view these experiences as meaningful material that could benefit me, she stressed that because I had depression I should not have used psychedelics, that I put myself at risk of harm, and that if I were to continue therapy, I would have to avoid all drug use.

Not only was this response surprising, given her training as a transpersonal psychologist, but it was also anathema to the integration I needed, as it cast the experience in a negative light, with ‘wrongness’ attached to it. I did not see this therapist again. If you are trying to integrate a DMT experience, it is crucial to be selective of who you speak to and to avoid talking about it further if you are met with any judgement. Integration is a highly personal and vulnerable process and so, if other people are to help you in this process, they will need to be open, empathetic, and non-judgemental.

Fortunately, I have seen two other therapists whose attitudes about my DMT experiences were completely different. And I am grateful that I was able to discuss these experiences so openly, especially considering that these therapists were not specifically trained (as far as I’m aware) in psychedelic integration. I talked about some elements of my mystical experience with DMT and my frustration with being unable to remember much of it.

Interestingly, both therapists had similar responses to this frustration of mine. They said something to the effect of “you will remember what is most important about the experience”, with one therapist saying that I was lucky to have had it, as it is a rare experience. I think this helped to make the process of integration much smoother, as it made me realise I didn’t have to obsess about what I do and don’t remember, or regret not being able to remember more, as the most meaningful aspects are still there, and that the experience is something to be immensely grateful for.

Again, even if an experience is hard to remember, this doesn’t mean integration isn’t going on unconsciously, affecting the way you view yourself, others, and the world at large. However, because a lot of this process is unconscious, you may find it beneficial to seek out a therapist who can work with you in becoming aware of this material and processing it, which can be conducive to personal growth.

Others find that psychedelic integration circles offer the ideal environment in which to discuss and make sense of their psychedelic experiences.

4. Write About the Experience

Writing about DMT experiences that are difficult to remember is another great way of trying to integrate them. Fleshing out ideas in writing is a different process than speaking about those ideas. You can write in a stream of consciousness sort of way, writing down whatever thoughts about the experience arise moment-to-moment. You can write in a divergent, creative way, producing as many new and interesting avenues of interpretation as you can and seeing which interpretation for you, subjectively, holds the most meaning and significance.

For me personally, writing – whether that’s privately or publicly in the form of articles – has allowed me to make a lot more sense of my DMT experiences than I think I could achieve through just introspection and conversations with others. For example, when I get some moments of clarity – moments where memories of DMT experiences start flooding into conscious awareness – I have made sure to make a note of that memory, usually as notes on my phone, or in a notepad if I have one nearby. These moments of clarity are fleeting, but trying to capture them in written form can help you create a clearer picture of the DMT experience, even if what you write down seems harder to relate to once the memory fades again.

5. Recreate the Context of the Experience

Context-dependent memory refers to the phenomenon whereby it is easier to retrieve certain memories when the context in which the memory was formed is replicated. For example, if you are struggling to remember what a DMT experience felt like, but you were listening to particular music during the trip, re-listening to that music could help you to retrieve memories of the visual, emotional, and conceptual components of the experience. The more you can do to try to recall the experience, the easier it will be to integrate.

Another aspect of context-dependent memory is state-dependent memory: the phenomenon in which it is easier to recall a memory if you are in the same state – or a similar state – in which the memory was formed. One possible reason DMT experiences can be so hard to remember is that the memories relating to such experiences (or at least some aspects of them, anyway) are state-dependent. So, if you can put yourself in the same physical or mental state in which the memory was formed, or a similar state, you may find it easier to retrieve the memories of the experience in question, which may provide you with valuable information.

You can access state-dependent memories in a variety of ways. One way would be to use DMT again, as this would mentally and physically put you in the same state in which the memory was formed relating to a previous experience. You may not even need to take a high dose, as even a light DMT experience may be similar enough in its quality to trigger the retrieval of memories.

I have not used DMT since my experience six years ago, so I can’t personally speak on the effectiveness of using DMT again to retrieve memories. However, when I occasionally used cannabis in the past, I would have vivid memories – like snapshots of hyperspace, imbued with emotions – of previous DMT experiences (although it’s hard to say which particular experiences they relate to).

Of course, if you don’t use cannabis or don’t want to, this doesn’t mean you can’t retrieve the memories in other ways. I have also remembered DMT experiences under the influence of different psychedelics, as well as experienced short moments of remembering during meditation. It seems that the ‘similar’ state you need to be in to remember a DMT experience can encompass a range of altered states.

6. Prioritise the Emotional Dimension

While many aspects of the DMT experience can be difficult to remember (e.g. the sequence of events and various details), usually one of the strongest impressions of the experience is its emotional quality. It can be easier to question and interpret how the entities and hyperspace appeared to look than how one felt entering hyperspace, traversing hyperspace, and then coming out of hyperspace.

Many strong emotions and feelings may be involved in the DMT experience, such as awe, bliss, euphoria, joy, unconditional love, gratitude, fear, panic, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. By taking the time to really feel into the emotional aspect of these experiences, you can let your mind freely engage with them, seeing what meaning arises.

Emotionally-charged memories may be connected to important insights and lessons. For instance, you might recall how you felt when experiencing love and comfort from the entities during the experience. You may realise that this was connected to greater well-being and so decide for yourself that in order to experience this greater sense of well-being in daily life, it is wise to try to treat yourself just as the entities did. Part of integrating this lesson may involve more attention placed on self-care and self-compassion. This is just one possible interpretation, of course. Integrating the emotional aspect of the DMT experience will always be highly personal.

By prioritising the emotional dimension, you may find you can remember more details of your DMT experience, as well as make more sense of it, offering you some nuggets of wisdom when you least expect it.

A DMT experience might be brief and hard to remember, but it can also be extremely powerful and rich. With patience, self-awareness, and conscious effort, you can unearth meaning and benefits from a single experience over the course of many years.

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Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.

white light christopher burns

This is a guest post from my friend Patrick Dengler about his recent experience smoking 5-MeO-DMT (also known as bufo, toad, or 5). Thanks to Patrick for sharing his experience here.

September 13th, 2018

Four days ago I had my second journey with Bufo Alvarius / 5-MeO-DMT. Like the first time, it was incredibly profound and there are no words to adequately describe what I experienced. But, I’ll try anyway..

bufo alvarius 5 meo dmt toad five

Preparation

This happened on a weekend retreat with a group of around 20 others. As part of the retreat, there were many activities that were supposed to prepare us for the experience. There were yoga classes, energy work, a Kambo treatment and excellent vegan food. All of this contributed to me being in an incredibly relaxed state when it was my turn for taking five. In particular, the Kambo experience seemed to have an incredibly grounding effect on me. I probably was more relaxed than when I smoked weed for the first time. This is undeniably the best possible scenario to be in when doing the strongest psychedelic substance on earth.

map europe continent retreat

The retreat took place in mainland Europe

So, on Sunday afternoon I met with the practitioner and an assistant in a nice spot outside the house. After a short round of breathing exercises, I inhaled the vapor of the toad secretion and even before completely finishing the pipe the medicine started to kick in strongly.

The Experience

My perception and sense of self began to dissolve. It seemed that I merged with my surroundings until there was nothing left of “me”. There was no fighting or struggling with what was happening. I remember on my first encounter with this medicine, at this point an incredible amount energy surged through my body and briefly I got somewhat panicky. This time it was more gentle – more like a soft melting together of everything that I thought of as me and the world, inside and outside, self and other (I initially had my eyes open). The last memory I have of that stage is that everything was shining with an ever increasing white light until I was completely gone.

white light christopher burns

I don’t really have tangible memories of that stage, but what was very clear was that it was an experience of utter peace. Maybe it could be described as a state of pure consciousness without contents. The words “emptiness” and “void” come to mind, but the fact that I remember the feeling of peace suggests that some part of me-ness was still there. I can’t really say much more about this part. I think it maybe lasted for about 10 minutes, during which I was calmly laying on my back (reconstructed from the observations of others).

My True Nature

This is where it gets really interesting. At this point some form of identity and mind came back online, and at the same time a huge download of information hit me, maybe not huge but more like all encompassing. It felt like direct access to ultimate truth. This lead to the recognition, or rather, the remembering, of my true nature. What I thought I kinda understood after sitting meditation retreats and reading books about non duality was experienced directly now: I am not my body or my mind or some fragment of reality, I am the totality of it all. It’s all me. There exists nothing else beside me: pure Being, the Self, Brahman, God. If you haven’t experienced this, it sounds silly. If you have, it changes everything. For a brief moment I was struggling to accept this (“Wow, there is only God, that means it’s me, but … wow, does that mean, uh.. whoa!”), but eventually I did and it was like something snapped.

Embodiment of this understanding: This moment was an experience of endless joy, absolute satisfaction and pure perfection. It was like I was in a big arena and there was cheering from all directions. Later I was told that I repeatedly shouted “Yes! YES! YES! YEEEES…”. It felt like the most complex math equation in existence was finally solved and the result was the simplest thing one could imagine: 1. Everything made sense now. It felt like my heart exploded into a feeling of almost unbearable love (for myself) and joy (of being). It was very clear that this is IT. This is what it’s all about. This is the highest truth. There were no doubts about this. It was self evident, as obvious as the fact that it hurts when you pinch your arm. It’s so simple. Just accept yourself as what you truly are, and you become one with it. That’s all that’s needed, saying YES to life, to God, to yourself. I was sure that this state was permanent, and that I would never come back into dualistic reality again. I was home now, and I had no plans to leave.

clouds trippy

At some point I regained the feeling of my body. I heard birds chirping and felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. I opened my eyes and saw the sky and the people guiding me through the experience. This didn’t feel like coming back from a trip into reality but more like the exact opposite: I was entering this virtual reality again, the reality I’ve chosen to be part of. My ego instantly started to do its thing: Thoughts like “Wow, I must have been going through something very special here!”, “I hope I didn’t do anything embarrassing!”, “I should do something now, shouldn’t I?”. The joy I’d felt was still with me though. The simplicity and perfection of it was still tangibly close. I felt I could leave this dream world anytime I wished. But at the same time I noticed feelings of lack, struggle, doubts and desires coming back. Right! The suffering! I totally forgot about that.

Reentry Of Ego

Over the next few minutes I watched my ego reassemble part by part. This happened so quickly and spontaneously that it was a little shocking to witness. It felt almost mechanical. Like a software that is being reinstalled on an operating system. Within 15 minutes or so “I” felt almost completely “normal” again and was on my way to get lunch in the kitchen. Only later did I find some time for myself to contemplate the experience.

tree sun

A few days later what has happened is still very much with me. The most important insight for me right now is what I felt during this enlightening phase: that pure perfection, infinite love and joy is already our true nature. It’s right here, right now, only veiled by illusion.

For some reason this moment just before I was ready to accept this and say YES to it comes back again and again. Every night since it happened I wake up (usually around 3 in the morning) and it seems I’m in this position again where I can freely choose to identify with my true being. Sometimes I’m in there for a few (timeless) seconds, most of the time though I feel a strong fear and resistance and chicken out. But in any case I’m filled with a deep feeling of contentment afterwards because I remember what I experienced and know that in the end there is nothing to worry about.

I can’t put into words the gratitude I feel for having experienced this.

psychedelic art visionary dmt

Art by Krystleyez

“I searched for God and found only myself.
I searched for myself and found only God.”
– Rumi

colour universe

Smoking DMT was one of the single most intense and insane experiences of my life. Going in I figured that it would be bigger than I could possibly imagine and boy was I right. Here I will attempt the impossible: to describe the experience in words.

To summarize, it was:

  • Overwhelming – Monumental scale
  • Utterly bizarre – As I said during the trip – ‘just fucking absolutely insane’
  • Unimaginably complex – Mind. Blown.
  • Interdimensional travel – I didn’t get ‘high’, ‘fucked up’, or ‘wasted’. It was as if I was zapped through a wormhole to a different universe.

Preparation

I approached the experience with great curiosity and respect. I wanted a full breakthrough experience and did my homework on the technique. I had a friend sit for me in a quiet, empty apartment and spoke with him about my expectations beforehand. I meditated directly before. And I filmed the whole thing, so I could get a sense of timeline, see myself through the experience, and so I could start talking about the experience as soon as possible and have my thoughts captured – it is well known that the experience slips away very quickly and becomes hard to recall, like a dream. It worked, so I’ve written this with the aid of notes and the video footage.

Smoking

smoke universe

I took the first huge hit, things started feeling wobbly. I took the second and my vision started becoming warped and I could tell it was really kicking off. I handed the bong to my friend because I could tell it would be difficult to hold for much longer. McKenna’s advice ran through my mind, that even though it really doesn’t feel like you need anymore, you need to push for the third hit to fully break through. My friend held the bong and lit for the third hit while I inhaled. I lay back and closed my eyes.

Blank

At this point I can’t remember what happened. Total blank. Here there is a period of 3 minutes that are unaccounted for and missing from my memory. The video shows me lying with my eyes closed and still breathing just as if I were asleep. The next thing I became aware of was an uncomfortable sensation. I wasn’t sure what it was or where it came from and it took me an eternity to think of what I needed, and then as I opened my eyes, the word that I was looking for came to me. With much struggle I faintly mumbled the word ‘water’ – my throat was dry as hell. My friend jumped up and handed me a glass of squash, at which point I threw up into my mouth, but I was still on another plane – brilliant streams of luminous colour shot out like lightning as I vomited. My buddy grabbed a bowl and held it in front of me while I spewed. It was quick and I lay back again. It was from this point that I again became aware that I had taken DMT. As I lay back and closed my eyes, I entered another universe.

Weird, Intense, Beyond Comprehension

Completely insane. Utterly alien. Wholly bizarre. So far removed from any other type of experience I’ve ever had. Next level freaky. This was interdimensional travel to a parallel universe, another tunnel of reality. Everything was of colours I’ve never seen before and at an unfathomable level of complexity and detail. I was entirely overwhelmed by the scale of what I was experiencing. It was information overload and then some. This wasn’t a human experience, humans aren’t capable of perceiving this much information.

I’ll try to explain it by way of analogy. Imagine your brain is plugged in to a machine that feeds you every single living person’s experience of the world, at the same time. So you are plugged in to 7 billion pairs of eyes and ears, every thought, emotion and feeling – receiving all that information as it is happening in real time. As well, you get a live feed of every single computer that is running, plus a direct download of the entire contents of the internet- every page, video, photo- every last piece and byte of information. You then make connections between all of this information and how it all relates to build a real time, continually shifting picture of reality in an immersive experience. DMT is on that level in the informational sense, and more bizarre than I can think of a way to describe.

Getting past the initial shock I began to come to terms with the experience and drew long deep breaths. I lay there and admired the DMTverse in awe.

colour universe

The DMTverse

It was a grand expansive space – dark but shot through with brilliant colours. The fabric of everything was made up of incredible and perfectly mathematical patterns. I had a panoramic view of some kind of organic factory, I saw massive cogs made of an earth-like substance churning. The whole scene was forever subtly shifting, metamorphosing and with absolute synergy between all things – everything moved in accordance with everything else and energy seemed to be flowing symbiotically between all things. Everything was overflowing with life and energy. I saw inscriptions of letters from an alien alphabet that seemed to have been made by intelligent life. And then I was in a…

City Of The Future

Everything was so advanced. I’m not talking flying cars or impressive gadgetry or any technology that we might imagine humanity might ever possess. I’m not even talking how it might be if we were to time travel and show a smartphone to a caveman. The jump in the level of complexity was like the gap between the first formations of atoms in the earliest stages of the formation of the universe, through the birth of stars and the formation of solar systems, to when molecules combined to create living organisms. Entropy over 9 billion years, then. It’s hard to fathom how anyone could even experience this, but that’s the mystery of DMT.

“It may be that DMT makes us able to perceive what physicists call “dark matter” – the 95 per cent of the universe’s mass that is known to exist but that at present remains invisible to our senses and instruments.”
– Graham Hancock

Somehow Sober

What’s interesting is that I maintained a sober cognition and consciousness throughout the experience. It was unique to other drugs in this regard. For example, when I drink alchohol I get inebriated and my cognition gets sloppy, with MDMA I feel euphoria and more loved up, when I smoke weed I get stoned or high and sometimes anxious, with salvia I’ll get confusion. However, with DMT, there was no ‘druggy’ effect, not dazed, confused, fucked up – it was just like I had been zapped through a portal into a parallel universe. Like my consciousness had just been picked up by a cosmic deity and thrown out into a world that was wholly other. Whereas other drugs enhance our existing reality – dulling it, numbing us to certain sensations, or amplifying it, making colours more vivid or lines more wavy – this was just transition to a different reality.

If you’ve ever seen the 90’s movie Contact, that’s a great analogy. You really do go through the wormhole on that inter-dimensional journey that Jodie Foster goes on. In fact I felt so much that that part of the movie was the perfect analogy for the experience that I googled it after to see if anyone else had made the same connection, and sure enough, loads of other people had commented the exact same thing.

Real?

Is the experience real? I don’t think anyone can really answer that question but I can say how it felt. It felt absolutely real. It felt more real than anything else I’ve ever experienced – including my experience of typing this at my computer right now. This is where you start to go down the rabbit hole. I’ve had hallucinations from other drugs, like mind-movies, but this was nothing like that. Like I said before, it was as if I were just in another place. It wasn’t as if I was observing pictures or patterns, but that I was IN another universe, which is actually a deeper level of reality – deeper in the sense that it’s truer than the one we normally inhabit.

Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave

 plato allegory dmt

If it really is a deeper level of reality, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is the perfect analogy. The world as we understand it in a normal waking consciousness is the cave, a normal person is the prisoner, and DMT is what drags the prisoner upwards and out of of the cave. I see the part of my trip which is blank in my memory as the part in which the prisoner is blinded by the radiant light of the sun and is unable to see even one of the things now said to be true.

This fits in with the DMT experience being far richer and more detailed than our everyday experience.

No Contact

People often report contact with other entities and beings. To be clear, nothing like that happened to me. Everything seemed to be teeming with life and energy but I didn’t have any communication or contact with beings of any kind.

Ineffable, Unimaginable

DMT is the definition of ineffable. Trying to describe it seems akin to trying to describe colours to a blind person. That’s why I’ve used so many analogies and said things that don’t totally make sense here. That’s DMT for you. There is simply no imagining what it’s like. If you want a peek behind the cosmic curtain you’ll just have to go see for yourself.

Had your DMT trip, but can’t remember shit?
Read more: How to Integrate a Difficult-to-Remember DMT Experience

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changa art lily peyote desert

This was originally written for The Mainland Trading Post.

With the sun overhead Pedro exhales a lungful of smoke, passes the pipe on, and goes back to checking the group’s food supplies in his bag. “I’m so high” Molly says amused as she gazes around at the empty village street we’re sat on the side of. I take the pipe on its way through, the sweet taste of Mexican ganja fills my lungs and I get excited about our imminent adventure; we’re heading into the desert in search of peyote – the small, spineless mescaline containing cactus that grows in this part of Mexico.

peyote hikuri heads cactus

There’s six of us in total, I met the others the day before, and they are exactly the sort you might expect to be making this journey; Pollo and Lalo, a pair of Mexican gypsy punks – complete with mandala face tattoos, mohawks and bongo; Molly and Lily, two young blonde English girls who’ve been hitchhiking around North America for the last 18 months, and whose main interests include astrology and beat literature; and Pedro, a long-haired pothead from Mexico City, half-hippy-half-city boy, and our crew’s desert guide.

We’ve actually already eaten some peyote for breakfast that morning – I’d acquired six heads from a Jewish priest in town the day before (another story) – and we now finish off the last of the disgustingly bitter green flesh. We haven’t eaten a whole lot, but already I begin to feel a giddy and energetic wakefulness as we set off.

We walk past the last small houses and out the edge of town, following a dust track that leads us out into the desert, literally walking out of civilization and straight into nature.

The panorama is undeniable; the landscape is flat for what must be hundreds of miles ahead of us before our view is eventually cut off by mountains that are probably months away on foot. The earth is pale and dry but there is life in small single shrubs that are scattered around everywhere. We see hanging clouds showering an area way off to our right, and looking back I see the huge shadows and outlines of another set of clouds hanging over the mountains we left behind this morning. It’s hard to fathom what the distances might be, but the vast wilderness has a calming effect. It’s peaceful in a humbling way.

The area of desert close to town has practically no peyote – already ravaged dry from decades of visits by seekers and peyoteros – so Pedro is leading us to what he calls the ‘hikuri zone’, an area he knows of that’s deep into the desert and rich with the cactus.

desert peyote cactus

Desert Hysteria

Stepping through a gap between shrubs Pedro turns to us; “Remember that we are in nature, so just watch where you step” he says, apparently referring to snakes. The area we’re headed to is a good few hours away so Pedro sets a steady pace and the group splits by native language; Pedro leading the way with the punks up ahead whilst I fall behind with the girls.

My 5 liter water bottle swings by my side and sweat trickles down my brow. The further we go into the desert, the more different I feel; disentangled from the world and society’s trappings, somehow elevated from it, and still giddy. The girls are getting silly and Lily is giggling at the fact that “everything looks so green on peyote”.

With Pedro’s warning in mind we begin discussing about what to do if we encounter a snake and the girls agree that Lily will pretend to be a snake so that Molly can demonstrate to us the appropriate response. Lily crouches and makes a hissing winding path towards Molly, who standing her ground just looks at Lily and says, totally deadpan, “fuck off”. Somehow the scene is absolutely hilarious and I slam the water bottle to the ground as I double over cracking up; I’ve hit a hysterical level somewhere between the peyote, the heat and the pipe.

Something’s Out There

After a short but welcome water break a couple hours in – in which it’s clear that everyone is a bit spaced out and weary from walking in the heat – Pedro leads us on. The town is now a distant memory and the silence and isolation of the desert amplified. Molly and I fall to the back of the group and she asks me if I believe in aliens – the area is a hot spot for appearances and other strange occurrences. I think for a moment – I don’t really know my own answer – and she warns me “Be careful what you say… because they are listening to you” Her response makes me uneasy and I tell her “I don’t really know”. “Ooh, he’s on the fence, get him!” she says as though she is actually speaking to the aliens herself, and the possibility that they are out there and will now be on their way to visit me out in the desert tonight suddenly seems very real. Something about the boundless open landscape makes palpable the feeling that anything – including an encounter – is possible, because it shows me how unfathomably massive the world really is; that exist huge swathes of the earth’s surface that I’ve never seen and never will, whole fields of experience that are so far removed from my own and will forever elude me. It all reminds me of how little I really, truly know. Awe and mystery of the unknown are in fact the reason I’m there trampling through the desert – what drives that innate and irrepressible urge to discover, explore, and experience – and Molly’s hint at a potential encounter leaves me unnerved in a weirdly thrilling way.

Little Green Jewels

Spotting a pair of yuca trees which mark our turn, Pedro leads us on a new course and we’re told to keep our eyes peeled as we enter peyote territory. One of the girls spots one, poking its small head above the earth with its leathery green skin. I can tell Pedro wants to pull it out to start building our stash, but being our first find its not to be picked – its our guide – and he observes the ritual of making an offering to maintain some authenticity as our Mexican desert guide. Bending down he sprinkles a few lentils by the plant and we split off as the search begins.

Lalo pumps his bongo as he goes and his beat provides the soundtrack for what is like a bizarre psychedelic easter egg hunt. I wander gazing around the desert floor. I walk past Pollo sitting on the ground in front of a find, ‘gracias pachamama’ he says, offering thanks to the spirit of the earth, kissing his hand and placing it on the earth, kissing it again and placing it on his forehead. Lalo’s beat suddenly stops and he lets off a squeal of excitement; he’s found his first one too.

peyote desert

I spot one, and bending down I’m taken back by its appearance. The skin glows, its shade of green shifts; its somehow radiating life. The soft small head seems unnatural here amongst the dry earth, something about it is alien and mysterious. It has a rare beauty, so I leave this one be. I stand back up and walking away see another, then another. They all seem incredibly precious, like elegant jewels hidden scattered around the desert, and gazing at their beauty I don’t really want to take them out from the earth. It seems wrong, as though its killing something special and sacred and pure. I walk over to some of the others and before I’ve said anything Molly gushes the exact same sentiment “but they’re so beauuutiful”. “Yes, but remember, they are here to help us” Pedro insists, probably annoyed that we’re wasting time when we should be picking for the evening ahead. He does however, have a point, and I didn’t walk for hours through the desert just to admire their appearance, so I start collecting heads.

Night Falls

With about 20 heads collected between us, we meet by a tree to set up the tents. We get a fire going just as the sun’s setting and sit round. Snacking on more heads as the surrounding desert fades into darkness, we hear coyotes howling off in the distance. The altered space peyote has taken me to is different to what I expected; it has left me feeling wired but somehow zoned out. Despite eating more, my trip plateaus and I lie restless yet exhausted. The view overhead is pristine, and looking up at millions of stars, I reflect on what has been a long, hot, bizarre day.

When I’d first read about peyote about 7 years before, it seemed almost mythological; an exotic psychoactive plant that grows in the North American desert, consumed by natives and indigenous peoples over thousands of years for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. To my younger self it was a fairy tale, something of another world, some exciting legend that you come across in obscure books and cult films. It sparked my imagination and curiosity of the world, gave me a hunger for experience – but I never seriously considered it would be part of a journey that I’d actually undertake. To be lying there, many years later, under the stars out in the desert, is something surreal and life affirming. Even without an alien encounter, the desert trip has shown me something; anything is possible.

But the night isn’t quite over, there’s one more surprise.

One Last Journey

Pedro pulls out the pipe and loads it up again. “You should know, there is changa in there” he says with a mischievous smirk on his face. Changa is a smoking blend that contains DMT – “the spirit molecule” – possibly the most powerful psychedelic known to man. In other words, a complete mind-blower.

What happens next seems to happen very quickly; the pipe makes its way round the circle; Pedro, Pollo – who offers thanks to pachamama again- Lalo, Lily… everyone taking a deep hit from the pipe and passing it on, closing their eyes and sitting silently, off in whatever universe they’ve gone to. Before I know it the pipe is passed and in my hand. Really I’m nowhere like as mentally prepared as I’d like to be – five minutes before I wasn’t even considering that I’d be smoking changa – but at the same time there’s no way I’m going to pass up on this. Holding the pipe in front of me I pause to take a deep breath. I see Molly – who’s opted out of the multi-verse roulette due to a traumatic changa experience days prior – crouched behind Pollo, peering at me over his shoulder, and I can see the fear in her eyes at what I’m about to do. I light the end and the mix glows orange as I pull. It tastes horrible as I feel the smoke make its way down my throat and into my lungs where I hold it in.

I exhale, and my vision begins to morph, the small stones in the circle around the fire become warped, growing to the size of boulders and shrinking back again, my vision zooms in strange ways as I’m being pulled in. I look around and see the others around the fire. They all have their eyes closed. Of course, that’s what I need to do. I close my eyes and enter a spectrum of flowing colours. Luminous oranges and pinks meld into bizzare multi-layered forms as they fly through me, or I’m flying through them – I have no idea. The colours I see are from outside the spectrum of usually visible light, they are dazzling and the forms they carry approach from in front and pass through my eyes, flowing through and out the back of my head. I anchor to my breath for a reference point, some ground amidst the chaos, and I’m able to sit back passive to the kaleidoscopic whirlwind. The flight is intense, but as quick as it came on, the experience fades away. The brilliant colours gradually fade and I’m left in darkness, with a weird empty feeling – like something inside me has been wiped clean.

Last to smoke, I’m last to come round, and as I reopen my eyes everyone is just sitting quietly round the fire in their own space – apart from Pedro who has already got up and has his hand on Lily’s shoulder in what looks like an inappropriate attempt to forge a bond.

‘Man, that changa is something else’ I say finally, looking over at him. He rips into laughter. He’s laughing at the truth of what I say, the ridiculousness and outrageousness of it all.  Sometimes things are just so inconceivable or so weird that you can’t help but laugh. And this was one of those times.

changa art peyote desert

Sketch by ‘Lily’ (Lucy Porter) depicting the changa trip round the fire.