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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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the shamanic persona

The shamanic persona is a concept introduced by psychedelic explorer and author Christopher Bache.

The term was included in the appendix at the back of his 2019 book LSD And The Mind Of The Universe as he attempts to explain what exactly is dying and being reborn in our psychedelic sessions. He proposes four such things, and the shamanic persona is the third. This post will concentrate on the shamanic persona, the one that stood out and most interested me, and will not cover the other three: the ego, the species ego, a dimension of the cosmos.

LSD mind of the universe bache book

This book is a treasure trove of psychedelic theory

I would like to add my own interpretation to Bache’s, and this post is a mix of his outline and some thoughts that came to mind.

What is the shamanic persona?

The shamanic persona is a type of living identity that is both born, and develops within our psychedelic sessions. It is our tripping self. It is that part of us which arises within our sessions. 

It could also be known as a:

  • Psychedelic alter ego
  • Shamanic self
  • Psychedelic identity

In Bache’s words, it is: 

“a semiautonomous, state-specific consciousness that retains and integrates all our psychedelic experiences”

The shamanic persona is a distinct identity, its own self-aware entity. It has a specific character, and could be considered one of our ‘parts’, using the term in the sense of the psychological theory of parts. It is made up of both personal and transpersonal experiences that we accumulate in our sessions.

The shamanic persona retains invisible knowledge

The shamanic persona, though hidden whilst we go about our lives, retains all the knowledge, abilities and lessons that have been acquired in our sessions. Even though our typical day to day egoic self can’t remember or access all our psychedelic experience, when we re-enter the psychedelic state, these are all once again available to us. 

If you have ever had the feeling of remembering or returning when re-entering the psychedelic state, this might sound familiar.

“Oh yes! Of course! How could I forget?!” 

This is returning to our shamanic persona. This might refer to certain knowledge, insights or capacities you have had or developed in previous sessions. It may also be familiar by means of feelings, what we might call ‘psychedelic sensations’.

Just as our normal self is composed of all our life experience and what we have learnt up to this moment in time – an aggregate of our lives – our shamanic persona is the sum of all our psychedelic experience and skills up to the present. In a similar way to how we grow, learn and develop abilities, capacities and skills as we get older through accumulated life experience, our shamanic persona deepens and grows in tandem with our psychedelic understanding, abilities and experience.

Developing a shamanic persona

The more carefully considered sessions one undertakes, the stronger the shamanic persona will be. This parallel here with our non-psychedelic selves is that the more experiences one has in ways that are framed as opportunities to learn and grow, the more developed and mature one’s character becomes.

A weaker character may result from haphazard or sloppily carried out sessions. This is due to less well-considered methods and processes, that is, lower levels of conscious approach. 

At deeper levels of awareness, which equate to deeper levels of reality, there is a wider gate for information to flow in. This can result in increased intensity of experience, and more difficulty in navigating a journey. It’s perhaps like the gap in difficulty between driving a car on an old computer game, where there are only so many variables the driver needs to track, as compared to driving in the real world, where there is much more going on and much more attention is required to navigate successfully. You may even, if you are unfamiliar with the territory, need another person beside you, holding a map, to help direct you.

With increased exposure to different planes of experience, shamanic personas can develop stability and coherence at these other levels. This results in a greater ability to navigate. As with anything else, if we are unstable, we are more prone to fall down, get lost, stop making progress, or even end up going backwards. The more stable we are, the more capable we are of standing on our feet and choosing how external influences affect us, without being blown around by outside forces. 

Learning and abilities of the persona

the shamanic persona

We retain also abilities that we have developed in our psychedelic state. With the ability to maintain a coherent awareness at different levels of experience, we acquire the ability to navigate, via means of directing or holding our attention. This means we can decide to take a certain direction, such as deciding to let go and surrender, or deciding to bring particular ideas or themes to our mind, keep them in awareness, and to ‘play’ with them; to consider them for sustained periods of time to observe and see how our view of them might develop or change as we move them around in front of us.

How it differs from and relates to our non-psychedelic self

As an alter ego, our shamanic persona may well have different characteristics and tastes to our normal self: it may prefer different types of food, music, or even have a different sense of humour. Our psychedelic self may even prefer different ways of being physically: I have a friend who has a way of lying that is her ‘tripping posture’, one that she doesn’t use at any other times of her life.  

Personally, I have noticed various differences between my psychedelic and non-psychedelic parts. I adopted a plant-based diet whilst tripping years before recognising the horror at factory farming outside of sessions and integrating it. I almost never listen to ceremony music outside of sessions – it’s too ‘spiritual’ for my non-shamanic tastes. My psychedelic persona is also capable of laughing longer, deeper and harder than my usual self.

The less integrated we are, the larger the gap will be between our tripping and our normal self. The better the work one has done to integrate the material of their sessions, the smaller the gap will be.

The closer the parts are, the more familiar the shamanic persona will feel to our normal selves. Entering the state will be easier, and the psychedelic persona will be a more comfortable ‘fit’. 

This may explain why psychedelic experiences can be so difficult at certain times in our lives, bringing up such uncomfortable feelings and emotions; they are revealing a discord within ourselves. My most uncomfortable experiences have been at junctures in my life where I was not seeing clearly and didn’t have my priorities in order. This has included: overwork to the brink of burnout, staying in a toxic relationship, and generally taking on too much and moving through life at an unsustainable speed. My sessions at these points have been the most uncomfortable, but also perhaps the most crucial. They have shown me the consequences of my actions, and revealed what will happen if I remain on my current track. In the roughest sessions I have been broken down, and in doing so, I have been forced to stop, step back, and redirect my course.

Persona reincarnation

Just as there is a cycle of dying and rebirth of our egoic self in serial psychedelic journeys, shamanic personas die and are reborn on the psychedelic path.

With the egoic self, it can be understood as parts of ourselves dying, whilst new parts come into being. The parts might include ways of seeing the world, others and ourselves,and may result in behavioural changes such as fresh habits and patterns of thought and action. Essentially, it is a change in our ‘self’: how we relate to and interact with all aspects of reality. 

In the same way, shamanic identity enters the cycle of death and rebirth in an ongoing series of sessions. Aspects of the shamanic self die when one enters a deeper level of spiritual reality, and a new identity emerges. 

The new identity will not be totally novel, or unrecognisable. Change is evolutionary, and is a gradual process.The new shamanic self that emerges maintains all the experience and abilities of the previous persona, and incorporates them into this new sense of self. Nonetheless, many of these previous parts may be recontextualised to take the new identity into account.

We can see how this process happens on the material plane by considering our physical bodies. As a consequence of exposure to existence in space and time, cells die, and are replaced in turn with new ones. This is an example of gradual rebecoming that could be considered a type of reincarnation.  

Likewise, this process of reincarnation of the shamanic self is a consequence of exposure to psychedelic experiences. In this way, this process of gradual transformation can be thought of as a type of psychic reincarnation, or perhaps better put, psychic or spiritual renaissance.

Final Thoughts

I find the concept of the shamanic persona to be a fascinating one that matches my experience on the psychedelic path. I was drawn to it as it is a familiar concept and one that I touched upon in my post “What is psychedelic integration?”,  when I used the terms “the psychedelic and non-psychedelic sides of someone”, so it is satisfying to hear this from another psychonaut and to see it expanded upon so well.

I would be very interested to hear other psychonauts’ thoughts on this, so I’ll leave off with a few questions to ponder. Share your reflections with me on twitter.

  • Is the shamanic persona a more important, authentic, or truer expression of ourselves than our sober identity?
  • How can we learn how to learn in psychedelic states?
  • What exercises might we use to ‘train’ our shamanic personas to develop abilities and reveal new levels of insight?

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tripsitting buddha

As psychedelics continue to gain popularity, there are more and more people beginning to offer their services as a tripsitter. At this point in history we are in a transitional phase where lots of people are using psychedelics, but there aren’t really any established structures and training programmes around to support safe use. 

As it stands, fully licensed, legally practising trip sitters are extremely rare. Outside of clinical research, on the whole, psychedelics are still illegal in most parts of the world. In the few cases where they are legal, there are no licences or recognised authorities to hand out qualifications in the country.

This means that almost anyone working as a tripsitter is unlicensed, and if they are not operating in a country or state where it is legal, underground. I have previously worked underground, and now fall into the category of an unlicensed tripsitter, though my tripsitting work takes place in the Netherlands, so it is legal. There are many people working in this same category of unlicensed but legal, and organisations like The Guild Of Guides are working to take care of this area. However, they will still not cover underground guides. 

Underground Guides

I know there are people currently practising underground who probably will continue to do so for a good few years to come. I have made my share of mistakes on my learning curve as a guide and I would like to share what I’ve found to be best practices. This article will cover some practices that I think all practising tripsitters should follow, but I especially hope that they will be of use to underground sitters. I believe this area of practice to be a larger cause for concern at this point in time due to the inherent isolation and secrecy of their work, which tends to result in a lack of accountability and open channels for feedback and critique.

Recommendations for Best Practices

Acquire Knowledge & Experience

The first thing is to learn, and gain both knowledge and experience, on two levels: firstly, personal experience, secondly, as a tripsitter.

Knowledge may come through reading books, taking courses, or finding a coach. Be studious. Do your research. Personal experience may come in many forms: organising sessions with friends, going on a retreat, working with a professional facilitator or psychedelic coach.

This is really about developing your own practice and learning about how to use psychedelics through first hand experience. Imagine you were seeking a ski instructor, if they didn’t have any knowledge and experience of skiing themselves, would you want them as your guide?

When it comes to tripsitting, again seek knowledge where you can. Read books (see recommendations at the bottom of this post) and become well versed in practices in different traditions and cultures of using psychedelics. You then might start by facilitating sessions for friends and family members. After that, you might volunteer at a retreat centre. 

The path I have followed has been along these lines. I had my own journeys, and began reading books on the topic, whilst slowly incorporating what I was reading into my practice. Along the way I organised sessions with friends, which developed into tripsitting people close to me, before reaching out and working at Myco Meditations in Jamaica. I first went there as a volunteer, eager to gain experience, and in due course I was offered a paid position. I continued to organise sessions with friends, and this expanded to tripsitting people in my community, before I decided to set up New Moon Psychedelic Retreats and took on a role as a lead facilitator. This dual approach of seeking knowledge and experience, exploring and experimenting, and steadily evolving my practice is the approach that I still use to this day. Most recently, pre-corona, I worked as a tripsitter on a Truffles Therapy retreat in late 2019, and in 2020 I underwent a course of psilocybin therapy as part of a replica of a study at Johns Hopkins.

Screen

A basic level of screening is the first step to sitting someone. Information that you should gather before moving forward includes: 

  • personal past or present mental health conditions (including depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, behavioural addictions, eating disorders and PTSD)
  • personal or family history of schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or any other psychotic disorder.
  • current medications 
  • the person’s history and experience with psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs.

Personal and family histories of mental health issues should be carefully considered when deciding who to tripsit for. Those with psychotic disorders are at an increased risk of a psychotic break triggered by psychedelics so do your research on this. In terms of medication, one must make sure there are no contraindications between their medication and the substance that the journeyer will be taking. Understanding a person’s personal history with substances will help to assess their readiness and calibrate dosage.

Acknowledge Your Limitations

When it comes to deciding who you will tripsit for and who you won’t, it is important to understand the limits of your training, experience and knowledge. For example, if you are not a medical professional, do not recommend someone to taper off their medication. They should consult with the doctor about this and make their plans clear.

Acknowledge your limitations and refer out as appropriate. 

If you are truly passionate about your path as a facilitator, then you should consider what knowledge, experience and qualifications you need to move forward and be able to competently tripsit for those people you want to, but aren’t yet fully equipped to do so. Professional qualifications are emerging fast within the psychedelic space, so there are plenty of opportunities for learning and improving your skills.

Until then, don’t accept dubious cases. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution. If you want to help that person move forward on their path, you can recommend them to work towards a state of readiness in the meantime. This could be directing them towards trying breathwork, attending a meditation retreat or course of meditation, partaking in a vision quest, or attending some other kind of spiritual or wellness retreat. Otherwise, you might refer them on to a more experienced practitioner.

Consent, Confidentiality, Follow Up

These are the three pillars for clinicians in the field, and due to the psychologically dismantling effects of psychedelics and the sensitivity of the human mind in these states, are just as important in informal practice.

Consent

The journeyer must understand and know that anything that happens within the session will be 100% consensual. This creates a safe space and enables them to engage more fully with the experience. Conversations and agreements about what happens in the session, the type and level of interaction between the sitter and tripper should be covered in the preparation stage. 

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is important to create a safe space for the session. Allowing the person to feel safe will mean that they are more able to let go during the experience and allow whatever needs to come up to come up. This is then going to enable them to have a more beneficial experience. 

This is something that is very easy to forget as an amateur practitioner. For this reason, it is very important to state to the person you are tripsitting that everything that they tell you and what happens within the session, as well as the preparation and follow up meetings, remains strictly confidential. Do not make exceptions to this rule. This should be stated explicitly at the first preparation meeting. Such a clear declaration will help to reinforce this to yourself too.

Even with friends or more casual acquaintances, I think confidentiality is an important principle to follow, and is a basic sign of respect for those you are serving. 

Follow Up

Because of the potential of psychedelics to dismantle psychological boundaries, they can be destabilizing and also increase the emotional sensitivity of participants in the days and weeks, and potentially even months afterwards. For this reason, checking in with people after their experience is important. Some people may require extra support, and again, may need referring to specialists in some cases. The MAPS list and psychedelic.support are two options for finding an integration provider.

If the person is a healthy functioning individual, the need for personalised follow-up may be reduced by making sure that the person has sufficient support in the event of some kind of emerging personal crisis. This should also be checked in the preparation phase. A useful question to ask someone is: if you had an emergency who would you go to help for? If you had to show up on someone’s doorstep in the middle of the night, who would that be?

A check should also be made about which other people know the person is undertaking the psychedelic trip. If you are the only person who knows, then it’s very possible that you are the only person that they feel comfortable speaking to about their experience and what is coming up afterwards. Ideally, they should already have a therapist, friends or community of people that know what they are doing. A psychedelic-friendly therapist is a great person for them to speak to and have the designated time and space to talk about and process their experience. Where this is not the case, an assessment should be made as to how much useful support they will be able to receive from their own network. With this in mind, you should consider what you will provide yourself.

Final Thoughts

When sitting for others the focus should be on care. This comes naturally when sitting for close friends or family members. It is essential, however, to maintain the same attitude if deciding to move into paid work. For this reason, I would recommend you to develop your practice slowly by moving outwards from self, to family, friends, community, and finally, paying journeyers. 

If deciding to pursue tripsitting as a professional vocation, one should avoid the tension between the legitimate need to earn a living, and the duty of care. For more on this see the talk linked at the end of the article.

For me it comes back to respecting the substances for the power that they hold. I believe a patient and grounded approach is the wisest course of action when it comes to working with psychedelics, both as a practitioner and a tripsitter. Move forward with caution and care.

Best wishes on your journey.

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Recommended Books For the Aspiring Tripsitter:

Psychedelic Psychotherapy – R. Coleman | Goodreads
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron Stolaroff | Goodreads
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – Jim Fadiman | Goodreads

Recommended Talk:
Charging Money For Ceremony – Jerónimo Mazarrasa | Beyond Psychedelics 2018

 

Read more on Maps of the Mind:

cosmic psychedelic exploration

In his book LSD and the Mind of the Universe, philosophy professor and extreme psychonaut Christopher Bache shares his journey of cosmic discovery through an extended series of high dose LSD sessions over the course of two decades. In this book he talks about a psychedelic protocol which he unintentionally developed on his path: Psychedelic exploration

LSD mind of the universe bache book

Psychedelic exploration, as Bache calls this new protocol, is distinct from the two therapeutic modalities currently used widely in the West today: psycholytic therapy, and psychedelic therapy.

Before talking about psychedelic exploration I will give an outline of these first terms.

Psycholytic Therapy

  • Low dose (75–300 mcg LSD, typically 200 mcg)
  • Sessions typically at one-week or two-week intervals
  • 15–100 sessions in a course (on average ~40 sessions)

Therapeutic processes, such as emotional abreaction and catharsis, are intensified in a psycholytic therapy session. This calls for a flexible and dynamic relationship between the therapist and the patient. The lower dose, as compared to psychedelic therapy, allows for a more gentle opening of the psyche allowing the work to be done in layers and gradually over a longer time frame.

Psychedelic Therapy

  • High dose (300–500 mcg LSD)
  • Sessions typically at one-week or two-week intervals
  • 1–3 sessions in a course
  • Sometimes known as the “single overwhelming dose” approach

Awareness is much more powerfully magnified than in psycholytic therapy. The high dose is intended to blast the journeyer straight past the psychodynamic level of consciousness to a spiritual experience of ego dissolution. This gives them a new viewpoint, and therefore a novel perspective on their personal problems. 

There is little to no verbal interaction between the patient and therapist (or sitter/guide). The patient typically wears an eye shade and headphones, and their focus is on looking inside, connecting to their inner healing wisdom. This is the standard in psychedelic research today, and its fast track means that it could be thought of as something like ‘the lightning path’ of psychedelics.

Psychedelic Exploration

  • High dose (500–600 mcg LSD)
  • Extended series of sessions over many years

“This is what happens if you push psychedelic therapy as far as you can take it”

When he set out on his journey, Bache intended to do an extended course of psychedelic therapy. His approach thus incorporated practices and procedures of psychedelic therapy such as physical isolation, minimal verbal interaction, and intensely evocative music.

However, when he looked back on his path, he realised that the high number of sessions made it quite distinct from psychedelic therapy. An extended course like this brings with it different experiential opportunities as well as unique challenges that go beyond those encountered in a single or shorter run of sessions. Each session becomes a chapter in its own right of a larger psychedelic journey, as opposed to the chapters being sections of a single session (or trilogy of).

Bache’s course was 73 sessions over 20 years, and he describes it as more of an intense cosmic exploration than a therapeutic enterprise. Rather than a single experience of transcendence, psychedelic exploration is, as he puts it, “an ever-deepening spiral of initiation into the universe.” 

Words of caution

Bache gives his words of warning, saying that anyone considering embarking on a path of psychedelic exploration should think long and hard before doing so. He advises that additional precautions should be taken and that one’s life circumstances and support systems must be stable and strong enough to undertake such a journey.

He shares his challenges in the book, and it is essential reading for anyone considering this route.

The future of psychedelic exploration

I imagine psychedelic research centers like those of Imperial and Johns Hopkins will incorporate this type of work into their research when the time is right. Though there have been a few studies to date exploring the spiritual experience of psychedelics, such as the Marsh Chapel experiment, at present, research is mostly focused on clinical use and therapeutic application. I understand this to be a good entry point for psychedelics into the mainstream, and perhaps a strategic one by some forces in the movement, but I am very excited to see the scope of work broadened to the areas of philosophy and spirituality. Opening up research to these areas will deepen our understanding of these substances and their applications. 

Final Thoughts

The experiences shared by Bache and the frontiers he has crossed both fascinate and excite the adventurer inside me. I believe psychedelic exploration will be adopted by more and more people over the coming decades, and those explorers will be at the forefront of cosmic exploration. Rather than space travel, this is where the far more interesting investigation into the frontiers of exploration and discovery lie for humanity.

This is the path for the true cosmonauts of tomorrow. The information they bring back will greatly add to our understanding of humanity, and beyond that, consciousness and spiritual reality. If those travellers bring back maps of the terrain, and share their findings as systematically and comprehensively as Bache has done, they will greatly contribute to the sum of knowledge, ushering humanity into a new era and the next stage of our evolution.

I wonder what lies beyond humanity. We were not always humans and we won’t always be. On our journey to becoming human we have descended from nothingness to pass through existence as stardust, bacteria, and apes. What is next? I believe psychedelic exploration is a essential catalyst in our journey of learning and evolution.

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I am tweeting my highlights from the book in a thread on twitter here, which includes quotes on the psychedelic ego and spiritual bypassing.

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music headphones psychedelics

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)

music headphones psychedelics

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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