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Strangeitude harry pack art dmt artist hyperspace trippy art
Strangeitude harry pack art dmt artist hyperspace trippy art

Strangeitude by Harry Pack @harrypackart

by Terence McKenna’s Dad

Most people read a travel guide before they go somewhere new.

But what if the place you’re going to features inter-dimensional travel, hyper-intelligent design, and a variety of sentient entities?

Here’s how to prepare for travel to DMT hyperspace:

Create a Comfortable Setting

dmt psychedelic comfortable setting

Make sure you are in a comfortable, private setting.

Bonus points if it is also aesthetically pleasing. You want this space to feel grounded and safe.

If you’re using a room in your house, clean it. Light a candle or incense if you please, do anything that makes the setting feel warm and inviting. The spot you choose should allow you to go from sitting to lying down immediately, make sure you have something soft to lay on and a pillow. Optionally you can use a reclining chair.

Have Someone With You

company dmt guide

This step is optional but recommended: have a trusted friend or loved one with you.

You can journey alone, but having someone by your side can help you stay grounded and reassure you of your safety. If you talk aloud during the experience, your sitter can help you navigate your experience or record what you said to tell you afterward.

Get Comfortable Physically

comfort psychedelic setting dmt

Wear loose-fitting clothes. The last thing you want while traveling through different dimensions is to be bothered by physical distractions.

Another optional, but helpful step is having a blanket over you during the experience. I find it adds comfort and a feeling of safety. A weighted blanket can also be used, the extra pressure puts your nervous system into “rest” mode which may reduce some symptoms of anxiety as you lift off.

Choose a Quality Vaporization Method

The last thing you want while reality is being ripped away from you is to have a coughing fit or to taste burnt DMT in your mouth.

My personal favorite vaporization methods are glass vapes(I use Eclipse) that are water-filtered & homemade vape pens, but everyone has different preferences.

Use whatever method seems best for you, but be aware that the “sub-quality methods” are significantly less efficient and often waste DMT.

Vapor Genie DMT Vaporization Pipe

Vapor Genie – DMT Vaporization Pipe

Top methods:

  • Homemade vape pen or mod (propylene glycol+DMT)
  • E-mesh vapes
  • Dry herb vapes with changa or enhanced herb
  • Glass Vapes (Eclipse, Vapor Genie)
  • Dab Rig with electric nail (controlled heat)

Sub-quality methods:

  • The ‘Machine’ (small glass bottle with hole in bottom & steel wool in the neck)
  • Oil Burner (the thin glass makes DMT easy to burn)
  • Sandwich method (DMT sandwiched between cannabis)
  • Dab Rig with Torch (hard to control heat)
  • Burning enhanced herb in a joint (not as efficient as vaping)

Avoid at all costs:

  • Lightbulb
  • Foil and a plastic bottle

Set a Simple Intention

candle set intention dmt psychedelic session

An intention does not need to be complicated: “I hope I meet an important entity”, or “I want to learn something new”.

You can write down your intention or simply say it aloud. By setting an intention, you are acknowledging your role in the future experience and helping anchor your psyche before hyperspace.

Practice Breathing

breathe dmt breathwork

Practice your breathing.

Counting in your head, breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 10, breath out for 5.

Repeat at least 3x.

Use this time breathing to clear your head & mentally prepare for the journey.

Measure Your Dose

dmt measure dose

The doses and descriptions below are general descriptions.

The doses below are based on a moderate tolerance, pure DMT, and a 100% efficient vaping method. If you’re using a less efficient vaping method, you may need a slightly higher dose for the same effects.

Personal tolerances vary widely, and these doses may be too low for some or too high for others.

~5mg [Threshold]

threshold dmt dose

At this stage your vision is enhanced and your setting feels much more important and aesthetically pleasing. You feel slightly stoned- but with a feeling of great significance.

5-10mg [The Chrysanthemum]

symbolika dmt art hd

DMT HD by Symbolika @symbolika_art

Mandalic closed-eye visuals, intense colors, complex geometric overlay, visual morphing during open-eyed visuals. A body high that is euphoric but out of body, quickly growing in intensity. An organic humming/buzzing noise.

10-15mg [The Transitition]

Increasingly complex visuals, accelerated out-of-body movement, an intense body high & a feeling of being sucked towards *something*.

As the visuals increase, so does the sound. As the humming reaches a crescendo, there is a sudden switch. The humming stops. A new world is created out of the previous scene flawlessly.

dmt symbolika butterfly morph artistt

Butterfly Morph by Symbolika @symbolika_art

15-20mg [The Waiting Room]

The final space before a full breakthrough, the waiting room feels like a liminal, hyper dimensional version of ‘The Backrooms’.

At this point, if you open your eyes, your scene will not change. You are fully immersed in hyperspace.

Waiting rooms vary in style immensely and entities may be present at this stage.

Cosmic Corridors ayjay dmt art artist

Cosmic Corridors by AyJay @ayjayart

20-25mg [Breakthrough]

Hyperspace feels “more real than real”.

There is a feeling of intense familiarity combined with absolute amazement. The body transforms into intense euphoria. You will be thrust into an otherworldly environment and likely will be approached by entities of some kind.

Guardian 2 dmt hyperspace harry pack art artist psychedelic

Guardian 2 by Harry Pack @harrypackart

+35mg [Approaching OD]

Taking too much DMT typically results in full dissociation and being unable to remember the experience. Overdosing on DMT isn’t dangerous to your physical body and rarely has any lasting effects on the mind.

Begin Smoking

dmt begin smoking psychedelics

No matter your method, be careful not to burn the DMT as you heat it.

Famously, it is supposed to take 3 hits to break through. Ignore this.

Mimic the breathing practice as you take your hits- holding the vapor for 10 seconds or more with each hit. It may take 1 hit, it may take 10. Keep inhaling DMT until no vapor remains or it is no longer possible to smoke.

Don’t Panic

Spirit Molecule dmt art artist ayjay trippy best

Spirit Molecule by AyJay @ayjayart

DMT is intensely disorienting, particularly when you first enter into hyperspace.

“What you resist, persists” – struggling or fighting against the effects won’t bring you back to reality. You signed up for the ride, time to buckle your seatbelt & look out the window.

Remind yourself: no one has ever died from smoking DMT and the experience will be over in about 10 minutes.

dmt stay calm dont panic

Interact With DMT Entities

About 95% of entities are benevolent and often approach you with curiosity, surprise, and love. They often say “welcome back, where have you been?” and can speak telepathically or verbally.

This is your chance to be curious- ask them questions, interact with them, who knows what you’ll find out!

Different Entities

Hieroglyph dmt entity harry pack

Hieroglyph by Harry Pack @harrypackart

There are a huge variety of entities, and essentially no limit to the different forms they take.

There are a few common types like Machine Elves, Fairies, or Jesters. Mythological and archetypal creatures from various cultures are another common type of entity. Entities vary in not only appearance but also motivations and power.

Some have the ability to create objects with their voice while others simply want to help you learn about yourself.

Dark Entities

symbolika aya dark entities dmt art artist

Aya by Symbolika @symbolika_art

While rare, simply thinking about dark entities makes them more likely to appear.

They appear more often when you don’t treat DMT with respect. Seasoned travelers call these uncomfortable experiences (not always related to dark entities) being ‘hyperslapped’. If you do end up running into an entity with dark energy, focus on feelings of hope, love, and light.

Explore & Learn

Celestial Stairway dmt art ayjay artist trippy psychedelic colors

Celestial Stairway by AyJay @ayjayart

Every DMT trip is different, though some people have traveled to the same places and met the same entities.

Approach each trip with curiosity, entities often have something to show or teach you. Sometimes what they show you is so complex that it can’t be explained with conventional language. You can also try to learn things on your own by traveling through different environments and not interacting with the entities.

Record Your Experience

dmt record your experience psychedelic

Just like a dream, a DMT trip begins to be forgotten the moment you wake up.

Use a journal, voice recorder, digital method, or create art to begin recounting your experience. This can be valuable information for personal development or for other travelers.

Share Your Experiences

share experience dmt guide

If someone had the key to alien communication, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

Share your journeys on online forums (Erowid/Reddit/DMT Nexus) and with people that you trust. The entities try so hard to communicate and have important things to share, the least you can do is to help them out a little!

My sources were personal experience and “Hyperspace Lexicon” on DMT Nexus.

Best wishes

Thanks for reading. I hope this guide helps you explore hyperspace in a safe, fun, and efficient way. DMT is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding entheogen. If you enjoyed this article, please follow me on Twitter @FatherMcKennaa

I discuss drugs, psychedelic culture, and will hopefully have another article out soon.

Also a huge thanks to the artists Harry Pack, Ayjay, & Symbolika who graciously allowed us to use their art and do a great service through their visionary artworks. Finally, thanks to John Robertson who inspired and assisted me on this article!

 



Credits

Terence Mckenna’s Dad

I write about the history, culture, and use of psychedelics and other drugs. My goal is to educate others, promote safe entheogenic use & advocate for drug decriminalization and related policies.

Twitter @FatherMcKennaa


Harry Pack

My work encourages the viewer to turn their mind from the fragility of the material world and towards a contemplation of something more stable and infinite. The kaleidoscopic paintings depict a visual realm at once fantastical, foreign and strangely familiar. Three-dimensional, dream-like landscapes composed of fractal shapes and ordered geometric patterns are populated by extra-terrestrial forms: strange humanoids, anthropomorphic machines, animals and plant-life moving purposefully throughout spaces that operate as portals into the personal and psychological.


Symbolika

Fabian, the creator of Symbolika, is a graphic designer who has turned his passion for psychedelics into a unique clothing brand. As a “psychonaut”, he has explored the depths of the mind through the use of psychedelics and has drawn inspiration from his experiences to create bold and vibrant designs. He has combined his skills as a graphic designer with his love for psychedelics to create a brand that is both visually striking and spiritually meaningful. Symbolika’s clothing is a reflection of Fabian‘s personal journey and his desire to share the transformative power of psychedelics with others through his designs.



Ayjay

Ayjay is an Australian digital artist known for incorporating his psychedelic experiences into his art. His work stands out for its vivid and precise representation of the DMT experience. His art showcases the bright colors, strange entities, alien machines, and patterned surfaces characteristic of the DMT world.

Online Store: https://ayjayart.shop/

My approach as a psychedelic facilitator really depends on the person I am working with and our relationship.

I don’t have any kind of preset formula in terms of what I will do or how I will interact with the journeyer. What each person needs is different and totally depends on their circumstance and where they are at on their journey. I try to meet everyone where they are, and in this way, every session or ceremony is a co-creation between myself and the person I am with.

At a tripsitting workshop I went to a few years ago, I got introduced to the concept of Maai from martial art aikido, which is maintaining the correct distance from your opponent, and also called the ‘engagement distance’. This is something which is very relevant when tripsitting; with some people I will be very close, and with others I will leave a lot of space. My actions are based on what I feel that person needs.

It may be that it is called for me to hold someone whilst they cry, hold their hand, or maintain their gaze for a time during the session. During one session, I held the journeyers’ hand throughout the entire journey (they even asked me to accompany them to the bathroom — I respectfully averted my eyes, of course).

In other situations, it may be that what is called for is simply a stable and steady presence in the room and to give the journeyer space. I have been a facilitator in group ceremonies where I’ve had basically zero interaction, not even looking at the group. In this situation I am there to hold space. During what can be at times a wild, crazy, and frightening experience, a strong, still presence can offer a sense of reassurance and, on a subtle level, an understanding that everything is under control. A still and grounded presence can be of great support and a lot can be said for simply being calm.

Of course, it is not one way or the other. Close, intimate interaction can change and give way to distance and space when needed. Sometimes I will simply sit beside someone. Sometimes I might place a hand on their shoulder to reassure them or to help bring them back to a somatic experience of their body.

At times, it may be that I speak with the journeyer for varying purposes. It may be to reassure them and help them feel safe, or it may be using the interaction as a means to explore their world with them. This could be by asking questions to help direct their attention in certain ways to help them go deeper into their experience, or to offer a different angle.

Though sessions can look very different, one thing that is consistent and that I do every time is to meditate on loving kindness. This helps me to stay connected to those feelings and for my actions to come from that place.

The session itself and the relationship between myself and the journeyer is a continually evolving and living thing. I will always speak with the journeyer beforehand about our interaction and the level of touch they are comfortable with, but I also make it clear that this is not fixed. In therapy, the biggest part of the healing process can be that of the relationship between the therapist and the patient, and likewise this can be said of that between the journeyer and the guide.

During the session, if someone then feels like they actually would like a hand to hold or a hug, then of course I am there. Conversely, they may feel like they would prefer to be left alone and would like some space. I will always honor them and their needs. This type of ongoing communication is a key aspect, and requires me to stay malleable and open to whatever may arise. Indeed, someone asking for help and receiving it, or setting a boundary and having it respected, can be a very empowering and healing thing itself within the session.

Intuition plays such a large role in tripsitting and effective facilitation is truly an art. Though certain knowledge is useful, it is not something that could be written up as a set of rules like: sit quietly and still, hold a hand if they start breathing heavily, hug them if they start crying.

I try to assess the needs of the session by feeling and intuiting on a moment-to-moment basis. Presence is important in this aspect and this is why a key part of my ongoing development as a facilitator is my meditation practice. As well as a training to develop my presence, another part of my meditation practice is to go into feelings. I find that this part helps to evolve how I tap into intuition. In other words, to get out of my own way and out of my head. There may be times when the voice of the ego or doubt comes up and this is where discernment is needed, to see what is needed to be done rather than what I want to do. This is certainly not something I have mastered by any means; I am a continuing student in this process. Indeed, the more that I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.

Working with people as a facilitator is an honour and of all the things that I do, it requires the most of me. A session or ceremony for me is like a cup final. I feel that I need to be as close as I can to my A game and in the best condition I can be. Nothing else I do requires the same level of care or presence. It is humbling to have such trust placed in me and of all my work, sitting is the thing I take most seriously. It is the moments that I have the most direct impact on people’s lives.

The psychedelic experience is an inherently wild entity and it is useful in to have a strong and steady container to contain such a thing. Having certain strict confines for a session can help to promote feelings of safety and security. This in turn will help a journeyer to relax more deeply and navigate their journey more effectively.

Part of a container can be the structure, and part of this can be agreements between journeyers and guides. Agreements may differ depending on the intention of the session and the people involved. For example, if you are doing a group journey with friends, agreements will probably be more relaxed than those of a 1-1 session with a hired guide.

Leo Zeff’s Agreements

Leo Zeff was a pioneer of psychedelic therapy and the subject of the book The Secret Chief Revealed. In this book, he shares five agreements that he had with all of his patients:

1. They will not leave the house where we’re having the trip at any time during the trip without prior clearance from me.

 

2. They agree that there will be no physical harm or violence to themselves or to me or to anything else in the house.

 

3. Reiteration of the security requirement. They agree they will not reveal to anybody else where and with whom they had this trip without prior clearance from me, ever.

 

4. I ask them to agree—now if this is a woman or somebody gay—I ask them to agree that there will be no sex taking place between us. I’ll explain the background for these agreements in a minute.

 

5. The last one I ask them to agree is that at any time during the trip if anything is going on and I tell them to stop it, stop doing it, and I make clear, “This is under structure; it’s not just a recommendation or suggestion,” they agree that they will stop it. Or if I tell them to do something and I make clear it’s under structure they agree that they will do it.”

You might also have other agreements or rules in place to contain the experience, such as the journeyer turning their phone off and handing it to you for safekeeping until the day after.

You might also ritualise them somehow, by shaking hands, or having everyone say ‘I agree’. It can be good to say them out loud and have an express verbal agreement before the start of the session, or in certain circumstances it may be appropriate to have certain agreements written down on a piece of paper and signed. 

If you are working as a guide, it is good practice to have agreements in place so that your journeyer can rest assured that certain boundaries will not be crossed, helping to create an emotionally safe space for the session.

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The Secret Chief Revealed is available as a PDF on the MAPS website here. Tam Integration also wrote a piece about Zeff’s agreements you can find here.

Tripsitting friends can be complicated. When you have a specialist tripsitter or psychedelic guide that you pay for, much like with a therapist, the relationship is clear. There will probably be clear agreements in place about how your relationship is and how your interaction will be.

However, having a friend to tripsit can have the upside of being easier to organise, it already being someone that you trust, and also being a cheaper option. Personally I think it can be a good option, but it can be murky. The relationship already has personal history, and you should proceed with caution if you and a friend are going to go this way.

Before a couple of years ago most of my own therapeutic style psychedelic sessions were either solo or with a professional. Since then I have tripsit dozens of times for friends and have also had friends sit for me. This experience has taught me about what can be a complex dynamic of sessions with friends.

Here are three guidelines I’ve found helpful to keep in mind when sitting for a friend:

1. Treat it as if its your own trip

Don’t underestimate your responsibility as a tripsitter, even if its ‘just’ a friend. Something I always remind myself before sitting anyone is that I need to be prepared to hold them crying in my arms that day. You should be ready for that.

So treat the session with the respect that you would as if it was your own session. Make sure to arrive well rested. I really emphasise this point. If you are tired, it will hinder your ability to be really present and receptive to your friend. Being even a little tired can make us cranky and a worse version of ourselves. Needless to say we should be aiming to be at our very best, not for us, but for them.

Be sure to have cleared your schedule. I’d also recommend putting your phone on airplane mode for the duration of the session.

I see the tripsitter’s role as going on the journey with the journeyer, even if they are not taking any psychedelic substance. We are are still going with them, alongside them. If we follow the analogy of the guide being ground control in the airport tower, would you want your ground control to be distracted or answering a text message whilst you fly high? Doing appropriate clearing beforehand will allow you to be present.

Trip-sitting itself can be psychedelic and this should be borne in mind.

2. Be the most allowing version of yourself as the friend

That might sound strange. Let me explain. Relationships with friends can hugely diverse in terms of the ways we treat each other and the roles we play. The relationship can change hugely depending on the mood and the day. Sometimes we might tease and make fun of each other, others peaceful and chill. We might also enjoy having heated discussions and debates, each trying to prove our point.

When it comes to sitting, I recommend treating your friend as if they’d just received some awful news, had a really tough day, or are going through a really tough time.

Be openhearted and listen to them.

“There are three things you can do to heal someone. The first is to listen, the second is to listen, and the third is to listen.”

Listen to them. Really be a good listener. Hear what they have to say. Don’t start debates or discussions. Allow them space to speak, and when they don’t speak, don’t try to fill the space, allow it. Space is often where the magic happens, let it be.

If they say something which triggers you or you find yourself wanting to respond to ‘correct’ them. Just WAIT.

Some Do Nots:

  • Don’t challenge what they are saying or disagree with them
  • Don’t tell them they are wrong or correct them
  • Don’t try to convince them of your philosophy, or espouse yours to them

If you don’t understand their viewpoint, be patient, and take a moment to try and understand before any response. Approach with a genuine curiosity. Act as if they know something that you don’t. Use questions to help yourself reach their viewpoint, rather than using questions to get them to reach yours. 

What they need will come from within them, not from you telling them conclusions that you’ve already come to.

Being open, gentle and loving doesn’t mean being serious or inauthentically lovey dovey. It means being patient and sensitive to the depths and dimensions of them. You can still smile and be light.

I would recommend these guidelines regardless of how they are behaving and how fine they might seem. Even if they are joking or smiling, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still in a vulnerable and sensitive state. Some people joke around to hide their pain. Words or gestures, even a subtle tone of voice or body language, can have an big impact and be received like thrown weapons. Be mindful and sensitive.

If they are full of energy and joy and flying high, you don’t need to bring them back to earth. They will come back down on their own time.

3. Don’t skip to the end

Sitting requires a lot of patience and after sitting quietly for hours, it can be tempting to hurry back to your more usual way of relating as friends. This might include teasing, challenging etc. However, in the hours and days following a session there can still be subtle shifts ongoing. We can still very opened up, vulnerable and open to change. As research has shown, there is an increased neuroplasticity during the two weeks following an experience and this is a crucial phase of the integration process.

So try to follow 2. and continue being the most allowing version of yourself as a friend even after the effects of the drug have worn off. Doing that for a whole two weeks might seem a lot, so maybe try at least for the rest of the day and the day after.

The best thing you can do as a tripsitter, and as a friend, is to be accepting of whatever arises

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I have some more concrete practices to follow for friends organising to tripsit for each other but am out of writing time for today. If you’d like to see them, share this post and if I see some interest I’ll cover them in another one soon. Good day!

buddha statue forest

What makes a good tripsitter? Is it being caring and kind? Or is it more important for a psychedelic guide to be knowledgable and trustworthy? Today I will introduce and look at others’ work on the topic, drawing from 6 resources, and finish with a few thoughts of my own. This will be a broad overview rather than an in depth exploration, and I hope that you’ll be stimulated and inspired to learn more.

John Hopkins Psilocybin Study

Two tripsitters and a journeyer in a research setting at Johns Hopkins.

The resources featured in this post:

1. Six Competencies Of A Psychedelic Therapist – Janis Phelps
2. Suggestions For The Guide – The Guild Of Guides
3. The Psychedelic Experience – Leary, Metzner, Alpert
4. Manual For Psychedelic Guides – Mark Haden
5. LSD Psychotherapy – Stanislav Grof
6. Tripsitting Workshop – Marc Aixala

Use Of Terms | Guide Vs. Facilitator Vs. Therapist

A small clarification before I begin. The title of this post uses the word guide and this term is often used interchangeably with facilitator, space holder, tripsitter and even therapist. With the field of psychedelic therapy growing, the word therapist is being used increasingly and there is dispute about how and when it can or should be used. While the role of a psychedelic facilitator can be very different to that of a clinical therapist, I’m not going to explore that difference today – that’s another post for another day. This piece is to stimulate ideas and develop discussion.

OK so let’s take a look.

Six Competencies Of A Psychedelic Therapist – Janis Phelps

Janis Phelps Psychedelic Therapist

Janis Phelps is a clinical psychologist and the founder and director of the Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). In her paper Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists (Journal Of Humanistic Psychology, 2017), Janis Phelps outlines six competencies:

1: Empathetic Abiding Presence
2: Trust Enhancement
3: Spiritual Intelligence
4: Knowledge of the Physical and Psychological Effects of Psychedelics
5: Therapist Self-Awareness and Ethical Integrity
6: Proficiency in Complementary Techniques

This paper is an excellent resource and must read for any psychedelic therapist in training. You can read the paper online here:
Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists

Janis Phelps Psychedelic Therapist skills guide

You can also watch her talk on youtube:
Training The Next Generation Of Psychedelic Therapists

Suggestions For The Guide – The Guild Of Guides

Early on in James Fadiman’s classic book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, there is a section attributed to The Guild Of Guides titled Suggestions For The Guide.

fadiman psychedelic explorers guide cover

It states the essential prerequisites are:

  • Compassion

  • Intuition

  • Loving kindness

In addition to those qualities, it is valuable to have basic knowledge in:

  • the range of possible effects
  • the basic principles of various spiritual traditions
  • a sense of how and when to share useful ideas and concepts

The importance of remaining centered is also highlighted.

Remaining Centered:

“The more centered you are as a guide, the more effective you will be. The more you know about yourself and whomever you are guiding, the more likely you are to be able to stay centered and tranquil throughout the session. When you yourself are more comfortable, it will be easier for the voyager to transition from one state of awareness to another. After reviewing hundreds of sessions in different settings, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) concluded, in most situations, that a voyager became distressed when the guide had become unsettled, uncertain or upset.”

The Psychedelic Experience – Leary, Metzner, Alpert

In their own classic, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, Leary, Metzner and Alpert have a section on The Psychedelic Guide.

Psychedelic Experience Tibetan Manual Leary Alpert Metzner

Here they mention a couple of key factors:

  • Ability to turn off own ego and social games; particularly to muffle his/her own power needs and fears.
  • Considerable experience in psychedelic sessions himself and in guiding others.

They even go on to say that it is unethical and dangerous to administer psychedelics without personal experience.

It is also stated that the guide should be;

  • Relaxed
  • Solid
  • Accepting
  • Secure

“The guide must remain passively sensitive and intuitively relaxed for several hours. maintaining a state of alert quietism in which he is poised with ready flexibility. The guide must never be bored, talkative, intellectualizing. He must remain calm during the long periods of swirling mindlessness.”

A useful analogy is also used, likening the guide to ground control.

ground control tower

“He is the ground control in the airport tower. Always there to receive messages and queries from high-flying aircraft. Always ready to help navigate their course, to help them reach their destination. An airport-tower operator who imposes his own personality, his own games upon the pilot is unheard of. The pilots have their own flight plan, their own goals, and ground control is there, ever waiting to be of service. The pilot is reassured to know that an expert who has guided thousands of flights is down there, available for help. But suppose the flier has reason to suspect that ground control is harboring his own motives and might be manipulating the plane toward selfish goals. The bond of security and confidence would crumble.”

Manual For Psychedelic Guides – Mark Haden

The Manual For Psychedelic Guides is a newer manual and the first draft surfaced online earlier this year. As a newer manual, it’s up to date and looks at important concepts in the field of psychedelic therapy such as inner healing intelligence and the non-directive approach. It references other works that have been mentioned here and is one of the best resources I’ve seen. There is a lot in there so I’ll just include a few things here.

psychedelic treatment guide mark Haden manual draft cover

Presence

“Your full presence is instrumental during preparatory meetings, on the day the participant ingests the medicine, during the integration follow-up meeting, and beyond the study sessions.”

Haden emphasizes the importance of being present and describes it as a skill that can be practiced, developed, and further cultivated. The section Skills Of Being A Psychedelic Guide is included to help the reader grow in their ability to be present through the range of experiences that both the guide and participant may encounter.

“When you are fully present, you consciously and compassionately share the present moment with another; and you believe in and affirm this person’s potential for wholeness, wherever they are in those moments.”

buddha statue forest

Qualities Of Guides

In the section Qualities of Guides, adapted from Karen Coopers’ Guide Manual, many qualities and types of knowledge are listed. 

A Knowledgable, Skilled and Wise guide:

  • Knows when not to intervene, and knows when and how to assist the process.
  • Has a full appreciation for being alive, lives a meaningful life, understands that we are all “wounded healers”, knows some of the agonies and ecstasies of human existence.
  • Has an understanding of the pharmacology and expected or possible effects of the medicine.
  • Trusts both the psychedelic medicine and the participant’s internal healer to find the process of healing for the participant.
  • Has the ability to stay relaxed and grounded in the presence of intense anxiety and other emotions that may be expressed emotionally or physically.

Experiential Knowledge:

  • Has appreciation for the mystery of their own being.
  • Has awareness of content beyond the ego.
  • Understands awe/respect toward transcendence.
  • Understands that encounters with transcendence can be meaningful, significant and life-transforming.
  • Maintains the ability to remain objective; uses discernment rather than judgment.
  • Is able to avoid using labels such as “psychosis” or “freaking out”, and is able to respond mindfully to observed behaviours and perceptions.
  • Has an ability to shift between mode of scientist and mode of poet and compassionate presence, drawing on each as appropriate.
  • Appreciates that sessions are like a piece of art created in collaboration with the participant.

The following are also included and have their own short sections:

  • Knowledge of the Human Mind When Seen Through the Lens of Psychedelics
  • Knowledge of the Power and Importance of Human Relationships
  • Appreciation for Human Suffering

An updated version of the manual will be published soon and I will update this post with a link as soon when it is. Until then you can find the draft online here.

LSD Psychotherapy – Stanislav Grof

Czech psychiatrist Stan Grof is one of the most influential figures in psychedelic therapy. In the chapter Critical Variables in LSD Therapy, Grof includes sections on pharmacological effects, the personality of the subject, and set and setting. There is also a section on the personality of the therapist or guide where he lists important factors in successful LSD therapy.

stan grof lsd psychotherapy cover

Important factors of the therapist:

  • Human and professional interest
  • Clinical experience and therapeutic skill
  • Personal security
  • Freedom from anxiety
  • Current physical and mental condition

It is also noted that it is absolutely essential, prior to the administration of LSD, that the therapist:

  • examine his or her own motivation and attitudes toward the subject
  • try to establish a good working relationship
  • clarify the transference / counter-transference situation

Transference / Countertransference

Having an awareness of transference and counter-transference and how to respond to that is a key part of a therapist’s job. You can find a useful introduction to these concepts in a post here:

Transference vs. Countertransference: What’s the big deal? – Therapist Development Center

Other important themes in Grof’s work:

Trust

“Probably the single most important element determining the nature of an LSD experience is the feeling of safety and trust on the part of the experient. This is […] critically dependent on the presence or absence of the guide, his or her personal characteristics, and the nature of the relationship between the subject and this person.”

He continues:

“Trust is essential to the participant letting go of their defenses and surrendering to the psychedelic process. The ability to establish trust is naturally an important attribute for a guide.”

Personal experience [with psychedelics] Is Imperative

lsd tabs acid psychedelic

‘[…] the therapist has to have special training that involves personal experiences with the drug. […] It is impossible for the future LSD therapist to acquire deeper understanding of the process without first hand exposure. Reading about psychedelic experiences, attending seminars and lectures, or even witnessing sessions of other people can only convey a superficial and inadequate knowledge”

Grof explains how personal sessions have another important function:

“… they offer an opportunity to work through one’s own areas of conflict and problems on various levels. Some of the crucial issues that a future LSD therapist has to confront remain essentially untouched in most forms of conventional therapy. Fear of death, total loss of control, and the specter of insanity can be mentioned here as salient examples.”

You can buy the book here.

Tripsitting Workshop – Marc Aixalà

In 2017, I attended a tripsitting workshop by Marc Aixalà, a health psychologist who coordinates support and integration services at ICEERS and who subsequently went on to provide training to the research team at Imperial College London.

As has been mentioned in many of the other guides, Marc emphasized that one’s approach as a caring and supportive human being is more important to the outcome of the experience than any techniques employed. Effective sitting requires:

  • Intuition

  • Compassion

  • Self-awareness

He is another who has highlighted the importance of presence. Marc also shared desirable attributes for a care giver during a session:

marc tripsitting attributes of caregiver

At the workshop, and also echoed in an article on integration on chacruna, Marc underlined the importance of facilitators having worked on their own power, money, and sex issues.

Final Thoughts

It is my belief that anyone aspiring to become a psychedelic guide should first look deeply at their motivations for wanting to do so. After that, I believe that for anyone wishing to carry out this meaningful work, a certain level of dedication to personal and professional development should be employed. When dealing with people in such sensitive and vulnerable states, I think this is work beyond that of a hobbyist or amateur.

Gaining Experience

I hope this post has been useful and has given some ideas for further reading.  In the end, however, knowledge should be coupled with practice and experience. Whilst I do believe that theoretical frameworks and certain specified knowledge provide a good foundation, they should be used as a ground for establishing a practice or course of applied learning. I mention this to say that I don’t believe it is enough to read all the resources here and listen to talks and then believe you can be a psychedelic facilitator. I encourage any hopeful facilitators to seek out development through a personal practice and relevant experience working with others where one can cultivate the qualities and characteristics mentioned in the works here. 

Meditation As A Practice

In my personal experience, I have found a meditation practice to have been a huge help in cultivating presence, calmness, patience and acceptance; attributes that seem to come up again and again as beneficial to have as a facilitator. The ability to remain calm yet attentive is something that has been directly applicable and useful in sitting for psychedelic sessions.

buddha statue shadow meditation

To finish, I’d like to share a relevant quote from psychedelic researcher and Buddhist practitioner Rick Strassman from his chapter in the excellent Zig Zag Zen.

“Supervising sessions is called “sitting,” usually believed to come from “baby-sitting” people in a highly dependent and, at times, confused and vulnerable state. But, in our minds, Buddhist practice is as relevant a source for the term. Our research nurse and I did our best to practice meditation while with our volunteers: watching the breath, being alert, eyes open, ready to respond, keeping a bright attitude, and getting out of the way of the volunteer’s experience. This method is very similar to what Freud called “evenly suspended attention,” performed by a trained psychoanalyst who provided support by a mostly silent but present sitting by one’s side. I experienced this type of listening and watching as similar to Zen meditation.”
Rick Strassman | Psychedelic Researcher | “DMT Dharma” – Zig Zag Zen.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think makes a good psychedelic facilitator? What practices and experience do you think can help cultivate the qualities that make a good psychedelic guide? How much personal experience with psychedelics is necessary? Do you know of any other good resources on the topic that I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.