My name is Mike Ljubsa, and I have joined MycoMeditations as Eric’s newest partner. I wanted to make a post for all of those that follow us, or for those who may be interested in joining us on one of our retreats in the future, so that you can get to know the newest face you will be seeing at MycoMeditations.
If this is the first blog post you are reading or if you are new to our following, I think my story will give you all the insight you need to understand what these retreats can really do for people.
So first, I guess a little bit about myself. You can see me on the far right in the picture below. I am 23 years old and I grew up and currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Not only does MycoMeditations do awesome, life-changing work for people, but it also gives me a chance to leave the hellish winters of Canada behind for a whole week. Not a bad start.
When I was younger I was really into sports and video games.
Being the child of two immigrants from Slovenia (a small country near Italy and Croatia) I was pretty much forced into soccer, even though I would have been much better suited in something a little more physical. I seemed to have a bit of an aggressive streak when I played sports. I would get yellow-carded just about every game (in soccer a yellow-card is a penalty). Two yellow-cards in a game make a red-card and you get thrown out…this definitely happened to me more than once. This extended into high school basketball where I got fouled out of ATLEAST 50% of the games. You would think that this trait combined with being born in Canada would make for a pretty decent hockey player, right? Well, my mother thought otherwise I guess. My Dad insisted he wanted me in hockey but my mother refused. My Mom definitely treated me as her baby, way too much so. When you are the kid of Slovenian parents you rarely get a say in anything. So as a result I am one of the few Canadians who can hardly stand on skates.
Video games became an interest of mine in elementary, where my friends and I would stay up until 2 in the morning gaming at sleepovers whenever we were allowed. This hobby stayed well through high school, as I was rarely ever allowed to go to parties and stuff like that. Considering school always came rather effortlessly to me (I barely had to try to get grades in the 80’s), outside of sports, I really didn’t have much to do with my time other than game. School was the only thing my parents really cared about, and I didn’t really need to try to fulfill that, so I was very sheltered growing up. Outside of my few best friends, I was not allowed to hangout with kids that my parents did not know the parents of. I wasn’t allowed to go get slurpees after school in junior high, I was not allowed to go hangout at the mall or something in high school when I had a day off of sports. I always had to go straight home. Every social event I wanted to be at needed a full explanation of who was there, what we were doing, where we would be, etc. And even if all of this information was provided, if my Mom judgementally thought somebody was a bad influence, I wasn’t going anyways. Eventually socializing just became too tedious. It’s not that I lacked friends or anything, in fact while IN school I was really social. I was one of the “popular kids” I guess you could say, I was just nowhere to be seen outside of school. So I spent most of my time outside of school playing Oblivion, Call of Duty, or sports games.
These really were my only two hobbies looking back, which is odd because they are such completely different interests. I seem to be a person of polarities…
I was really shy as a kid, especially around strangers, however I grew up to be a little more on the obnoxious, louder side. Atleast in high school.
After high school, I attended Macewan University here in Edmonton. I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, yet I have no real interest in basing my life around money in any way whatsoever.
I am rather easygoing, yet if somebody puts a spatula in the wrong drawer it drives me nuts.
I can make the decision to leave my Mom’s house for good in a heartbeat, yet it takes me 5 minutes to choose deodorant at the store.
And for almost my whole adult life, I tried to give off a happy, friendly demeanour (or so I have been told), however on the inside I bottled up as much sadness and rage as I could hold.
Where did this come from?
I still don’t really know all the answers to this.
All I know is that after high school ended, my life became consumed by depression. I can actually still remember the moment my mind started to spiral me into this reclusive state of consciousness that slowly just became stronger and stronger. This eventually became my new reality. I started working at this restaurant called Moxies, which is a restaurant that at the time tended to hire better looking, well-spoken, seemingly confident people. I started as a bus boy there and I remember quite early on at this job beginning to critique everything I did.
How I responded to somebody’s question..
“Did I sound stupid when I answered that?”
How I was able to make friends.. “Do these people actually like me?”
How I shared things about myself.. “Why does it feel like I can’t express my thoughts or feelings well?”
“Wait, why the hell am I even thinking any of this?”
“Stop thinking about all of this stupid stuff you moron!”
“Stop thinking about thinking you idiot, can’t you see how this is starting to spiral out of control and consume you?”
I don’t fully know where this came from, just at this time in my life…I started to become obsessed with the opinions of other people and judging myself on the inside.
This just slowly became my life. This inner voice followed me everywhere I went, every person I talked to. It felt like my personality slowly started to fade away as this critic repeatedly threw uppercut after uppercut, and it was like I was becoming emptier by the month. This began when I was 18, and maybe with the few odd, slightly more positive times in between, it just became worse and worse. I managed to stumble through a degree, a 2 year relationship, all while not even feeling like myself for the vast majority of the time. I graduated at 22, and even though University was never a social experience for me, I only became more and more isolated and alone once I was done. For the first time in my life I wasn’t forced into a social element of life, and after all those years of being sheltered, not being able to explore people and socialize to my own accord and learn along the way, I was left without the most necessary skill of all…to find real, human connection. I saw atleast 8 different therapists during this time, none of which really seemed to help or give me any insight or perspectives that could aid me. I tried different medications, all of which felt like sugar pills. I could go on forever about what these times were like, but to summarize, I truly felt as if I only had 2 or 3 years left in me to fight this and find a solution.
During this time, I had tried psychedelics. The very first dose was a pretty basic experience for your first time…a ton of fun and a lot of laughter with my friends. It wasn’t until the second time where I had the experience that would eventually lead to where I am now. The second time doing mushrooms, as awesome and connecting as it was…I knew there was something more going on here. This was a tool into the human mind. How it really works…the layers of it, hidden parts, neglected parts, abused parts…and how it all plays together into your normal, everyday waking experience.
From this night on, I was fascinated about psychedelics. It became my biggest interest. I read trip reports on www.shroomery.org every night, read books, articles…it just fascinated me after the experience I had. Eventually I wanted to explore more with them, trying LSD, mushrooms, and eventually ayahuasca.
One small problem…every trip I had was a complete nightmare. I can easily say all of my most horrifying moments in life came while on psychedelics. I think most people could understand what feelings of worthlessness, emptiness, separation, or loneliness might be like. But feeling all of this while on psychedelics?
*I just sat here for five minutes thinking of words that could describe this, and I literally can’t think of any that will do it justice. A really “bad” trip is probably one of the scariest experiences a person can have.
And STILL…I was completely fascinated by them. Despite the hell they made me go through, I knew that there was some key in all of this. Why? Because of how WELL it knew me. It knew exactly what my triggers were. It knew exactly how to make me crumble into a complete wreck. It was automatically bringing me into the deepest, darkest, scariest parts of my own psyche that I was afraid to see. It was trying to show me the solution.
Eventually, despite literally fearing the psychedelic experience, I wanted to find something more. I came across MycoMeditations in August of 2017, and quickly became interested in attending. I spoke on the phone with Eric and was really comfortable talking to him, which was pretty rare for me at this time. I decided to attend the private September retreat from September 15 – 21. These dates will always be important to me because my life literally changed during this one week.
On this retreat I met Eric and Justin, two people who will always have a special place in my heart for what they were able to help me go through. Justin was there as the other guest, and the three of us and Eric’s oldest son Jacob really got along. It was a really good week where I was able to feed off of all these amazing insights and perspectives that we all got to share about psychedelics and how this whole system works. It was like a feast of psychedelic knowledge and prep work for the eventual experience. There was a real sense of brotherhood that I took from this, which helped me incredibly to become more comfortable and let the experiences to take me as deep as possible.
My first dose was very expected. I took 5 grams and sat in the chair, waiting. Eric, Justin, and I calmly spoke for awhile, then eventually we meditated. As it came on, Justin left the room so that I could have my experience. I pulled the eyeshades on and laid down on the couch. The all-familiar feelings of darkness and this evil, isolating fear began to come on. After earlier discussion with Eric, my intention for this trip was to test my strength. I wanted to be able to strongly stand face to face with my demons, and hold my own. I remember actual entities being conjured up, trying to mock me, harass me, chase me down the rabbit hole to hell where they had brought me before. I remembered Eric talking earlier in the week about how a guest from another retreat asked his demons, “Who even are you?”, and they had no answer for him, they were empty, and they had no other element than striking fear into you. I asked this same question to them, and oddly enough they suddenly seemed confused. I kept probing and eventually they started to dissolve away. After this I was able to test this with more and more parts of me that seemed fearful and I was able to realize: I can come to terms with all these different parts. They may feel scary if I let them, but they don’t need to consume me. For they are just thoughts. Just empty thoughts, like all the other crap I obsess about everyday. I don’t need to latch onto everything.
The second dose came two nights after, and this one was just strange to say the least. However, this night was much more significant for my healing. We dosed again in the evening, this time I took 7 grams. I took the capsules, pulled down my blindfold, and laid back on the couch waiting for it to come. 30 minutes go by…maybe a little bit of anxiety, which is normal. An hour now goes by, and I’m now expecting it to come…and still nothing. Just some very faint fractal patterns. I sit up and tell Eric and Justin (who are both in the room for the whole trip) that nothing is happening. Eric is a little surprised, but says to just give it more time. I lay back down and for another 20-30 minutes, nothing. Again I sit up and we all agree this is a little strange but just stay with it. You have 7 grams in you…it’s coming. I lay back down and maybe 5 minutes later, the light visuals immediately transform into me now laying on some sort of operating table in some weird, new place…with 3 robot/praying mantis-like surgeons looking down at me. One on the left, two on the right. One of them appears to be reaching into my head, and pulls out what I would describe as a circuit board that is all fragmented and torn apart. It hands the circuit board to the one behind him who chucks it aside, bringing forward a new, slick, shiny one. The next one pops it back into my head and motions with his hand, “All done with this one.” and I am shot back into blackness lying behind my blindfold.
What. The. Fu*k.
Oddly enough, this didn’t really make me freak out or wonder what the hell did I just experience. I kind of just went with it and waited to see what was next. What happened over the next hour was what I would describe as some sort of slow, hard to understand rebuild. Every couple minutes that went by, I was feeling more and more in-tune with my body, more and more like myself again. I was starting to feel the ecstasy of being alive and like myself again. This was amazing! I hadn’t felt this way in forever it felt like. And this feeling just became stronger and stronger! Eric suggested how awesome it would be to see the ocean under the moonlight right now, so we began walking. As we walked, it was like being on Earth for the first time. After years of nothing having any real appeal or meaning…everything just seemed beautiful again. Everything felt as it I remembered things as a happy kid, where the world seemed to have some sort of unexplainable life and joy to it. Out of nowhere, I broke into tears sobbing. I stopped walking and bent forward with my hands supporting me against my knees, and I cried uncontrollably. It was this beautiful feeling of conquer yet sadness for what I had actually had to endure in the previous years, and how awful this state felt the entire time. I was out of it. I was brought into an entirely different reality. It felt like I had finally moved past this phase of my life. A phase that almost killed me. It felt different than the other times in life where it felt like I was making progress or getting better. To the deepest part of my soul, I knew this one was to stay.
The third night only compounded and reinforced all of the change that occurred on the second night. We did this one right on the beach, and it was truly magical. Yet again this one was entirely different. I took 7 grams again and this one came on much faster. Justin and I did this one together with Eric watching over us and it was so awesome to finally have a full-on trip as a group. It started to hit right as the sunset faded, as darkness appeared. Stars illuminated the sky in a pattern that seemed as though it must have been designed by something greater in order to be this stunning. I closed my eyes and this one was much more visual…I went through different lands of all sorts of colors, different worlds it felt like. Everything was so joyous about this one, nothing scary at all. It felt as though I was preparing to leave to somewhere new. The trip eventually brought me up towards this huge, glowing white orb. I approached it with no fear. Which is odd, because I had read about this countless times and this is what people who have faced this seem to interpret as dying. I was brought closer to it, and as it brought me in…I hesitated and pulled back. I teetered on the edge of this orb for minutes it felt like, and eventually I let it guide me in.
What happened at this point, there really are no words. It affirmed to me the existence of something greater than life on Earth, a system that will always survive, and that we always survive. Humans are a spec of existence in something much older than time, and the biggest dimension of our life here is something that we are all ignorant of.
When it was time to leave this state, it felt like rebirth. I was coming back, and I had a say in the process of who I was to be back on this other side. The creator negotiated with me who I can become. It showed me who I authentically am, which is the most powerful thing of all to know.
I eventually became conscious again and went into this state of physical catharsis. My body was shaking as I laid on the sand, and I had no control over it. It was not scary in any way however. It was the most freeing, empowering feeling I have ever felt. I just felt sheer power running through my entire body, like I could rip a tree out of the ground or something. It was like all this new strength from the knowledge of the Universe and myself was being etched deeply into me. It was becoming a part of me for good. I had connected with where we come from and seen what it means to exist and be created.
The next day, I was on a plane back to Edmonton…to return to my regular life. It seemed odd going from this sort experience to the next day appearing as if it is just another day. Everything was new again though.
After this whole experience, combined with how interested I had always been about psychedelics…I knew this is what I needed to do. I wanted to help Eric bring this to the world. My experience is just my own, but I have experienced what psilocybin does for people…what psychedelics can do for people. I have since been down to assist with another retreat, and have seen what it does for others too. It transforms lives.
I have since become an official partner of MycoMeditations, and I will be down there for the vast majority of retreats from now on. Eric has been a great partner so far, and I and beyond excited to grow MycoMeditations into what we both know it can be.
Psilocybin changed my life. I have learned to see it as the tool that it is, and this journey is not over. There are still infinite places to explore and things to learn. By no means have I transformed into this perfect version of myself, but I have been given the strength I need to stand up again while not be my own worst enemy and to tackle the challenges that lie in my way.
Anyways…that is my story about what got me here. I look forward to waiting in triage as the praying-mantis surgeons do their job, and I’ll be waiting on the other side of any orbs that people may enter into 😉
Thank you for reading.