Taking a high dose of a psychedelic still scares me. This is true even after having embarked upon many high dose sessions. One thing that I’ve found helps me to find a sense of calm is having some kind of structure to the session.
Sometimes for my trips I will have a very minimal structure. Usually, with low or medium doses, I’d be more on the recreational tip; more loose and informal. On the other hand, for higher dose formal sessions, what I might call ceremonies, I tend towards a more formal and structured approach. For these more ritualistic high-dose experiences, I create a service sheet.
Psychedelic Service Sheet
Much like you might find at a ceremony such as a wedding, funeral or other church service, a psychedelic service sheet contains the order of proceedings. It may also include the words of any prayers, songs or readings that are part of the service.
I usually only create a service sheet for inner journeys. As I’ll be lying down with my eyes closed for these sessions, my service sheet is mostly just an order for opening and closing the session.
I really like having a service sheet because it makes the occasion feel special. It is also very practical. It gives me a clear step-by-step run through. Having this clear to do list, or, order of service, helps me to go through specific steps in order to bring about a sense of ease, order, and structure. This helps to create something of a container for the experience. When I’m a little anxious or fidgety before a high dose session, having this clear and simple run through helps me to follow steps one by one and sets me up nicely for my session. It’s similar to some athletes or musicians’ pre-show rituals.
Contents of a Service Sheet
My service sheet will typically contain the steps for my opening and closing rituals, and the prayer that I read aloud as part of my opening. There is also space for me to write my intention, as well as other key details like the location, style of the session, the people present, and the date. It may include some navigation reminders or guidelines, and/or a couple of lines to help me connect to my inner resources. It also has a section for me to fill in the dosage, substance, and start time.
Helps Create the Desired Set
On my service sheet I include things which help to move me into a desired state: feeling safe, relaxed, humble, and open. Here is a quick summary of items that I include and what they help connect me to.
Resources: safety, strength
Meditation: calm, open
Prayer: humble, open
Gratitude: heart opening
They are all, in some form or another, centering practices.
How & What I Use for my Service Sheets
Sometimes I have the sheet printed off on a sheet of A4 paper. More often I will use the double page of a notepad, which I lie open on a flat surface in a designated place. Depending on the setup and space, it may be part of or next to an altar. The pad then remains open there for the duration of the session, and is only put away once the ceremony has been closed.
I typically like to include a sound, such as ringing a bell or making an OM, to both open and close. I also like to light and then blow out a candle as bookends, with the flame symbolizing the journey. When I blow it out at the end I can make a wish and do a little candle magic. This is, by the way, for you cynics, performed every day across the country when children blow out little flames on their birthday cakes.
I think the ayahuasca ceremonies I attended in the Amazon were a large influence on me adopting service sheets into my practice. They were easily the most formalized ceremonies that I’d attended. They had a very clear structure to them, with distinct stages, or rounds, of the service. They also included many preselected readings and prayers. I really appreciated that approach and how special it felt. It also added to a sense of containment and made the whole thing feel more safe. I also think the Japanese tea ceremony has influenced my adoption of service sheets, as well as using to-do lists and practicing productivity concepts like ‘masterpiece days‘ and deep work.
Record of Doses and Journeys
Service sheets also work as a handy record. They can be used to look back on previous trips. For practical considerations, having things like doses noted can be helpful for calibrating and titrating your dosage over time. So if you think like ‘oh yeah, that time we tripped at Lisa’s place, that was a good level, how much did we take?’. You’ve got it there in your written records.
Making Your Own Service Sheet
If this idea interests you, I would recommend trying to create your own service sheet. If you find it’s not for you, you can go ditch it and go back to your usual approach. Here I will include a few examples of orders that might be included. You can consider them a starting point and take this idea wherever you like. Your service sheet might look totally different to mine.
Example 1: Group Inner Journeys Style
Once everyone is ready:
- Opening Circle (A stick goes round the circle, and everyone shares how they feel)
- 3 minutes silent meditation
- Pass doses round in circle and bless them
- Music begins (Inwards, by Tommi)
- Take doses
- Playlist Ends
- Closing circle
Example 2: Group Dynamic Session
- Ring Bell
- Opening Circle
- Eye gazing in pairs
- Take Dose
Session (modeled on Osho Dynamic Meditation)
- Section 1: Loosening
- Section 2: Activation
Free flowing movement & dance
- Section 3: Calm
Standing or seated meditation
- Section 4: Stillness
Seated or lying meditation
(When participants feel ready to re-engage, they may move to the reintegration room)
- Closing Circle
- Give Thanks
- Ring Bell
Example 3: MVO (Minimum Viable Order of Service)
- Take dose
- Closing joint
Would you ever use a service sheet? Is it too formal for you? Would you prefer a more relaxed approach? For high-dose sessions where things can get a little more out of control, I find a service sheet helps to make myself feel more grounded and ready to embark upon a journey. I believe it might help you, too.
Safe travels and best wishes.