Tag Archive for: how to

learn how why to use psychedelics

I honestly believe that learning how to use psychedelics is one of the most useful skills one can learn.

You may have heard psychedelics being called a technology or a tool. They are sometimes referred to as a technology for exploration and growth. Beyond those more abstract terms, they can also be very practical in terms of personal and lifestyle change. For me, at this point in my life, they have been the most useful tool for personal development that I have come across. For many other people too.

Why doesn’t everyone spend time learning how to utilise this magnificent technology?

To me, not learning how to best utilise psychedelics to leverage positive change and improvement, is like not learning how to use a computer. Why would anyone deprive themselves of such a skill?

The technology can open doors that were never open before, it can open up possibilities that simply weren’t there. When it comes to using such remarkable technology, I believe investing some time and energy is absolutely worthwhile. 

What does it mean to learn how to use psychedelics?

There are certain ways of using psychedelics which can make them more useful, ways of working with them which can increase the likelihood of bringing about desired results. One could call this, as Bill Richards does in Sacred Knowledge, ‘skilled use’. 

Learning to use psychedelics can mean both going deeper and broader. 

Broader means learning how to use them for different applications. Perhaps you’ve learned a particular method of use, with a specific purpose in mind. The purpose might be healing, creativity, or connecting with nature. The method might be a specific way of using them, such as the psychedelic therapy style method. Broadening would mean learning different methods, for a wider range of purposes.

Going deeper means learning how to use them more effectively. This includes careful consideration and utilisation of things like: intention, dose, ritual, music, preparation, navigation, set, setting, and integration. These might include tips, tricks and best practices. This also includes developing personalised methods and approaches that best suit different individuals. 

How to learn

Like almost anything, the best way to learn how to use psychedelics is through a combination of knowledge and practice. You read a manual or guide, then you have a go at using the technology based on what you’ve read. You incorporate what you’ve learnt from your own experience and factor it in next time. You might go back to the guidebook, or read other ones, and eventually you might experiment with things that aren’t in any manuals. Through continued education and practice, you develop your skills and approach.

Final thoughts

Psychedelics have catalysed many positive shifts and changes in my life. They’ve lead me to meditation, gave me a firm helping hand in going vegan, aided me in quitting smoking, and gave me courage to start a pioneering business. They’ve helped me make sense of a confusing world, embark on worldwide travels, heal from personal traumas, and find meaning and purpose in my existence.

What I find so incredible is that after many years of taking psychedelics, their gifts show no sign of running out. They continue to give. And I continue to learn from them. At ten years of beautiful relationship with these magnificent wonders, I am committed to going deeper, and learning even more. I invite you to join me.

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mountain nature

Hello and welcome back for day two of PSYJuly! So, we are well and truly in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, boom, even. How do we each go about navigating this chapter in human history? Today we have Leia Friedman with a step by step guide…

How to Survive the Psychedelic Renaissance

What will they say about this moment in time 25 years down the road? 100 years? 1,000 years? Will humanity survive for that long?

Clinical trials of psychedelic therapies show promising results. Public approval of and interest in psychedelics increases by the day. More and more jurisdictions have decriminalized psychedelics, some even all drugs. Venture capital pours into the psychedelic field. 

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples face violence and a legacy of threat to their way of life from globalization, colonialism, extractive industries, climate change and more. The American public remains divided on issues of identity, equity, access and oppression. The number of suicides may match the rates we saw at the height of the Great Depression. The pandemic made it abundantly more clear that distribution of power in our human race is grossly disproportionate. Climate change charges forward, yet there is little sense of urgency to address it. 

How can we embody the psychedelic values of oneness, exploration, connection and interdependence as this psychedelic renaissance unfolds? 

From a political, social, ecological and psychological (OK, psychedological) lens, I offer some tips and prompts to help psychedelic activists, therapists, enthusiasts, researchers, and beyond as we traverse this uncharted territory. 

  • Practice nonviolent communication

Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a technique that can help us embody self-connection, honest expression, empathic presence, self-empathy, and awareness of/right use of power. Learn more about the theory here, and a foundation of the practice here

  • Do your own healing work

“We have to be called into our own healing sometimes. We have to be called out into the desert, to the wilderness, to do the work on behalf of others.”

In a podcast conversation on Finding Our Way, Lama Rod Owens, Buddhist teacher, author and activist, shares his concerns about healers not doing their own work. He quotes Whitney Houston: “show me the receipts.”

Lama Rod continues: “There are a lot of us who don’t have receipts. Who are trying to put our hands on people and heal them when in fact we’re the ones who need to be healed. It’s nothing more than a perpetuation of violence and trauma on the bodies around us.” 

Indeed, we can do more harm if we try to heal others when we ourselves have not done our own work. It can be an ongoing process, an upward spiral; invest in your own healing, especially if your intention is to help others on their healing journey.

  • Learn about and engage in accountability

Accountability is the responsibility that we each have over our own behavior, especially behavior that impacts others around us and in our community. 

Although psychedelics are regarded as having tremendous healing potential, psychedelic communities are not immune to consent violations, interpersonal and systemic harm and abuse. 

A transformative justice facilitator once told me, “we don’t hold people accountable. People get to be accountable.” It is a privilege to have the opportunity to look at our harmful behaviors and get the support needed to change, even to repair harms what we have participated in in the past. 

Before we can actually hold people accountable (or give them the chance to be accountable) in our communities and on a wider level, we need plenty of practice with accountability in our own social circles and with our trusted loved ones. 

  • Connect with nature

Have you ever taken a trip and felt the planet supporting you? Or looked at a tree and watched the leaves shimmer, felt the trunk breathing, heard the gentle hum of water moving up the roots and spreading through the branches? Nature is all around us, giving life to us, sustaining us, teaching us about ourselves. Studies (like this one and this one) have shown that psychedelics can increase our nature relatedness. This is so incredibly important, especially now as the consequences of human activity run the risk of destroying the delicate ecosystem on our spaceship, mother earth.

Side note: a carpenter ant crawled up my arm just as I finished writing this paragraph. 🙂

  • Connect with yourself

Modern society seems determined to disconnect us from ourselves. Taking time and space to connect with yourself and nurturing the connection between your body, mind and spirit is a revolutionary act. 

A guideline that I try to live by is that I am responsible for my own emotions, needs, boundaries and desires. (Side note.. It is challenging AF to actually do this). In order to uphold this commitment, I need to prioritize connecting with myself enough that I can be aware of those things and advocate for them appropriately.  

  • Know where you come from

If you have little or no connection or awareness of your ancestors, know that we all have roots that were once deeply intertwined with land and tradition. 

Through the colonization of ancient Europe over the last 2,000 years, my ancestors were separated from their traditional ways of being. Millions of “witches” were burned for working with the healing power of plants. I believe that some of my relations (and their knowledge of plant healing ways) perished in those fires. 

Rather than communing with nature, the cosmos, and the spirit and tradition of my people, I prayed to the gods of media, capitalism and superficial beauty standards for the first 24 years of my life, until I began working with psychedelics.

Studying permaculture, engaging in my own anti-racism and anti-oppression work, and sitting in tender presence with the fragility that still arises in me sometimes has been part of my process of finding belonging. Psychedelics and psychedelic community has taught me that it is never too late to come back to who I am and where I come from. It is a painful and intimidating process, but worthwhile. 

If you, too, are disconnected from your lineage, I invite you to embark on the psychedelic journey of looking back to find your roots. You may also want to explore the idea of tending to your relationship with your ancestors. 

  • Listen to, support and co-conspire with indigenous people

Many psychedelic plant medicines have been stewarded by indigenous cultures for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I offer thanks to the wisdom keepers, the water protectors and the healers. 

Have these peoples consented to the widespread use and commodification of their sacred traditions? Will the money being generated by this psychedelic gold rush actually end up back in the hands of those who we have to thank for these medicines? Can the psychedelic renaissance stop the spread of colonization and the devastation of people, land, wisdom and culture that comes with it?

I don’t know about you, but I went through 13 years of public education, 4 years of undergraduate education at a state school and 2 years of grad school and I never once learned about the genocide of indigenous people on this continent. Colonization wasn’t a word in my vocabulary until I deliberately sought to learn about it. 

Psychedelic communities must talk about colonization. Equally as important, recognize that decolonization can only be done in collaboration and alliance with indigenous peoples. Our groups, conferences, and organizations should become accurately informed about the true history of the plant medicines and the people that they come from, and committed to justice and equity as we move forward. 

If you don’t already know, learn about the land you are on because sure enough, it once was stewarded by peoples who may still be struggling for their autonomy and continued existence amidst increasing deforestation, development and destruction of the land and their ways of life. It will probably be painful to recognize the reality if you don’t see it already, so be sure to tend to your own body and nervous system as you learn how to be a better ally and co-conspirator. 

And please, listen to indigenous people. 

  • Recognize that all of these issues, including our personal traumas, can be traced back to capitalism

I believe it to be true, and I don’t have the capacity to unpack it all here. But I will say this..

If you are free, if you have access to resources, if you were born into a body that this society confers certain privileges to, let’s use that to help usher in a new era of collective liberation and healing. 

Kai Cheng Thom writes,

“I think the major difference between a social justice and a white/colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety—that safety is a resource that is simply ‘out there’ for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy. 

“I was once at a training seminar in Toronto led by a famous & beloved somatic psychologist. She spoke brilliantly. I asked her how healing from trauma was possible for people for whom violence & danger are part of everyday life. She said it was not.

“Colonial psychology & psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo in their approach to trauma: that resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society, when in fact society is the source of trauma.”

How much longer can we operate under this lie that if we just work hard enough, we’ll be safe, healed, and whole? In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “no one is free until we are all free.” Let’s embody this truth in our healing work, our organizing, and our actions.

I am a queer, white, jew-ish, middle class, college-educated cis-woman with US citizenship. I can use the privileges that I have to protect others and fight to change the conditions under which such gross inequity currently exists in our society. I can put my body on the line and use my voice to advocate for access to psychedelic therapies for people belonging to historically marginalized identities. 

Reciprocity in the Quechua language is Ayni, meaning “today for you, tomorrow for me.” In the spirit of ayni, perhaps you can support the roots of the psychedelic movement. You may be in a position to offer financial support, especially to BIPOC-led projects and organizations, and those that have meaningful relationships with indigenous and traditional plant medicine communities. Let’s stand in solidarity through activism and advocacy, not charity or pity. Check out this list of foundations and initiatives that are engaging in sacred reciprocity.

Conclusion

This blog post isn’t about how you can survive the psychedelic renaissance. It’s about how we, as one human family, can survive and thrive, together in balance with the rest of the planet. 

The more that I do this work, the more I feel my ancestors encouraging me and guiding me in the directions of my own continued healing, and toward that fulfilling the dream of a collective liberation and belonging for all beings. 

May we thank the plants, animals, and fungi, and give back their right to take up space and thrive. 

May we all put our efforts toward achieving balance again. 

May we look within ourselves and find belonging. 

May we look at each other and see common humanity in the shared struggles, hope and dreams reflected back to us. 

May we contribute to a culture of freedom, agency and reciprocity, where all people can access nourishing food, clean water, good medicine, and room to grow, play and explore. 

May we all vision and manifest the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. 

May all the beings in all the world be happy, peaceful and free. 

About Leia

Leia Friedman loves to connect the dots as a teacher, writer, and permaculturist. Born and raised in Lowell, MA, Leia obtained her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Rivier University and worked as an in home therapist before psychedelics turned her world inside out. She is now a psychedelic integration facilitator, a student in psychedelic somatic interactional psychotherapy (PSIP), a trainee in restorative and transformative approaches to conflict, a budding herbalist, and the host of a podcast called The Psychedologist: consciousness positive radio. Leia holds her permaculture design certificate from Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training, a program that emphasizes social permaculture and spirituality in regenerative land care. Leia has written for Wiley Encyclopedia, Psymposia, Lucid News, Psychable and DoubleBlind on topics relating to consciousness through the lens of social and environmental justice. You can find her teetering on a slack line in Costa Rica, up to her elbows in dirt from working in the garden, or nose in her laptop, grading papers for her psychology students.

Mystical. Peak. Transcendent. Religious. Whichever term you’ve heard, I’m talking about something exceptional and profound – the type of experience that ranks as one of most the meaningful in life.

“The emotional reaction in the peak experience has a special flavor of wonder, of awe, of reverence, of humility and surrender before the experience as before something great.”
– Abraham Maslow 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that peak experiences are characteristic of psychological health and play an important role in self-actualization – right at the top of his famous hierarchy. These experiences are typically spiritual in nature and are often followed by therapeutic after effects or dramatic personal growth.

abraham maslow hierarchy needs psychedelic psychology

Planning A Mystical Experience

Psychedelics, AKA entheogens – ancient Greek for ‘generating the divine within’ – can facilitate mystical experiences more reliably than any other currently known method (seeing the earth from space also seems fairly reliable but this is currently even less accessible than psychedelics). There is recent research to support this relationship, though it should be remembered that these trials are done in highly controlled settings – and I believe a methodological approach helps to increase the chances of such an experience.

So this is a guide to set you up for a soul-stirring, therapeutic, sacred, self-actualizing trip. Its a compilation drawn from my own experience and practices drawn from a few sources. You can find a list at the end.

This guide includes:

  • Preparation: Checklist + Weeks and Days Before
  • Navigation: What to do during the trip, and in difficult moments
  • Integration: What to do the day after, how to begin to integrate insights

Dosage
 psilocybin psilocin capsules shrooms magic mushrooms

The smaller the dose, the less likely a mystical experience. Psychedelic research has shown a clear correlation between a larger dose and a more complete mystical experience. They also found that the more complete the mystical experience, the more benefit the recipient had to their psychological wellbeing (on scores of depression and anxiety). However, if you don’t have much experience with psychedelics I don’t recommend going for a big dose for your first time. Better to become somewhat familiar with them and figure out your tolerance and reaction.
For most people a breakthrough dose will be:

4-6 grams dried mushrooms
30-55 grams fresh psilocybin truffles
200-300 micrograms LSD

Check Erowid for peyote and San Pedro.

Preparation

There are two general aims for the preparation of your trip:
1. To have you approach the trip well rested, in good health, and with a positive state of mind.
2. To get you thinking about your life in a larger context.

Checklist

You will need:

  • 2 full days free. One day for the trip + the day after. The day before too, if possible. For the trip day you should be totally free and fine to switch your phone off and effectively disappear from the world.
  • A comfortable, private indoor space (totally private for 1 day). Somewhere you feel safe.
  • Device to play music e.g. ipod, laptop, CD player. (I recommend digital player for ease of use)
  • Good pair of headphones
  • Eye mask or blindfold
  • Photos for ‘picture trip’

The Picture Trip

[The ‘picture trip’ is a technique that was employed by a pioneer of psychedelic therapy, Leo Zeff. This is adapted from the book about Leo and his methods, The Secret Chief Revealed.]

Before the trip you will need to gather some photos. These photos will be a history of your life.

picture trip pictures photos

Pictures To Gather:

  • Yourself, one at age two and one every two years thereafter through adolescence, up to adulthood.
  • Two pictures each of your mother, father and any siblings; one when they were young but you can still remember them, and a recent one.
  • Pictures of any other family members that are or were significant in your life.
  • A picture of your husband/wife, or any woman or man who has had great significance in your life. Lovers, current or past. If you’re married, wedding pictures.
  • If you have children, a picture of them when they were about two years old, and a recent one.
  • Any other significant pictures. Any pictures with an emotional charge.

As you go through your photos to find these, spend some time looking through your photo collection. Spend a few moments with each photo, looking at it and seeing what you feel with each one. If any memories or feelings come up, sit with them and see where they go. When you come across a picture for the picture trip, put it aside. Try to do this no further away than a week before the trip, as close to the time of the trip as you can.

The Sitter

Decide if you want a sitter – someone to keep an eye on you and help you through any difficult periods should they arise. It might be easier to let go completely if you know you have someone there to take care of you, or you may prefer to be alone.

John Hopkins Psilocybin Study

Research setting for a study into the effects of psilocybin at John Hopkins University.

If you decide on a sitter, choose someone you trust. Agree the date with that person ahead of time. You’ll only need them for the trip day, but they should be free from the time you begin until the end of the day. They might not have to do much but assure you of your safety and be there for you.

If for whatever reason you’re going ahead without a sitter, I’d recommend spending more time learning the basics of meditation.

The Weeks Before

Learn the basics in meditation

The ability to relax and let go is key when it comes to the more intense parts of the session and important in maximizing the therapeutic aspect of your trip. For this reason, having some familiarity with some basic techniques of meditation will be enormously helpful – its practice in how to calmly observe your current reality without resistance. It will help you to open yourself to the experience rather than resisting, and go deeper, moving past blocks.

Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day for the two weeks leading up to your trip.

meditate mindfulness

Especially important if you don’t have a sitter as in the absence of someone else to help relax and reassure you, you’ll need to relax yourself. If you have the time and the inclination, a silent course is the best way become well versed with meditation quickly.

Otherwise a good place to start is the free app Insight. There are also other apps and plenty of guided meditation resources online.

Think About Your Intentions

Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish or gain from the experience? Be honest with yourself. Having a clear intention doesn’t mean that it’ll be fulfilled but it’s important in framing the experience.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

journal notepad write notes

Write down 5 things you are grateful for everyday in the week leading up to your trip. It can be as small or profound as you like, from ‘nice weather today’ or ‘a delicious lunch’ to ‘family’ or ‘health’. Sit with the feeling of gratitude that it brings for a minute.

Check medication

If you’re taking medication, make sure there are no possible adverse interactions with these medications and the substance you’re taking. If you’re taking medication for a something that can be managed by lifestyle changes – exercise, weight loss, diet adjustments, quitting alcohol, tobacco, caffeine – try these first to see if some of the medications may no longer be necessary. For these processes, see your doctor.

The Days Before

Prepare your playlist and music player

Generally it’s recommended to use instrumental or world music with lyrics that are unintelligible as understandable lyrics can be distracting and limit the experience. Ambient and classical music are good general recommendations. You can make a playlist for the whole trip, or you can have all songs and albums that you might want ready and easily accessible on your player. Be sure to have at least 8 hours of music ready and allow for passages of at least 45 minutes where you don’t need to change or put on more music.

ipod music phone headphones

Listening to relaxing music in the initial phase is a nice way to help calm yourself when the substance is taking effect and you’re coming up. Save more intense tracks for later.

Links for ideas:
How To Pick Music For People On LSD, From A Scientist Whose Job That Is
Sacred Knowledge: Hopkins Playlist For Psilocybin Studies

Full playlists from the scientists working in psychedelic research:
Mendel’s Kaelen’s Psilocybin Playlists on Spotify: Therapy Playlist 1 | Playlist 2
Mendel Kaelen Psilocybin playlist 1 on Mixcloud
Bill Richards psilocybin playlist | SpotifyiTunes
Kelan Thomas psilocybin playlists on Spotify:  Playlist 1 | Playlist 2

Tidy up loose ends

Pay the overdue bill, send those emails and make those phone calls you’ve been putting off.

Check in with loved ones

Call or go see those most important to you.

The Day Before

Prepare Food
Get some snacks ready. Nuts, seeds and fruits are good as maintaining a steady blood sugar level is ideal. Prepare your dinner and have it waiting for you in the fridge. Simplicity for tomorrow is the aim here.

Walk in Nature
The fresh air and nature will help clear your mind.

walk nature

Understand Your Intentions
Revisit and clarify your intentions.

Avoid alcohol and spicy or greasy food
To ensure good quality sleep and a settled stomach the next day. You don’t want to be dealing with a dodgy belly on the big day.

Clean your space
Hoover, wipe down surfaces, clear away clutter. 

Go to bed early and allow yourself a good nights rest
Follow the common advice for a good night’s sleep – don’t drink coffee late, have a digital sunset. If you usually have difficulty sleeping, consider some form of exercise earlier in the day.

bed bedroom sleep

The Trip Day

Switch your phone off. For all purposes you should be unavailable to the world.

Pre-trip
Have a light, healthy breakfast. Oats or a green smoothie are both good options.

Wear comfortable, clean, and loose fitting clothes. Make any final preparations to your space. Have blankets, water and snacks on hand.

sacrament chalice

Drop Ceremony
‘Ceremony’ doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just make the taking of the substance special in some way. You could wash it down with water drank from a lucky cup, or say a short prayer beforehand. Something to set this experience apart from the everyday. Make it unique.

Meditate – 10-20 minutes.

Waiting
If you are with a sitter, talk with them about your feelings, expectations, and hesitations. If you are alone, take a pad and paper and write them down.

Going Up
When you start to feel the effects, lie down and get comfortable. Put your headphones and eye mask on and start your playlist. Listen to the music and relax.

When you notice yourself tightening up or feeling nervous, relax your body and pay attention to your breath. Use what you’ve learned in meditation.

‘We regain our balance through the proper application of attention and awareness. This is the slowing down, which we can facilitate physically through relaxed, deep breathing and helps release any tension in our bodies. Once we’ve slowed ourselves down and replanted our psychic feet, it is easier to move our consciousness through the resistance or block.’
 – Preparation For The Journey; Inner Pathways To Outer Space

The Trip

The peak of the trip is where you might go through the processes by which psychological healing occurs – projection, transference, abreaction, and catharsis. To do this, be open to the experience:

Trust. Let go. Be open. Breathe. Surrender.

You may experience challenging emotions but know that this isn’t bad – this is the chance to process something you might’ve been holding back.

Remember, difficult is not bad – challenging experiences can wind up being our most valuable, and may lead to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Try to approach the fear and difficult aspects of your experience with curiosity and openness.”
– Zendo Project

Coming Down

As you feel the effects start to subside and the peak tailing off. Go sit at a table with the photos.

Picture Trip

Start with the pictures of yourself. Pick up the first picture. Just look at it and see what you experience. Look at it as long as you want to. When you’re through looking at it, put it down. If you are with a sitter you might have something to say. Say it. If not, you don’t have to say anything. Put it down and go on to the next picture.

Through this process you might record a voice memo or write some things down. These notes can be helpful later when you go back and revisit them. They will reconnect you with your whole experience.

Ending The Day

After you’ve gone through the pictures, relax. You might want to sit around and chat with your sitter or listen to some music. You might be hungry and can go and retrieve the food you’ve prepared. You might want to go for a walk outside. Perhaps you’re exhausted and ready for bed. Go, sleep well.

The Day After

This day should be left free. Leave plenty of time for recovery, reflection and integration. Take It Easy.

Sleep well. Lie in. Have a nice breakfast. Meditate. Chill. Go for a walk or listen to some music. Take some time for yourself. Do not rush back into chores or your daily routine, no matter how tempting it is or how pressing those concerns seem to be. They can wait. The return to familiarity might seem appealing but you should have time to relax and process your experience.

When you feel ready…

Write It Down

Take a pen and paper and write about your trip.

  • What did you experience? (You may prefer to draw or paint this)
  • What does it mean?
  • Did you learn anything?
  • Did you experience any insights or revelations?

Hopefully you were able to learn something of value that you can take with you and apply to your life. With any insights fresh in your mind, you can start to…

Look Forward

  • How can you apply them to your life?
  • What can you do to live what you’ve learnt?

Try to think of some actionable steps you can take. Making a plan can be helpful to implement a new attitude or lifestyle change you want to adopt. Whatever it is you need to do, write it down and make a commitment to follow through with it. It doesn’t have to be big or extensive, any kind of framework to help you move forward is good. Starting a course of change can be tough but a plan with small steps will help. When you want to be reconnected to your experience, revisit any notes or voice memos you’ve made. Don’t expect total transformation overnight, go bit by bit.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
– Lao Tzu

I hope you’re ready for the next chapter. The real trip starts now – it’s life.

In the weeks and months following a powerful experience it may be beneficial to have some people you can talk about your experience with. If that’s not possible with people already in your life, it might be useful to find a local psychedelic integration circle or communityI wish you the best of luck.

References & Resources:

Books:
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron J. Stolarof
Inner Paths To Outer Space – Rick Strassman et al. (Chapter: Preparation For The Journey)
– The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic & Sacred Journeys – James Fadiman

Online:
How To Have A Mystical Experience: A Research Based Guide – Freedom & Fulfilment

The Zendo Project

Finding Psychedelic Community:
Psychedelic.Community
3 Ways You Can Engage With Psychedelic Community – The Third Wave

meditation salar de uyuni salt flats bolivia

Looking to deepen your meditation practice? Here are 10 ideas…meditation salar de uyuni salt flats bolivia

1. Make It a Daily Practice

If meditation isn’t yet a daily practice, make it one. I can’t emphasise the importance of consistency enough. Making it a daily habit is the best thing you can do for your practice over the long term. Make a 100% commitment to it and don’t leave it as a choice, make it an obligation. If you struggle to find time, then you should actively schedule time for it.

If a day comes thats just full of obstacles, then shorten the meditation, just don’t skip it. If it’s that desperate just sit for 2 minutes (but really, you can’t spare 10-20 minutes?). This way you will still retain the habit of sitting down and taking the time for yourself. It will become a habit rather than a chore and will become a regular part of your day. When you have to brush your teeth, do you ever think ‘but I don’t have time today’ or ‘I’m too tired’ – no, you just do it because you always do it. Make it so with meditation. The best way to form the habit is commit to a month without skipping a day.

  • When you do miss a day… don’t miss the next!
    If you do miss a day – because hey, you’re human – make absolutely sure that you don’t miss the next day. The next day is crucial to make sure you get straight back to it and don’t allow a run of missed days to form. Accept the missed day and just like you’d bring yourself back to your point of focus during a meditation, bring yourself back to your practice: calmly and smilingly.

2. Have a Meditation Buddy

Having a friend that you meditate with is a tremendous way to support your practice. When I first started meditating in China I was lucky enough to have a close friend who was also just starting to learn at that time. We went to classes together, exchanged tips and shared our experiences on the learning curve. We lent each other books on the topic and meditated together after work before going out for noodles. At the time we were both working as teachers at the same school and when we both had a long enough break between classes we’d take an empty classroom and sit for 20 minutes. We turned out to be a great support to each other and both of our practices were strengthened because of our influence on each other.

dsc00838-1

  • Alternatively, your meditation buddy doesn’t have to be someone you physically meditate with, it could be an accountability buddy. You can check in with each other regularly to make sure you are both keeping it up.

3. Create a Dedicated Spot For Meditation

Set up a ‘meditation space’ in your home. It could be anything from a small spot with cushions on the floor to a particular room with an altar. Ideally this space will be used exclusively for meditation and you will not do any other activity there. The physical segregation will create a ‘safe haven’ and this will help your mind to settle down more quickly and allow you to go deeper with each meditation.

4. Read a Book About Meditation Or Mindfulness

Each time I read a book about meditation or a related topic my awareness gets a little boost because I’m getting reminders and calls to awareness whilst reading – and I could be doing this anywhere (commuting, in the park, before bed). I’m generally more aware of the mind and its wanderings and I ‘catch’ and therefore place my mind, far more often. When reading you also learn new techniques and get new insights into the practice of meditation, deepending your understanding and expanding your practice. Thich Nhat Hanh’s books have been hugely influential in extending my mindfulness from my formal meditation to daily life and everyday tasks.

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Photo by Amber Metcalfe

Two Books I’d Recommend

5. Do a Course Or Silent RetreatIMG_2869 (3)

Doing a course is a surefire way to boost your practice. You will get the time and mental space you need to do serious meditation. Escaping the distractions and frenzy of the modern world will enable you to develop your level your focus and you will almost certainly learn something new about the technique of meditation as well. Moreover, after an intensive period of meditation it seems much easier to extend the duration of your daily meditations and integrate it further into your life. I have done temple stays and meditation courses and if you are serious about meditation then one course I’d happily recommend is the 10 day vipassana meditation course – I even convinced my Dad to do one. They’re available all over the world and there’s lots of info online. You can read my advice about how to make the most of a 10 day course here.

6. Join a Weekly Group

Like meditating with a friend, meditating with a group can be a superb boost to your practice. It’s a great way to meet other meditators and a place where you can share your experiences and receive support. Having a weekly appointment in a set time and place is a great way to make meditation into a fun and sociable event on your calendar and mixes up your practice helping to keep it fresh.

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Meditation groups can be found almost anywhere- I’ve attended meditation groups while I’ve been based in China, Spain and Korea and they’ve helped me in many ways. I’ve often found the quality of my meditation was improved when sitting with a group and others said the same. Groups are great for learning different techniques of meditation and meeting new people in the process. Search online for a group and if you can’t find one, try starting one yourself, all it takes is setting up a facebook group.

7. Meditate For Longer When You Can

Yes, I’ve banged on about the importance of consistency and cementing the habit. Shorter and daily is better than longer and less frequently. But it doesn’t always have to be shorter, meditate for a little longer when you can. If you normally meditate for 5 minutes a day but on Sundays have more time and an easier schedule, then meditate for 20 minutes. You’ll likely notice a difference in the meditation.

8. Integrate Mindfulness In To Your Life

The aim of meditation isn’t to become skilled at watching the breath for 20 minutes a day, it’s to become more aware of our minds and lives. Mindfulness is basically meditation in a non-formal setting and is the practice being aware of where your mind is when you aren’t sat down in a quiet spot with your eyes closed. While mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and anytime, it will be much easier in the beginning to practice during activities that are done alone and that can be done slowly: taking a shower, brushing your teeth, taking a walk, eating. Choose one or two of these, and everytime you do that particular activity, make it an exercise in mindfulness, a mini-meditation if you will.

Mindfulness really can be extended to anything. Just like meditation, it is the practice of choosing one thing, your anchor in the present moment, and being totally conscious of it. Simply do as you would do with a sitting meditation, but rather than using your breath or mantra as an anchor you will use the activity you are doing. Focus on the thing that you are doing, taking care to do it calmly and with all your attention. This will keep your attention in the present moment and not swept up in unrelated thoughts. Every time you notice your mind has wandered off, calmly bring it back.

9. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Do Miss it

When you’re meditating and realise you’ve drifted off in to ‘thought-land’, it’s important to retain your equanimity and calmy, smilingly bring yourself back to your point of focus. The same is true when you miss a day or fall out of rhythm with your meditation practice; it’s the same teaching on the macro level. When you realise you’ve let your regularity of practice slip or skipped a few days, don’t be annoyed at yourself or feel guilty. Calmly accept the reality and return to your practice, just as you would return to your point of focus.

10. Don’t Keep It a Secret: Come Out As a Meditator

When I first started I was a bit timid about sharing the fact that I was a meditator; I was worried about being judged and seen as a weird hippy. Despite its growth meditation still isn’t the most commonplace practice and for many people conjures images of ascetic monks and brings to mind religious practices of exotic Eastern religions. Whilst there’s no real easy way around this until perceptions change, it’s better just to be honest and open that you’re a meditator (isn’t that the case with most things?). You may be surprised to find that someone you know is interested and may even want to learn – you could even find yourself a meditation buddy.

Housemates, friends and those close to you will understand that you need that quiet time alone and it will be easier to make time to sit without worries of distraction. If your boss knows you could even ask if there’s somewhere at your place of work where you can meditate. By ‘coming out’ you’ll identify yourself as a meditator and this shift in mentality will help you to maintain your continuity of practice.

In this way you can also break the stereotype that meditation is only for buddhists and hippies. A former work colleague of mine was surprised when it came up that I meditated regularly and went to a local meditation group. It turned out that he’d already read a few articles about meditation online and was curious to try it. Upon finding out about my practice he seemed relieved and said ‘well… if normal people do it too’. (!)

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These methods have all helped me along the way and I’m sure will help you too. Do you have any tips for how to improve a meditation practice? Or maybe you can recommend a course? Post a comment below.

10 Day Vipassana meditation courses are available all over the world. This post is intended to give you an idea of what to expect on the course and, if you decide do one, to make the most of your 10 days.  Read more