Integration has become a bit of a buzzword in the psychedelic world the last few years and this subfield has been growing rapidly with whole systems, protocols and philosophies being devised and developed by individuals and organisations. The number of integration circles, events and workshops around the world is growing just as fast and you can find whole tracks of talks dedicated to psychedelic integration at international conferences and forums.
This topic is huge and I could write a whole series on integration (I plan to).
But, first, the basics:
What is psychedelic integration, exactly?
What does it mean to integrate psychedelic experiences?
To begin, a definition of what it means to integrate, non-psychedelically.
integrate /ˈɪntɪɡreɪt/ : to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole : unite.
So if to integrate is to make whole by bringing all parts together, psychedelic integration could be seen as unifying the psychedelic and non-psychedelic sides of someone. It is to harmonize how a person is – how they feel, think and act -when they are in a psychedelic state and when they aren’t.
A definition of entheogenic integration, from ERIE (Entheogenic Research Integration & Education):
N.B. Entheogen is another word for psychedelic substance.
If psychedelic experiences offer us opportunities to learn about how to live and what’s truly important, then integration is living in accordance with that wisdom, day to day, and not just thinking or theoretically understanding profound truths.
It’s becoming unified with those moments of deep insight and understanding that can be experienced on or after psychedelic journeys. Depending on your background, culture and worldview, these moments may also be referred to as epic realisations, insights, cosmic downloads, mystical revelations, receiving of divine wisdom, messages from God, ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moments.
“Strictly speaking, these drugs do not impart wisdom at all, any more than the microscope alone gives knowledge. They provide the raw materials of wisdom, and are useful to the extent that the individual can integrate what they reveal into the whole pattern of his behaviour and the whole system of his knowledge.” Alan Watts
Ingmar Gorman, speaking on the integration track at Psychedelic Science 2017, described integration with the following:
Happens after an experience
Reflection or understanding of one’s experience
Merging of one’s experience with daily life
Maintaining positive benefits
Assisting with challenging or intrusive thoughts and feelings
It can be very ordinary
He also made the point that it is interdisciplinary (psychology, physical fitness, artistic expression etc.) and multi intentioned (healing, spiritual, personal growth).
Katherine Maclean, also on the integration track at Psychedelic Science referred to James Lore’s definition of integration:
“is a deliberative, active participation, as well as an allowing. Integration is a process of stepping into and trusting that meaning making is an ongoing ordinary human capacity that happens throughout your life.”
This quote hints at how integration is both an organic and deliberate process. Organically, some things may change without effort; thought patterns or behaviours, or maybe something that is harder to identify more than a general feeling of freshness and rejuvenation.
Deliberately is the active participation, and to willingly participate in the integration process, one must first affirm their insights and validate the importance of the experience, and not just brush it off as a ‘trip’ or ‘some drug experience’. This is where integration circles can be beneficial, or finding a community or others who understand and are open to hearing about a psychedelic experience. As well as hearing your story, friends and community can help with support and accountability.
Weaving the mystical with the practical
Insights may be affirmed and a belief that what was experienced or understood has real value beyond the trip. The session has revealed something that is deeply felt needs to be done or changed, but still, it doesn’t all come easy. Some insights can be challenging or uncomfortable, and so require more time, effort and conscious practice to act on and fully realise. This is where planning, structure, effort and support come in. Structured practices, system implementation and habit formation can be huge in this process, and I see this deliberate part of integration as having a large overlap with the fields of personal development and self improvement. I’ll continue on this theme in another post.
Psychedelics and meditation have both had a strong influence on my life and are somehow inextricably intertwined. I first got interested in meditation in the aftermath of primary experiences with LSD, and now meditation, in some way or another, informs every psychedelic session I take.
There is dispute in the Buddhist community about the value of psychedelics ‘on the path’ and if you’re interested in the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics, I highly recommend the book Zig Zag Zen. There are plenty of other articles on this topic, but today I’m just gonna share a bit of my story and how these two things have weaved their way into my life.
I first tried LSD as a curious guy keen for new experiences. As someone who enjoyed being creative, I was especially interested in new ways of thinking. I also wanted to have fun. I had little idea what I was in for when I put that little piece of paper in my mouth, but looking back, I now see those first experiences as pivotal in my life. Though they’ve affected me in many ways, one that stands out is how they lead me to meditation. At the time I had never tried meditating, nor had any real idea what it was, but if I had never tried LSD, I honestly doubt I’d have started meditating.
How Psychedelic Experience Lead Me To Meditation
On the tail end of my first LSD trips, I didn’t have any ‘comedown’. The post-trip chapter I experienced would more accurately be described as a serene, contemplative afterglow. After the ecstasy and madness of the peak, I descended to a more peaceful state which was in its own way, my favourite part of the whole experience. Though at the time I didn’t have any clear idea of what ‘meditation’ meant, I described the afterglow state to friends as meditative; my mind was sharp and clear and I was deeply reflective. I also noticed that my breathing naturally became long and slow. This tuning into the flow of my breath was a naturally induced meditation session.
When my friends and I didn’t naively first time candy flip on a Sunday and have to go to work the next day without getting a wink of sleep (see: my first time on acid – I started a new job that Monday – another story, another time), an ideal recovery day would be spent chilling with my fellow travellers. We’d order pizza, smoke joints and get comfortable on the sofas for a run of movies. After a long session, we were always physically exhausted, yet my mind was always energised. With this mental energy I’d wander philosophically through themes and ideas that came up in the films, conversation, music or anything else. As we watched movies I’d interpret them in all kinds of novel ways, see metaphors the writers and directors had put in, and understand concepts that I hadn’t considered before. I’d make notes in my journal about interesting ideas that came to mind and, of course, just generally enjoy hanging out. Relaxed but attentive, naturally contemplative, it was a taster for meditation.
In the wake of these experiences, my mind was clearer. I had a greater awareness and detachment of my thoughts. I felt wiser. I was looking at things from a greater perspective more often and more naturally, like that mental trick you do when something bad happens and you ask yourself “how much will this matter in 5, 10 or 20 years?”, or you zoom out on google maps to try and coerce the overview effect. I was thinking more creatively and seeing metaphors in almost everything, and my behaviour became less guided by fear and petty concerns. The effect was sudden and obvious, and lasted some months before beginning to fade and older mental habits and ways of being began to return.
I missed my newly found but now fading clarity and wisdom, but I’d experienced another way of being that I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Following a wikipedia trail, I was lead from psychedelic drugs to non-ordinary forms of consciousness to meditation; a method of changing awareness, without substances. Though my access to psychedelic substances was gone, my newly whetted appetite for discovery remained, and I moved to Asia with a job teaching English.
From the UK to China
In my new home city of Shanghai, I started going to classes on meditation and reading books on the topic. Reading books about Buddhism felt like I was reading books about psychedelic experience, and in retrospect, they were some kind of integration texts. I began a daily meditation practice, and soon after went on my first silent retreat in 2012.
Temple stay in Korea
In the 6 years that have passed since, meditation practice has become a key foundation in my life. I’ve been back on other retreats and temple stays, was part of a Zen sangha in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Spain, and last year started a weekly meditation group in Berlin. Meditation is what a friend of mine would call a fundamental – others include exercise, diet, community and creative projects – and mindfulness is a skill I find applicable in so many situations of life.
Like many others, my practice started with psychedelics. And while my first psychedelic journeys lead me to meditation, meditation has boomeranged back around and played its role in my psychedelic sessions. Today I’ll share one example.
How Meditation Helped On A Deep Journey
On a grey Saturday a couple years ago, alone in a friend’s house whilst he was away for the weekend, I took 250 micrograms of LSD. In the months before, I’d been reading various psychedelic-therapeutic protocols and had prepared accordingly for the session. I managed the anxiety of a turbulent come up by relaxing myself many times as I noticed myself getting anxious and tightening up, and directing my attention to my breathing. Around an hour in, as the lysergic waves really began to come on strong, I was lying down, looking up at the ceiling.
In one moment, a monster appeared above me. It was hovering over me, looking down at me from the ceiling. I was looking directly at its face, and it was looking right back at me, right into my eyes.
I was instinctively gripped by fear. My shoulders and rest of my body tightened up instantly as I stared in shock. The beast was of course not physically there, it was a manifestation of my fears, a representation of what scares me and had been avoided.
I held the monster’s gaze, took a deep breath in, and with a long exhale, relaxed my body, letting tension go. As I did this, the monster dissolved into harmless patterns right before my eyes. The visual information was in fact the same – the rich ceiling patterns that made up the monsters face were still there – but they no longer appeared scary or even as a being to me. What changed wasn’t the sensory information I was receiving, it was my perception of it. What made up the ‘monster’ was still there, I just saw it differently. I had a new perspective.
There were a few other moments leading up to this confrontation where I noticed myself getting anxious and tightening up, and I consciously relaxed my body. I see these as like smaller hurdles that once passed, allowed me to get to the point of this confrontation. The dissolution was like a jumping off point, and after this I dropped deep into ineffable experience.
The journey was deep and had many chapters: there were visions of a past life, alternate realities, and repressed emotions burst up and were released though uncontrollable bouts of sobbing. In the most profound chapter, it was a transpersonal experience; ‘I’ disappeared, along with time, and experience just happened.
I’ll share this story in more detail another time but for now I think its enough to say it was a significant experience that shifted something deep inside of me. The next day I felt lighter and clearer. I had more understanding and compassion. And my meditation practice was revived with a spark. I hadn’t been this affected since those very first journeys – the ones that spurred me on to meditation. I didn’t become a holy and all-understanding being overnight, but I inched in that direction.
Reflecting on the session afterwards, I saw how techniques that I’d learnt in meditation helped me to relax, to let my guard down and open to the experience with lessened resistance. And this is why I recommend meditation to anyone considering a first psychedelic experience. Including you.
https://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/andy-holmes-706436-unsplash-e1549561694454.jpg560840John Robertsonhttps://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MAPS-MIND-LOGO-29.pngJohn Robertson2019-01-25 11:24:192021-06-19 20:22:30Psychedelics and Meditation – How They’ve Informed Each Other On My Path
What is the ideal society in terms of psychoactive substances and altered states of consciousness? This is a question I was asked recently and so in my attempts to start writing regularly and without overthinking, here’s some ideas.
I’d like to see basic compulsory drug education in schools as I believe that education is the foundation of a responsible society. It would also be great if meditation and other practices were taught within a wider topic of psychology and consciousness. Education on how to deal with and express difficult emotions and mental states would be far more beneficial to individuals and society as a whole than some of the stuff thats compulsory in schools today.
Psychedelic Centres & Spaces
Licensed psychedelic centres would be awesome. Just like we have licensed premises and designated spaces where people can go and enjoy alcoholic beverages (pubs), we could have something like that for psychedelics, though of course it could be quite different. There could be something like psychedelic wellness spas out in the country, sessions coincided with meditation courses, or even cosy comfortable places in cities. The possibilities are endless.
There could also be events and places like we see at transformational festivals – places with lights and music for people who want a powerful sensory experience, but also chill out areas; quiet spaces where people can lie down and be looked after by others, or even just the two separately. I realise these festivals and clubs already exist but the current stigma and illegality of psychedelics make it a tricky situation and inaccessible or undesirable to a lot of people.
Another idea that could be good is that of licenses for use of substances with a certain potential for harm. They could be tied in to educational courses, so when someone passes an exam or demonstrates that they understand the basic effects and risks of a substance and have received some guidance on how it can be used, they’re allowed to make their own reasoned choice on the matter. This should be the case for all substances, including tobacco and alcohol, as many people get into detrimental relationships with these substances without properly understanding the risks beforehand. In terms of psychedelics, I think Leary put it pretty well when he testified before congress in 1966:
“I recommend respectfully to this committee, that you consider legislation which will license responsible adults to use these drugs for serious purposes such as spiritual growth, the pursuit of knowledge, or in their own personal development. To obtain such a license the applicant should have to meet physical, intellectual and emotional criteria.”
Coming Of Age Ritual
I also like the idea of some kind of coming of age ritual that involves psychedelics. Like the Eleusinian mysteries, the ancient Greek psychedelic ritual that was held once a year, that one only participated in once in their life. I’m not sure a psychedelic experience needs to be strictly a once in a lifetime thing, but in a specific format that is designed for when someone reaches adulthood, it could be incredibly special. And I think we are short of real meaningful and shared rites of passage in our culture, that we lack something sacred, something that really connects us to our deeper selves, to our community, and to the earth that we live on.
“What would it be like to live in a society that included an initiatory psychedelic experience? That’s what Aldous Huxley explored in his novel, Island. At a certain age, the young people on Huxley’s island would begin preparing for the psychedelic journey they would be taking; they would begin learning a series of exercises that would lead them into new terrains of awareness. Adults who emerged from that journey would be prepared to take their place in the society and to play their role from a much deeper level of their being.” – Ram Dass –Psychedelic Rites Of Passage
What are your ideas on the ideal society in terms of psychoactive substances? I’d love to hear them, so please comment below.
References & Sources
Island – Aldous Huxley The final book by Aldous Huxley, a utopian counterpart to his dystopian novel Brave New World. One of my favourite novels ever. At a glance, here’s some ideas explored (taken from wikipedia):
https://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Main_stage_9504689766.jpg6251200John Robertsonhttps://mapsofthemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MAPS-MIND-LOGO-29.pngJohn Robertson2018-10-30 10:08:402020-07-25 19:06:53The Ideal Society In Terms Of Psychoactive Substances
Eating magic mushrooms high up in the mountains of Oaxaca and enjoying the incredible views there remains one of my most treasured memories. If you’re travelling through Mexico and in search of some exploration via a psychedelic adventure, well good news, you’re in a country with an incredible legacy of psychedelic use that continues to the present day.
As well as peyote to be found in the desert and salvia to be chewed with Mazatec shamans, there are plenty of mushies to be munched.
If its shrooms that you’re after, I wrote this for you.
Where Can I Find Shrooms?
The state of Oaxaca. There are two towns in Oaxaca where you can source shrooms; Huautla de Jimenéz and San Jose Del Pacifico. Huautla de Jimenéz is where Maria Sabina lived and famously gave Gordon Watson his historic first dose that ended up turning on the West. I’ve heard there are many shamans in Huautla and that people might even be greeting you as you get off the bus. I haven’t been myself so I can’t give advice. Here’s a link to an interesting blog post from someone who has been.
San Jose Del Pacifico is a small village nestled up in the mountains between the city of Oaxaca and the pacific coast. The views from this village are sublime and watching the sun set over the mountains after a trip is something out of a fairy tale.
There is a tradition of ‘hongos’ – mushrooms in Spanish – in San Jose and they are easy to find and buy. Just ask around once you arrive, a basic level of Spanish will suffice.
The cost will depend on the season. If you go during the rainy season, July to October, when the shrooms are sprouting, you can find them for as little as 50 pesos ($3) for a pre-packaged dose. The rest of the year, you might pay up to around 300-400 pesos ($15-20) for the same amount, depending on your source.
Would you like to take your psychedelic use to the next level? I’m currently creating a deep dive course on psychedelics for intermediate users to be launched later this year. If you are interested in taking part, please let me know your answers to a few questions you can find here. Thank you!
Speak with your seller. They will typically sell you per dosage. Or tell how many doses what they’ve sold you has.
You can get them served in a tea, dry, or preserved in honey. Depends where you get them from. However you take them, I’d recommend taking them on an empty stomach – to make the most of your dose and to lessen any nausea.
Preserved in honey
How & Where?
This is of course up to you, but here are a few options. Scroll down for more info on each one.
Go to the woods
Journey in a private accommodation
Find a temazcal ceremony
1. Go To The Woods
Classic nature trip option. Head up the hill and into the woods. Or off the main road to find a quiet spot. This was my MO every time during my visits mainly because even though I had a private room with a nice view where I was staying, it was kinda noisy cause of the other guests.
If you’re heading out to nature, be prepared: It can be roasting hot in the sun during the day, and very cold in the mornings and evenings. And pay attention to your route, you really don’t wanna get lost in the woods. I wouldn’t fancy an unplanned night out there.
Things to take:
Clothes suitable for heat and cold – Like I said, climate can vary wildly.
Something to lie on – Though nature is nice, so is being comfortable. Think sleep/yoga mat or blanket.
Water and food – Common sense. Nuts and fruit are always a good option.
Music – Come on, you’re gonna be tripping.
Pen and paper – For drawing or writing.
Pre-rolled joints – I wouldn’t recommend if its your first time tripping, but if you’re partial to a smoke, the hash in San Jose is really nice. Your tripping self will thank you for the pre-rolleds later. A highlight of my time in San Jose was gazing at the clouds whilst enjoying a hash joint and listening to JJ Cale. That guy could seriously play.
My spot for an afternoon
2. Journey In a Private Accommodation
If your own accommodation is relatively quiet and away from distractions, this would be a good option. If it’s with a view over the mountains, even better.
Here I’ll direct you to a post on warrior.do about creating your own mushroom retreat – the post is about doing one in Bali but the advice is excellent and still applies. On the page scroll down to where it says “How To Hold a Mushroom Retreat”.
I’ve heard that some of the local temazcals (sweat lodges) offer mushrooms as part of a ceremony. I didn’t take part in one of these so can’t comment but it might be worth investigating if you’re interested. If you have experience or information, please post in the comments below.
At the end of last year I went to Jamaica to work at a psychedelic specialists psilocybin mushroom retreat. In case you’re wondering if you read that right, I’ll repeat. Psychedelic specialists. Magic mushroom retreat. In Jamaica. Yes, I know. My life sucks.
Put on by Myco Meditations, the 10-day retreat was on the south coast of the island and had plenty going on outside of the 4 psilocybin sessions – there were group activities like art integration and guided meditations, presentations on psilocybin and session prep, and optional day trips to local areas. Comedian Shane Mauss did some of his ‘A Good Trip’ standup on psychedelics and a talk on DMT, and psilocybin researcher Katherine Maclean gave talks and acted as a facilitator for the sessions. Frankly speaking it was as awesome as it sounds and definitely a highlight of a what was personally an unpredictable roller coaster of a year.
How Did I End Up There?
A question I asked myself a few times. The short answer: by following my passions. The longer version is that I came across Myco Meditations online some time last year and after a brief email exchange with founder Eric Osborne we set up a skype call. Over the next couple of months we continued to connect and the next thing I know I’m booking a flight to Jamaica to film at the event.
Eric – a man who is happy whenever around mushrooms
Filming & Integration
I was there primarily to film some videos for the MycoMeds website and youtube and the filming interestingly merged into psychedelic integration, an emerging field I’m becoming increasingly interested in and one I think will develop rapidly in the coming years.
I sat down and did interviews with those on the retreat, asking them about their experience of it – the group dynamic, the facilitators, Jamaica – and more specifically their experiences during the psilocybin sessions. Doing these interviews was rewarding in itself and as people opened up I was reminded how important and powerful this work is. It really got me, and during one interview as someone talked to me about family troubles and how they’d come up in one of his high dose sessions, I was struck deeply with compassion. People were gaining new perspectives and the ability to see things in a more positive light. Good to know the mushies were working their magic.
The interviews gave me ideas for a type of video integration – where people can speak about their experiences and have the videos to help reconnect them to their experience and their new perspective, and continue to work with the insights they’ve gained. If you have any further ideas on how this might be developed, contact me.
As well as filming I was also a sitter/facilitator for half of the sessions. Being entrusted in this role to be there for people during their psychedelic experiences is an absolute honour and privilege. Truly humbling. There is a lot to get into here and too much for this post so I’ll just say that sitting really is a skill and something which I learn more about with each experience – this was no different and I learned things which will inform my approach next time. Until then, my basic advice as a sitter to a tripper would be: if you encounter difficult emotions, relax, go towards and into them, and explore them with curiosity.
Let your guard down and walk naked into the fire. (Metaphorically speaking. Please don’t actually walk into a fire.)
The Importance Of Vulnerability
The retreat made me realise that this willingness to vulnerability isn’t just important in the psychedelic experience – it’s important as a part of life. The group on this retreat bonded as the week progressed and conversations became deeper as we started opening up to each other more and more. I was reminded, yet again, that we’re all human and all have our troubles and struggles in life. Something that’s surprisingly easy to forget.
This is something that should be acknowledged because ignoring problems is never a good long term game plan. Whilst I don’t think it’s healthy to focus too heavily on problems – of course we should take time to count our blessings and enjoy life as it is – I do believe that the areas of our life we struggle with should be looked at honestly and strategically. If problems are left without inspection they may grow into a beast that is hard to even look at, let alone begin to decide how to take down. Naturally, looking at our problems isn’t comfortable, sharing them with others less so, and that’s exactly why it takes courage to be vulnerable. It seems natural to think of vulnerability as a weakness but the truth is the opposite. The ability to be vulnerable is a strength.
Having a group setting where you can sincerely share your problems is powerful. Talking about your problems or fears can give you the chance to say out loud things that have never been truly acknowledged. This can lead to a new understanding of your own feelings and opinions on things. Having someone patiently and sympathetically listen to you reinforces that its OK and normal to have problems and that we don’t need to hide from them. Once they are acknowledged then we can start to formulate a plan to tackle them. By talking with others we can receive support and advice on how to do this. If it is something out of our control, we can begin to learn acceptance.
The other side – hearing other people’s problems – is also helpful. We usually get so caught up in our own worlds that it’s easy to forget that everyone else is fighting their own battles too. But when someone is sat in front of you telling you they struggle with a difficult relationship, social anxiety, depression, direction in life, or whatever it is – you can’t ignore it. It shatters the facade of the world that deceives us through advertising – that everyone is supposed to be happy all the time – and hearing it directly from someone else gives you a very real reminder that you’re certainly not alone in your struggles. This can be empowering; a shared burden feels lighter and you can share with each other things that have helped you.
The Necessity Of Retreats
Most people don’t really take the time to properly reassess their position and direction. Too busy distracted. Or trying to earn or spend more money. Because apparently that’ll make us happy. But we know that really this isn’t true and instead of chasing the next hit of fleeting pleasure we should just stop for a second (or a week, or a month). We should take the time to see where we are and where we’re going, otherwise we’ll unwittingly end up somewhere we never wanted to be – ‘somewhere’ being the type of person we are and the life we’re living.
Retreats by their nature offer us that opportunity to stop, reflect, have those important conversations, and realign ourselves. They give us the distance from our normal lives that is needed to get some perspective, and after we can go back into the world with our priorities in order. Combine this with psychedelics and a deeper mental reset and you have a powerful combo. But even without psychedelics I think that making time for this type of self-assessment is important. This is my way of saying; take time for yourself where you can really look at your life without distractions. Find your own retreat or ‘workation’, however it might take shape, where the work isn’t job-related but is work on yourself. Then take an actual break after, because if you’ve been working hard, you’ll need it!
Final Trip, 7.5g
Back to Jamaica, I figure I’ll finish where we did – the fourth and final trip. After facilitating for the second and third, I took part in this session as a tripper. The first three were in the evening but the final trip was to start in the afternoon so that there could be an outside and daylight option for those that wanted it. As well as the outdoor which would be a more sociable setting, there was an indoor option for those who wanted to do more internal personal work. I went for the indoor.
There was around 7 of us in the room, most people with doses of at least 5g, some going up to 9. We all lay down on and mats and music was played through a speaker. I can’t really comment on the music as I opted for headphones and put on a playlist by Mendel Kaelen – a psychedelic neuroscientist whose job it is to select music for people on psilocybin. I figured it should be fairly appropriate.
I was allowed to choose my own dose and went for 7.5 grams. I know that might sound like a lot but I have a really high tolerance to psilocybin and I’d guess that 7.5g for me is probably what 3g would be for the average person. After knocking back the capsules I went for the classic therapeutic procedure –sleep mask and headphones – and tried to relax myself as much as possible.
About 2 hours in the vivid sight of a family member on their deathbed came to me. I could see them so clearly that I could see the lines on their face. I felt sadness and fear at their imminent passing and started to cry. I tried to cry quietly to not disturb the others in the room, but at the same time to let it go. As I cried, I felt a hand softly rubbing me on my back. It was one of the facilitators, their touch told me “It’s ok for you to feel that sadness, it’s OK for you to cry. You are OK here”. After probably 10, 15 (?) minutes the sadness and accompanying tears eased up. I dried my eyes, blew my nose, and lay waiting to see if there was more to come. After a short time I could feel there was no more – the chapter had ended and the sadness had passed. And I kinda needed a pee.
I got up and went to the bathroom. I still had the Kaelen playlist playing in my ears but the purging was done and I was in a different space – I had a real urge to listen to some dirty riffs and big ass pumping rock tunes. Time to go off playlist. I grabbed a lighter from the kitchen and then went out on to the back balcony where I remembered there was a half a joint that had been hanging out there for a couple of days. I didn’t realise it before but I knew it now: that joint was waiting for me. I pulled up a seat to get a view of the lush green landscape and interrupted a soft and soothing tune for some Japandroids – crunching garage punk rock with anthemic choruses. Cranking the volume as the intro began, I lit up that joint.
Ah man. Glorious. The sweet ganja washed over me with a warm fuzz that somehow fused with the gnarled distortion on the guitars, and in a crazy life-affirming haze of noise, I felt fucking great. I heard the detail of the tone on those guitars like I haven’t heard in a long time and I closed my eyes tight, feverishly bumping my head to a beat that was pumping me up with a fresh lust for life, simultaneously satisfying and whetting my appetite for adventure and exploration. Wild, ecstatic, euphoric. It was reminiscent of my first ever trips and again reminded me that all life is an adventure, the message echoed by the chorus flying through my headphones…
“It ain’t shit, it’s just kicks… And like the world I’m going on and on and on.”
Now I know that might sound like some cheap adolescent wisdom but it’s a message that is much needed when life starts to seem heavy and a little too serious – ultimately life is nothing, it’s just kicks… pressure’s off, don’t sweat it too much, go explore and have fun.
Message received, I jammed out to another stone-cold rocker on the balcony as the rest of the group did a final meditation inside. The closing of the meditation signalled the end of the formal session, and we headed for the beach to meet up with the outdoor group.
We arrived at the beach to find the others already there, some in the sea, some exploring the nearby terrain. I found a spot to lie on the sand and got comfortable. “Inspiration and beauty for the next half hour!” Eric said announcing the immediate schedule. As I looked out to the colours starting to appear over the horizon, I had to agree. I lay there smiling to myself until Kristjan, an Estonian retreater with a brilliant accent that I’d come to love over the course of the retreat, appeared from behind a mound of sand. He wandered over with a characteristic smile and typically perfectly rolled joint in hand. Holding it up, he asked “Wanna try some of this sweet hash?”
As advertised, it was sweet. As was pretty much everything else about that evening on the beach. I caught up with the others about their journeys as we bobbed on the waves, and shared joints over conversations about dreams and the world. After the sun had set we made it back inland for dinner where Shane let our table in on some more of his crazy brilliant ideas. Engaging and heartfelt conversation over dinner with good people, before stepping out to gaze up at the full moon. What else can I say? It was the perfect end to the retreat.