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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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Finding a place can be a big part of preparing for a psychedelic experience. If you live with flatmates and don’t have your own private apartment or house, it can be the biggest obstacle to making it happen.

If you have flatmates that you don’t feel comfortable sharing your interest in psychedelics with and you’d rather not talk to them about your plans to trip at home, then this post is for you.

This post covers:

  • The minimum prep
  • Questions to consider before doing a journey at home
  • Using a cover story for a covert trip, with step by step instructions
  • The Midnight Trip
  • Bonus Tips

How to trip at home when you have flatmates

Note: I do NOT advise to do a covert trip for your very first psychedelic experience.

If you already have quite some experience, it could be easier than expected. The first time I went for it, after some initial come up anxiety, I was surprised at how comfortable I was and the only real hurdles were the times I had to leave my room. That is why…

Preparation Is Key

Living in a shared space can be complicated. The prospect of interacting with sober flatmates while tripping is not an attractive prospect and could cause complications. The only time this can happen is when you have to leave your room, i.e. to use the bathroom, the kitchen, or get things from else where in the house.

Set yourself up to be able to stay in your room for the duration of the session.

On the most basic level, this means having the following ready:

  • Enough food and water
  • Enough warm clothes
  • A vomit/piss bucket

Yes the piss bucket might seem a step too far, but when you are 4 grams deep and suddenly realise you desperately need a pee, only to head to the bathroom to find that your flatmate is taking a nice long bath, you will be glad you had this ready. I am happy to say that I’ve never had to use it. However, it has given me  peace of mind knowing that I’m covered and could stay in my room if I really needed to.

Tip: When you need to leave your room, move calmly and quickly. If you see a flatmate, keep moving, not stopping for small talk.

Some questions to consider before doing a journey at home

Do flatmates respect your private space?
Do they knock before opening the door?
Do they leave you alone if you don’t answer the knock?
What is the interaction normally like in the corridors? Is it normal to walk past each other without saying anything?

Cover Story

Depending on the relationship you have with your flatmates, a cover story might be a good option.

Say you are doing an at home meditation retreat

Here are the steps to doing this:

1. Become a meditator

It is a good habit anyway and will serve you well in your psychedelic practice.

2. Talk to your flatmates about meditation

and your experience of it. Ask them if they’ve tried it. Invite them to practice with you. Who knows, you might even get a meditation buddy, this will support your practice.

3. Do a ½ day meditation retreat

This is an optional step and works well as a dry run. You can also just skip it but the steps here will still be used.

i) Tell your flatmates your plan to do an at home retreat / long practice. Tell them that for that day, ideally you’d have as much peace as possible and not be disturbed.
ii) Ask them when would be the best time for you to do it. Find out when they will be at work, out for a whole day, or even better, away for a few days.
iii) If there isn’t a time you can get the place to yourself, let them them know that you will be in silence, and therefore, if you see them whilst visiting the toilet, you wont speak with them. You’re not ignoring them, its just the guidelines of the retreat.
iv) Find a date and put it in your calendar.
v) Prepare to be offline for the day, let important people know you will be unavailable. Take care of all emails in advance. Standard clearing practices.
vi) Do your at home meditation retreat.
vii) See how it goes, tell your flatmates about your experience.

There is a ½ day at home retreat as the final part of Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s Power Of Awareness Course, which I can absolutely recommend.

4. Tell your flatmates that you’re going to do (another) at home retreat.

Follow steps i to v as above.

5. Trip!

Safe travels!

Bonus Tips:

  • I recommend a low – medium dose as I would recommend having a tripsitter for a high dose. If you are thinking that you want to do high dose anyway, consider that you might have a big emotional release, for example through laughter or crying, which could be quite noisy and problematic.
  • Use headphones for music if your flatmates will be home. Telling them you’re doing a meditation retreat and then pumping music won’t do. Unless you tell them its an extended sound meditation, I guess. Also, you might wake them up if you go for…

* The Midnight Trip *

Another option is the midnight trip, which sidesteps possible encounters with flatmates by tripping when everyone else is asleep. It is also pretty straightforward and means that you don’t have to do many of the steps listed above.

If you are flexible with work and sleep hours this could be a good option and is one I have used with success.

That’s all for today. Safe practice, be well!

headphones eye mask psychedelic therapy equipment

Music can play a huge role in psychedelic sessions and knowing how to use sound to shape and influence an experience is extremely valuable. If you’re looking for pre-made music playlists for a therapeutic psilocybin journey geared towards introspection and personal growth, welcome, you’re in the right place.

headphones eye mask psychedelic therapy equipment

Two key pieces of equipment for a standard therapeutic journey

This post has links to six playlists that have been made specifically for use with psilocybin (magic truffles or magic mushrooms) with a little info on each of them and their creators. 

Playlists:

1. Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 1 – Mendel Kaelen
2. Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 2 – Mendel Kaelen
3. Sacred Knowledge – Bill Richards
4. A Playlist For Psilocybin – Kelan Thomas
5. Psilocybin2 – Kelan Thomas
6. A Playlist For Psilocybin – Matthew Baldwin

About These Playlists

Phases

These playlists are specially designed so their the lengths are matched to that of a psilocybin journey and take into account the various stages of a trip such as onset, ascent, peak, return. There are variations on this depending on the creator of the playlist.

psychedelic music playlists phases journey baldwin therapy psilocybin beyond prague presentations

The phases of a psychedelic trip according to Bonny & Pahnke, the length of LSD is compressed 33% for psilocybin

Playlists are extremely useful in that you can press play after eating/drinking/ingesting your magical fungi and then not have to think about selecting music for the rest of the session – you just let it play out and ride the journey. Although exploring different types of music intuitively and in the moment can be great on psychedelics, having to get up and try to find suitable music can be very difficult on higher doses and detract from the experience.

Check out our recent article: How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists)

Language

These playlists all contain music without words in English (bar a couple of reasoned exceptions); this is the general standard in psychedelic therapeutic work to avoid ‘hermeneutic contamination’, to use Matthew Baldwin’s phrase; ‘to discourage the rational mind from following the content of the words’, as Bill Richards puts it. There seems to be a general consensus in the field that understandable lyrics can be distracting and limit the experience.

Without further ado, let’s get into them.

Mendel Kaelen

Mendel Kaelen is probably the biggest name in the world when it comes to created playlists for psychedelic work (admittedly not the largest field, but still). A neuroscientist and music nerd, Kaelen created these playlists, which contain ambient and neo-classical music, for the groundbreaking psilocybin for depression study at Imperial College London.

mendel kaelen psychedelic science music

Kaelen presented at Psychedelic Science

Though they were created for the depression study, they can also work magic for non-depressed people too; I and many I know have journeyed to these amazing playlists, powerful stuff. The second one is an excellent playlist and would be my first recommendation.

You can read more about how he created these playlists in an article on Vice here.

Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 1 – Mendel Kaelen

Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 2 – Mendel Kaelen

Bill Richards

Bill Richards is a founding member of the Johns Hopkins psychedelic research team in the US and one of the most prominent names in the world when it comes to psilocybin research. His psychedelic psychotherapy research is wide ranging, from treating addiction to inducing mystical experiences, and Richards values music as a way to support a person’s experience.

“I make the best musical choices I can, trying to separate the ‘very good’ and the ‘excellent’ on the basis of years of experience with many different people”
Richards on compiling the playlist

There’s a lot of classical music in this playlist (Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Brahms) and a few tracks that I have to say are just inspired choices towards the end.

You can read more about Richard’s choices and how he compiled the playlist here.

Kelan Thomas

  • A Playlist For PsilocybinSpotify | Youtube (make sure there are no ads if listening through youtube)
  • Psilocybin2Spotify

I first heard of Kelan Thomas in an article about his first playlist and was excited to see Mogwai (awesome Scottish post rock) and Dirty Three (violin, guitar and drums together in rumbling, flowing rock) on there – familiar names I didn’t expect to see, as well as some other stuff that falls somewhere between ambient and post rock; one of my all time favourite genres that I’ve long wanted to make a psychedelic playlist to, feeling its epic and instrumental style would lend itself perfectly to cosmic journeys.

music concert

I tried the first playlist to a classic therapeutic style journey (setting intention beforehand, using eye mask and headphones, with a sitter) and had a beautiful journey, finding peace, contentment and joy on the journey and in the musical choices. I was moved in that I wanted to thank all the musicians who made the music on that playlist, and to Kelan himself for creating the playlist.

As it happened, a couple months later, whilst setting up a room at Insight conference in Berlin, I noticed the name tag on an early comer in the room – it was Kelan Thomas! I  told him I’d used his playlist and was able to thank him personally for putting it together before chatting a little about it and his choices; interestingly he described it as a ‘decolonising’ playlist in the world of psychedelic therapy.

He also told me he had made a second playlist which I could find on his spotify. I tried it recently and had one of my most beautifully expressive journeys to date. 

A Playlist For Psilocybin


Psilocybin 2

Matthew Baldwin

Matthew was a fellow student of Kelan Thomas in the Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research Program at CIIS in San Francisco, and is clearly a scholar on the topic. He presented one of the talks I found most interesting at Beyond Psychedelics last year which you can watch here:
The Art Of Creating Musical Playlists For Psychedelic Work

music playlists psychedelic

Matthew presenting at Beyond Psychedelics 2018

Myself and co-retreat maker Tuk tried this playlist out during research for our retreats with New Moon and I was very surprised by a lot of the choices, this is certainly the most divergent of the playlist here on this list. This playlist emphasizes organic (instead of sequenced electronic) types of music.

Safe And Wondrous Journeys!

The relationship between music and how it affects consciousness and mood is something I find super interesting and consider creating playlists to be an art.  Do you have any tips? Personal preferences? Favourite music to use for a session? Would love to hear others thoughts on this. If you know of any playlists I’ve missed or have your own to contribute, leave a comment below.

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universe cosmos colours beautiful

Psychedelics and meditation have both had a strong influence on my life and are somehow inextricably intertwined. I first got interested in meditation in the aftermath of primary experiences with LSD, and now meditation, in some way or another, informs every psychedelic session I take.

There is dispute in the Buddhist community about the value of psychedelics ‘on the path’ and if you’re interested in the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics, I highly recommend the book Zig Zag Zen. There are plenty of other articles on this topic, but today I’m just gonna share a bit of my story and how these two things have weaved their way into my life.

Discovering LSD

lsd acid tabs psychedelic

I first tried LSD as a curious guy keen for new experiences. As someone who enjoyed being creative, I was especially interested in new ways of thinking. I also wanted to have fun. I had little idea what I was in for when I put that little piece of paper in my mouth, but looking back, I now see those first experiences as pivotal in my life. Though they’ve affected me in many ways, one that stands out is how they lead me to meditation. At the time I had never tried meditating, nor had any real idea what it was, but if I had never tried LSD, I honestly doubt I’d have started meditating.

How Psychedelic Experience Lead Me To Meditation

On the tail end of my first LSD trips, I didn’t have any ‘comedown’. The post-trip chapter I experienced would more accurately be described as a serene, contemplative afterglow. After the ecstasy and madness of the peak, I descended to a more peaceful state which was in its own way, my favourite part of the whole experience. Though at the time I didn’t have any clear idea of what ‘meditation’ meant, I described the afterglow state to friends as meditative; my mind was sharp and clear and I was deeply reflective. I also noticed that my breathing naturally became long and slow. This tuning into the flow of my breath was a naturally induced meditation session.

When my friends and I didn’t naively first time candy flip on a Sunday and have to go to work the next day without getting a wink of sleep (see: my first time on acid – I started a new job that Monday – another story, another time), an ideal recovery day would be spent chilling with my fellow travellers. We’d order pizza, smoke joints and get comfortable on the sofas for a run of movies. After a long session, we were always physically exhausted, yet my mind was always energised. With this mental energy I’d wander philosophically through themes and ideas that came up in the films, conversation, music or anything else. As we watched movies I’d interpret them in all kinds of novel ways, see metaphors the writers and directors had put in, and understand concepts that I hadn’t considered before. I’d make notes in my journal about interesting ideas that came to mind and, of course, just generally enjoy hanging out. Relaxed but attentive, naturally contemplative, it was a taster for meditation.

lsd acid psychedelic trippy meaning

In the wake of these experiences, my mind was clearer. I had a greater awareness and detachment of my thoughts. I felt wiser. I was looking at things from a greater perspective more often and more naturally, like that mental trick you do when something bad happens and you ask yourself “how much will this matter in 5, 10 or 20 years?”, or you zoom out on google maps to try and coerce the overview effect. I was thinking more creatively and seeing metaphors in almost everything, and my behaviour became less guided by fear and petty concerns. The effect was sudden and obvious, and lasted some months before beginning to fade and older mental habits and ways of being began to return.

I missed my newly found but now fading clarity and wisdom, but I’d experienced another way of being that I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Following a wikipedia trail, I was lead from psychedelic drugs to non-ordinary forms of consciousness to meditation; a method of changing awareness, without substances. Though my access to psychedelic substances was gone, my newly whetted appetite for discovery remained, and I moved to Asia with a job teaching English.

London England Shanghai Pudong

From the UK to China

In my new home city of Shanghai, I started going to classes on meditation and reading books on the topic. Reading books about Buddhism felt like I was reading books about psychedelic experience, and in retrospect, they were some kind of integration texts. I began a daily meditation practice, and soon after went on my first silent retreat in 2012.

temple stay meditation korea

Temple stay in Korea

In the 6 years that have passed since, meditation practice has become a key foundation in my life. I’ve been back on other retreats and temple stays, was part of a Zen sangha in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Spain, and last year started a weekly meditation group in Berlin. Meditation is what a friend of mine would call a fundamental – others include exercise, diet, community and creative projects – and mindfulness is a skill I find applicable in so many situations of life. 

Like many others, my practice started with psychedelics. And while my first psychedelic journeys lead me to meditation, meditation has boomeranged back around and played its role in my psychedelic sessions. Today I’ll share one example.

How Meditation Helped On A Deep Journey

On a grey Saturday a couple years ago, alone in a friend’s house whilst he was away for the weekend, I took 250 micrograms of LSD. In the months before, I’d been reading various psychedelic-therapeutic protocols and had prepared accordingly for the session. I managed the anxiety of a turbulent come up by relaxing myself many times as I noticed myself getting anxious and tightening up, and directing my attention to my breathing. Around an hour in, as the lysergic waves really began to come on strong, I was lying down, looking up at the ceiling.

In one moment, a monster appeared above me. It was hovering over me, looking down at me from the ceiling. I was looking directly at its face, and it was looking right back at me, right into my eyes.

monster beast

I was instinctively gripped by fear. My shoulders and rest of my body tightened up instantly as I stared in shock. The beast was of course not physically there, it was a manifestation of my fears, a representation of what scares me and had been avoided.

I held the monster’s gaze, took a deep breath in, and with a long exhale, relaxed my body, letting tension go. As I did this, the monster dissolved into harmless patterns right before my eyes. The visual information was in fact the same – the rich ceiling patterns that made up the monsters face were still there – but they no longer appeared scary or even as a being to me. What changed wasn’t the sensory information I was receiving, it was my perception of it. What made up the ‘monster’ was still there, I just saw it differently. I had a new perspective.

There were a few other moments leading up to this confrontation where I noticed myself getting anxious and tightening up, and I consciously relaxed my body. I see these as like smaller hurdles that once passed, allowed me to get to the point of this confrontation. The dissolution was like a jumping off point, and after this I dropped deep into ineffable experience.

universe cosmos colours beautiful

The journey was deep and had many chapters: there were visions of a past life, alternate realities, and repressed emotions burst up and were released though uncontrollable bouts of sobbing. In the most profound chapter, it was a transpersonal experience; ‘I’ disappeared, along with time, and experience just happened.

I’ll share this story in more detail another time but for now I think its enough to say it was a significant experience that shifted something deep inside of me. The next day I felt lighter and clearer. I had more understanding and compassion. And my meditation practice was revived with a spark. I hadn’t been this affected since those very first journeys – the ones that spurred me on to meditation. I didn’t become a holy and all-understanding being overnight, but I inched in that direction. 

Reflecting on the session afterwards, I saw how techniques that I’d learnt in meditation helped me to relax, to let my guard down and open to the experience with lessened resistance. And this is why I recommend meditation to anyone considering a first psychedelic experience. Including you.

Thanks for reading.

Mystical. Peak. Transcendent. Religious. Whichever term you’ve heard, I’m talking about something exceptional and profound – the type of experience that ranks as one of most the meaningful in life.

“The emotional reaction in the peak experience has a special flavor of wonder, of awe, of reverence, of humility and surrender before the experience as before something great.”
– Abraham Maslow 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that peak experiences are characteristic of psychological health and play an important role in self-actualization – right at the top of his famous hierarchy. These experiences are typically spiritual in nature and are often followed by therapeutic after effects or dramatic personal growth.

abraham maslow hierarchy needs psychedelic psychology

Planning A Mystical Experience

Psychedelics, AKA entheogens – ancient Greek for ‘generating the divine within’ – can facilitate mystical experiences more reliably than any other currently known method (seeing the earth from space also seems fairly reliable but this is currently even less accessible than psychedelics). There is recent research to support this relationship, though it should be remembered that these trials are done in highly controlled settings – and I believe a methodological approach helps to increase the chances of such an experience.

So this is a guide to set you up for a soul-stirring, therapeutic, sacred, self-actualizing trip. Its a compilation drawn from my own experience and practices drawn from a few sources. You can find a list at the end.

This guide includes:

  • Preparation: Checklist + Weeks and Days Before
  • Navigation: What to do during the trip, and in difficult moments
  • Integration: What to do the day after, how to begin to integrate insights

Dosage
 psilocybin psilocin capsules shrooms magic mushrooms

The smaller the dose, the less likely a mystical experience. Psychedelic research has shown a clear correlation between a larger dose and a more complete mystical experience. They also found that the more complete the mystical experience, the more benefit the recipient had to their psychological wellbeing (on scores of depression and anxiety). However, if you don’t have much experience with psychedelics I don’t recommend going for a big dose for your first time. Better to become somewhat familiar with them and figure out your tolerance and reaction.
For most people a breakthrough dose will be:

4-6 grams dried mushrooms
30-55 grams fresh psilocybin truffles
200-300 micrograms LSD

Check Erowid for peyote and San Pedro.

Preparation

There are two general aims for the preparation of your trip:
1. To have you approach the trip well rested, in good health, and with a positive state of mind.
2. To get you thinking about your life in a larger context.

Checklist

You will need:

  • 2 full days free. One day for the trip + the day after. The day before too, if possible. For the trip day you should be totally free and fine to switch your phone off and effectively disappear from the world.
  • A comfortable, private indoor space (totally private for 1 day). Somewhere you feel safe.
  • Device to play music e.g. ipod, laptop, CD player. (I recommend digital player for ease of use)
  • Good pair of headphones
  • Eye mask or blindfold
  • Photos for ‘picture trip’

The Picture Trip

[The ‘picture trip’ is a technique that was employed by a pioneer of psychedelic therapy, Leo Zeff. This is adapted from the book about Leo and his methods, The Secret Chief Revealed.]

Before the trip you will need to gather some photos. These photos will be a history of your life.

picture trip pictures photos

Pictures To Gather:

  • Yourself, one at age two and one every two years thereafter through adolescence, up to adulthood.
  • Two pictures each of your mother, father and any siblings; one when they were young but you can still remember them, and a recent one.
  • Pictures of any other family members that are or were significant in your life.
  • A picture of your husband/wife, or any woman or man who has had great significance in your life. Lovers, current or past. If you’re married, wedding pictures.
  • If you have children, a picture of them when they were about two years old, and a recent one.
  • Any other significant pictures. Any pictures with an emotional charge.

As you go through your photos to find these, spend some time looking through your photo collection. Spend a few moments with each photo, looking at it and seeing what you feel with each one. If any memories or feelings come up, sit with them and see where they go. When you come across a picture for the picture trip, put it aside. Try to do this no further away than a week before the trip, as close to the time of the trip as you can.

The Sitter

Decide if you want a sitter – someone to keep an eye on you and help you through any difficult periods should they arise. It might be easier to let go completely if you know you have someone there to take care of you, or you may prefer to be alone.

John Hopkins Psilocybin Study

Research setting for a study into the effects of psilocybin at John Hopkins University.

If you decide on a sitter, choose someone you trust. Agree the date with that person ahead of time. You’ll only need them for the trip day, but they should be free from the time you begin until the end of the day. They might not have to do much but assure you of your safety and be there for you.

If for whatever reason you’re going ahead without a sitter, I’d recommend spending more time learning the basics of meditation.

The Weeks Before

Learn the basics in meditation

The ability to relax and let go is key when it comes to the more intense parts of the session and important in maximizing the therapeutic aspect of your trip. For this reason, having some familiarity with some basic techniques of meditation will be enormously helpful – its practice in how to calmly observe your current reality without resistance. It will help you to open yourself to the experience rather than resisting, and go deeper, moving past blocks.

Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day for the two weeks leading up to your trip.

meditate mindfulness

Especially important if you don’t have a sitter as in the absence of someone else to help relax and reassure you, you’ll need to relax yourself. If you have the time and the inclination, a silent course is the best way become well versed with meditation quickly.

Otherwise a good place to start is the free app Insight. There are also other apps and plenty of guided meditation resources online.

Think About Your Intentions

Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish or gain from the experience? Be honest with yourself. Having a clear intention doesn’t mean that it’ll be fulfilled but it’s important in framing the experience.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

journal notepad write notes

Write down 5 things you are grateful for everyday in the week leading up to your trip. It can be as small or profound as you like, from ‘nice weather today’ or ‘a delicious lunch’ to ‘family’ or ‘health’. Sit with the feeling of gratitude that it brings for a minute.

Check medication

If you’re taking medication, make sure there are no possible adverse interactions with these medications and the substance you’re taking. If you’re taking medication for a something that can be managed by lifestyle changes – exercise, weight loss, diet adjustments, quitting alcohol, tobacco, caffeine – try these first to see if some of the medications may no longer be necessary. For these processes, see your doctor.

The Days Before

Prepare your playlist and music player

Generally it’s recommended to use instrumental or world music with lyrics that are unintelligible as understandable lyrics can be distracting and limit the experience. Ambient and classical music are good general recommendations. You can make a playlist for the whole trip, or you can have all songs and albums that you might want ready and easily accessible on your player. Be sure to have at least 8 hours of music ready and allow for passages of at least 45 minutes where you don’t need to change or put on more music.

ipod music phone headphones

Listening to relaxing music in the initial phase is a nice way to help calm yourself when the substance is taking effect and you’re coming up. Save more intense tracks for later.

Links for ideas:
How To Pick Music For People On LSD, From A Scientist Whose Job That Is
Sacred Knowledge: Hopkins Playlist For Psilocybin Studies

Full playlists from the scientists working in psychedelic research:
Mendel’s Kaelen’s Psilocybin Playlists on Spotify: Therapy Playlist 1 | Playlist 2
Mendel Kaelen Psilocybin playlist 1 on Mixcloud
Bill Richards psilocybin playlist | SpotifyiTunes
Kelan Thomas psilocybin playlists on Spotify:  Playlist 1 | Playlist 2

Tidy up loose ends

Pay the overdue bill, send those emails and make those phone calls you’ve been putting off.

Check in with loved ones

Call or go see those most important to you.

The Day Before

Prepare Food
Get some snacks ready. Nuts, seeds and fruits are good as maintaining a steady blood sugar level is ideal. Prepare your dinner and have it waiting for you in the fridge. Simplicity for tomorrow is the aim here.

Walk in Nature
The fresh air and nature will help clear your mind.

walk nature

Understand Your Intentions
Revisit and clarify your intentions.

Avoid alcohol and spicy or greasy food
To ensure good quality sleep and a settled stomach the next day. You don’t want to be dealing with a dodgy belly on the big day.

Clean your space
Hoover, wipe down surfaces, clear away clutter. 

Go to bed early and allow yourself a good nights rest
Follow the common advice for a good night’s sleep – don’t drink coffee late, have a digital sunset. If you usually have difficulty sleeping, consider some form of exercise earlier in the day.

bed bedroom sleep

The Trip Day

Switch your phone off. For all purposes you should be unavailable to the world.

Pre-trip
Have a light, healthy breakfast. Oats or a green smoothie are both good options.

Wear comfortable, clean, and loose fitting clothes. Make any final preparations to your space. Have blankets, water and snacks on hand.

sacrament chalice

Drop Ceremony
‘Ceremony’ doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just make the taking of the substance special in some way. You could wash it down with water drank from a lucky cup, or say a short prayer beforehand. Something to set this experience apart from the everyday. Make it unique.

Meditate – 10-20 minutes.

Waiting
If you are with a sitter, talk with them about your feelings, expectations, and hesitations. If you are alone, take a pad and paper and write them down.

Going Up
When you start to feel the effects, lie down and get comfortable. Put your headphones and eye mask on and start your playlist. Listen to the music and relax.

When you notice yourself tightening up or feeling nervous, relax your body and pay attention to your breath. Use what you’ve learned in meditation.

‘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.’
 – Preparation For The Journey; Inner Pathways To Outer Space

The Trip

The peak of the trip is where you might go through the processes by which psychological healing occurs – projection, transference, abreaction, and catharsis. To do this, be open to the experience:

Trust. Let go. Be open. Breathe. Surrender.

You may experience challenging emotions but know that this isn’t bad – this is the chance to process something you might’ve been holding back.

Remember, difficult is not bad – challenging experiences can wind up being our most valuable, and may lead to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Try to approach the fear and difficult aspects of your experience with curiosity and openness.”
– Zendo Project

Coming Down

As you feel the effects start to subside and the peak tailing off. Go sit at a table with the photos.

Picture Trip

Start with the pictures of yourself. Pick up the first picture. Just look at it and see what you experience. Look at it as long as you want to. When you’re through looking at it, put it down. If you are with a sitter you might have something to say. Say it. If not, you don’t have to say anything. Put it down and go on to the next picture.

Through this process you might record a voice memo or write some things down. These notes can be helpful later when you go back and revisit them. They will reconnect you with your whole experience.

Ending The Day

After you’ve gone through the pictures, relax. You might want to sit around and chat with your sitter or listen to some music. You might be hungry and can go and retrieve the food you’ve prepared. You might want to go for a walk outside. Perhaps you’re exhausted and ready for bed. Go, sleep well.

The Day After

This day should be left free. Leave plenty of time for recovery, reflection and integration. Take It Easy.

Sleep well. Lie in. Have a nice breakfast. Meditate. Chill. Go for a walk or listen to some music. Take some time for yourself. Do not rush back into chores or your daily routine, no matter how tempting it is or how pressing those concerns seem to be. They can wait. The return to familiarity might seem appealing but you should have time to relax and process your experience.

When you feel ready…

Write It Down

Take a pen and paper and write about your trip.

  • What did you experience? (You may prefer to draw or paint this)
  • What does it mean?
  • Did you learn anything?
  • Did you experience any insights or revelations?

Hopefully you were able to learn something of value that you can take with you and apply to your life. With any insights fresh in your mind, you can start to…

Look Forward

  • How can you apply them to your life?
  • What can you do to live what you’ve learnt?

Try to think of some actionable steps you can take. Making a plan can be helpful to implement a new attitude or lifestyle change you want to adopt. Whatever it is you need to do, write it down and make a commitment to follow through with it. It doesn’t have to be big or extensive, any kind of framework to help you move forward is good. Starting a course of change can be tough but a plan with small steps will help. When you want to be reconnected to your experience, revisit any notes or voice memos you’ve made. Don’t expect total transformation overnight, go bit by bit.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
– Lao Tzu

I hope you’re ready for the next chapter. The real trip starts now – it’s life.

In the weeks and months following a powerful experience it may be beneficial to have some people you can talk about your experience with. If that’s not possible with people already in your life, it might be useful to find a local psychedelic integration circle or communityI wish you the best of luck.

References & Resources:

Books:
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron J. Stolarof
Inner Paths To Outer Space – Rick Strassman et al. (Chapter: Preparation For The Journey)
– The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic & Sacred Journeys – James Fadiman

Online:
How To Have A Mystical Experience: A Research Based Guide – Freedom & Fulfilment

The Zendo Project

Finding Psychedelic Community:
Psychedelic.Community
3 Ways You Can Engage With Psychedelic Community – The Third Wave