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psychedelic path meditation

Are you serious about your development on the medicine path? Today I’d like to invite you to consider these quotes from experienced psychonauts.

 

“The longer I have worked with psychedelics, the more convinced I have become that a daily meditation practice is vital to harnessing the waves of energy and insight that sweep through us on a session day.

“My sessions have deepened my meditation practice and my meditation practice has helped ground my psychedelic practice. In my experience, these are complementary and mutually reinforcing undertakings that can be integrated well.”

— Christopher M. Bache, Ph.D. Author of LSD & the Mind of the Universe

 

“It is quite obvious that skills in meditation, the practice of being at peace within one’s body and mind, even in uncomfortable places, can be of great help in the course of a psychedelic session.”

— Vanja Palmers, Zen Priest, Psychedelics & Meditation

 

“The ability to, I think, objectify one’s experience, to see it as something which is just there and very natural, that is a powerful skill, and its a skill that can be developed through meditation, which is why I think actually that a nice long course of meditation is the perfect pre-requisite for psychedelics, because I think that people who have done that will have fewer problems dealing with psychedelic experiences.”

— Craig, participant on a John Hopkins study on the effects of psilocybin on long-term meditators

 

“The foundation laid by any previous inner work will hold us in good stead at such times by virtue of the attention skills we have developed. These skills make it easier to remain focused when confronted with the unexpected…

“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.”

— Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule and lead researcher on the DMT studies at the University of New Mexico

 

“Training in meditation is an excellent preparation for confronting the expanded states of consciousness which entheogens generate and, conversely, the intensity and forthrightness of these expanded states can provide a great impetus to apply the achievements attained during meditation in an emphatic way”

— Dokusho Villalba, The Spiritual Potential Of Entheogens – Dissolving The Roots Of Suffering – Zig Zag Zen

 

Read more:

LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven | Goodreads
Psychedelics & Meditation | MAPS website
DMT: The Spirit Molecule | Goodreads
The Divine Spark | Goodreads
Zig Zag Zen | Goodreads

Bonus:

Reset: How Meditation and Psychedelics Can Go Hand in Hand | MAPS website

Last week I was interviewed on Awaken Atlanta, a breakfast show in the US that covers topics that mainstream media don’t talk about. I was on to talk about, of course, psychedelics, and shared a bit of my experience and answered some of their questions. The show is now available online. You can watch my interview below or see the full show here. Enjoy!

Join Tim and Shannon as they discuss psychedelics. They will be delving into different types of hallucinogens, how they can benefit your mental health, and its long-term effects, as well as hallucinogen addiction. They will be speaking with Alice Smeets, a Trauma Integration Therapist and Kerrie O’Reilly, a Trauma Integration Therapist, and Holistic Health Practitioner. They’ll also interview their John Andrew, a Psychedelic Explorer & Guide.

Set and setting are two of the biggest contributors in how a psychedelic experience turns out. They are arguably as important as the dose and substance itself and together form the context for the experience.

Set refers to mindset; the persons inner state when they take the drug; their frame of mind, attitude and mood.

Setting refers to the physical environment of the experience. This includes for example; the location or room, the company or trip sitter, and the music.

Setting: The Environment for a Psychedelic Experience

This post will look at setting and why it should be considered carefully when planning a psychedelic experience.

Setting is part of the experience

The environment for any experience is the vehicle in which it is received and can actually be considered a part of the experience itself.  As such, it should not be underestimated in terms of how much influence it can have.

Consider how a frame is used to change the experience of viewing a piece of art. Does it change the piece of art itself? Whether it has a frame around it or not, it is the same piece of visual information hanging on the wall. However, it changes how it is viewed and received. It is part of the experience.

Consider some other experiences and how much the environment or method of delivery influences the experience as a whole:

  • The experience of being in a fancy fine dining restaurant vs. eating in as fast food joint. Consider how the experience is different before you’ve even eaten any food.
  • Seeing a band play at a huge festival with thousands of people singing along, dancing and enjoying themselves vs. seeing a band play in a small half empty room with a handful of disinterested people
  • Taking a drink from a nice glass vs. from a cheap plastic bottle

Setting changes set

Setting can also influence the internal state of someone and their ability to do certain things. Imagine you have some work to do that requires your full focus and concentration.

Now imagine trying to do that work in a hot, noisy and crowded environment. Imagine trying to do it outside on a busy street on a hot day.

Now imagine doing that work in a cool, quiet, and distraction free room. Imagine being at home with an air fan to keep you cool, some noise cancelling headphones playing brain.fm, and an accountability partner to check in with at the end of an hour of work.

Do you think you would have the same level of focus in each scenario? Would the results of the work be the same?

In the scenario of a psychedelic session, setting can be considered to help one navigate their journey more successfully. It is like the difference between trying to steer a ship alone and heavily distracted vs. trying to navigate a ship in peace with someone by your side to support you. Which is more likely to get you to your destination?

Setting & Mood

Setting can have a big influence on how one feels. Taking a psychedelic in a club surrounded by many strangers with loud music and flashing lights is going to be a very different experience to being in a room with soft soothing music, low lighting, a comfortable place to lay down and a trusted friend. The second one will promote feelings of relaxation. In the context of a high-dose psychedelic experience this can be very beneficial to help someone let go more fully.

Creating the setting can be considered as creating the atmosphere or the ambience for a session.

Factors to consider when creating a setting

  • Sound
  • Music
  • Lighting
  • Art
  • Items/Decoration
  • Altar
  • Clothes
  • Comfort
  • Heat
  • Airflow
  • Smell
  • Company
  • Tripsitter

Themes to consider

  • Comfort
  • Privacy
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Safety
  • Simplicity
  • Space

Cultural Context

The setting can also include the city or country that you have your psychedelic experience in. Factors include the legal status; could you go to prison or worse for taking a psychedelic substance, or is it totally legal? and also the cultural context; the public opinion and media representation of psychedelics. An experience in New York will be very different to that of one in Peru and again likewise different to that of one in Amsterdam.

When planning a psychedelic experience consider not just the substance and dose but also think carefully about the setting. It is possible to have a meaningful experience on a lower dose if the set and setting are prepared accordingly and the experience infused with a kind of meaning. The effect of setting on an experience is magnified on psychedelics, and as such is worth careful consideration.

How can you increase the likelihood of having a mystical psychedelic experience? A paper by from the Imperial College Research Centre team details four clear indicators that increase the likelihood of a mystical experience:

– Feeling ready to ‘surrender’ to the experience.

– Having a clear intention for the experience.

– Having the experience in a therapeutic setting.

– Taking a higher dose.

 

The model above from the paper, shows that the same four factors, plus being in the company of well-trusted individuals, was protective against a ‘challenging’ psychological experience (AKA a ‘bad trip’).

These findings, based on data from the psychedelic survey project, again show the importance of set, setting, and dose when it comes to the outcome of a psychedelic experience. In particular, they show how these variables can be used to increase the likelihood of having a certain kind of psychedelic experience which the researchers label ‘peak’ – an intentionally secular term inspired by Abraham Maslow’s work – that can effectively be viewed as a synonymous with the concept of a ‘mystical’ experience.

“Mystical experiences, which typically are extremely ephemeral and unpredictable, can actually be catalyzed in a fairly reliable and replicable way with correct use of psychedelic substance (that is, if carefully prepared volunteers, with worthwhile goals and in a comfortable and uplifting setting, are given the right dosage”

G. William Barnard – Foreword to Sacred Knowledge

You can read the full paper online here:
Psychedelics and the essential importance of context

Psychedelics are not an integrated part of our culture in the West and as such they can be difficult to talk about. There is still social stigma attached to the topic, and even though they are increasingly gaining credibility and acceptance, they are still in many ways taboo.

How easily and openly you can talk about psychedelics of course depends on who you are talking to. If you have a very open minded friend then perhaps it is no problem to speak with them about your interest or experience with psychedelics. However, if you come from a conservative background then it may be very difficult to speak about with family members and even bringing up the topic might start ringing alarm bells.

Selective Sharing For Integration

When it comes to a successful integration of your experience, selective sharing is an important point. Just as you have certain friends that you might speak to about certain things like music or philosophy, in the same way you probably have friends that would be more open and receptive to the topic of psychedelics.

Choose carefully who you will share your experience with and how much you will share. The experience can lose some of its magic if not held properly by the listener. A highly skeptical or even mocking response can really dampen what was a very personally meaningful experience and detract from it’s power to catalyze positive change in your life. In some cases it may even cause you to doubt what you experienced and and be encouraged to brush it off as nothing more than a weird drug experience.

Know Your Crowd

Selective sharing should also take into account which aspects of your experience you choose to talk about. If you had a spiritual experience and you have a friend who is very firm in their material mechanistic worldview, then it may not be worth speaking to them about the spiritual aspects of your experience or connecting with the divine. Most likely it will be written off and rationalised by someone who at the end of the day did not experience what you experienced. However, you may be able to speak to that same friend about some of the positive changes you have felt since the experience. You could talk about how you feel or think differently and can even reference some of the science which has shown the changes that happen in the brain. Referencing some of the scientific research that has been done may provide a perspective on the experience that your friend will more readily trust.

 

With this in mind it may not be that with some friends you can speak about psychedelics with and others not. It is more a case of choosing how you speak about psychedelics with each individual.

Opening a Conversation

A good entry to a conversation about psychedelics is to ask a question. Rather than opening up with “I had an amazing experience last weekend on LSD“ you could open up with:

  • “did you ever try LSD?“
  • “did you have any experience with psychedelic drugs?“
  • “do you know anything about psychedelic drugs?“

Entering into a conversation this way is a good way of putting the feelers out. You can get a gauge on persons perspective without commiting yourself to anything and can proceed accordingly in the conversation. If it seems like you do not want to go any further you can say “oh I just read something interesting about it the other day and it got me quite interested.”

Choosing a time to share

If there is someone who you would really like to speak to but are afraid of their response, try to choose a time when they are in a more open and less judgemental state. Generally if someone opens up or shows a vulnerability to you then they will be in a more open frame of mind. Another good sign is when they are really listening to you and asking questions that come from a place of curiosity rather than challenge.

Shifting the landscape through conversation

Talking about psychedelics is an important part of shifting the cultural conversation around the topic and moving the psychedelic movement forwards. With that in mind I would like to share a quote from my friend and Altered founder Dax DeFranco from an interview I did with him back in 2017:

“I think the most important thing is to use and talk about them in an honest way. There’s a lot of talk about ‘coming out of the psychedelic closet’ – like I mentioned before, when you’re the only person who’s experimented with x, it’s hard to talk about it or make it a part of your identity, but the more people that do, the less pressure and fear others feel to identify that way. I think the simple act of being a psychedelic person who’s honest about being a psychedelic person is extremely powerful.”