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three core components psychedelic trip

We all know how beneficial psychedelic experiences can be when we make the time for them. So why don’t we do them more often? Well, we all have our own reasons, but quite often it falls down to very 3 simple things. Recently, asking the psychedelic twitter crowd what their excuses were, I noticed these all too familiar things coming up.

Substance

Of course it’s difficult because of drug laws. So this may take some initiative on your part. Here are some options are:

  • Grow your own. Possibly the best option for the serious psychonaut if you are able to. DoubleBlind offer an online course to grow your own.
  • Deep web. Admittedly I haven’t used this in about a decade and is fiddly to set up with all the crypto stuff. It does work though. Just go for domestic shipping and have your story straight.
  • Order a legal analog. AKA research chemicals, these are kinda new and a little unknown, so approach with caution. I myself have used 1P LSD and 1B LSD and I couldn’t tell the difference from standard LSD. PsychonautWiki is a good place to find out more info.
  • Order magic truffles. Psilocybin truffles are legal in the Netherlands Some vendors in the Netherlands ship outside their country.

It may also help to go to where psychonauts hang out (post COVID) to build connections and network. Public talks, workshops, integration circles, and conferences are all good places.

Private Space

Having a private space is key. If you live in a flatshare or otherwise shared space this can be a big obstacle.

Some options:

  • Ask friends who have their own place if you might be able to use it sometime. If you aren’t comfortable with telling them you’re going to trip you can tell them you’d just like some time to yourself. Perhaps a practice of silence, or some other kinda home practice, such as a meditation retreat.
  • If you live with your parents, maybe catch a time they are on holiday or away for a couple days.
  • Book an air bnb.

Time

Often the hardest one in our busy world.

A great quote I got from Psychedelic Experience founder Tim Cools:

‘Just plan it, and don’t cancel it’.

It really is as simple as that. Simple, not easy. Having a coach might be helpful, or planning to do a session with a friend. Organising with friends may take a bit more planning and coordination, but can help to stick to it as there’s social accountability. It’s also obviously a great way to deepen your connection.

I recommend taking 3 days. Day 1 to tie up loose ends (e.g. no urgent messages or emails hanging, all work and social commitments taken care of, letting anyone who needs to know that you’ll be offline). Day 2 to journey. Day 3 to integrate.

However, from my experience, a session squeezed in between work days is better than no session at all.

Set a date. Put it in the calendar.

That’s It!

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john robertson psychonaut

Hello. My name is John Robertson and I am a Psychonaut. 

john robertson psychonaut

A psychonaut is someone who uses psychedelic substances as tools of exploration. Exploration of the mind, of reality, of the universe. Like cosmonauts, psychonauts willingly enter into the unknown on a mission of discovery. We are explorers.

This year marks 10 years of being a psychonaut with my first psychedelic experience in late 2011. My use of psychedelics has evolved over time and so has my relationship with them. In the name of openness, today I’ll share what my current use looks like, including styles, intentions, substances, and frequency.

Psychedelic Therapy Style Method

I use psychedelics in many different ways but of the classic psychedelics my most common use is that of a psychedelic therapy style.

This means taking a medium to high dose in a comfortable and controlled indoor environment. I use headphones and an eye mask, while listening to a preselected playlist of music from start to finish. The headphones to immerse me in the experience, with the music acting as a type of guide, and the eye mask helps to keep my attention directed inwards.

I sometimes do this with friends but more often I do this alone. I find doing it alone really allows me to let go: I can express myself freely without worry of disturbing someone else. This might be sobbing, weeping, laughing, talking to myself out loud, groaning, grunting or making other animalistic or primal expressions. It may also be moving my body in some way like shaking, pacing around the room or even beating my chest. 

When working alone I have a set procedure that I follow and have built through practice. On the day, my ritual includes putting my phone on airplane mode, saying a prayer and giving thanks, and writing down my intention and saying it out loud before I consume the dose. I also close the ceremony by giving thanks and finally ringing a bell. It includes various preparation and integration practices, such as clearing in the days before, checking in with both of my parents, and journaling while listening to the playlist again on the day after the session.

I find this type of session to be the most useful thing I can do to gain access to the hidden realms of my psyche, to make the unconscious conscious, and to gain a better understanding and acceptance of myself. It helps to clarify things for me and I nearly always come out of a session with an extremely clear sense of where my heart wants to go and what I need to do next in my life.

I use this style of session as a tool for personal growth and view it as a foundational part of my spiritual practice.

These days I almost exclusively use psilocybin, though I have used LSD in the past and had great results. 

Exploring for Fun

I also use psychedelics in more casual ways and often with the express intention of having fun with friends. This may be inside, it could also be outside. The one thing that is consistent is that I like to be well prepared in terms of equipment, such as basics like having some food, drinks or snacks ready, and comfortable spaces to lie down with blankets. I also, like in the psychedelic therapy style, always write down all the doses I take and the times I take them. If I’m out or at a friends’ place, I will do this in my pocket notebook which I take everywhere with me.

I also like to give some thought to the types of things we might want to do beforehand, and may prepare things to entertain or amuse myself or the group with. These may be things to look at, things to touch, ponder, or experience. For example, music videos, wikipedia articles, or pieces of visual art.

When exploring for fun it is usually with LSD or 2C-B and sometimes combined with MDMA. Nitrous oxide has also often been in the mix in the past, but that is less common and more reserved for special occasions these days. Still, hitting a gas on a candy flip is something that I think every psychonaut should try once in their lives 😉

Between Fun and Therapeutic

Though I place the highest value on the classic psychedelics, I also use non-classic psychedelics such as MDMA and ketamine for having a comfortable exploration at home. This is usually a mixture of growth oriented introspective style work and a fun exploration of ideas or themes. I sometimes also mix in 2C-B for this type of session and have enjoyed trying different combinations of these three substances. I also like to experiment with different types of ratios in terms of dose and timing of doses, and sometimes also blend in some marijuana to mix it up and increase entropy in my streams of thoughts and experience.

For introspective style work, I do journaling to explore my thoughts and feelings. Generally the content is often about my relationships with others, things I’d like to do such as lifestyle changes or experiments, and ideas around creative and professional projects.

For the fun exploration of ideas or themes I will also explore with certain materials like music or art and journal about them.

I also like to do things which are a little more creatively ambitious which may extend over the course of multiple sessions to create a deeper exploration and expression. For example, during lockdown this year I explored the theme of ‘the Loner’ and loneliness. This is something I identify with and, living with two couples and not being allowed contact with anyone else for 2 months, this came up strongly for me. I explored it by creating a playlist of songs on the theme, reading the wikipedia pages of loneliness and solitude, and gave myself expression by writing and recording a punk song: ‘Loner’. It was awesome.

On more casual sessions like this I will also often just have an open free association brainstorm kind of thing just using pen and paper to externalise thoughts and ideas so I can see them and more easily make new connections.

Normally sessions will not be either therapeutic or fun, but a mix of both, always with the therapeutic and more challenging content coming up at the start of the session before giving way to a more relaxed tone and sense of agency about where I want to put my attention.

Psycholytic Style

I also do this type of fun/therapy session occasionally with a good friend of mine. We use ketamine as it is his preferred substance. Likewise, the first section of the session we generally do more therapeutically oriented work, and we will go for a more psycholytic style approach, using our conversation and interaction as a means to to dig in to and look closely at perceptions and feelings, question beliefs, reach deeper levels of understanding, and ultimately find some resolution with current issues in our lives. We also sometimes do role plays, acting out interactions with different people in our lives who we currently have tension with, and look at quotes from our favourite philosophers.

Music

I am a huge fan of music in general and just love listening to music on all psychedelic substances. I also occasionally like going to concerts and taking something. For example, a couple years ago, I went with some friends to see one of my faves Kurt Vile at the Kulturastrahaus and for the whole show just danced my little heart out down front. 

One of my more recent all time favorite life experiences was taking 2C-B with MDMA and seeing the-man-the-myth-the-legend, Ty Segall. Front row I got absolutely pounded in a tornado of thumping guitars that swept through the core of my being and left me mixed parts obliterated and exhilarated. Yeah, just awesome.

Nature Connection

Less often I take psychedelics out in nature so I guess I’m more of a city psychonaut. However, I think that is mostly due to the fact of psychedelics being illegal and my uncomfortable feelings of being outside and exposed in an uncontrolled environment. After all, psychedelics can and often do increase feelings of sensitivity and vulnerability. That is, however, something I would like to change because I would like to deepen my appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.

How often I take psychedelics

The frequency of my use really varies season-by-season and year-by-year. My practice and use, like life and myself, is a living, evolving thing. I do try to make time for psychedelic therapy style sessions at least a few times a year but there isn’t a set pattern that I stick to. Use of the non classics is more regular, even though I would say it is less beneficial. That is because my psychedelic therapy style sessions are a bigger deal, a 2-3 day affair, also with the added preparation time needed in the run up. They require more from me, in time and energy commitment, so it is harder to fit in. Still, I think I do a decent job.

For example, in 2019 I did around ten sessions with classic psychedelics, (about half in psychedelic therapy style), and ten-fifteen with non-classics. Last year, overall use increased with corona and I had around nine sessions with classics, and fifteen-twenty with non classics. So far in 2021, I have had two experiences with the classics, and a hearty handful of the non-classics to get me through a protracted lockdown.

I also sometimes microdose psilocybin or LSD but not often or with any kind of consistent frequency. 

My Name is John Robertson

Up until now I have written and worked under the name John Andrew. Andrew is my middle name and I first used this name before I was working in the psychedelic field.

At the time I had just finished a stint of three years as an English teacher and I was taking something of a sabbatical to travel. I was hoping to make it as a blogger but I wasn’t sure if at some point I would need to go back to teaching English or find some other kind of more conventional job to give myself another injection of cash that would enable to go on doing the types of projects that were closer to my heart.

I was worried about potential employers googling me and finding my blog writing about all my crazy and illegal psychedelic adventures and ultimately limiting my options and ability to work. It is kind of sad that I felt I had to hide such a huge part of what I see as a beautiful and core part of my identity but such was my predicament.

I used the name John Andrew for jobs such as workshops and public talks and continued to use it as I entered more deeply into the wider psychedelic network. When finally committing to full-time psychedelic work some years later I thought that it would be kind of fun to continue using what had become my pen and now psychedelic name. After all, having a pen name is kind of cool, and I also wanted to build on the name I’d started to establish.

By this point it was not that I was really hiding it from anyone that was important to me. I revealed my psychedelic side to both of my parents at the time of their separation. With everything that was going on I felt the need to reach a much deeper level of openness and honesty with both of them. I wanted them to really know their son. 

Initially my Dad was more accepting than my Mum and he was actually a huge support to me in the founding of the New Moon Psychedelic Retreat project which launched in 2019. He encouraged me to follow my heart and seeing that I had clarity on what I wanted to do, he pushed me to fully go for it. That is what I did and I committed myself to a project of a scope that I had never taken on before. I put a part of my heart and soul in to New Moon in a way that was a deeply meaningful and formative experience.

Since then it has then now come the point where people know me through my public psychedelic work and will actually call out to me as John Andrew. Or people closer to me know that my name is John Robertson, but they’ve also seen my name around as John Andrew and there is some kind of confusion. It’s not really that I was trying to keep those sides separate in recent years, it’s just that I had used that name for a while and just thought it would be more convenient to continue using it.

I now want to clear up this confusion and be called by my family name for my work. This is me taking one more step on my path of long term integration.

I am John Robertson.

And I fucking love psychedelics.

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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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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.