Psychedelics, transformation and friendship.

Being able to speak with someone with complete honesty, vulnerability and humor is the best part of being a human being.

She was excited to tell me about an experience she had with a shaman in the Red Rock mountains of Sedona. I’ve long understood the transformative power of psychedelics when used judiciously and with proper guidance but hearing her describe her journey was beautiful.

My friend is sharp and thorough. She did her research on the Shaman and the area. She is not one to commit lightly to things. She has a strong personality. In fact, she is one of the toughest and most compassionate I’ve ever met. I’d want her on my side in a fight and at the table for my kid’s birthday. It should be no surprise that she also has a great sense of humor and we spend most of the time laughing.

She spoke of the vast beauty of the landscape. How the scenery put her at ease as she embarked on this life changing experience. The magnetic vibrations of the Sedona mountains gave off a present and peaceful energy that evoked her curiosity.

Psychedelics have gotten a lot of positive attention lately. Michael Pollan’s most recent book, How to Change your Mind, is an exploration into the history and current state of psychedelic research. He also goes into detail about his experiences with various substances, including psilocybin.

What modern medicine is finally discovering, or admitting, is that there is tremendous potential in these substances as mechanisms of healing. Depression is an epidemic and the treatments for it are either ineffective or cause different and more severe problems. But it is also a matter of perception. Few people trust big pharma to solve their problems ethically, and for good reason.

To use psychedelics recreationally has its own set of unique risks. I was reckless with my own, it wasn’t until I understood their transformative powers, a lesson learned the hard way, that I began doing my research and catering my experiences appropriately.

I am delightfully optimistic about the potential these guided experiences have for healing and transforming people’s lives.

My friend had one such experience. She traveled through “tunnels” to moments of her past. We all have vantage points in our lives, where certain events take place that dictate the direction we went. We harbor resentments, hold on to trauma, and repeat cycles in our heads about our inadequacies, and the injustices brought upon us.  

We mistake them as a part of our being instead of as an energy to be released. A guided psychedelic experience does just that. It is cleansing. It is becoming aware of what must be let go of.

You can image why bad trips occur, because they create cycles of unintegrated experiences that need to be released. A bad trip is nothing more than unmanageable anxiety and a complete lack of control.

But psychedelics are by no means a microwave solution to a crock-pot problem. It is not a short cut. Diet, sleep, exercise are the trifecta of health. As Carl Jung said, “Beware of unearned wisdom.” That is the grave error people make in psychedelics.

You don’t consume the lion without it consuming a part of you. The language of Jung makes explaining these experiences so useful.

No tree can grow to heaven unless it’s roots reach down to hell
— Carl Jung

Understanding the above quote demonstrates the toil involved in true self-realization. You must enter the cave which you fear most, knowing you will encounter the worst monster you could imagine.

I know myself that I tried to kill the monster and when I couldn’t I tried to sedate it. Then I realized the monster is not there to eat you, but to teach you. You must learn to listen to why it is there in the first place.

It may seem abstract, but that is essentially the hero’s path. Overcoming the obstacles, we create for ourselves as well as the obstacles that the world creates. We can easily see what is in front of us in the material world, but what lies within takes real work, not just to recognize, but to integrate. It is within this context that psychedelics are most useful.

It is the revealing and releasing of what’s inside that we rediscover the outside world. It is within the impermanence of our feelings that we realize our eternal self. There is so much more to the human experience that we simply neglect when we get stuck in our own negative feedback loop.

This is where the transition to meditation begins. Most who have started with psychedelics use it as a boon to practice the impermanence of being through meditation. The base level of human experience is one of rising and diminishing thoughts, like the patterns of breathing. Thoughts, feelings, sensations images, sound, everything simply appears and then disappears. It is when we get stuck into identifying with our thoughts, that we get stuck in the cycles of our mind.

We are such fickle creatures that we need to be reminded of this process of thoughts appearing and disappearing. This would explain why the trends of meditation and psychedelics is occurring simultaneously.

We are locked into the matrix on our phones and we are just realizing what that is doing to our attention, our emotions, our minds and our relationship with the world. We don’t fully recognize the price of entry until we examine the impulses it has created, the mindlessness of just checking your phone is like inviting thieves into your mind to steal you away from the present moment.

That was one of my friend’s most powerful insights. She understands how her mind works, she understands the catharsis that comes from releasing and embracing the impermanence of her feelings, as opposed to marinating in them.

We are not perfect, but it is a process. It is a constant practice to understand this concept, but with the help of a guided experience, my friend understands how to let go, how to reduce her own suffering and her agency in the process. The guide shows you it is possible to let go, but they cannot let go for you.

She feels grounded now and you can tell. It is remarkable how we can perceive these things in people. We see so many angry people, stuck in these loops that we have a hard time recognizing grounded people. It brings me great joy to see this transformation in my friend.

It gives me hope that society is starting to move in this direction.