2019: A Year Finding Out How Weird the Mind Gets, Pt I [The Mushroom]

For the past five years, since I moved to India, I’ve been studying what my mind is and what it’s capable of. I’ve used tried and true methods, including: yogic dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) techniques, Vipassana meditation,  dream yoga/ lucid dreaming [albeit, with limited success,] and the practice of self-hypnosis.

In 2019, while continuing the trend, I’m going to get into the weeds and see how strange the mind gets. I was originally going to entitle this “My Year of Exploring Varieties of Conscious Experience,” but that sounded punishingly boring. The current title may come off as frivolous, but I hope is more intriguing as well.

The year has begun, and so has my year of exploration. January was the month in which I first experienced psilocybe cubensis — what the kids call “magic mushroom” or “shrooms.” I should point out that — besides alcohol and caffeine — this was my first experience with any mind or mood altering substance. [With the exception of one afternoon thirty years ago when I was prescribed Tylenol with Codeine after having all four wisdom teeth pulled — an event that probably remains the most bizarre mental experience of my life.]

I’d like to be able to say that I’m the type who boldly tries out new things with derring-do, but those who know me know I’m the kind who reads hundreds of pages of research and commentary and then cautiously dips a toe into the waters. Among the extensive pre-experience reading I did was Michael Pollan’s excellent book, How to Change Your Mind and a study finding psilocybin mushrooms to be the safest of the mind and mood altering substances. (Yes, that includes being much safer than alcohol — a finding, the veracity of which, I have not a doubt. Those curious about this topic are encouraged to see Drugs without the Hot Air by David Nutt, which delves into how society’s approach to such substances can be absurd and without merit in logic. Nutt was famously fired from a government position in Britain for openly stating that alcohol and nicotine are both considerably more dangerous /damaging than a number of prohibited substances)

What was my experience like? Strange and fascinating. However, even at the time, I found myself wondering whether I was cursed with knowledge. How much did all that reading and research influence my experience for the good, the bad, or the indifferent? I don’t know, perhaps a lot, but maybe not at all. I’ll give some examples. One of the early and persistent effects was seeing the world overwritten in prismatic geometric forms. The closest I could describe this is to imagine the shapes seen in jaali — the latticed windows seen in Indo-Islamic architecture — but with a repeating “echo” of lines and a kind of rainbow prismatic effect.

Jaali

I suspect this is a neuro-chemical effect of the substance on one’s brain, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether my experience was trained by having read Aldous Huxley’s descriptions of “sacred geometries” during his own experience. (Of course, it also makes me wonder what Indo-Islamic craftsmen and architects might have been taking.)

As I mentioned, I could see where prior knowledge could have both positive and negative influences on the experience. I’ll start with an example of a possible positive effect of prior knowledge. One thing the reader needs to understand is that the physicist’s conception that things at rest will stay at rest and things in motion will stay in motion doesn’t hold in the mental world of psilocybin — everything goes into motion. It could be the breathing letters of a word on the page or the gentle writhing of a house plant, but not much just sits there. As I stared up at the ceiling, the staples that held the cable to the ceiling fan in place became blocky ants on the march, and soon any dot anywhere became an ant on the move. Now, I can imagine how this might stir in some people a “bad trip,” freaking out about the infestation. However, my mind always somehow recognized that the animation of those still objects was in my brain and not in the room. I was trained to think of these experiences as the effect of a serotonin mimic going hog-wild inside my brain, and I never thought that maybe I’d kicked open Huxley’s famed “Doors of Perception” and something real was now on display to me that I couldn’t ordinarily see. [Though I can’t eliminate that possibility.]

However, I also must wonder whether I might have had a grand breakthrough or experience of enlightenment (probably little-e) — as many claim to have had — if my experience wasn’t so grounded. I scribbled about seven and a half pages while I was “tripping,” and I was very curious about whether it would be gibberish or pure illumination. It was neither. About half my sentences broke off about 2/3rds of the way through, but those that I could make out were not wide the mark of my day-to-day philosophy. It reflected the diminished self and euphoria of the experience (which I’ve  also experienced in meditation), but wasn’t otherworldly. I will say, my psilocybin self was a wee bit bolder, realizing that — like a dog chasing its tail — if I ever captured the understanding I seek, the fun would be blanched from life. The closest thing to a revelation was that I needed to embrace my ignorance — a conclusion my sober self had already come to acceptance of in its bolder moments.

What are my recommendations if you plan to partake of a cup of mushroom tea? Make sure your environment is not overstimulating. Make sure there is nothing fear or anxiety inducing in the area (perhaps including knowing the legal status where you are.) Have a calm state of mind. Realize that for about 30 for 45 minutes you will think the tea had no effect upon you and the strangeness will come on gradually. Some people say you should have someone around. I don’t know that I’d say it’s necessary, (unless you have anxiety issues and then you might not want to partake without seeking medical advice)  but if you do make sure it’s not someone who gets on your nerves.

So what is next? February will be the month in which I try out a sensory deprivation float tank. In yoga, one of the legs of practice is pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses.) I’m fascinated to see what effect the body temperature Epsom salt water has — if any — over and above closed-eye meditation in a dim room.

My tentative schedule is:

January  —  Mushroom — check

February — Sensory Deprivation Float Tank

March — 30 days of hour-long meditations

April — Hypnosis (attending an intensive workshop)

May — EEG feedback meditation

June — Tummo / Wim Hof Method / Holotropic Breathwork

July — extensive Yogic dharana  and dhyana practice

August —  resumption of dream yoga / lucid dreaming practices

September — periodic fasting (and, maybe, controlled sleep deprivation)

October — Biofeedback pranayama (breathing exercises)

November — Poetry of the Subconscious Mind

December  — mixed practices, putting it all together

I plan to keep up documentation of my practice, and hope you’ll follow along when I post something. I’m also interested to hear about the experiences of others regarding these and other consciousness related practices. I don’t know how strange it’ll get, but things might get pretty weird.

15 thoughts on “2019: A Year Finding Out How Weird the Mind Gets, Pt I [The Mushroom]

  1. Thank you for describing your experience. I’ve had a few interesting moments during Quaker meetings for worship, which are silent group meditations that focus on centering the mind on God’s presence. Group meditation usually pulls me to deeper levels, and that leads to visions and a sense of communication with something beyond the limits of self.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm and interesting but perhaps, by the sound of it, an unrewarding experience? I am micro-dosing, in my case for depression. The jury is out as to the efficacy of psilocybin in curing depression despite the many, many positive press articles and blogs. Does it subjectively help me? not yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I wouldn’t say unrewarding at all. It just wasn’t world-changing — as I’ve heard any number of people suggest it was for them. It was not only an interesting experience, but one that I learned from. I learned about / thought about the process of switching modes of consciousness and what connection that might have to hypnotic trances and other altered states.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know what you’re talking about. I had done them several times in my youth. All of the experience ls were different ranging from being completely lost in a strange place with spooky trees and a road that never seemed to end.

    An epic experience where I became one in the Universe and the blackness of the void was my backdrop and I was the sole musician, the writer. In that experience I was a vivid frog with fongers that could reach all the way down the frets of my guitar and I played like a master of the Universe itself. I could see the music (vibrations) leap off my guitar and float around. -I am pretty sure that in reality It was a mess but the experience was amazing.

    In another I had an emotional breakdown amd found looking at myself in the mirror was depressing and butterflies were swarming but they weren’t beautiful.

    Again, in another I was free. I climbed walls, could see the ocean stand still but the flowers were turning black.

    In every experience though, a couole things were always present. I had to constantly remind myself to breathe. I could not stand the sound of my voice and at some point, the ONLY place I wanted to be was sober.

    I have also done deprivation tanks. I ised to work at a medical message fascility that had them. They weren’t really remarkable but at the least, relaxing since I am a tense person all the time.

    I have used binereal beats to enhance meditation. One note on that, if you do fall into deep meditation using those, be careful of the ones you use. For whatever reason, I used one and it was anxiety inducing even though it was labeled for relaxation but then with others, the experience was “soaring”. Past life regression. Apparently I was an eagle.

    I look forward to hearing about your experiences. I have always wanted to go to mediation camp sort of thing but I cannot be away from my kids for that long.

    You’re journey sounds like it will be very interesting. Also, once I wrote a whole thessis on the creation of the universe (i know, i was out of my mind) and by the end of it, my enlightenment was that it was easy to understand how some people can become insane and in the future, with my thoughts, I MUST be cautious so that I don’t fall down the rabit hole.

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  4. Pingback: Mushrooms, Eagles, Collage of my Thoughts – The No Niche' Blogger

  5. Pingback: My Year of Discovering How Weird the Mind Gets, Pt. II [the Tank] | the !n(tro)verted yogi

  6. Pingback: My Year of Discovering How Weird the Mind Gets: Pt IV [Hypnosis] | the !n(tro)verted yogi

  7. Pingback: My Year of Discovering How Weird the Mind Gets: Part V [Brainwave Watching] | the !n(tro)verted yogi

  8. I’ve also done them several times, though not since I was in my late teens. At that age, the profound revelation was reality wasn’t reality, it was subjective and not the concrete, fact-based, commonly shared thing that I grew up believing – I mean, reality was reality, right? Same for everyone. As you mentioned, my sober self also later gained much deeper understanding of the incompleteness of that view of the world. I also would experiment with them in an outdoor setting, hiking or just sitting on a boulder in the woods. I embraced the massive stimulation of nature as part of the experience. LSD, on the other hand, made me question everything, Though I don’t generally recommend it to anyone, and wouldn’t touch it today, that was definitely ‘otherworldly’ and I saw interconnections, discovered universal consciousness, things that truly were mind-altering and cannot be unseen. Not everyone can be okay with having their reality so effectively dismantled. It can be incredibly anxiety-provoking, which is why when people ask me, I usually say ‘don’t do it’, unless I know them quite well and even then, micro-dosing is far better than taking two or three hits of ‘windowpane’ like I did, once upon a time. Namaste, friend, good reading! 🙂

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