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platforms of psychedelic experience

It can be hard to make sense of the mysterious experiences and unfamiliar realities we are plunged into in deep psychedelic states. For this reason it can be useful to have some kind of map of the psychedelic terrain.

In his book LSD and the Mind of the Universe, Christopher Bache follows Stan Grof in using three categories to distinguish different states of consciousness that are accessed in psychedelic and holotropic breathwork sessions. Bache calls these “platforms of experience”. The book is a treasure trove of theory for psychedelic explorers, and this post will be the third in what has unwittingly turned out to be a series of blog posts based on concepts drawn from it. 

In this post, I will give a little background on these terms and then outline the three levels based on Bache’s explanation. Bache distinguishes between three “platforms”, which he terms  psychic, subtle and causal.

The terms

ken wilber atman project

The terms psychic, subtle, and causal were first coined by Ken Wilber in his 1980 book, The Atman Project. Wilber drew from Hindu and Buddhist sources and used them to label the evolutionary stepping stones on the psycho-spiritual journey. Wilber’s model, which also included non-duality, had four stages and culminated in non-dual spiritual enlightenment. In his outline, Bache does not include non-dual as a separate state as he found it to be an inherent feature of causal consciousness. 

Stan Grof’s description was phenomenological rather than hierarchical. He didn’t use the terms to describe an ordered sequence of  levels on a path as Wilber did, but rather to distinguish coexisting dimensions of consciousness, each with its own characteristics. 

Consciousness = Reality

These different levels of consciousness allow one to experience the corresponding aspects of reality. For example, a psychic level of consciousness allows one to explore psychic levels of reality; subtle level consciousness grants one access to subtle levels of reality; and causal, likewise. The value of entering these states is that they allow us to explore different levels of non-physical reality. As the late great Boston psychonaut Kilindi Iyi said of psilocybin, ‘it is, in its first and foremost principle, a tool of exploration’. 

Before beginning, it should be noted that Bache’s explanations accept the premise of reincarnation. I am not presenting this as truth, but write here to share ideas. 

Psychic level

At the psychic level one leaves physical reality and enters a spiritual realm. There remains, however, the sense of a separate self, as one’s conditioning from space time carries over. The experience is therefore that of being a separate spiritual entity amongst other discarnate entities. Our experience is still that of ourselves, but without our body. I would still be me, John, but disembodied, my ‘discarnate self’. Psychic level experience has a soul-centric quality to it, meaning that one will experience the soul, or ‘psyche’ of their current life.

Subtle level

At the subtle level one perceives the larger realities and more fundamental building blocks that make up life. One still has an experience of separateness, but the separate parts are larger and more basic than at the psychic level. If our separate selves are the individual rooms of a skyscraper, the parts we experience in subtle consciousness are like the steel girders of the building. We can begin to see the deeper architecture of what we call existence.

One may experience the collective consciousness of our species, or even of other species, and the archetypical forces that make up space time. Going deeper than the individual self, one may open to an experience of the spiritual self that reincarnates as many different forms through different lifetimes.

Here is a line from Bache that made me laugh:

“I’ve always thought that “subtle” was a strange name for this level of consciousness because there is really nothing subtle about it at all. Quite the opposite, in fact”.

Causal level

The first signature of causal consciousness is Oneness. Though Oneness may show up in one way or another at the other levels, as it is a fundamental truth of existence, oneness takes on another quality at the causal level. There is an experience of the universe moving as a single entity. There is no way of perceiving this Oneness from outside of it as it is the whole thing. Experience of Oneness at this level is the totality of existence perceiving itself, so any sense of separation is gone. Light, as with Oneness, may also show up in other levels, but is more refined at the casual level. 

Maps of experience

These platforms of experience form just one cosmological map and there may be many other ways of mapping spiritual (non-physical) experience. The Psychedelic Experience, a manual by Leary et al. based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead was another map of consciousness, and I I have also heard that the Bhagavad Gita can be used.

Ultimately though, the map is not the territory. I believe Bache said it perfectly:

“In the end, all these categories are only labels of approximation and convenience. One may divide the spectrum of spiritual reality in many ways […] it would be foolish to think we could do justice to the vast expanse of spiritual reality by using just three or six categories”.

Final Thoughts

Without any kind of frame for understanding, the new and at times intensely unfamiliar and alien realities we can visit in sessions can be disorienting, even once we have returned to normal consciousness. We may not know what to do with these experiences, and without sufficient context or points of reference and this can lead to feelings of bemusement or confusion.

This was certainly the case for me after my first DMT experience, and to a degree, my first LSD experiences. With no real place for these types of spiritual experiences in a culture where reductive materialism is a prevailing worldview, I found solace in Buddhist texts, which helped me to integrate these non-ordinary experiences and offered instructions on how to navigate them.

For explorers heading into new territories, having some kind of map or frame can be of great use. With this in mind, I encourage psychonauts to mentally try ideas like these on for size when embarking on a path of deep exploration

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psychedelic therapy

After the popularity of my previous post, 6 Music Playlists for Psilocybin Journeys, I’ve decided to write a follow up with some tips on using these playlists in a psychedelic session. Below that, I’ve also included links and info for six more playlists from two creators.

How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists for Psilocybin)

psychedelic therapy

Prepare to be Offline

Download the playlist so it is available for offline use. Then for the session, put your phone on flight mode.

If using your computer to play the tracks, close all applications other than the music player. If you need to leave anything open, make sure there are no applications other than the audio player that can make a noise (like dings from messages received or calls coming in. Like with a phone, I suggest downloading the playlist offline and then disconnecting from the wifi. If you have a mac, make sure your Facetime is disconnected and there won’t be any calls coming through.

I also recommend downloading 1-3 hours of pre/post session music so you have something to put on before/after and can be offline for the entire day. I have found it is nice to put on some music beforehand whilst preparing the space, to set the mood and begin the process of entering. It can be helpful to have a short period of silent meditation between setup and dosing to centre before the journey begins. Once everything is ready and you’ve checked in, you can start the playlist and take your dose. 

Sound Set up

Check and set your sound levels before the start of the session so it is ready to go. Check both loud and quiet sections of the playlist. Ideally the music should be at a comfortably loud volume at the loudest sections. It should not be overbearing or too strong, but loud enough to be immersive.

I would recommend high quality over ear headphones for immersion in the experience, especially if you are in a location where there might be background noise or distracting sounds. You might consider noise cancelling headphones.

If possible, have the music playing simultaneously through headphones and speakers from the same signal. This is a tip I picked up from Mendel Kaelen back in 2017 and still use to this day.  This allows for continuity of experience if/when the headphones are taken off and also allows the opportunity to remove the headphones if one prefers. 

Group Sessions

When in groups or with friends, decide the playlist together beforehand. For a group session, I advise having a quiet room. This means that if anyone has a very strong aversion to a track, they can leave the room for a bit. If you don’t have the possibility of a second room, you might all use your own pair headphones. Another option if using speakers would be making an agreement beforehand that anyone can veto any track at any time and it will be skipped forward without discussion. 

In the case of someone having a feeling of aversion to a track, I would suggest that they try to sit with it for a short time before leaving the room or requesting a skip. They can look at and explore the feeling of discomfort inside themselves that the track is provoking, and see if there is anything to learn from it. If the feeling persists and the track is unbearable, they can leave the room or use their veto.

Spotify Settings (or other audio player)

Make sure your play queue is cleared. 

Make sure the tracks will play in order and not on shuffle.

Check your audio player settings for how the tracks will transition. Decide if you want a fade between songs or a standard transition with one track fully ending before the next one beginning. On spotify you can find this in settings > playback.

If doing a manual sync with two or more devices, make sure the playback settings are the same on each device.

6 More Playlists For Psilocybin Sessions

Here are links to 6 more playlists for use with psilocybin with some info on them and their creators below.

1. Music For Mushrooms– East Forest
2. Inner Peace – Tommi
3. Trust – Tommi
4. Gratitude – Tommi
5. Release – Tommi
6. Opening – Tommi

East Forest

  • Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner: Spotify

East Forest is an American musician who created this album live in underground ceremonies across the US. It’s a kinda neo ambient vibe with influences and instruments from world indigenous music. What I like about this as a soundtrack is its cohesion. Because this playlist is an album by one musician, it has the added bonus of it being curated as such and put together as an album specifically for mushrooms.

Its compositional shape guides, and is guided by, the arch of the experience.”
– East Forest

In this article, East Forest talks about how he feels the other therapy playlists out there miss the mark as they are compilations of lots of shorter tracks. By comparison, this album is just 13 tracks. Incidentally, East Forest is now one of the musicians working with Wavepaths, an organisation founded by Mendel Kaelen that is focused on creating music for psychedelic sessions.

I personally had a very beneficial session using this playlist for a medium dose journey last year. During the journey I was taken through people in my life, shown what I needed to say to them, able to appreciate recent personal achievements, and then given a directive on what I needed to do in my life (spoiler; it was clearing).

You can hear East Forest on the Psychedelics Today podcast here.

And, as an extra aside, Ram Dass was East Forest’s guru, and East Forest has used samples of his talks on his album, ‘Ram Dass’.

Tommi

Mysterious spotify user Tommi has created 5 playlists on different themes: gratitude, opening, release, trust, and inner peace.

They are generally a mix of styles and include ambient, neo classical, and classical music as well as more tribal and traditional music from distant cultures. 

Use of Silence

One thing that I really like about these playlists that is missing from the others is that Tommi has put short periods of silence into the playlists. I find these are good moments to re-centre and breathe during the journey, acting as ‘pit stops’. Interestingly, Mendel Kaelen inserted silence into the playlists on the original psilocybin studies at Imperial. Rather than Spotify playlists, they were actually mixed as one master audio file, with some tracks even faded out or mixed in to each other. These nuances and sections of silence were lost when it was converted to a Spotify playlist. So it is nice to see that Tommi has found a way to create a playlist with silence built in.

My Experience

I have tried Opening, Release and Trust and my sessions to these playlists have been very helpful.

I journeyed to Trust on the third and final psilocybin session of a 15 week course last year that was a study replica of a John Hopkins clinical study with psilocybin. The session was a beautiful rounding out to what turned out to be a somehow cohesive trilogy, and was one of the best psychedelic experiments I’ve ever done. During this final session I was able to grieve and cry in the first half, and as the cleansing section ended I was given a refreshed clarity and renewed inspiration, and a clear path forward. 

Tommi has also created banks of music based on different themes, so you can put together your own playlist too. You can find these on his Spotify user profile.

 





Do you know of any more good playlists for psychedelic journeys? If so, please get in contact!

Safe Journeys!

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psychedelics process emotions

You might have heard the advice that it’s best to not take psychedelics when you’re not feeling good. General mainstream advice for DIY users is to ‘wait until you’re in a better place’.

If your aim is to feel good during the session itself, then I would agree: wait until you’re in a better place. But when taking psychedelics for reasons of personal growth or learning, this maxim may be trumped by deeper considerations. 

Trippers With Severe Depression & Anxiety

Two groundbreaking studies have helped bring credibility and prominence to mainstream psychedelics based on the psychedelic experiences of people who would not be considered to be feeling good. At Imperial College London, their landmark study explored using  psilocybin to help  those with treatment-resistant depression, in other words, a persistent depression that many treatments have failed to ameliorate. In another landmark study at Johns Hopkins, psilocybin was shown to alleviate end of life anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients. In both these cases, participants clearly faced challenges in their emotional state.

The ‘set’ of the psychedelic tenet of set and setting generally refers to the mindset of the tripper and is broadly understood as the psychonaut’s internal state. This can include their outlook, how they’re feeling, and their mood.

However, when it comes to having a beneficial session, I would say that mindset is a far broader concept than mood, feelings, or emotional state.

Mindset Beyond Emotional State

As well as feelings and emotions, mindset includes how the experience is framed. How we frame something shapes how we see it: it is our perspective on what we are doing. Is the session billed as a time to have fun? Or is it understood as a rare and precious opportunity for learning? These intentions determine how we approach the session. Is it approached with respect? Is it approached with trust in how the experience may unfold?

Those taking part in the studies I’ve mentioned were prepared accordingly in matters of mindset; you see the psilocybin flight instructions here. Their sessions were not approached as a fun time with friends, but with a formality more akin to that of a ceremony or sesshin. Accordingly, participants were directed to be open to whatever arises, to trust in the experience, and to let go of any preconceived ideas about how the session ‘should’ go.

If the mindset is right, the person adequately prepared, in a safe setting and sufficiently supported during the experience, and with support systems in place for afterwards, and  then I would say that tripping when you’re feeling low can be one of the most useful and dare I say obvious times to trip.

storm sunlight

My Experiences

I have personally taken psychedelics in a session format in some of the more rocky emotional patches of my life. 

One example is the time my parents were separating and I was coming to terms with the fact I would be seeing the home I’d always known being put up for sale. My mood and emotional state at the time was not what would be described as good; I was crying on the train up to do my session. However, I approached the occasion with great respect and formality. The resulting experience provided me with enormous relief and understanding, and I now see it as one of the landmark healing experiences of my life.

I have used psychedelics at various other times when going through bumpy patches and difficult chapters – at times when it might be considered ‘not the best time to trip’.

On these occasions, psychedelics have allowed me to see what was beneath, to really be in touch with my deeper, hidden, often repressed and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and given me a chance to process them.

I have seen shadow parts of myself, parts of myself that I was ashamed of. Some examples include a desire to earn more money, a desire to have more creative control on a project, and a sadness that was hidden. I avoided them because of various unconscious beliefs I held around them: that wanting more money means I’m greedy; that wanting more control means I’m power hungry; and that I shouldn’t feel sad about a certain event because I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The experiences I’m describing helped me to see all of these things and better understand myself. This was the first step towards acknowledging these hidden thoughts and as such, accepting them. Psychedelics have been such honest allies, revealing things inside me that I’ve found hard to accept. 

In every one of these sessions I had rough journeys and difficult experiences, and each time, I have felt so grateful for the opportunity.

These are tools which have helped me tremendously, through good times, but also especially through the bad times. 

 

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Legal in the Netherlands, psilocybin containing magic truffles are one of the only legal psychedelics anywhere in the world. The problem with them is that they can get rotten quite quickly, growing a nasty mould and becoming inedible and unusable. As such, it’s very useful to dry them when they are still fresh as this extends their shelf life for a long time, meaning they can be stored for many months. The good news is that the process of drying magic truffles is actually very easy and takes only a few days.

How to Dry Magic Truffles

psilocybin magic truffles

Take your truffles out of whatever packaging they might be in and lay them out on a sheet of paper, leaving space between each of the pieces. The spaces allow air flow, which aids the drying process. The paper should be kinda absorbent (e.g. not fine printer paper), newspaper works fine.

Break up bigger truffles into smaller pieces as this will also help to speed up their drying process. As best you can, leave this in a place where there is a good air flow. For example, somewhere out in the open, or in the middle of a room is ideal.

If you aren’t able to leave them in an open place which is well ventilated, they will still dry but will just take longer. If this is the case, just fan them with some air from time to time to get the air around them flowing, making sure there isn’t any stagnant air around them.

Be sure to occasionally let fresh air into the room and to allow air to flow through. You can keep a fan over them but it’s not necessary.

psilocybin magic truffles dry

If you have them, put packets of silica gel by them which will help to absorb moisture in the air around them and can help to speed up the process.

Left like this, you can expect your truffles to dry completely in 2-3 days. In some cases, it might take up to a week. If you can, it is best to leave them out for a day or two longer to make sure they are completely dried.

You will know they are completely dried by the fact that they become extremely hard, to the point that it’s not possible to break them by hand. Half dried, they will be harder, but completely dried they become like stones.

Once they are dry, you can store them away.

How To Store Magic Truffles

Put your dried truffles into a container and keep them in a cool, dark place. Kept like this they will maintain a shelf life of many months.
dried magic truffles powder

Dried and powdered magic truffles

How to Take Dried Truffles

Because they are so incredibly hard, chewing dried truffles is not an option as it is with fresh ones. I’ve found easiest way to consume dried truffles is to grind them into a fine powder, mix with water, and then drink the whole mix. It doesn’t taste great, but it works.

A coffee grinder works well to grind the truffles. After grinding, wait a few minutes before opening the grinder to allow the truffle powder dust to settle.

Dosing with Dried Truffles

psilocybin magic truffles microdose scales

The process of drying truffles makes them lose a lot of their weight. It is important to take this change into account when calculating your dose with dried truffles. As a general rule of thumb, dried weight equates to one third of fresh weight, so 30 g fresh truffles becomes 10 g of dried truffles. However, it is best to weigh batches of truffles when they are fresh and then dried to know exactly the quantity that you have as the dried weight can vary depending on how thoroughly they have been dried – it can be that truffles are partially dried, becoming hard, but still carrying some water weight, meaning that they are closer to half of the weight of fresh truffles.

Weight your batch of fresh truffles and make a note of their weight.

After drying them, weigh them again to see the change in weight.

Then when it comes to calculating your dose, weigh the powder before (I recommend weighing the powder directly before preparing the dose rather than the dried truffles as parts of the truffles can get caught in the grinder).

An Equation To Calculate Desired Truffle Dose

Here is a useful equation you can use to calculate your dried truffle dose from your fresh truffle dose.

N/B*F = D

N = What truffles weigh now

B = What they weighed before

F = Desired dose fresh

D = Dose with current truffles

For example:

Say you had a batch that was 55 g of fresh truffles.
They have been dried, and now their total weight is 19.5 g
You want a dose of 25 g of fresh truffles.

So,

19,5/55*25 = 8.86 g

So your dose is 8.86 g of dried truffles.
psilocybin magic truffles

The material

Prepare well, set your space, and journey well!

What should you do when under the influence of psilocybin to make the most of the session? What should you do if you encounter fear? What is the best way to navigate a psychedelic journey?

These are all questions you might ask if you are preparing to embark on a psychedelic journey and hoping for an insight or nugget to help you on your path forward in life.

Research setting for a psilocybin study

Bill Richards, one of the founders of the psychedelic research team at Johns Hopkins – one of the leading research institutes in the world of psychedelic research and responsible for those studies boasting the remarkable results that you’ve probably heard – is one of the most experienced figures in the psychedelic field today. Richards, who has overseen hundreds of experiences and had his own too, has put together a set of flight instructions that are read to all study participants who take psilocybin at Johns Hopkins.

These instructions are one of the best resources I’ve found when it comes to high dose psychedelic navigation they offer advice on what to do at certain encounters or points on your journey. They are the basis for an adapted form of flight instructions I put together for New Moon retreat participants.

You can read more of the study instructions at trippingly here, and find Richards’ music playlist for tripping here.

Flight Instructions by Bill Richards

Please relax.  You will never be left alone during your experience.  You need not worry about physical safety, [the name of the other sitter] and I will be here to help you and maintain your safety.

You may experience a deep and transcendental experience.  You may have feelings of the loss of one’s self, experience a sensation of rebirth or even death.  You may experience a feeling that you have ceased to exist as an individual and are connected with the world or the universe.  If you experience the sensation of dying, melting, dissolving, exploding, going crazy etc. — go ahead.  Experience the experience.  Remember that the death/transcendence of your ego or your everyday self is always followed by Rebirth/Return to the normative world of space & time.  Safest way to return to normal is to entrust self unconditionally to the emerging experiences.  

Instruction for Study Guides

Avoid attempting to guide the participant down any journey. However, we encourage you to help the participant enter a deeper experience by encouraging the participant with phrases such as:

“If you see a door, what will you do”?  (Encourage the participant to “walk through it”)

“Trust the trajectory, follow your path”

“Let Go, Be Open, Trust”

“If you see a window, what will you do?”  (Encourage the participant to “look through it” or “open it”)

“If you feel like you’re dying, melting, dissolving, exploding, going crazy etc.—go ahead, embrace it.”

“Climb staircases, open doors, explore paths, fly over landscapes”

If the participant is feeling fear, encourage the participant to confront the fear:

“Look the monster in the eye and move towards it… Dig in your heels; ask, ‘What are you doing in my mind?’ Or, ‘What can I learn from you?’ Look for the darkest corner in the basement, and shine your light there.”

“The same force that takes you deep within will, of its own impetus, return you safely to the everyday world.”

If the participant is mild physical pain encourage the participant to investigate the pain using the phrases below (if confronted with intense or acute pain, immediately notify the medical staff):

“Look into the pain you are experiencing, visualize it and see it as clearly as you can.  Where is the source of the pain?  Can you embrace the pain or make the pain leave you?”

“Can you visualize the pain?  Can you see it clearly for what it is?  Is this pain serving you or should the pain leave?”

If the participant encounters nausea or vommits remind the participant:

“Part of your being is discomfort, which shall pass.”

“Feel the nausea leaving you, and you will soon return to comfort”

“Nausea is temporary and it will pass, embrace it and then send it on its way.”

If the participant becomes sick, use the waste bin and towel provided in the room and alert the medical staff.  Follow the training you received regarding nausea until the medical staff arrives.